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Go After The Christmas Business

LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 06: A selection of the predicted top selling toys for Christmas are displayed at a media event at St Mary’s Church in Marylebone on November 6, 2013 in London, England. The Toy Retailers Association’s Dream Toys chart, is an independent list of the predicted Christmas top 12 best-selling gifts for children. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

We’ve all heard the old saying, “Nothing happens until someone sells something.” To many people that statement implies some form of coercion or manipulations, making a customer buy something they probably don’t want or need. This holiday season why not stop selling and help the customer buy. You’re not adversaries sitting on opposite sides of the table like lawyers pleading a case. Come around to the customer’s side of the table and become a co-buyer.

I don’t have to tell you that we’re facing some tough economic challenges in the next few months. You may need to rethink the ways you’re doing business in many areas. I want to talk about things you should do and things you should avoid to have a good Christmas season as well as how to keep your head above water in the coming year.

Keep Your Cool

Don’t panic. During tough economic times it’s a natural knee jerk reaction to go on the defensive. You put the whole place on sale and wonder why your bottom line is still suffering. You are working twice as hard to earn half as much.

Be aggressive. Set goals and share them with your salespeople so everyone is on the same page. If you have a clearly defined goal that everyone is working toward it’s much more likely to happen.

Define Your Best Customers

Know your customers’ “hot buttons” and push them. In tough times we often try to be all things to all people because we need as many customers a possible. This is flawed thinking.

You don’t need more customers; you need more of the right customers. Save money on your advertising by being in the right place, with the right message to the right people. Don’t waste time and money advertising to people who are not going to buy from you.

Be Careful With Pricing

Don’t cut prices. I know it’s the holiday season and customers are expecting everything to be on sale. There’s a difference between a sale and a value. Very few people buy something strictly because it’s on sale. There has to be a need for that product or service that makes the sale a value. I advise retailers to package their products. It’s more of a value to the customer; you can reduce the price less than if it were a single item, and you will make more profit by selling the combined add ons.

Make Shopping Fun

The holidays are hectic enough without customers being hassled in stores with policies and procedures that are usually for the store’s benefit rather than the customers.

Help customers buy. Streamline checkouts, widen traffic aisles, eliminate bottlenecks, and pay attention to displays, signage and pricing. Nothing is more frustrating to shoppers than wanting to purchase something but not being able to find out how much it is.

Management Belongs On The Sidelines

Managers and owners need to be accessible to staff and customers for quick decisions. Managers should not be running cash registers or in the back room going over reports and paperwork.

If there are customer problems, complaints or concerns they need to be addressed promptly.

Change For The Better

I wish I had a crystal ball to tell you what to expect in the coming year but I think I can safely predict that it won’t be business as usual. As Robert Zimmerman (aka Bob Dylan) wrote, “The times they are a changin’.” I don’t mean that you need to change your business model. Not asking McDonald’s to stop selling the Big Mac. But in the coming months you are going to have to do everything better and more efficiently.

Everything from customer service to advertising to product knowledge and service must be as good as it can possibly be. If you have not previously been a student of your business or industry, now is the time to start.

Some Final Thoughts

In the coming months customers are going to be more frugal and selective in their purchases. They are going to feel insecure about their employment, housing, healthcare, benefits, etc.  They will continue to buy, but the trick is to encourage them to buy from you. Show them a value and help them buy and any recession will be the other guy’s problem.

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