Business Coaching, Customer Service, Economy, Sales

While it is true that the economy is going to fluctuate and that things are not where they were several years ago, that does not mean that you should slow down or even freeze all your marketing efforts as a business person.

There are businesses thriving at the moment, so what are they doing that others aren’t? It could be that good luck is with them, but how is it that certain businesses have all the good luck? Maybe that their good luck is down to the actions they take – planning, education, training, effective marketing, customer service and so on.

It is at times like this that the proactive businesses are going to stand out from the norm. The question is: do you want to be part of the norm or do you want to be at the top of your league? Where do your competitors want to be placed? If they decide to take on this challenge presented by a slow economy, what impact could that have on you if you want to ‘dig in’?

If you decide to become proactive, you will see that there is a plethora of tools available around you to make your marketing give the returns you want. So, ask yourself a very honest question: “Could I be doing more to market my business?” If the answer is yes, then ignorance, not economy is your greatest threat.

A few tips to help you on your way:

1.Define your uniqueness (USP): Find out what makes you different. Once you know, brag about it and let the world know.

2.Test and measure your marketing: Test and measure your marketing to see what works and what doesn’t. Save money where it isn’t working and spend more where it is.

3.Clearly identify your target market: The best marketing piece in the world is wasted if not targeted correctly (e.g. advertising stair lifts in Loaded would not be terribly effective!)

4.Increase your knowledge & position yourself far ahead of your competition: Hire a coach, read books, go to seminars, join some good courses or do whatever it takes to invest in yourself because you are your business’ most important asset.


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Business Coaching, Customer Service

Coach Ellie’s top 5 Suggestions:

1. Listen and Acknowledge: Patiently listen to what they are saying and let them know that you understand.  You should repeat back to them what you have heard: “I understand that you have not received the package as promised…”
2. Don’t React Emotionally: Let it wash over you, otherwise you will end up in an argument.  You may be on the receiving end of some verbal abuse or insulting comments. Be ready for it and ignore it.
3. Do Not Contradict The Customer: Whatever has happened is 100 percent true for them.  You may not agree with their version but its their version.
4. Apologize: Look the customer in the eye and say, “I apologize” rather than “I’m sorry”.   It’s overused and they hear it too often.
5. Use Empathy: It’s an effective way to deal with the customer’s feelings.  Empathy isn’t about agreement- only acceptance of what the customer is saying and feeling. Use words like, “I understand that you are frustrated…”.

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Business Coaching, Sales

When it comes to sales, your prospects quite literally have all the answers. When it comes to increasing sales, many businesses look to their marketing to bring in more leads. What is often overlooked is that they may very well have enough leads, but their sales process is not converting enough of these leads into paying customers. Your conversion rate is the percentage of leads that actually buy from you, and it is an often overlooked measurement of successful sales. So how do we increase our conversion rates?

How to turn asking questions into more sales:

1. Asking questions means active listening. You can ask questions about your customers work, business, children or hobbies but make sure that you are listening with sincere interest. It may even be helpful to note down some of the answers – such as the names of their children, interests, etc., for future communication. By asking questions and listening, you are building rapport and attaching importance to their conversation.

2. Asking questions keeps you in control of the conversation. Once you find yourself doing all the talking you are no longer in control. Just remember that the person asking questions sets the direction for the conversation. If the customer is dominating the conversation by asking you questions make sure you answer the question with a question. However, try to vary the questions that you ask.

3. Open-ended questions are an excellent way to ensure customer involvement in the conversation and are key to identifying not only what they need but also a lot about themselves. You can use open-ended questions to build rapport, to find a need, to discover a customer problem and find the right solution. In journalism there are six key questions used in the interviewing process which is as equally useful in sales – who, what, where, when, why and how.

Here are a few example of open-ended questions which are very useful:
•  Who are you buying the product/service for?
•  How often would you use the product/service?
•  What features were you looking for in this product/service?

By using questions you are encouraging the customer to communicate, building rapport, establishing their needs, directing the conversation, diffusing tension and inviting discussion.

Learning the art of questioning and listening is the key to increasing your conversion rate and building a strong, continuing customer relationship.

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Business Coaching, retail

Recently a well know fast food franchise opened in my neighborhood.  I was very excited about visiting the new store.  They sell everything from soup to sandwiches and breads and are very well known. 

 I walked in with great anticipation and high expectations.  Unfortunately, my expectations were crushed by a sense of disorganization.  The service was friendly, however, there was something off.  I realized that the employees were not wearing any sort of uniforms, which immediately struck me as unprofessional. This which added confusion and a lack of conformity to the setting.

It is vital that employees of a small businesses have a unified look in order to emphasize the presence of “a team”.  This can be accomplished simply and at little cost; formal uniforms are not necessary.  Everyone can wear the same color slacks and matching T-shirts each day.  A professional, unified appearance lets your customers know that you are organized and attentive of their needs.  In a business, the basic uniform is a necessity to look more professional.  Although it goes without saying, hygiene is so important!  Customers respond better to people who are neat and clean.  The appearance of employees is a direct reflection of the business. 

An important item that can be used for businesses is name tags – Make it easy to tell who you are speaking with.  Name Tags are a simple, yet very professional tool which shows consistency.

When a customer walks into a restaurant and sees a neat clean group of people who are all identifiable by similar clothing, they have a sense of security.  It is easy to approach a customer service person and ask for help. 

No matter what items you have in your store,  employee presentation and appearance is key.

Important Business Uniform Items :

• Solid tops are best
• Everyone wears the same color pants
• No jewelry
• Hair should be well groomed and pulled back ( for a resturant)
• Minimal Makeup
• Clean – Well trimmed nails
• Neat shoes

Disney does this to a tee.  If it’s good for Mickey’s employee’s, it’s good for you!

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Customer Service

Often, your prospects first impression of your company will be via the telephone. Have you ever ‘secret shopped’ your own company and rated how your team answers the phone, takes down information and in general, treats the person calling in?

It is vitally imporatnt to train your team to be  professional and helpful to everyone who contacts your company. Curtious and professiona telephone etiquette is your company’s “Front Line” of  the outstanding customer service you need to offer.

Here is a quick list of “Basic To Do’s” when you and yopur team answers your company’s phone calls:

1. Speak clearly & SMILE

  • Yes, they will feel the ‘warmth’ and concern when you smile. It will make the caller feel welcome. Make sure you speak slowly and clearly.

2. Answer the phone call Professionally

  • Greet the customer according to the time of day (e.g., “good morning,” “good afternoon,” “good evening”). Thank them for calling.  Being curtios is part of being professional.

3. Ask them “how can I help you?”

Ask the customer how you can be of service when greeting them. After listening to the customer’s reason for calling — and you can’t be of assistance — attempt to transfer the consumer to the appropriate department.

“Do” Listen to the Caller’s Request

  • Listen carefully to the caller’s request. Ask the customer applicable questions to determine how you can help. Don’t interrupt when the caller is speaking.

“Do” Ask to Place the Caller on Hold

  • Before you place a caller on hold, ask permission first. Once you’ve pressed the hold button, quickly work to address the customer’s problem as quickly as possible.

“Don’t” Talk with Your Mouth Full

  • Don’t pick up the phone with your mouth full. This makes it difficult for the caller to understand you — and is frustrating– especially if the call is urgent. Answering the phone at work while eating gives an unprofessional impression.

“Don’t” Speak too Loudly or Softly

  • Answer the phone in the volume that you normally speak. Speaking softly will make it challenging for the caller to understand what you’re saying. Talking softly may confuse the caller, unsure that he has dialed the right number. Answering the phone too loudly sounds harsh and abrasive, which is an unappealing to the caller.

“Don’t” Leave the Caller on Hold

  • If you have to place the caller on hold, don’t leave the person calling on hold for a long period of time. Check back every few seconds to keep the caller informed on your progress.

“Don’t” use Slang Words

  • Using slang or shortened words during phone conversation is inappropriate and unprofessional. For instance, if you have to check on something for the customer, say “just a moment,” not “hold on a sec”.

‘Don’t’ Answer the Phone Casually

  • At home, answer the phone with “(family last name) residence”; greet the caller according to the time of day. Instead of simply saying “hello” when answering a business phone, state the name of the business or state the company’s slogan immediately.

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Business Coaching, Customer Service

As a successful business owner, providing excellent customer service should be an obsession! Yet, I find many businesses’ today have taken the ‘service’ out of customer service. This is a great way to LOOSE CUSTOMERS.

Here are 7 customer service tips:

  1. Have a real, live person answer all of your calls- SERIOUSLY.If you cannot have someone answer all your calls, subscribe to a professional service and write a script for the service operator’s. Include that you will return all calls within one business day – and do it!
  2. Return emails within one business day (two days maximum).
  3. Learn to be comfortable introducing yourself by your full name. When meeting in person, look at people directly in the eye, especially when you first meet them and insure you know how to give and reciprocate a firm handshake.
  4. Insure you clearly understand the customer or prospects need and priorities.  Do this by listening sincerely and asking clarifying questions. Listen FIRST and actively listen more than you talk. Ask questions to clarify your understanding of your prospect’s motivation to buy – but do so respectfully and carefully.
  5. Keep agreements you make to the prospect or the customer. When you say you will do something, do it when you said you would do it. Emergencies should be the only exception.
  6. Eliminate negative surprises for the customer. If there is a problem, acknowledge it quickly, apologize if appropriate and do your best to fix the problem to the customer’s satisfaction.
  7. Warning – Don’t expect the customer to understand that you are busy or short staffed. They won’t and they shouldn’t have to.

You may be thinking that this is obvious. Yes, indeed, it is not rocket science. While it may be obvious, the truth is that it is also frequently not practiced.

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Business Coaching

Goal setting in business is essential and necessary to your company’s success. Too often I meet a business owner who proudly states that all his goals are in his head. Or, that he runs the company by instinct. Well, in this day and age, that is a sure recipe for disaster!

To be smart in business, you need to learn to plan long and short term for your business. You also need to learn how to set S.M.A.R.T goals.

The benefits of Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results orientated, Time-framed (S.M.A.R.T) goals have been written about in self-help books for years. So, it follows that goal setting is obviously a powerful process.

Despite their obvious value, our experience with goals have shown that some are good at setting goals and sticking to them, achieving great results and others can’t keep a New Year’s resolution to stop smoking for two days in a row.

So, how do we set and achieve goals? Stephen R. Covey says it best in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.  “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.”

Focusing on the smaller, short-term goals and achieving success will give you the confidence to set other goals. So, remember, set your goals based on the S.M.A.R.T. principle to have the best chance of achieving your goals.

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To continue from Pt. 1, it is very important to ‘step outside your store’ and re-entry with a shopper’s perspective. Please review the follow checklist:

Lighting: Is it appropriate for the merchandise?  More than any other variable in retailing today, lighting can create or destroy a store’s competitive edge. Featured products should be highlighted to attract customer attention. Keep your store bright and airy, and make sure all areas are adequately lit—you don’t want any dark corners.

Mechandise Selection: Is your product selection too broad? It’s important to focus your product selection around customer needs—but many stores have a selection that’s far too broad. These retailers try too hard to be all things to all people-Don’t!! Carry what your customers want, don’t spread yourself too thin.

Music: Is there music playing? If so, is it being played for the customers…or for the staff?  Music is a great way to create an inviting atmosphere in your store. It should calm the customer and make them want to stay, not run away.  Also, keep the music volume low—it should never intrude on conversation.

In conjunction with your own evaluation, involve your employees in this process. Have them also review your store – from the eyes of the customer.  Then, put your observations together and see how you can improve your customer’s shopping experience.

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It is important as a business owner to set out of your store and learn to rate it from a shopper’s perspective. As a customer, you already critique other retail stores without even realizing it.  Now learn to evaluate your own!

We’ve all shopped stores that have made such a bad first impression we’ve vowed that we would NEVER go back. But, as sensitive as you are to other stores, most business owners have a blind spot when it comes to evaluating their own store. That’s why it’s important to step back and look at your store from a shopper’s point of view.

While few customers will enter your store with a checklist and clipboard, all will form opinions the moment they step inside. As a retailer, you need to be aware of the subconscious impressions your store makes. Take an afternoon to walk your store as a customer, not an owner.

Evaluate the specific areas listed here, scoring each on the nearby chart. After rating your store, transfer your scores to the tally sheet. It’s divided into five categories: first impressions, the basics, merchandise, marketing and your image. You’ll immediately see where your store’s problem areas—and strengths—are.

Basics: Are your shelves stocked with basics?

Be sure always to stock the basics. Rain checks are no longer an acceptable replacement for out-of-stock items. You want the people who stop in for a quick purchase to return to your store—don’t turn them away with under-stocked shelves.

Bathrooms: Sigh.  YES! This really does matter!

Are your bathrooms clean? Bathrooms are an important part of customer service. Do you keep them clean and well-lit? Are paper towels, soap, etc. always available? Do you have an employee frequently “inspect” them to assure they are well-maintained?

Cash/Wrap: Is your cash/wrap counter organized and free of clutter?

The cash/wrap is your customers’ last impression of your store. Keep it neat and representative of your store’s dedication to service and organization. Be mindful of open storage shelves that often become a haven for clutter. This is also a great place for 1 or 2 point of purchase items. But do not overload your checkout counter. Is looks overwhelming, messy & unprofessional.

Pt. 2- is coming up!

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