By Wayne Jordan
While helping a client set up his Google Local and directory information, I checked his competitors’ online reviews. A particular one-star review jumped off the page:
“We were passing through town and decided to do some antique browsing when the clerk approached us and stated that he should charge an entry fee for shoppers like it’s a museum because most people that visit the store don’t buy anything and it costs a lot to keep the store open. Really?!”
I took a screen snip of the review and saved it to my WWTT (what were they thinking?) file, right next to a photo of a fair vendor’s sign that read: “This is not Burger King. You can’t have it your way. You can only have it my way or you can’t have the dam (sic) thing.”
I have to admit that I’ve sometimes had those thoughts when dealing with customers. But I’ve never said them aloud. I’m sure you haven’t, either. Ours is a business built on browsers. How many browsers go through your store for every buyer? Have you ever tracked your “browser vs. buyer” percentage?
To some this calculation may seem like a waste of time, but I assure you that it isn’t. In my stores I required sales associates to keep a log of everyone who walked through the door. The log entries included Date, Time of Day, Name (customer name or brief description, like “lady in blue hat”) Source (advertising), Be-back (existing customer), Stated Purpose (whether “just looking” or another), Engaged (conversed with customer), Time in Store, Result (bought, didn’t buy, signed up for newsletter, walked out, etc.), and then a line for the salesperson’s initials. The log can be kept on paper or in an Excel spreadsheet.
Benefits of Browser vs. Buyer Assessment
Ten data points may seem like a lot, but I felt I needed the information to manage my marketing and
sales efforts. If this sounds like too much information, then customize the fields to suit your needs. I’ve seen stores with “guest books” that are filled in by the customers, and other shops that simply use a calendar with hash-marks and daily totals. Use whatever works for you. One thing is certain: You can’t improve performance unless you measure it, and your data fields must help you make business decisions. Accounting systems are built to measure financial performance.
What systems do you have in place to measure sales effectiveness?
There was method to my “logging” madness. For starters, I was able to easily count the number of people who came into my store each day. After all, I was paying for traffic (contrary to the landlord’s belief that I was paying for his wonderful space) and I wanted to know how much traffic I was getting for my money. With my “traffic count” as a baseline, I could gauge the results of any changes I made to the:
Sales Management Sense
Front window display: If I changed the window display, did it bring in more or less traffic? How long did the increased traffic last? How often did I have to change the display in order to attract the attention of passers-by?
Advertising: The “Source” column told me where my customers were coming from. Did they see the expensive print ad I placed in the Sunday Driver Antique Directory, newspaper, or tourism guide? Were they referred by a friend? Or (in 2017 terms) did they “Find me on Facebook”? Did they find my website on Google? Did they come from a nearby town? How many people visited from the same town? Do I need to advertise there? Any type of advertising – free or paid – should have a tracking device in place so you know if it is working.
Signage and store layout: Did changing the store layout and signage keep customers in the store longer?
Inventory planning: If the “Stated purpose” field indicates a desire for local historical artifacts, maybe I should stock more of them.
Sales management: Were some employees better at engaging customers? Did their sales results confirm their efforts? Which employees needed help in learning how to engage customers? How many customers were needed before a sale was made? Did more traffic equal more sales? If not, why not?
Sales Statistics Are Sound
When I came into my store, the first thing I did was check the log book. (Yes, I used a paper system.) Employees came to understand that I expected them to keep the book accurately, and that their job performance would be judged, in part, by their log entries. Was my method foolproof? No. Did employees sometimes enter misleading information? Yes. But if, on average, associate number one served a hundred customers a month and sold one in five, and associate number two served one hundred customers a month and sold one in ten, number two clearly needs some training. Or another job.
Scott Tousley, in a 2015 blog post for Hubspot titled “107 Mind-Blowing Sales Statistics That Will Help You Sell Smarter shared a couple of numbers that support keeping track of who comes and goes in your store: 63 percent of people will not purchase for at least three months after an initial inquiry; 20 percent will take at least 12 months to buy.
Hubspot statistics apply mainly to business-to-business sales, but they are helpful in evaluating retail performance, too. Most folks who visit your store won’t buy on their first visit (some will). Hence the log entry for “be-back.” Be-backs are good; it means that you have created a pleasant shopping experience for your customers.
Cultivating a Customer Base
Each year, you’ll lose 14 percent of your customers. Roughly speaking, your customer base will turn over every seven years.
You spend a lot of time and money scouting, displaying, and tracking inventory. Whether owned or rented, you likely pay a premium for store space. Insurance, accounting and legal, phones, internet, and other expenses add up fast, and keep coming in every month. It’s foolish to create an atmosphere of “show and tell” in your store.
Instead, create a culture of “show and sell.” Set expectations for your sales staff, train them to meet those expectations, and hold them accountable for their results. If you don’t, you might just have to start charging admission to your antiques museum.