Making Lean Stick – Building Sales

By on October 28, 2014
Making Lean Stick - Building

A couple of weeks ago, my wife, Dolores, and I were in a large retail clothing company. Dolores asked a sales associate, “Could you help me in the shoe department or help me find someone who can help me?” He replied, “Beats me, I don’t know where they are” as he sauntered off. More recently, we were going through checkout at a local supermarket. I asked the person checking us out, “How’s it going?” She replied, “I’m going to get as far away from here as I can get.” If a person tried to script sales-killing comments, it’d be tough to beat these two. Are your sales associates saying things like this to your customers?

How are these kinds of responses to customers possible? What kind of thinking or lack of thinking make them possible?

I contrasted these experiences with one I had years ago when I was Director of Professional Development at a large Midwestern university. We were marketing a series of seminars nationwide and I recalled calling a hotel in Little Rock and asking a person in their sales office how many people had registered for our seminar. She replied, “Looks like we have 18 registrations for your program.” I responded, “Thanks have a good day.” She came back, quickly, “You know, your program really looks good. I put a brochure on the front desk and have told some of the business groups that meet here about it.” I said, “I really appreciate your help.” She responded, “Glad to do it. Wonder if you could send me 25 or so more brochures. I’ll mail them to people I know in Little Rock who might be interested in your program.” Wow! What a totally customer-focused comment made by an employee who was fully engaged in the work of the moment.

I also thought about an encounter Dolores and I had just several days ago at a large bookstore chain whose customer loyalty card we carry. We had made a mistake with a cook book we had purchased as a birthday present for our daughter and wanted to return the book and exchange it for the one we should have bought. We approached a sales associate, with the book in their store’s bag and told him we’d like to return it. He seemed hesitant in responding to our request so I took the book out of the bag and noted that it still had their store’s barcode and price on it. He asked, “Do you have a receipt?” I said that we didn’t but that that it was obvious that the book came from their store. His response was crisp and unsmiling, “No receipt. No return.” Forget about the stupidity of this policy. Couldn’t he at least have said “I wish I could take this back, but I can’t?” Of course, he could have. And he would have if he was engaged in his work; if he was focused on us, the people paying his salary. But he wasn’t.

Just what is it that distinguishes behaviors that are conspicuously unfriendly to customers from those that create customer loyalty and, as a result, build sales?

It’s all about focus. Focus on why the customer is important. Focus on how to please the customer. Focus on what it takes to provide customers with experiences that drive sales and drive customer loyalty. And, if you’re a store manager, it takes a focus on those things you need to do to ensure that your sales associates will interact with customers in ways that build sales rather than ways that destroy sales. It takes sales associates who interact with customers in exactly the same ways that you personally want to be interacted with when you’re a customer.

Lean management practices build this kind of focus. Effectively applied, they transform work environments. We have a wide variety of training and consulting services that can be put to work for you as you create work environments in which your employees are intensely and very positively focused on their work. The results? Employee satisfaction goes up. Customer satisfaction goes up. Productivity goes up. Profitability goes up.

Let’s talk. Call me anytime at 314-303-0612 to learn more about these powerful, transformative training and consulting services. I look forward to meeting you.

About George Friesen

George Friesen serves as Business Practice Leader - Lean Manufacturing for the Workforce Solutions Group of St. Louis Community College. He has led the College's Lean business practice area since 2000. Prior to joining the College, George worked for Maritz Performance Improvement Company. Over the past 35 years, he has served a wide variety of Fortune 500 companies, specializing during the past eleven years in Lean Manufacturing, focusing especially on the 5S System, Lean leadership and thinking processes, Value Stream Mapping, and Lean team building. George is a graduate of Washington University (AB), Webster University (MA), and United States Air Force Flight Training.

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