Optimizing Staff Meetings

I have been attending lots of meetings recently. While staff and management meetings are important, often they can take more time than they should and are not always as effective as you would like.

Meetings should be planned out well before they occur. Start with a clear vision of how the meeting should progress and a list of topics that need to be discussed.

The length of the meeting 

Decide on the amount of time the meeting should take based on the number of items you wish to discuss. Each topic should be allocated a certain amount of time. The meeting times (start and end) should be part of the agenda. Keep to those times.

Agenda

Prior to the meeting, request information from participants regarding topics they wish to include. Not all topics that are suggested may be suitable for that particular meeting. If these are things that merit the attention deal with them at another time or on an individual basis.

Venue

Opt for a meeting space that is comfortable, well ventilated and has plenty of room for all the people invited to the meeting. If everyone is crowded, too warm or too cold the participants will be distracted. Providing a place for people to engage in a positive manner is more likely to lead to favorable outcomes.

Stay On Topic

Certain discussions may bring up other topics that can lead to long and possibly irrelevant conversations. When this happens, bring the group back to the topics at hand. Make a note of the new topic for future discussion.

Interruptions

Cell phones and other devices should be turned off during the meeting. If it is necessary for staff members to add dates to their calendars, phones may be turned on for the last five minutes of the meeting when new dates are being discussed. Provide printed copies of the agenda for all participants.

 Leave Time for Conversation

Allow time for participants to air their views. Allow everyone who wants to speak the opportunity to do so, but have a set amount of time for each person. This helps in a number of ways, it makes sure the meeting run on time and it helps staff focus on the most concise way to get their points across.

If the meetings have been run on a more relaxed timeline, it may take some effort to change attendees assumption of what is or isn’t acceptable. Keep going. Meetings will before more structured and effective.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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A Successful Brand

There are brands that stand out in the minds of consumers. How did they get to that place of prominence and how do you get there, too? Some companies make it by putting large amounts of money, time and branding professionals behind their brands, which you may not be able to do. Though it is not only those things that make a successful brand.

Starbucks, for example, has been very successful. Their store designs are good, their products are good, and the staff members in their stores are invariably cheerful. What sets them apart in my mind though is how they handle problems when they crop up.

Starbucks recently went through a problem in one of their Philadelphia stores when an employee asked two black men to leave because they asked to use the restroom though had not bought anything. When they said they were not going to leave, as they were waiting for a friend, the employee called the police who arrested them both. They were later released with no charges filed.

This was a terrible situation that could have caused a lot of problems for Starbucks bottom-line and customer loyalty. However, Starbucks handled the situation extremely well. The CEO immediately apologized profusely and quickly and put the employee on leave pending more information. The event happened on Thursday and by Friday, Starbucks was all over the news with their apologies.

By Monday, the CEO had sat face to face with the gentlemen in question to apologize and by Tuesday Starbucks had announced that they would close all 8,000 of their stores for an afternoon in May to hold racial bias training for their staff.

Starbucks may not have mitigated all the damage that was done by the incident but their strong and hitherto unheard of response was well received by crisis management and diversity experts.

It was a terrible situation but the company stood up to the problem, sought solutions and sorted out the problem, saving their brand from a lot more losses than they sustained from closing all their stores for an afternoon.

My point, if someone complains, whether it is a small or large complaint and whether they complain publicly or privately, take care of the problem. If it is a public complaint, you may wish to resolve it privately, but report the solution to the problem publicly so all your customers who may have seen it on Facebook or Twitter or wherever know that you took care of it.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Elizabeth Slater

Customer Engagement & Sales Training

707.953.1289, E@inshortmarketing.com

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Creating Connected Customers

It’s interesting that businesses want customers to be more connected with them, though many businesses are afraid to give the customers what they want, which is connection with the people in the business.

Customer connection is a big part of the wine industry in general, and particularly true for customers who belong to wine clubs especially when the winery is a “small, family-owned winery.” Though even with wine clubs in corporate wineries, the members are still looking for connection.

There are many reasons why people may choose to join wine clubs… yes they like the wine, yes they enjoy the events, and yes they like to bring their friends and be able to taste for free. All these things are definite perks. Though there are two defining reasons: Connection and Access.

The majority, though not all, look for connection with the winery owners, the winemaker, and the staff. They like being recognized when they walk into the tasting room and the staff person knows their name. For those of you who are old enough, think about the TV show Cheers. Having those connections allows them to tell their friends:

“I was just at Bahoula Winery, talking to the winemaker, Susan, do you know her? Lovely person and she said…”

There is a great deal of pleasure to be had by being one up on your friends.

The other reason people like to be a “special” customer at a winery, like one who is in the wine club, is access. They have access to events, to the wine clubroom, if there is one and to other parts of the winery that regular customers may not see.

They also get access to more information about the wines and the option to buy older wines, newer wines before the general release and large format, limited release bottles.  There are a lot of perks to being part of the wine club if wineries understand what it is that their customers are looking for.

Although these perks should not only be for wine club members. They should also be for those people who, while they may not belong to your wine club, spend a lot of money with you or bring others to your winery who spend money.

Make sure that your best customers have access to you and feel connected. Drop them a personal email once in a while to ask them what they thought of a wine they just received from you. Or have pictures of your best customers on their customer record so you recognize them and call them by name. You never know you might make some new friends.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Elizabeth Slater

Customer Engagement & Sales Training

707.953.1289, E@inshortmarketing.com

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Customer Service at Warp Speed

I have read that the average attention span is down from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to eight seconds now, which is less than the nine-second attention span of your average goldfish.

However, according to an article I read on BBC News about experts who study human attention, these experts don’t know where those numbers came from. They believe that the people’s attention spans are not getting shorter.

So perhaps it is not a shorter attention span, as it is that people do not have as much patience as they used to. In the days before telephones, computers, the internet, email, Twitter, Facebook, etc., we actually had to take the time to go the see someone about a customer service problem. Sometimes it could take days just to get there as most of the shops closed at 5 p.m. just as people were getting out of work.

We also could not berate the business or product in question on their lack of service to a large audience because there were no platforms that reached thousands or millions of people in less than 3 seconds. We could tell our neighbors, or write a letter to the newspaper but that was about it.

The nice thing about it taking longer to get a problem solved was that it gave the person with the problem more time to think it through, create some perspective and perhaps get expectations in order.

Nowadays, our ideas of what we can and should expect may sometimes be unrealistic and as much as customer service professionals do their best to meet our every expectation (and will if we give them a little time) we want instant results.

According to information from Forrester research, almost 70% of business leaders want to use the customer service experience as a competitive advantage. Unfortunately, only 37% have a dedicated budget for customer service improvement initiatives.

Most of us, when we have a complaint or problem, are looking for a more personal approach. We want the answer to our question now if we are talking to a person or the information that could provide the answer we expect it to be if we are online.

So perhaps a little more patience would not go amiss. As patience is something I don’t possess a lot of, I am working on it and have found that slowing down life a little, is not necessarily a bad thing. Life is going fast enough without me hurrying it along.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Elizabeth Slater

Customer Engagement & Sales Training

707.953.1289, E@inshortmarketing.com

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Motivating Employees (Or Yourself)

I spend much of my time reading business related journals, newsletters and such, subscribing to lots of them and finding other information online. This time I was looking for information on motivating employees and came across a good article in INC. magazine.

One of the things that I know from my own career (I am sure most of you feel it, too) is that I am not always at the same level of motivation. I would be surprised if anyone is. As human beings, we are nothing if not changeable. There are times when you, your managers or employees are going to need motivating to get things done. Here are some ideas terrific ideas from the INC. article:

Let people know that you trust them. A vote of confidence will encourage most people will do a good job.

When you are feeling down, remind yourself of what you have accomplished. Also, remember you can be trusted to get done what you need to get done.

Make the goals for your employees (and yourself) realistic. Reward your employees as they reach smaller goals on the way to larger goals. Smaller rewards given more often will motivate people to work harder more of the time, than offering a big reward that is not going to be achievable until far in the future.

Give your employees a purpose so they feel they can make a difference. Help them understand your vision and goals so they are more engaged in reaching the goals. People are more motivated when they feel that they are part of the big picture.

Be enthusiastic and positive with your staff. You want your staff to work hard. Enthusiasm and energy from their boss or bosses will make employees more energized, too.

Know your employees and learn what is important to them, what motivates them to work hard and what type of encouragement works for them. Many surveys have shown that praise or being recognized for a job well done is more important than more money for the majority of employees.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Elizabeth Slater

Customer Engagement & Sales Training

707.953.1289, E@inshortmarketing.com

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Overcoming Objections to the Price of Your Products, Part Two

As I mentioned last week, I downloaded an informational guide with information on overcoming sales objections from Resourceful Selling. This week is part two in the review of the information.

First:  Let’s look at things that can go wrong.

Sometimes the salesperson, if uncomfortable with the price, can transmit that feeling to the customer, perhaps not in words but by how the information is presented. It’s a must that the salesperson is comfortable with the price. If not, they may need more training in sales in general and in your products in particular.

Many winery tasting room salespeople get into the business because they like wine, not because they like to sell. And, as many owners also don’t like to sell (they prefer to create), there is not the emphasis on sales that there should be. Make sales and customer engagement high on the list of the experience you are looking for when interviewing potential salespeople. Or if you are the salesperson, make sure you are applying for jobs for the right reasons and jobs that fit what you want to do with your life.

As a salesperson, are you ready to defend (in a non-combative or judgmental way) the prices that are being asked for the product you sell? Do they think the wine is worth the price?

Price, like any other objection to the sale, is a problem-solving process. If the customer is not ready to pay the price the winery is selling it for, why not?  Find out the reason and you can usually turn the customer around. Sell on the quality or the fact the customer can use this to impress their friends. You can also bring up the idea that if someone wants to pay a lesser price, s/he can always buy a case or half case and receive a special quantity price.

Remember that customers are looking for:

  • What is in it for them – How they benefit from the purchase.
  • It is benefits rather than features that make the sale (buying is done through the emotional part of the brain.)
  • What is the perceived value in relation to price.
  • Value is in the mind of the purchaser rather than the product.
  • If, as a salesperson, you believe that price may be an obstacle, bring it up before the customer does: “You can always find less expensive wine, but nothing at this quality for the price.”
  • Add value to every sale, even when the customer is not objecting. It will bring them back to see you again.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Elizabeth Slater

Customer Engagement & Sales Training

707.953.1289, E@inshortmarketing.com

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Overcoming Objections to the Price of Your Products (Part One)

I downloaded a handy informational guide of overcoming sales objections from Resourceful Selling, which I am going to share you over the next couple of blogs.

The information starts with a headline:

“The price objection is the quickest way for a prospect to get rid of a salesperson.

But a price objection shouldn’t mark the end of a discussion.”

Good advice. I have seen too many salespeople give up when a potential customer says that the price is too expensive. But giving up should not be your first option.

First, find out what may be behind the customer telling you that the price is too high or that it is more than they usually pay.

  • You may not have asked enough questions about what the customer is looking for.
  • It may be that you haven’t communicated the value of your product in a way that makes sense to your customer.
  • The customer may not have been fully made aware of the differentiation of your products or service from that of your competitors.
  • The customer may be fishing to see if you are willing to go down on the price, but will buy it anyway if you don’t.

For any of these reasons, the price may become a serious factor in whether the customer buys or not. So your job is to identify the reason for buying your customer will be most susceptible to. In this article I was reading, they quoted a study by Alpha Marketing who ranked the reasons why customers choose to buy:

  1. Credibility
  2. Quality
  3. Company reputation
  4. Level of service
  5. Reliability of salesperson
  6. Responsiveness
  7. Ability to meet deadlines (which may not apply to you)
  8. Price

As you can see, the price is not the first thing on people’s minds. Yes, it is a factor but I believe with the right information, good customer service and a genuine interest in what is best for the customer, the price objection may be easily overcome.

Next week – ways to overcome price objections.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Elizabeth Slater

Customer Engagement & Sales Training

707.953.1289, E@inshortmarketing.com

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