Happy Holidays and all that jazz

Christmas, sales, holidays

Hooray for discounts!

Tis’ the season for discounts, one day sales, and all that other garbage to get you to BUY, BUY, BUY! As a small business owner, you may get caught in the trap of drastically reducing your prices to compete with the big guys. Or worse – stray away from your values, and start wishing everyone ‘Happy Holidays’ when you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah. Don’t be afraid of who you are, and don’t be afraid to stand for something.

As an owner myself, I used to be worried about how I was perceived by others. I was being a vanilla version of myself, when I’m actually quite salty, fiery, and sarcastic (imagine that as an ice cream flavour). I was trying to be too much to too many people. After awhile it became exhausting, and the real me started to show. Funny enough, when I started to become my authentic self – I started making more sales, and stronger connections. Yes, I turned off some people, but I found out that’s okay. You’re not going to please everyone. It’s better to lose a sale in the short term for longer term gain.

I recently was speaking with a Realtor, and he REGULARLY turns people down who are looking for his services. He has an initial meeting with them, he asks a few qualifying questions (hammers down their values, expectations, etc…) to see if he’d be a good fit. If he doesn’t feel there’s a connection, he says he’s not interested in working with them. While it could be easy money for him, he has come to realize the people he doesn’t connect with right-off-the-bat are generally a pain in the ass for him down the road. He passes on the short term gain to keep HIS values in check.

So how does this relate to the holidays?

Everyone is having sales, everyone is devaluing their product, and everyone is focusing on short term gain during the holidays. However, you’re a constant reader of my blog, and you’re different right, RIGHT? Here are some quick holiday tips for your small business:

1) Don’t have a sale. Everyone else is, but you’re not because you believe in your product or service, and you believe in the value of it. Even worse, don’t mark up your product, just so you can say you’re having a sale while keeping your margins in line.

2) Say, Merry Christmas if that’s your thing or Happy Hanukkah if that’s your thing or Happy Kwanzaa if that’s your thing. Don’t be afraid of who you are, especially during the holidays. I happen to observe both Hanukkah, and Christmas. Why? Because my wife likes gifts, and I have a very large nose.

3) Throw people out of your store who ask you if you have a sale on. I recently picked up a few shifts at a large retailer because I LOVE retail this time of year. Plus, it helps me gauge where the retail industry is at seeing as I coach a few retailers. I can’t tell you how many people approach me asking about sales. These people are not loyal to you or your business, they’re only looking for the cheapest deal. I would rather have 10 people pay full price for my product / service than 100 people who are interested in getting a deal on my product / service. Those 10 people are fans of mine, while the other 100 will come and go. I’m more concerned about my fans.

Funny anecdote (well, I think it’s funny) – I had tea (yes, tea as I don’t drink coffee) with a renovator just over a week ago, and he was telling me about a recent client of his. Like the Realtor above he asked a few qualifying questions to see if this guy would be a good fit for him, and his business. He picked up on a few things (the area where he lived, his car, and his meticulously organized home), so he knew this guy was going to be quite demanding. My reno friend didn’t mind as he actually enjoys working with demanding clients, as he expects the best from his team, and he knows he’ll be able to deliver a quality product / service. So knowing this soon to be client was going to be extra demanding he flat our said, “Having heard what you’ve said – I know you’re going to be a bit of a pain in the ass to work with, but that’s okay. I’ve handled, and exceeded the expectations of clients like you in the past. Knowing you’re going to be a pain, I’m going to charge you $5000 more for my teams time.”

$5000 MORE FOR BEING A PAIN IN THE ASS!

Guess what, the guy agreed he was going to be a pain, and was happy to pay the extra $5000. Turns out the client was a bit of a pain, and very meticulous when it came to the renovation, but the client appreciated the upfront honesty, and now he’s happy to refer people to my reno friend.

All in all, here’s my Santa-ly advice to you this holiday season: DON’T discount your product, BELIEVE in your product or service, and BELIEVE in yourself, and your values. You may lose some customers in the short term, but you will create LOYAL fans in the long run. Trust me, I’ve done it, I’ve seen other people do it, and I know you can too.

Love you (and Merry Christmas, and Happy Hanukkah!)

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Ps. If you throw someone out of your store who is asking for a discount – please send me a picture of you doing it. And don’t forget to post it where ever you can, to prove you, and your product are as valuable as the price tag.

“I’m a small business, what do I do about sales people who keep calling?”

sales, person, sales person, salesman

Sales person

As you grow or want to grow you’ll be dealing with a few sales people…quite a few. Especially if you’re good at what you do. After awhile it can be annoying, and you can start to get rude with the people calling you every day. DON’T!

There’s a stat floating around that 80% of the workforce is in sales in one way shape or form. I’m a believer that we’re all in sales, after all how did you sell yourself in the interview to get the job you have today? Or how did you get the public to consume your product no matter what it is?

I understand you can’t give everyone a piece of your time. As a small business owner, you’re extremely strapped for time. Here are some things to keep in mind from a guy who’s been, and continues to be, on both sides of the coin:

1) Sales people are people too. This is how they support themselves and / or their family. Remember when you were starting out, and you wished people would give you a speckle of their time? That’s the same thing with sales folks. They just want a bit of your time to prove they are worthy of yours. Some sales people are better at it then others, but don’t let the bad ones sour your mood.

2) Get a gatekeeper, but ensure everything gets filtered to you. Your gatekeeper is probably not REALLY invested in your business. They are there to get a pay check, and at the end of the day, if they’re passing up amazing opportunities on your behalf, they’re only hurting you, and your profits (I’ve seen this on numerous occasions due to the gatekeeper being lazy). Not to mention – if your business fails, no sweat off their back – they’ll be able to do the same thing somewhere else while you’re left holding the bag.

3) Sales people are consumers, and there’s lots of sales people, so there’s plenty of opportunities for you to impress. When a sales person gets through to you think of it in two ways A) It’s an opportunity for you to grow your business. B) It’s an opportunity to SELL your business to that sales person. I can’t tell you how many rude people I’ve encountered who are business owners. And guess what – their businesses aren’t doing so well. The most successful owners I’ve seen are almost always willing to hear a pitch. Even if it’s only for 5 minutes over the phone. These owners are also respectful of the sales person, and THEIR time.

Let me elaborate some more on the last point. If you piss off a sales person, think about how connected they are. They know other business owners, they have family, friends, etc… It’s been said that one person can influence 150, so effectively if you’ve pissed off 10 sales people in a day – you’ve effectively soured 1500 people on your business. Not a very smart business plan if you ask me.

All in all, don’t be rude. It looks bad on you, your business, and your employees. I’m always willing to give someone trying to hock something a bit of their time because you never know. Think about how many people Mark Zuckerberg tried to get in front of, and how many times he was rejected because he was trying to sell something. I bet the people who wouldn’t even give him their time are kicking themselves now.

Is every sales person going to come at you with an amazing idea? In one word, “No,” but the WORST thing you can do is come off as an arrogant ass who doesn’t think the sales person is worthy of your time. I can’t predict the future, but I know what’s happened in the past. If you’re an ass to the sales people who call you day in and day out – you’re probably an ass to your customers, and your employees. When you’re an ass to all of these people, you’ll be one lonely ass out on the street looking for work.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Three things you can learn from the WestJet / Air Canada checked bag fee

WestJet, Air Canada

WestJet & Air Canada

Ah the great squabble over checked bag fees in Canada. First WestJet tacked on a $25 fee for your first checked bag. The subsequent uproar followed. Then a couple days later – to little or no surprise – Air Canada added the same $25 fee to the first checked bag. Oh what fun!

Looking back – it’s easy to say both companies dropped the ball. It’s not so much the fee, it’s how it was announced. Out of the blue…BANG! You’re paying more, at least that’s the thought process of you and me (the consumer). In reality, you already paid this fee. It was just included in the overall price. Now, airline tickets are less expensive (that’s the plan anyway), and if you want to check a bag, then the $25 fee applies. WestJet came out and said most people don’t check a bag, therefore most people will be SAVING money on airline travel. Unfortunately, there was no lead up to this or education from the folks at WestJet.

Here’s what WestJet could have done:

1) Ran an education campaign leading into the addition of the checked bag fee. In this education campaign they could have told as many consumers as possible about the fee.
2) EXPLAIN why they were adding the fee.
3) EXPLAIN how – in the end – you’ll end up saving money on air travel (if this is the case).

This could have been done in the typical WestJet way by using humour, and honesty. Instead, you were blindsided. It’s like getting woken up in the middle of the night by your wife who tells you she’s divorcing you. Out of the blue…WTF!

You end up saving on travel even with the addition of this fee, but all you notice is another fee from those fuckers in the airline industry. And it’s very difficult to change the brains mind. This easily could have been alleviated by a short EDUCATIONAL campaign by WestJet. Of course, they didn’t alas the public fire-storm.

Here’s what Air Canada could have done:

1) Seeing the WestJet blunder, and the ensuing revolt, jump on the opportunity to say WE DON’T charge baggage fees.
2) Then go on to explain the VALUE you add to the consumer (because an Air Canada ticket will probably be more expensive than a WestJet ticket now).
3) “Yes, we may charge more than the other guys, but here’s why…”
4) “At Air Canada we say NO to fees. While the other guys are saying YES to this that, and everything else, we say NO. There’s a reason why we’re called Air Canada. Because we’re for Canadians. Canadians who say NO to fees.”

It pretty much writes itself. BUT the airline industry failed you again. Both airlines are charging a fee for the first checked bag, and you’re irate because they didn’t educate you on WHY they’re charging the fee.

Here’s what you can take away from these blunders:

1) Follow what your competitors are doing. You may be too busy to do this, but it’s essential that you know what’s going on in the marketplace. To make life easier – set up a Google Alert under your competitors name.
2) When your competition blunders – take advantage. You don’t have to do an outright attack ad (aka political ads), but it’s a great platform to DIFFERENTIATE yourself from your competition.
3) THIS IS THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY TO TELL YOUR STORY. One of the best at this is David Keam from Best Sleep Centre’s in Manitoba. Do yourself a favour by taking a few minutes to check out their website. He educates you on what the market is doing. He’s not schilling his product. He’s giving you the information you need to make an educated buying decision. And he does it by telling a story.

Love you,

Jordan

Kimpton Hotels – I expect great service, so surprise me.

Plenty of businesses preach about their great service, but I find very few that follow through on that promise. Here’s the thing, I want great service no matter where I go or what I’m doing. If I’m paying you for something, I expect to be be treated well (unless of course your thing is being a dick, that’s cool too as long as you stick with it).

I recently had a destination wedding in the US at a Kimpton Hotel. Before completing the booking, my fiance and I read some reviews about Kimpton Hotels and the majority of reviewers preached about Kimpton’s service. As a result, my expectations were set very high.

Next thing you know, the wife to be and I are checking into a cool, boutique hotel in the french quarter of San Francisco. Upon check-in we’re given a package, a nice little wedding present (cool), we also find out it’s a pet friendly hotel (cool, I love pets!) and if we don’t have a pet we can take one of the hotels goldfish to our room at no charge (cooler). Finally, we’re told to visit the lobby for complimentary wine and sangria between 5 – 6 pm (are you kidding me? Complimentary booze! You have just scored a customer for life!). I was being treated like a big shot, or at least that’s what it felt like.

Needless to say, my mind was blown. I’m sure it helped that I was getting married within the hotel chain, but the amenities above were included for any guest staying at the hotel (aside from the wedding present). It’s like someone took a look at hotels and asked what do people want, really want…you want to stay with your pet at no charge (Kimpton does it), you want complimentary booze (they do it), you want to raid the mini-bar in your room (they give you a $10 credit)?

Even after reading endless reviews about the chain and going in with high expectations, I was still surprised by the service and the amount of stuff included in the price of the stay. That’s pretty impressive. And better yet, they don’t even preach about their customer service on their website. They understand that guests expect great service, therefore they don’t need to say how great they are at servicing their clients. They just do it…and then some. It’s apart of who they are, it’s their brand and it’s one brand I am very loyal to.

Take a look at your business and your advertising. Do you promise great service? Do you deliver? Is it even worth saying you provide great service? What are you doing to surprise your customers? Maybe it’s walking your customers to their car with an umbrella over their head when it’s raining.

As a customer I expect great service and I’m hoping you can deliver.