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On Building A Sales Organization – 4 August 26, 2013

Posted by David Dirks in Sales Compensation, Sales Management, Sales Metrics, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
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Once you figure out the kinds of sales team you need and how to compensation them to higher performance, you’ll need to ensure you arm them with the resources they’ll need to succeed.

First is sales collateral – those print and digital pieces that can help the sales process along.  That said, I’ve never seen or heard of any sales collateral that sells all by itself.  Create sales collateral that support the sales process.  The principle of “less is more” applies here.  And makes sure that your sales collateral looks professional and not like it was put together on the cheap.

Then there’s sales training.  This isn’t the place for determining what kinds of sales training your burgeoning team of one to more sales people.  What I can tell you is that the right balance of sales training and coaching on a regular & consistent basis is worth the investment.  Most small businesses provide little to none sales training except perhaps for some training at the beginning of their employment.

Sales training is like physical exercise.  It should be challenging and slow build sales “muscle” – those skills that become part of their sales behaviors after a period of training and reinforcement.

Sales coaching is another support mechanism that’s necessary for a bare-bones but effective sales organization.  The challenge is that most small business owners don’t often have the sales background that would enable them to provide sales coaching.  What to do?  If you don’t have a sales management background here are three key points to cover in each of your individual sales coaching sessions:

  • How close are they to meeting their current sales goals?  If not close, why and what can be done to improve performance?  If they are on track, what are they doing right?
  • What are prospects & customers saying about our products and services?  This is a good time to take the “pulse” on what the street is doing or saying about the kinds of products and/or services your provide.
  • Set goals for the next session.  Success is incremental and so is the progress needed to get there.

Sales professional need regular & consistent support in the field.  Make sure you are able to provide it before you commit to building a sales force.

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On Building A Sales Organization – 3 August 26, 2013

Posted by David Dirks in Sales Compensation.
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If all else goes well, compensation is usually the part that falls off the map.  The majority of small business owners that I’ve seen over many years try to find a way to pay the least they can.  They create so-called sales compensation plans that seemingly have a “path to make a lot of money” as one small businessman told me once.  The math is usually some blown up algorithm that has no relationship to the time it takes to really sell the product or service.  It assumes that the “sky is the limit” and that the product or service is so beloved that it will fly off the shelves.  Reality meets fantasy and no one wins.

As I said in the beginning of this series on the subject of sales compensation:

Willing to create a sales compensation plan that truly rewards people for their efforts but doesn’t leave them wondering how they are going to eat while they ramp up & beyond.  Whether you hire experienced or entry-level sale people, be prepared to compensate them within the range of what is at least the standard for you industry.  Going cheap on the compensation plan equals  consistently high turnover.  At best, you’ll be a good place for someone to get some training and experience before they go off and find a real sales organization to make a living off of.

Years of sales compensation planning provides me with several takeaways:

  • A great compensation plan rewards sales behaviors that lead to tangible improvements towards meeting or exceeding specific objectives.
  • A one-size-fits-all sales compensation plan does not exist.  The best plans are customized to your specific industry and needs.
  • Spend some time looking at how compensation plans both are similar and where they vary.  This is time well spent.  What you will learn will save you time and headaches.
  • Stress-test your compensation plan first before finalizing it.  Do the math and run some realistic scenarios through it to ensure it rewards the behaviors that you want to reward.
  • All data that is used for calculating compensation must be verifiable.
  • Make sure your compensation plan cannot be manipulated.  If there is a weakness in your plan that could favor the pockets of your sales force with little benefit to your business – sales people will find it pretty quickly.
  • Base your plan on realistic sales income scenarios.  I love the way most multi-level marketing (MLM) programs can develop multiple scenarios that look and sound like you to can make $5000 a month in extra income by only do X, Y or Z.
  • Sales compensation plans should be reviewed at once per year at a minimum or whenever major changes in your business (changes in product pricing, profitability, competitive changes, etc.) make it necessary to adjust your plans.

Overall:  Avoid the extremes:  paying too little or paying too much for little real results.  When in doubt, hire a sales compensation expert to help you craft a plan that fits your business needs.

Potential Sale Undone January 26, 2011

Posted by David Dirks in Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
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It never ceases to amaze me how awful you’ll often find the sales service you can find from different businesses.  Just recently I was contacting a very well known radio station that serves the NY metropolitan area.  All I wanted to do is get some basic demographic composition of the stations listener.  I called the number of the salesperson who I had in my files and left a detailed message of what I wanted and how.  I made it as easy as possible for him to follow-up with me either by email or phone.

Do you know what?  It took him more than a week to even acknowledge my call…and he wasn’t on vacation or out of the office for some other reason.  He explained to me that he was very busy dealing with other sales prospects.  He never apologized for taking more than a week to get back to me.  He just thought I would buy the excuse.

I nevertheless let him banter on and it was then I realized that he didn’t bother to listen to what I wanted in my first message.  So, I had to take the time to go over the specific items I needed.  He rambled some more about needing some time to get to this request.

“I have some car dealers that I’ve lined up as prospects to finish.  Can I get back to you with this information the following week?” he said.  By now, I know this sales person simply stinks at the sales profession.

That told me that he didn’t really care about my business and only wanted to show me just how busy and successful he was.  How could he get back to me when he had all those pressing car dealers to sell radio time to?  Unbelievable right?

Here’s what that sales interaction told me:

1.  His firm had not provided or did a very shoddy job of training him or he simply ignored what he learned.

2.  It also told me that his manager had no clue just how awful he was.  Perhaps he was already on written warning for being such a poor and clueless performer.  That was possible buy not likely.

3.  This sales person likely lost & cost his company tens of thousands of hard-to-earn revenue dollars every day, week, and month they employed him.  It’s likely that his sales approach with me was the same ‘winning’ formula he applied across his selling opportunities.

By the way, he never sent me the data (which he only had to forward to me) the week he promised it.  It was the week after that when I received his email with the data I requested.  Three full weeks of valuable time (mine) lost because this person couldn’t sell his way out of a paper bag.

When I work with a client, we focus a serious amount of time on setting up a sales process and developing a sales culture that is responsive and attentive to prospect needs.  Sales training built around best practices within the firm and industry is job #1.  It’s an ongoing process that includes a regular dose of sales coaching that helps to shape and mold their sales performance.

Long-term sale success also includes building a process around performance management that helps us understand what’s really going when we turn them loose on their sales prospects.

I see too many companies short-change the sales selection, training, coaching, and performance management process.  In this case, radio sales are not easy sales by any stretch of imagination.  Radio ad sales are traditionally thought of as a place were a new sales person can ‘cut their teeth’ in the sales profession.

All the more reason to invest a little more time and resources in making sure they understand how you want your future (and current) customers to be treated.

Business Strategy: All Wars Are Local June 16, 2010

Posted by David Dirks in Uncategorized.
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I’m not sure who said this or if I’ve just made it up from something I heard years ago but it goes like this:  All wars are local.  Which to me, means that whether global military war or business war, the war seems pretty localized from where you happen to be in the battlefield.  It’s all-local.  Now it seems that the print media war, which is on a national scale is really a local war after all.

I have a very good example for you too.  I was on the E train in Manhattan when I noticed the ad campaign splashed above me.  It was for the New York Times and one of the captions caught my eye: “Not just Wall Street.  Every Street.”  Then I noticed the other ad posters on the subway wall.  They all had different captions but emphasized the same thing:  we cover New York LOCALLY.  Here was a major paper that not long ago focused on marketing itself as a national paper in addition to covering NY and the tri-state area.  Now the focus was convincing readers and potential readers that IT was the best for NYC coverage.

Now enter the Wall Street Journal.  It’s clearly a national paper in terms of its coverage.  However, it recently launched an entirely new section of the paper that focuses exclusively on local NYC news.  How about that.  All media wars are local.  It represents, at least here in NY, a fundamental shift in business strategy for print media.

Let me summarize what I think it means in terms of business strategy from the NYT and WSJ perspective.  What they are saying is, ‘We need to OWN our local market.  We need to completely obliterate all other competition.”  All media wars are local.  That’s it.  Somebody woke up and realized that in order to survive, print media needs to own the local space lock, stock, and barrel.

This is especially true in major metropolitan markets like NY represents but it also has implications for local and regional papers too.  While how local newsprint gets delivered will surely change (via electronic devices like the iPad or others like it), what really matters is who captures the most ‘eyes’.  Advertisers of any kind only want to invest in media devices where their customers are spending their time.  Whether that’s a printed version or electronic version matters not.  The more splintered a market is in the context of how many sources people have for local information, the worse it is for local media.  Own the space then.

The paper in which I author several columns, The Times Herald-Record, was way ahead of the ‘own the local market’ curve years ago.  I don’t recall the year but they introduced and marketed the mantra ‘Because we live here too’.  Their emphasis was squarely on localized coverage and more of it.  The feel of the paper changed as they put more investment into deeper local coverage of a broad range of events.  It was notable at the time that less print space was devoted to deeper national and global coverage and more shelf space devoted to local & regional issues.  All wars are local, including the media ones.

This all very understandable given that a reader can get national and global news from many other sources including TV or the web.  What’s really funny to me about the whole thing is that nothing has really changed here.  Marketing strategy has always depended on meeting the customer where they spend most of their time.  Advertising has always been based on subscriber counts of one kind or another.

In fact, I’d say that what’s happening from a business strategy perspective is that print media is going back to its roots.  There was a time when almost all your local newspapers were 90% or more focused on local events.  Like who’s barn burned down last month, who was the first to get plumbing or electricity in their homes or who’s cows ran away for a week.  National and global news wasn’t instantaneous like it is today.

So, we’re back to number of eyeballs again.  To survive, not only does local print media have to figure out how to revise how it delivers and sells its journalism, it first has to own the local media market.  Local media needs to own the local ‘eyeballs’ in that market.

All wars are local.

Landing Big Sales with Tom Searcy: Podcast November 5, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in Dirks On Strategy: Episodes, Sales Metrics, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
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Listen to this podcast of a previous show on the Dirks On Strategy Radio show.

Tom Searcy, author or “RFPs Suck!” and co-author of “Whale Hunting,” is a national speaker, trusted authority on large account sales and founder of Hunt Big Sales, a fast growth sales consultancy and thought leadership organization. Searcy’s primary expertise is working directly with companies and sales teams throughout their big sales “hunts,” helping them to compete and win disproportionately large sales in highly competitive markets. His philosophy and process have resulted in over $3 billion in new sales for his company and its clients.

Before entering the national stage, Searcy headed four corporations, each of which he was able to take from annual revenues of less than $15 million to over $100 million–all before the age of 40. Since then, Searcy has helped more than 100 companies grow exponentially with his proven process for fast growth and company-wide transformation.

In his newest book RFPs Suck!, Searcy shares his rich understanding of the RFP process with companies across the board to help them conquer the RFP system once and for all to win corporate and government contracts.

Searcy’s first book with co-author Barbara Weaver Smith, “Whale Hunting: How to Land Big Deals and Transform Your Company,” was published by Wiley in 2008.

Contact him at: http://www.huntbigsales.com

Free-Analysis Marketing April 28, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Increasing Your Profitability, Recession: How to Beat It!, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
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David DirksThe Big Dogz always know how to keep applying what works in almost any market or economy.  They’ll take advantage of marketing opportunities that  other businesses either miss entirely or just sit on the sidelines wishing they had.

Take Scotts LawnService, which is a well-branded and nationally known entity established by the Scotts Company (yes, those same people who make the fertilizer and weed killers you use on your lawns each year).  The local Scotts LawnService in my area sent out a mailer with one simple offer: A FREE lawn analysis.  I believe I get one every year from them.

Their deal is simple.  They come to your home and conduct soil samples that allow them to test for the ph levels of your soil and for other key ingredients that should be a part of a healthy lawn.  That’s the part they do for free.  The analysis is detailed and tells you what you need to do (with Scotts or without them) to improve the health of your lawn.

But there is another key part.  They also include a price quote to provide the service necessary on your lawn to bring it up to snuff (if it needs it).  That doesn’t cost you anything either.  I’m not obligated to do anything with them and they know it.

Here’s the deal:  they know that they’ll be enough people who also take advantage of their price quote to more than make up for those who don’t (and the expense of mailing them).  The old true & tried ‘free analysis’ works time and again…as long as the analysis has some depth to it and isn’t shoddy.

Scotts has many competitors in this field of lawn care.  Anyone with a truck, lawnmower, rake, weed whacker, leaf blower, and some ambition can get into this business.  Whether they are good at it or not is another story.

I’m going to take a wild guess that many of the lawn care & service operators are having a tough time of it right now.  How many of them do you think are coming up with ways like this to improve their chances of survival?

Oh, one more thing.  Scotts also offers a ‘satisfaction guaranteed’ policy.  “…we guarantee you’ll be thrilled.  And if not, we’ll do what it takes to make it right.”

That’s another way to insure you survive.  Guarantee your work.  Between that and the free analysis, it’s no wonder Scotts LawnService remains in business year after year. The Big Dogz always know how to apply the right pressure and do it assured that their competitors won’t.

Retailing Winners: Deep Discounters and Used Re-Sellers January 23, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in Building Foot Traffic, business strategy, Increasing Your Profitability, Recession: How to Beat It!, Retailer Store Strategies, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
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David DirksWe should have seen this one coming.  While most of retailing struggles, there are those who are doing just fine, thank you.  I noted a recent cnbc.com report that told the story of Family Dollar Stores with quarterly profits jumping 14% in the 4th quarter of 2008.  Deep discount stores have for a long time been the butt end of business jokes but no more.  If every dog has its day, then this dog is having a good one.  Mind you, stores like Family Dollar and 99cent Power have always done well and only just increase their sales and profit tempo by several fold in tough times like this.

Gamestop is another interesting retailing story.  They sell both gaming hardware and software but with  a twist:  they also re-sell used gaming equipment and gaming software.  Just think of it.  When some people move up to the next system or change systems, they are often stuck with  a substantial inventory of gaming hardware and game cartridges.  However, they realized that there is a very vibrant and growing secondary market for this stuff.  So they buy it outright and re-sell it at good profit.  So far, the kids can’t get enough of this stuff and keep buying and selling.  Gamestop also offers a discount off of new games if you bring one in for trade.  Either way, they make a good profit.

You might be familiar with a franchise called “Play It Again Sports” that buys and then re-sells used sporting good equipment of all kinds.  What an idea!  Take the stuff that we who have kids seem to accumulate in droves, buy it on cheap (we just want to get rid of it not realize an ROI!), and re-sell it to folks who are smarter than we are (because they can buy sports equipment in excellent condition for a fraction of the cost we paid for it).  It’s a great play but especially in times like these where every dollar spent is measured carefully.

What can we learn from these retailers?  Here are a few questions I’d be asking myself:

  • What part of my business could take advantage of this concept of offering deeply discounted or re-selling high quality, slightly used products?  For example, if I owned a retail shop that sold hi-tech equipment (think like a Best Buy but on a smaller scale), I might seriously consider buying slightly used, ‘late-model’, high-quality equipment from folks who are looking to unload it for cash.

I’m not suggesting here that you sell junk.  Leave that to the yard sales to move.  Instead, you are creating another source of incremental sales revenue and profits by way of offering a less expensive alternative to ‘new’.  Don’t worry about selling the new product as there will always be those who will only buy new…however, in these times there are a lot less of them.

  • Don’t get hung up on the concept of selling slightly used products.  Don’t let your pride get in the way of your ability to DRIVE TRAFFIC TO YOUR STORE.  This is about creating another level of differentiation that customers will value.
  • Set up a distinct area of your store or website that offers the re-sale product and promote the heck out of it.  Nine times out of ten if it doesn’t work, it’s because it wasn’t promoted  every way possible.  You can build it but if they don’t know about it, they won’t come.
  • You have to let folks know you are a buyer of product.  You have to market to the people who own the product you want to resell.  If you promote to sell product, you also have to do the same to buy it.
  • Buy low, sell high.  Establish an idea of what the used product goes for on the market given different levels or grades of quality.  Ebay is a great place to start.  Look there to see what used items in that category are going for.
  • Set high quality standards for the used products you buy.  The good news is that you don’t have to buy anything that you deem junk.  Set standards for quality (and safety) that anyone could use to measure whether a used product is worthy of you buying.

This concept of re-selling slightly used product or deeply discounted new product doesn’t fit every business model.  Remember, this is about giving customers and potential customers a reason to come to your store (or retail website).

Beating a Recession: Don’t Play on Price Alone! January 4, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in A New Webinar!, Recession: How to Beat It!, Retailer Store Strategies, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Small Business Advertising.
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David DirksI recently saw an ad in my local paper from a tire dealer.  It was a good sized ad and it had one focus: price.  Price as in ‘here’s the old price (crossed-out) and now here’s the new low price’.  No doubt, this is a retailer whose sales have  gone down to some degree as this economy grinds to a near halt.  Competing on price is a typical knee-jerk reaction to slowing sales.  It’s also a good way to spend precious money on advertising that will NOT move the sales needle much at all, if any. Trust me, it won’t.  Advertising is a good thing and should be done in the face of a recession, despite the urge to cut those costs.  However, advertising spending that focuses only on price will only frustrate and cause a business owner to make the mistake of cutting out advertising at the point when they need it the most.

Competing on price, in any economy, is the kiss of death in my book.  Here’s why.  In a commodity business like the tire business, for example, you can get your tires from many places these days.  Cut your prices and I’ll find someone else who either can match it or come pretty dang close.  I firmly believe based on experience that the only way to win is to find ways to DIFFERENTIATE yourself from your competition.  Is price all you’ve got?  Is that it?  Yikes.  You’re in trouble because everybody can play that game.

Instead of competing on price alone, compete on services or create value added items that your competition doesn’t.  For this tire dealer, I’d recommend figuring ways to bundle additional services along with pricing to show the customer the value-added services that  come with that pricing.  What kind of ‘additional’ services?  How about:

  • Free tire check ups and rotation
  • Free car wash (make a deal with a local car wash and you’ll help both businesses)
  • Take an extra X% off your next tire purchase on top of advertised sales prices for returning customers only
  • Special customer discounts for automotive parts purchases at a local car part dealer (work a deal out with a local parts retailer and create special coupons just for your customers who purchase tires with you).
  • Free gas card for $xx dollars for each purchase?

You get the idea.  Bundle as many direct and indirect services as you possibly can and keep coming up with new ones and new combinations all the time (because some of your competitors will get the drift of this too and copy you).  Bundle. Bundle. Bundle.  Show them that they get more out of their purchase from you than just the idea of saving a couple of bucks.  Anybody can cut their prices and most do.  Do more.  Think outside the  knee-jerk reaction of depending on price cutting to solve your sales revenue problems.

Big Dogz Webinar Now Available!!  Want to learn more about how to beat a recession and keep your business moving forward on the sales and profitability fronts?  Check out the “Beat the Recession” page on this blog.  Sign up before January 23rd and save $50!  You can register at: http://www.regonline.com/CBP1250

Don’t miss out on this webinar…it’ll be the best low-cost investment you can make in your business!


Retailer Strategies: Beating the Big Boxes December 20, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Building Foot Traffic, business strategy, Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff, Marketing Buzz, Recession: How to Beat It!, Retailer Store Strategies, Sales Strategy/Tactics.
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David DirksA regular reader of our blog, a marketing director of a two-store retail operation, recently sent me this note:

“I have stumbled across your site via Google, and have found many useful tips, and ideas to use in our day to day operations with my previous employer in the retail industry.

I am now in the retail world, and although similar in the “customer focused industry”.   I am finding it harder to come up with ideas to draw in foot traffic for our unique, upscale home & garden boutique.  We capture e-mails & information, send out mass e-mails with flyers, intimate wine & cheese events that have a store wide sale during that event.  I’m in the process of creating a newsletter for launch Jan 1, and our owners are constantly running a sale of some sort (which I think devalues the product if there is a 15-25% off sale every day).

Do you think you can help? I need something that will create a buzz quickly, our owners want fast results…”
I called her and we had a nice chat.  For the most part, she is doing many things already that will pay bigger dividends as time goes on.  She’s new to the retailer she works for now and has some excellent marketing skills.  After our conversation, I sent her an email recapping some of my thoughts.

I thought you might find them helpful, so I’ve added my summary to her below:

Thanks again for taking the time to chat with me today.  We’re glad that you’ve found the “Running with the Big Dogz” blog helpful to you.

I thought it would be good just to quickly recap a few items we discussed:

  • It seems that you are already creating additional customer value by developing your newsletter and adding other ‘event’s’ to your store schedule.
  • Increasing the number customers that are added weekly to the customer database will become more critical as time goes on.  I would recommend capturing all customers, even those who are from out of town.  You can still send them an electronic version of your newsletter if the newsletter is packed with tips & advice on gardening, basic skills, etc. The out-of-town customers will be your internet customers of the future.
  • Your strategic advantage against the big box competitors in your market is your ability to drill down to the customer level. The big boxes have no customer level tracking whatsoever.  If you capture POS data for every customer, you’ll soon have a treasure trove of demographic and buying data that will help you refine your product/service set as well as target very customized offers to your customers based on their historical buying habits.
  • Web-based sales should be a high priority and acceleration of for expanding sales/service via the internet is key.  You indicated that they had already begun some minor commercial expansion of the website but I would make it a much higher priority than it is.  Internet sales may or may not overtake your in-store sales but the goal is to add incrementally profitable revenue streams.
  • Your ‘girls night out’ program sounds excellent and we discussed creating a similar package for the men too.
  • I highly recommend reducing or cutting completely any marketing spend on flyers or ads in free distribution periodicals.  As I noted, it might be better to spend that money on more ‘one-to-one’ marketing programs like your demographically target events, targeted direct mail offers, and more investment in commercializing your website.
  • We also discussed the alternative of possibly empowering your sales team to offer an instant X% discount for buyers who need just a slight push to make the sale that day.  It may be a much more constructive way to offer a discount ONLY IF NECESSARY to keep a customer from walking out.  It might be more effective than the constant “gotta sell everything today at a discount” mentality.  The caveat is that if the “deep” discounting works and your profit margins remain stable, then it may make sense to keep doing it.
  • To get more mileage from your PR marketing efforts, especially for your special events, I’d call and develop a relationship with the business editors at the major paid circulation newspapers and other periodicals.
  • One of the best ways to help ‘sell’ a marketing proposal is focusing on the benefits (not the features of the program) and use real examples from other high performing businesses to demonstrate that the concept has a track record of success.

Based on what I heard today, you are on the right track and are doing the things that will provide you with the recession-resistent flow of business.  It will take time but it will come.  Keep up the great work!

————————————————————–

Have a burning marketing and/or sales issue?  Feel free to email me at dirksmarketing@gmail.com and see if together we can come up with some ways to solve it.

Driving Retail Sales: Layaway Plans October 23, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Building Foot Traffic, Recession: How to Beat It!, Retailer Store Strategies, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
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It seems like a hundred years ago but there was a time when credit cards were not the ‘cash’ of the day.  When your or my mother wanted to buy something that was an larger purchase than usual, they did it on the layaway plan.  Layaway?  I’m sure if you ask some high school or college students what a layaway plan is you’d get some blank stares.  Better yet, try finding a retailer who bothers with offering a layaway plan.  Therein lies your opportunity.

In the economic climate we’re in now, people are rethinking how they make purchases.  You can help by offering a layaway plan (assuming you don’t already have one!) to your customers.  You simply allow them to make an initial deposit on the total purchase and then weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly ‘payments’ in cash until the merchandise is paid.  No interest and you can determine the standard amount that is needed to start the plan…say 20% of the total purchase price.  Then you can determine just how long you’ll stretch the payment.  Maybe you stretch it from as little as 3 months to 6 months and let your customer choose which payment plan they want. Once the plan is paid in full, they get the merchandise.

The layaway plan is great for larger purchases, especially those made before the holidays kick in.  Considering how few retailers actually offer layaway plans, this is an opportunity to promote and give customers and prospects a chance to make purchases that won’t put them on the plastic.

This is a great way to help you sell in a season were people are wondering how they can afford to buy.  It’s also a great way to differentiate yourself from your competition who doesn’t want the ‘bother’ of offering a layaway plan.