Are you making the best use of the people in your business? I'd bet there's much more you could do to bring out the best from them.

Your people are your secret weapon

Are you making the best use of the people in your business? I’d bet there’s much more you could do to bring out the best from them.

Your people are your secret weapon

We work in retail. This is definitely a people business: people selling products to other people. You’ve probably heard the expression “People buy people first”? Well it’s absolutely true. You wouldn’t usually buy anything from someone you didn’t like, or from someone who didn’t look after you well.

Not only do we work in a people business, but in the cookshop world we work in a product sector that’s ripe with opportunities to show off our people skills. Just think of it: to get the best from many products we sell or for customers to realise the full potential of a product often requires explanation. What an opportunity! Here awaits a great competitive advantage for all specialist cookshops…if they decide to do something about it.

If you watched the latest Mary Portas series on television, I’m sure you can see where I’m coming from. She uncovered everything we already know about retail service in the UK – it’s lousy! But I believe that great customer service is the small retailer’s – and cookshop’s – secret weapon.

All you need to do is:

· Find friendly people who like other people

· Train your people to help your customer buy (not sell!);

· Look after your people very well – spoil them!

We sell specialist products that require good product knowledge from our people. But our best staffs were not born with their knowledge! They learned it. We can instil good product knowledge into anyone as long as they want to learn. So find enthusiastic people who are really interested in your business. Offer rewards that are extraordinary. I’m not advocating premier league level salaries here, just more pay than your competitors. I know of independent bookshops that are thriving because they stick to these two principles: above-average pay, and identifying people who love books and are interested in talking to others about them.

You may have heard of a hi-fi and television dealer called Richer Sounds. It’s a fantastic business. Owned and run by a guy called Julian Richer, it’s probably the premier player in its product sector. How? Well, primarily because it hires the right salespeople and looks after them extraordinarily well.

I won’t go into everything that Julian Richer does to build his business, but I will say that one of the perks he offers his best-performing store teams is to provide a Bentley for them to use for a weekend at the boss’s expense! Now, how many cookshop owners provide that kind of motivation?

If you take a look at the Richer Sounds website you’ll see that while Richer uses all the benefits that having a multi-channel approach offers, he’s encouraging his customers to visit his stores – because even though you have a website, you can’t beat getting customers through your doors. When they see your knife displays and your great range of cookware they’ll be more tempted to buy than they will off the screen. Especially if your people-friendly, knowledgeable and well-motivated salespeople are there to greet them!

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