Make Sure When The Cat's Away, The Mice Don't Play | Cups To Gallons

Make Sure When The Cat’s Away, The Mice Don’t Play

There’s a food show every year in DC with aisles and aisles full of vendors who are there for many reasons: brand awareness, lead generation, even direct selling. It’s a tremendous opportunity for small businesses to get their product into potential customers’ mouths. I’ve been to this show as a participant. I’ve been to this show as a vendor for my coffee and smoothie business.

It’s not a small investment to participate. There’s the cost of the booth, which can easily cost $500 to $5,000+ just for the booth space. Many shows include additional fees that are usually necessary such as electricity, the carpeting, even a trash can (yes, they charge for a trash can). There’s the cost of the visual display, the marketing materials and the “incentive” (something to get people to provide their contact information). Usually attending these shows incurs travel costs – shipping the materials, airfare, hotel, food. Of course, there’s also the cost of the staff to man the booth.

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Sure, these shows may be expensive, but they put you face to face with your perfect avatar prospect (assuming you exhibit at the correct show). Everyone who walks by can be a new customer, client or patient. You’d think every exhibitor would leverage their participation as much as possible and talk to as many people as possible.

Yet, as I walked down the aisles of the food show, there were multiple booths in each aisle with the people manning the booth just sitting there, most of them on their phones. You know what I’m talking about – the person who is so entrenched in seeing what’s on their Facebook feed rather than having to engage with prospective customers, clients and patients. It sends a message: “I’m too busy to talk to you right now” or “You’re not as important as what I’m doing right now,” so those people just walk by your booth.

As AT&T would say, “It can wait!”

If instead of viewing those people as “people just walking by the booth” but as “walking dollar signs” would it change how you approach the way you train and manage your staff working at the booth?

You may be saying “Stacey, I know what you mean, but I don’t do events or trade shows.”

Well, I bet the same exact thing happens in your brick and mortar store. Have you ever mystery shopped your business? You may find yourself shocked and disappointed with what REALLY happens when the boss isn’t around.

You hired people to do a job, and you need to make sure they’re doing it. I love Dan Kennedy’s quote in the No B.S. Ruthless Management of People & Profits:

“Create jobs people really want and that good people won’t want to lose. Why should you do all this? Not to be a generous soul. Not to be liked. Not to win some award. So that your bloody ax is feared and you can be fearless in swinging it.”

Here are 10 things you should be wielding that bloody ax about when it comes to the “people” part of your business. These 10 things are deterring people from buying from you – whether it’s at your trade show booth or in your brick and mortar store.

 1. Using Your Cell Phone or Tablets

When people see you on your phone (whether they’re prospective, current or past customers), they will get the impression that you are too busy to speak with them and will most likely move on. There’s no reason staff should need their cell phone or tablet during working hours. Make it a policy and enforce it.

 2. Staffers Talking To Each Other

This is almost as bad as seeing staff on cell phones. You know what I’m talking about. The two (or more staffers) having a personal conversation, totally ignoring what’s going on in the store. There have been a number of times when I have walked into a store just to be ignored while the staff is busy talking about their plans for the weekend. This shows me that they are not interested in speaking with me or anyone else who stops by.

 3. Eating or Drinking

Brick and mortar retail usually entails long hours. This can make any staffer hungry or thirsty. Taking sips of water in between speaking with potential customers will keep the staff hydrated, but any other food or drinks need to be saved for breaks. People who see the staffers eating while they’re visiting the store will be under the impression that the staff is on a break.

4. Bad Breath

There are going to be plenty of moments when you will be speaking with someone at a close distance, so fresh breath can make a huge difference from having someone who wants to stay and talk to you and someone who wants to end the conversation. Having mints in your store will help get rid of any bad breath, especially after meals or drinks, such as coffee. But whatever you do, do not allow staff to chew gum. Chomping on a piece of gum as you are talking to a customer, client or patient can be extremely distracting (and annoying) for both you and them.

 5. Turning Every Conversation Into a Sales Pitch

Don’t get me wrong, every small business owner wants to generate leads and customers, but trying to sell a product or service right away can taint the impression customers have about you and your company. As each person is greeted who enters the store, small talk is a great way to get their attention. Ask questions about their weekend plans, the weather, and anything else that would help them feel comfortable and not obligated to make a purchase. Once you have established a conversation, then you can begin asking what brought them to your store or questions about the products.

 6. Spending More Time Talking Than Listening

Potential customers want to feel like they are being heard, which will be rather difficult if the staffer is doing all of the talking. By stepping back and allowing your store visitors to do the talking, you’ll be able to better understand what problem they are having that your product or service could fix. If possible, try to follow the 80/20 rule – listen 80 percent of the time and talk 20 percent of the time.

 7. Trash Talking The Competition

One of the worst things you staff could do is to talk poorly about the competition. Instead of spending all of your time and energy discussing all of your competitors’ flaws with potential customers, build up your own products, services, or company. Bringing negativity into the conversation will quickly ruin the relationships you could have been building with potential customers.

 8. Not Dressed Appropriately

I bet you’ve been to a store where you noticed that staff didn’t get the memo on how to dress for success. Wearing jeans, old t-shirts and dirty sneakers isn’t going to cut it (unless you’re in landscaping or something similar). Depending on the type of company you have, it may make more sense to wear a suit, tie and dress shoes, while it may be more appropriate for others to wear matching shirts with the company’s logo on them.

Keep in mind that you will be representing your company, so dressing the part is critical in order to leave prospective customers with a positive impression of your business.

 9. Not Collecting Customer Information

Someone just bought something from you. They obviously like what you offer. Why would you let them walk out the door without getting as much contact information as you can so that you can build a relationship and give them a reason to come back again? That’s like watching money literally walk out the door. Incentivize staff to get the information and they will.

 10. Closing Early

This happens more times than not. Staffers start closing down before the printed hours are even up. I had a client running a dessert shop where staff had closed a half hour early because “things were slow.” A family stopped by for a promotion they had received about “hot chocolate and ‘smores night” only to find the door locked when they arrived. They posted it on social media and it created a lot of negative publicity for them and negatively impacted their reputation.

If you have employees doing any of these 10 things, put policies in place immediately to stop it. I recommend your regularly mystery shop your business, too. It’s an honest review of your strengths and weaknesses.

How do you make sure the mice don’t play when the cat’s away? Share your comments below.


About the Author Stacey and Dave Riska

Stacey and Dave Riska, aka "The Cups To Gallons Champions" are on a mission to help independent coffee, smoothie, juice bar, ice cream, dessert and snack shop owners learn how to get into lucrative catering. They transformed their coffee/smoothie business from $500K in debt to a 7-figure profitable business (yes you read that right!) by doing catering. They're the author of "Cups To Gallons where they share the 5-step CATER system that can give you $800 a day (or more!) in profits. Join Stacey, Dave and your fellow small business owners in the FREE Facebook Cups To Gallons Group

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  • Stan says:

    Good insight. Never thought about some of these points. Thanks!

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