Investing in service and relationships is essential, during good times as well as bad
Professor and consultant Specialist in marketing, sales and retail, Maurício Morgado is a professor at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV) School of Business Administration, one of the most respected institutions in Brazil. He’s also a member of FGV’s Center of Excellence in Retail, coordinates the professional master’s degree in this field and is the author of the book Retail – Commercial Business Administration.
HOW TO ACT IN TIMES OF CRISIS?
The first recommendation is to not retract. This is especially true for communication and relationship with customers. Service must also be valued. These activities cannot be abandoned: with them, it’s already difficult to attract customers; imagine without them.
HOW TO DO THIS?
For retailers and contractors, the target public is well defined. Therefore, direct contact with registered customers can be made by telephone, email or mail. This is important to maintain proximity and open up opportunities. At the same time, work must be done to improve the way the customer is attended. The important thing is to understand that in these times, we cannot lose any sales. We need to increase the so-called conversion rate, that is, the percentage of contacts that turn into business. For this, the client must be treated very well – which makes reinforcing sales techniques and customer service knowledge essential.
WHERE TO FIND INSPIRATION?
Inspiration can come from other business sectors, observing best practices of companies and professionals. Good ideas are everywhere: in the bakery around the corner, the big supermarket chain, an airline etc. All it takes is having an open mind to notice them. Ideas can also arise by looking at what competitors are doing. Especially what they do best and which can be adopted or adapted to your conditions.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS IN MOMENTS LIKE THIS?
The most critical issue is financial. Full attention to cash flow must be given: this is what can lead the company to go bankrupt. Therefore, it’s necessary to carefully look at defaults, late payments and inventory (which is money stopped). Also, avoiding bank loans is essential. A team that’s not motivated is another risk. It’s best to make the situation clear to everyone and seek their support.
IS IT POSSIBLE RO BENEFIT FROM DOWNTURNS?
Revenue falls, but there will be more time to devote to improving the business. It’s a good time for the company to look inwards and see where and how there is room to improve: reviewing procedures, opening new fronts, uncovering inefficiencies and waste, re-evaluating and implementing projects that were set aside in boom times. All these activities help keep the staff busy and avoid the lack of motivation I mentioned.
HOW ARE THESE ACTIONS CONNECTED WITH INNOVATION?
One way to innovate is to figure out how to do better something that was done differently. Inspiration in best practices is one of the paths. Another is research to better understand what the customer wants. No need to make an appointment or ask them to fill out a questionnaire. In more informal conversations, you can get great information and, from it, plan innovative actions.
AND THE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE CLIENTS, HOW IS THAT?
In time of crisis, the potential clients tend to be more selective, analyzing carefully all their expenses. However, we cannot think about attracting them only by having low prices and promotions, because the income must be preserved. Investing in a good assistance and differentiation is ideal.
WHAT ELSE CAN BE DONE FOR THESE CLIENTS WHO RESIST SPENDING?
Among the best known sales techniques are the ones that show how to deal with the clients’ objections. It is necessary to build arguments to avoid the client’s “no’s”. A good homework is to make a list of the clients’ main excuses for not purchasing and preparing consistent answers for them.
HOW CAN YOU BE DIFFERENT FROM YOUR COMPETITORS?
The actions are the same as in good periods – that sometimes are left aside because the business is not going well. The focus must be on elevating the level of services. This involves training and the team’s awareness, to the point of view of a gentle and efficient assistance as well as the sales techniques and the product knowledge. It is necessary to have the ability of helping the client to solve the problem that took him to you in the first place. The manufacturers can contribute a lot – and are interested in that – for the stores teams and for the technical assistance. Also concerning the services, the importance of a pleasant environment for the clients must be highlighted: cleaning, tidiness and clarity help a lot, as well as having coffee at their disposal, a place to sit and wait, technical materials for consulting and magazines such as the Refrigeration Club for reading.