High-Impact Retailing : Attitude isn't everything. It's the only thing!
September 12, 2006
Whenever I was interviewing candidates for a position in my store, I looked for three things; Sincerity, enthusiasm and self-confidence. I don't remember where this came from, but it was something I learned early in my life. If these attitudes were evident, we knew we'd end up with a motivated and productive person. Our turnover was low and if an employee was to leave, it was most likely because he outgrew us.
We have all experienced what many shoppers would describe as high-pressure salespeople who greet you as you enter the store-as they should. However, the feeling that comes over us is: "How can I get this person away from me?" What is going on here? Consumers, just as you and I do, make instant decisions about people they meet. We can't help it. No one remains neutral. At some level most people have an acute sense of perception, especially when they are encountering someone who is attempting to sell something.
We judge some salespeople who greet us right away as welcoming. Yet others who greet us right away we describe as "jumping all over us!" What's the difference? Here's a definition of "high pressure" vs. "low pressure selling." It's exactly the same as sexual harassment (I could have saved the government millions). It's all a matter of whether she likes you or not. If she does, the same actions and words are taken to be positive.
So here then are the three attributes traits I looked for and why they are so important in a retail sales environment
SincerityMost customers can instantly perceive whether the person in front of them is sincere or not-it's the first attitude of success. Therefore, when we interviewed perspective salespeople, if we didn't perceive them to be sincere, they didn't get the job. It is such an important ingredient in success that we had each candidate speak with several people in the organization to make certain we all agreed.
On the other hand, most of us have encountered sales or service people who, by their attitude, make us feel we are their only reason for being. Whenever I encountered this rare quality, I did everything I could to hire the person. Professional selling is not something we do to customers. It's something we do for them-a gigantic difference. Again, people can instantly perceive whether or not you are trying to sell them or help them. In service, customers know instantly whether you're being defensive or you are working for her to solve a problem or answer a concern.
So whether it's service, sales or management, having the right attitude means doing the right thing for the customer, not the business. Customer service training at some of the most sophisticated companies in America consists of how service personnel should act toward customers in accordance with company policy. First of all, real service is impossible if the company has rigid policies. Each situation is unique and needs to be treated as such. But the fatal flaw in this manner of training is telling people to "be nice." That just doesn't work. They need to know why they should be nice.
Years ago, some training company taught K-Mart cashiers to tell every customer, "Thank you for shopping at K-Mart?" The management thought this was such a great idea that they imposed a twenty-five cent fine on anyone who didn't comply. It turns out they caught cashiers demonstrating their complete lack of sincerity by simply telling customers "T. Y. F. S. A. K-Mart." How many times when a clerk says, "Have a nice day" or "Welcome to Wal-Mart," have you wanted to ask, "Do you really mean it?"
Nothing destroys respect in a manager quicker than lack of sincerity. Someone once said, "Without honor, we are but an empty shell." Honor means being completely truthful in thoughts, words and actions. Relationships are built on trust. "Tell her I'm not in." may be a little lie, but it still a lie. Honorable people are likeable people. It's emotionally, intellectually and physically impossible for anyone to do their best work for someone they don't like.
Many people live their life behind a facade they believe will impress people in one way or another. When in fact, without the phoniness, there is probably a very nice person within. Being a real person is just as important to your personal and business success as the knowledge required to do the job.
EnthusiasmOne day an attractive and well-dressed lady came in to see me about a position. A portion of the interview went like this: I asked why she wanted to work here and her enthusiastic explanation was, "Since having my children I always wanted to get back into a career, but wanted to wait until they were of school age. As you might know I am a customer of yours and with each visit to your store, it was apparent that this would be a great place to work. Everyone was always smiling, yet always busy. I can't stand being idle. Moreover I have a background in interior design. Your designers, Jane and Paula came to my house to measure and loved what I did with my home. My passion is decorating homes and I am always helping my friends and neighbors achieve the look they want. I can do the same for your customers. Well, both children have now started school." You don't have to ask if I hired her or not.
If management isn't enthusiastic about their people, the merchandise, displays, their ability to service customers no matter what, their installers and overall quality of their operations, how is it possible for employees to be enthusiastic about the company? The same holds true for the employees. If they don't truly believe that their store is the best place in the market to purchase floor coverings and that they can make her home the home of her dreams, how is it possible for customers to be enthusiastic about buying from them? "Enthusiasm is like the measles: If you don't have ‘em, you can't spread ‘em." If someone wasn't enthusiastic about being invited to work in my business, they didn't get hired.
Jack Welsh, the ex-chairman of GE said he recognized leadership through the four E's: Energy-leaders have unlimited energy which Energizes other people and Engages them in the business which gives their company the Edge. Those four E's spell enthusiasm to me.
Self-EsteemEvery act we take as human beings is dependent on how we feel about ourselves. Self-esteem is being thankful every day that we were created exactly how we are and never wanting to change a single cell. Improve? Always. Conversely, the popular concept of awards unearned, money unearned and praise unearned rips away our self-esteem and ultimately destroys the soul. Self esteem is having the determination and courage to be a real person. Self esteem is caring for others more than you care for yourself. The current sickness of "If it feels good, do it" or the "me-me" philosophy is a recipe for misery. Life is about sacrifice and giving-impossible to do unless you love yourself first.
People with self confidence, which comes from self-esteem, neither want nor need a level playing field. The idea repulses them. They want hurdles, challenges and obstacles to conquer. Understanding that failure is the only way to learn, they reach for the exquisite failures that teach life's lessons. We advertised for people with ads reading like this: "Impossible job for difficult boss!" The prospects who lined up at the door were self-confident people seeking a challenge.
Emotional maturity, impossible without a high level of self-esteem, gives individuals the power to understand the behavior of others as well as the ability to recognize their own strengths and, more importantly, their weaknesses. Emotional maturity enables you to see yourself through the eyes of other people. Obviously this just skims the surface of self-esteem, but think about this: It enables these gifted people to give the same love and respect to strangers that lesser people reserve for family and friends.
The "attitudes of success" is the formula for being liked. People make their decision to trust you upon whether they like you or not. Selling is the art of being liked. Surveys show that consumers don't buy at the other store because of its better selection or lower prices. She buys because she likes the other salesperson better. Management and leadership is also the art of being liked. Employees will take a bullet for someone they like. No matter how much knowledge you possess, it doesn't help if others don't trust you.
Dr. Ronnie Thomasson of CCA Global Partners likes to needle me with this quip: "No matter that topic Warren is given, he does the same presentation." This, of course, tells me that Ronnie only stays for half of any of my sessions. A majority of my presentations have to do with sales education, customer service or motivational management. The foundation of success in any of these areas is inter-personal skills. Without the attitudes of success, knowledge is worthless. This is why most of my presentations are like the job interviews I would conduct: they are centered on sincerity, enthusiasm and self-esteem.