Should you use celebrities to promote your brand?


There are lots of differing views on the use of celebrities to sell brands but if you have the money, it makes sense to explore this option.

But tread carefully because celebrities after all are human and humans get injured or worse, make mistakes – think Tiger Woods, who was unceremoniously dumped by Tag Heur, Gatorade, Gillette, ATandT and Accenture, soon after the details of his infidelities emerged in late 2009.

Firms the world over spend hundred of millions of dollars getting endorsements from celebrities. And studies would suggest the returns are worth the investment – and the risk. Which is probably why Rolex has announced that Tiger Woods will now endorse its watches.

Indeed, a report last year by Anita Elberse for CNN found that sales of brands in consumer product categories jumped an average of 4% in the six months after an endorsement deal was announced.

Interestingly the report also noted that stock prices went up about 0.25% on the announcement and would generally react favourably each time the athlete won an event in his field.

As an aside, although Tiger Woods lost those endorsements, he is still the most endorsed athlete in the history of sport. And justifiably so if a report from Kevin YC Chung is anything to go by. According to the report, from 2000 – 2010, just the golf ball division of Nike earned an additional profit of US$60 million after acquiring 4.5 million customers after Tiger Woods began endorsing Nike products.

Of course Celebrity endorsements are not cheap. In 2000, Nike paid Woods US$100 million for a 5 year endorsement deal. Tennis player Anna Kournikova has multiple deals with Omega, Berlie Lingerie, Prince racquets and Canon. Kournikova also signed a US$50 million six year deal with Adidas. Fortuitously for Adidas they wrote a line into the contract that insisted on Kournikova winning something. This she rarely did but she still earned US$3 million from the deal.

Probably the biggest endorsement deal ever done was between Adidas and David Beckham. The lifetime deal cost Adidas US$161 million back in 2003. But at least it stops Nike from getting their hands on the globally popular football star.

Sometimes however all it takes is a little bit of good fortune related to a celebrity to generate massive sales. Victoria Beckham let it slip in an interview recently that despite the healthy state of her and husband David’s bank account, David was more than happy buying his socks from Marks & Spencer.

Since she made the statement, Marks & Spencer claim they have seen a more than 30% increase in the sale of men’s socks! And the cost of this celebrity endorsement? US$0.

Branding requires you to get to know your customers


This is the start of an ad hoc series of personal experiences I have with brands and some recommendations to help improve the experience.

Running a small retail business is tough, particularly in today’s climate. It’s even tougher in the competitive retail wine business in a small muslim country with high taxes on alcohol. Key to building a profitable business will be the relationship between the company and their customers.

Yesterday evening I walked into my local wine shop where I have shopped off and on for 5 years and was greeted with a “Hi, we haven’t seen you for a long time.” I mumbled a reply and the clerk nodded and carried on reading her magazine. This is not the first time I have gone ‘AWOL’ but the reason for my absense is the same. I haven’t been there for a while because about 3 months ago I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse and bought 5 cases of wine from another company.

Although I got a great deal on the wine there is no reason why my regular wine shop couldn’t have given me the same deal. But of course they didn’t know about it because they don’t make an effort to collect data on me. They just hope that I will come by every now and then and buy something. And if I don’t, never mind, there will be other new customers to replace me. To a certain extent this is true but wouldn’t it make more sense to look at ways to encourage those people who are already customers to come back again? And get to know those that come on a regular basis to increase share of wallet and develop brand ambassadors?

Here are 5 useful tips for any small retail business looking to be more profitable

1) You have a 15% chance of selling to a new customer and a 50% chance of selling to an existing customer. Distribute your resources accordingly.
2) Invest in database software that will allow you to store data about your customers
3) Don’t be afraid to ask for contact information from new and existing customers
4) Invest time in keying in customer data that you can use to determine buying patterns, product preferences and so on
5) Train your staff to get to know your customers.

Lead generation key to brand building


Many brands in Malaysia believe acquisition is key to brand building and are always trying to speed up the sales process. They focus on trying to close a deal as soon as possible. Qualification doesn’t exist, there is no attempt to build rapport and lay the foundations for a relationship. All that matters is closing a deal.

Even at road shows or other public events essentially meant to be marketing efforts to gather leads to approach later, the focus is on trying to sell something. Often, a photocopied flyer, even for luxury products will be thrust into a passing consumer’s hand with numerous features described in a robotic manner.

From suspect to customer
But a road show or trade exhibition, advertising campaign or similar is often meant not to sell something, but to lay the foundations of a relationship with a consumer who may, just may become a suspect, then prospect and finally customer. In other words, they are lead generation campaigns.

CSO insights release an annual report on Lead Generation Optimisation. Simplified, Lead Generation is marketing efforts designed to encourage targetted consumers to request more information about a product or service.

Unsurprisingly 67% of the 635 firms surveyed, reported weak sales so far this year as a result of reduced marketing budgets last year. But one positive to come out of the economic situation was that firms were spending more resources on measurement.

Measurement
Companies establish measurement systems to track strategic decisions – new enquiries, new customers won, sales and so on. But it is important not to measure the wrong stuff or measure for the sake of measuring. Metrics such as satisfaction (too broad) and awareness (too vague) are the wrong metrics and will tell you little.

In the CSO report over 50% of the firms that took part now have processes in place to track campaign ROI. And the criteria are simple, with the top 3 criteria being:

1. Total number of leads generated per campaign
2. Number of leads that convert to sales opportunities
3. Amount of revenue ultimately closed from those opportunities.

Now this isn’t nuclear science. Any company, of any size should be measuring these three elements every time they carry out a marketing campaign such as a trade exhibition. In the long run they may not speed up the sales process but they will definitely make it more profitable. And profitability not sales should be the goal of any brand.

Even iconic brands need to do the basics


Since the first iMac came out back in the 1990’s, I have been a loyal mac user. I’m now on my third generation of iMacs, and currently have 7 macs in my office as well as 2 iPhones. At home my family uses 3 mac laptops, 1 iMac, 3 iPods and 2 iPod touch. We also have 3 airports at home and one in the office.

Last year I convinced my technologically challenged wife to buy a mac and she now has 8 top end iMacs, three laptops and two iPhones and an airport in her office. About a year ago I referred a friend to my mac representative who sold him six iMacs and a couple of iPhones.

Service not a priority in Malaysia
Service and looking after existing customers are not a priority for Malaysian firms. But my mac representative was a diamond in the service rough of Malaysia. He would come out to my house at 10pm to replace an airport fried by one of the 250 thunderstorms we get annually in this tropical paradise.

He would bring a replacement airport, install it, reconfigure all my kit and sheepishly give me an invoice. Of course the next morning I would take the invoice straight to my accounts dept and stress that it must be paid immediately.

Unfortunately he has moved on to pastures new. It’s a massive loss to me because his service was exceptional and could not be faulted or replicated. In fact he was brilliant.

So until I find a replacement and I expect that to take some time because he truly was unique, I have to suffer the ignominy of taking my computers to the Apple store.

I did this recently after dropping a laptop. Because one of the key components of building a brand is experience, I thought it would be a good opportunity to see if local resellers were on brand.

As far as I can tell, for such a small country, the mac landscape in Malaysia is a competitive one. There are a number of stores around the Klang Valley.

Machines is probably the largest premium reseller with 6 stores across the Klang Valley and one in Johor. Their flagship store is at KLCC. You can find their neat website here

Another company is Smack. Smack is an authorised reseller. You can find their price driven site here

In fact, according to ‘where to buy’ on the mac site there are 83 resellers, in Malaysia. This includes those authorised to sell iPods. That’s a lot for a company that only has about 10% of the PC market.

So it’s a very competitive environment. One in which you would expect resellers to do what it takes to hang on to clients for as long as possible. An environment in which you would expect resellers to do what they can to take business away from other resellers.

Walkins are potential customers
I took my laptop to a mac store in a nearby mall. Now think about this, here is a relatively new store, less than a year old. In walks a foreigner with an old laptop that has a problem. He has never been to that store before. If FusionBrand were working with this retailer, he would understand that this guy represented an opportunity to gain a customer. And as he was unfamiliar and did not register when his name was entered into the database yet was a mac user, he was obviously a customer of a competitor.

I went to the counter where there were 3 or 4 guys standing around not doing much. None of them smiled so I said good morning and explained the problem. After a brief discussion the sales person asked if I could come back the next day because the technician was off that day.

I didn’t bother to ask why a technician would be off mid week. I said that as I didn’t really want to make another trip could I leave the laptop with him? Reluctantly, after discussion with his colleague he said yes but that it was company policy to charge RM100 (US$30) to carry out a diagnostic.

This isn’t much money but the salesman in me says this is the wrong way to do business. Here is a potential new customer with a long record of buying macs (they don’t know this of course because no attempt has been made to build rapport with me). Surely it would be a great idea to score some PR points by sitting down with me and getting to know me before charging an irrelevant diagnostic fee?

Anyway, long story short, I was bored by now but to put the boot in, I said I would go to the other store nearby. He shrugged and handed me the laptop.

I went to the other store in a mall nearby (next to a Starbucks with wifi, neat). Now I have been to this store before and it was where my super salesman worked but the turnover is high and I didn’t recognise the guy working there. Nevertheless, when I walked in I was greeted with a cheerful hi. I explained the problem and the guy told me to leave it with him and he would call me when he found out the problem. That was on Friday. On Monday, I got a call from him with some bad news. It’ll be interesting to see if he attempts to sell me a replacement when I go to collect the laptop.

Poor service
Now this is not a rant about poor service, I’ll leave that to others much better qualified than I. This is an attempt to show companies that branding is more than advertising, logos and so on. Building rapport, gathering data, qualifying prospects, engaging them and building towards a sale are all critical components of branding. Because many brands, especially Asian ones, won’t have the resources that Apple has.

Here are 5 things to do that will help to build your retail brand

1) Every walkin is not only a potential customer, but possibly a customer who is currently with a competitor. Be nice to them.
2) Develop 5 or 6 conversational fact finding questions that will give you the data you need to make informed decisions on how you want to proceed with the prospect.
3) The 1980s are gone and with it the concept of ‘company policy’.
4) Going the extra mile will ensure loyalty and loyalty is critical to profitable branding
5) Train sales personnel to sell because a lot of people want to buy but don’t know how to and so need a little help.

3 words that can ruin your brand in Malaysia and Singapore


If you are in Malaysia or Singapore and you sell stuff to customers, there is one phrase that can ruin your brand.

“No stock Lah.” Is repeated time again by poorly trained and disinterested staff.

This seemingly innocuous phrase should be banned in your organization. While we’re at it, you should also ban the obligatory disinterested shrug of the shoulders that normally comes with the phrase.

For the uninitiated, the phrase is common in retail outlets the length and breadth of Malaysia and still, despite the alleged sophistication of the city state, in many of the malls up and down Orchard Road in Singapore.

This simple yet powerful phrase, used with annoying regularity in both discount stores and swank boutiques of luxury brands negates every penny your organization has spent on sales training, reputation development, customer service, customer relationship management and other operational excellence initiatives.

It renders worthless the massive investments you have made in licenses, real estate, interior design, stock, utilities and more.

It erases the hard work you have put into press releases, press conferences and other promotional efforts.

It undoes all the good of the advertising campaigns you have run for years in an attempt to get a consumer or two to give your brand a chance.

In a heartbeat, it ruins every single, expensive effort, financial and otherwise you have put into getting the consumer into your store.

In short, this seemingly innocuous phrase can ruin your brand.

Don’t expect prospects to build your brand


Yesterday I saw a video on the new sonos zone player. You can find the video on the site here but to brief you it is a cool looking internet radio and itunes player controlled by your iPhone that allows you to play music in all your rooms. Pretty cool so watch the video if you can.

The video was really well executed and I was sold by the end of it. I went to the ‘Find a store’ feature on the site and was impressed to find a dealer not far from my office in Kuala Lumpur. There was even a contact name and email address.

I sent the contact an email but also decided to post a request for information on Twitter. Probably because I have sent emails to electronics dealers in Malaysia before and never heard from them (it’s a fairly unsophisticated business here, dominated by old school Chinese traders). But I sent the email because it is slowly changing, as I found out when I had a technical issue with my Zepellin.

Anyway, I haven’t got a reply to the email but I did get 2 responses to my tweet, one directly from the manufacturer @Sonos and one from the distributor in Singapore @SeowHow.

Incredibly, the manufacturer told me to contact their distributor and the distributor told me to contact his sales office!

Here’s some free advice to ensure your brand doesn’t end up in the bulging cemetary of great brands.

1) Don’t expect an interested prospect to become a customer
2) Treat all your leads/prospects as if they are the most important person in your world
3) Don’t expect a prospect, even an excited prospect with buyer written all over his face, to do all the heavy lifting
4) Your brand may be the be all and end all of your life but it isn’t of anyone elses
5) There is a lot of competition out there

A is for Advertising


This is a good place to start a compendium of branding terms because unfortunately, it is where many companies start their brand building. And that’s a shame, no tragedy because it is an expensive exercise in futility to try and build a brand using advertising alone.

Advertising can be traced back to around the late eighteenth century when the first print ads appeared in the USA. However, they were rarely much more than extensions of the editorial copy and newspapers were reluctant to allow ads that were bigger than a single column. Even magazines preferred to print all the advertisements at the back of the publication.

Mass advertising only really began in the second half of the nineteenth century when firms began to produce greater quantities of more and more products thanks to improved production techniques. Soon after manufacturing, other businesses such as department stores and mail order firms jumped on the bandwagon and by 1880 advertising in the US was estimated to be in the region of US$200 million. This grew to almost US$3 billion by 1920.

In the mass economy of the 1930s to the 1990s that coincided with the growth of mass circulation magazines, advertising companies proliferated. At the same time, companies wanting to stand out from the competition determined, quite rightly that the quickest way to grow was to raise the profile and awareness of the company’s product or service by informing or reaching as many people as possible in the shortest time.

The most common way to do this was via advertising, especially via TV advertising. The business of advertising is based on a model of repetition across mass media. OK, creativity is important, initially anyway, but once you get over the wow factor, the idea is to repeat the same message through as many channels as possible for as long as possible.

Budget played (and still does) a significant part in what sort of advertising an agency may recommend. It is important for you to know that from the advertising company point of view, the size of the available budget will determine two main points, 1) who works on the project (in terms of seniority and talent) and 2) what channels will be utilised. A larger budget generally results in TV advertising becoming part of the recommendations.

Other platforms include print advertisements, billboards, lamp post buntings, banners, taxi, bus and tube trains, coffee shop tables, flyers, leaflets and more. The introduction of the Internet has seen a proliferation of banner ads, tower ads, unicast ads, contextual ads, takeover ads, interstitial ads, floating ads, and other options to an already noisy, crowded and complicated marketplace. It is important to note that none of these initiatives are branding, they are all advertising and advertising is a tactical initiative not a strategic initiative, like branding.

In the mass economy and unfortunately still to this day, once a campaign has launched, probably to much fanfare, the client waits with anticipation to see the promised sales spike. Meanwhile the agency submitted any well executed commercials to one of the numerous creative shows that offer awards for creativity.

As mentioned earlier, repetition is important and with enough frequency, and perhaps a little vague targeting, this repetition was expected to encourage enough consumers to walk into a store or other outlet and choose or request the advertised product.

The model worked, to some degree fifty years ago but in today’s crowded marketplace, using advertising alone to build a brand is leaving too much to chance. It is simply too difficult to stand out from the crowd. Can you remember the last ‘great’ TV commercial or print ad that you saw? And even if you can, have you bought the product?

Quite often, the promised sales spike didn’t happen, unperturbed and with a straight face, the agency would ask the client for more money, arguing that it is the client’s fault as it should have made more money available in the first place for increased frequency. If you have gone this route, I suggest you bin the advertising agency and call a brand consultant.

Should you still use advertising? Absolutely because advertising will help your company project a vision of the relationship you can deliver to the customer. The ads also help you to educate customers about the value that you can offer them. Advertising must also communicate trust. Unfortunately this is forgotten by most advertisers, especially in South East Asia where outrageous claims made in advertising are rarely backed up in reality. In Malaysia for example, after years of being let down by claims made in advertising, only 14% of Malaysians now believe what companies tell them in their advertising.

But instead of seeking to increase awareness of your product or service with as many consumers as possible, ensure your advertising seeks to communicate with those consumers that are most likely to adopt your product or service.

Make your advertising relevant to those consumers you have targeted. Core messages must be related to those consumers interests, needs and/or desires. So rather than a one-size-fits-all approach in your communications, it is essential for messages to be about offering value to those specific customers and making their life better as a result. How to identify those consumers and what is relevant to them will be explored in brand audits and targetting.

The goal is to ensure a consumer incorporates an offering into their personal or business lives.

Adoption will ensure your brand is seen as the best, hey perhaps even the only choice. This won’t happen on its own. It is a process built on operational excellence, superb sales incorporating ‘top of game’ customer service and the ability to match offerings to the consumers individual requirements for value, on an ongoing basis. To build a brand retention is key and retention requires relationships and without relationships, adoption is not achievable.

And this is good news for Asian companies because the fact is Asian companies, and especially those from South East Asia, simply don’t have deep enough pockets to compete with international brands using outdated one-size-fits-all, mass economy tactics.

How not to sell a London property to Malaysians


I spotted the sign below on a lamp post in Damansara this morning. In case you can’t read it, the content is as follows:

London – Condo
Good Buy & Invest (sic)
West London £220k
Call for Preview
012XXXXXXX

I cannot believe that a genuine UK property developer or estate agent would encourage a company to sell million Ringgit properties with signs on lamp posts. After all the UK property market, and in particular the London market is benefitting from substantial investment and has hardly been affected by the global financial crisis.

Commercial property
Jones Lang LasSalle expects the total direct investment in commercial real estate in the UK to be around £23 billion (RM125billion) for 2009. Prime yields in the West End are 5% and in the city, around 6.25%. That’s impressive compared with a bank rate of, well about 0%.

Residential Property
Meanwhile, the residential market is also performing strongly. International buyers increased by 25% in 2009 compared to 2008. Most of the investment is coming from Europe, Russia and the Middle East. Knight Frank estimates demand from new buyers is “almost 25% higher than a year ago” and “prices have now risen 13.8% in the nine months since March.”

In fact, most of the investment is coming from the overseas market. Foreign buyers account for 80% of the investment, the highest ever. Indeed, the average over the last 10 years has been closer to 46%. The latest sources of this overseas investment include Oman, Libya, Lebanon, USA, Korea and Ireland.

UK property roadshow
Little wonder then that Malaysian firms want to get in on the act and sell UK property. I can’t find any figures on the total Malaysian investment in the UK or London property market however, the recent launch of a luxury development at Imperial Wharf, London, Malaysian buyers purchased £9.25 million (RM56 million) worth of luxury apartments and penthouses over the 2-day road show in Kuala Lumpur.

Olympic games
With more than 10,000 Malaysians studying in the UK and a number of companies keen to make the UK their European HQ, there are going to be plenty of willing buyers. Especially with the Olympics to held in London in 2012.

Wrong way to sell
But this is not the way to sell those properties. It dilutes the value of the property, negatively impacts the credibility of the local representation and makes it harder for future efforts to sell UK properties here in Malaysia. But worst of all, it portrays Malaysia as an amateur in a professional world.

Updated: 11th January 2010. I have since called the number on the bunting. I spoke to a nice guy with a pleasant attitude. I asked him where the property is. He stated the property was in South Ealing. As I know this area well I asked for the exact location and I consider it to be more Brentford than Ealing. He asked for my email address and promised to email me more information.

That was last Thursday, I have not received anything as of today.

Case study – How a Malaysian Company built its brand from the inside


Senior executives at a Malaysian technology related firm were frustrated. Sales growth was not meeting expectations, despite the firm’s 20-plus year track record, strategic partnerships with top international firms, excellent service and high profile advertising campaigns.

To boost sales, the firm had explored common alternatives – price cuts and an expensive marketing campaign. But although such actions had a short term impact in the past, there were no long term benefits and they hurt profitability. So the senior executives decided to look at another option – increase sales effectiveness by reviewing sales processes and tools, increasing the sales close rate and shortening the sales cycles.

Headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, the firm specializes in boosting supply chain and other efficiencies through both product sales and software and other integration. With offices in Singapore, Thailand and other Asian countries, the firm has a blue-chip list of customers that includes some of Malaysia’s largest companies. Sales had grown steadily over the previous decades, but the firm was now facing price-based competition from China at the same time as it was weighing opportunities to go public.

Issues
After looking at the issue, senior management determined that the sales problem was not due to a lack of leads. The firm received a steady supply of leads from word-of-mouth and customer referrals, as well as from its strategic partners. The sales staff also cold-called regularly for leads.

The main issue was converting those leads into sales. Qualified leads languished in the sales pipeline for months or even years. Too often, active senior management involvement was required to close sales, which took time away from expansion, financial and operational issues. The sales force constantly pressured management for price cuts to make sales. Even when sales were made, opportunities for sales to other divisions or branches were rarely leveraged. Too many sales were for low-margin commodities and replaceables, when the firm wanted more profitable service, maintenance and IT integration contracts.

Management had earlier tried to address these issues with automation (providing laptops to the sales force and installing a low-end CRM system), new sales compensation schemes, re-organization (creating a department just for telephone sales) and other steps. But sales still were not meeting expectations.

Traditional sales training
So the managing director decided that the best solution was to upgrade the skills of the 15-member sales force and other customer facing departments, and requested bids from multiple training companies. The most common proposal focused on sales training that emphasized lead development and closing skills. However, such training was generic to almost any industry.

Another, more expensive option, was a comprehensive approach that included revamping its sales processes and skills around the company’s offerings and requirements of its customers. After careful consideration, the company decided that an improved sales process and customized training provided the most value, and contracted with the sales development division of Malaysia’s leading customer driven brand consultancy, FusionBrand.

Sales audit
The first step was an in-depth sales audit that sought to uncover issues hampering sales as well as opportunities for improvement. FusionBrand conducted hour-long, confidential interviews with senior management, sales managers and many sales personnel. All sales material, including brochures, proposals, quotations, sales scripts, pipeline reports and other information, was reviewed and analyzed. Current as well as “lost” customers were interviewed for their critical perspective on the sales process and their reasons for buying/not buying.

The sales audit resulted in a comprehensive sales process analysis that identified strengths and weaknesses in the sales process as well as in the sales material. For example, the sales pipeline report, a key tool for sales forecasting and supplier orders, was both out of date and contained inaccurate information, making it difficult to prioritize resources and estimate future sales. The sales process analysis included numerous specific recommendations for improving sales processes, reports, collateral and proposals.

Many graduates of training courses complain that the material studied was not relevant to their industry or customer requirements. This issue did not arise because FusionBrand carried out a sales audit first. Information learned during the sales audit was then used to develop two customized sales training courses that incorporated actual customer, product and sales situations. Furthermore, the number of attendees was limited to 12 to ensure that each sales person gained maximum benefit from numerous role-plays and hands-on exercises.

The first customized, two-day course focused on sales basics, ranging from lead development, time management and closing. Special attention was paid to dealing with price-based objections. About four weeks later, the second customized course was held in 5 half-day sessions over a three-week period to minimize the impact on sales time and provide more opportunities for review and retention. This course focused on “strategic sales.”

Many training courses assume that sales can be made in a single sales call. However, only commodity, low-margin products can be sold in one call. More advanced offerings inevitably require strategic sales, characterized by longer sales cycles, multiple corporate decision-makers (ranging from finance to IT to actual users) and complex requirements. Such strategic sales require understanding differing requirements for value among various departments as well as internal political issues at the prospect. Using an existing prospect that was difficult to close, each attendee developed a focused sales strategy and delivered a PowerPoint presentation designed to win over all departmental decision-makers involved in contract approval.

Sales manual development
The final phase of the multi-month effort was a sales manual. A sales manual includes standardized information on sales processes, compensation (eg, commission schedules), reporting, requirements, resources (ranging from key telephone numbers to report and presentation templates), sales tips and more. The sales manual gives the company more consistent management by acting as teaching tool for sales managers with new staff and ensures more consistent operations and reduces training time.

Results
Results have been achieved in both sales and other departments. Ordering is based on more accurate pipeline data, which has reduced inventory, freeing up capital for expansion. Morale has improved, sales personnel are more confident and less inclined to reach for a calculator at the first objection and offer discounts. The company has made its sales and presentations more customer-centric. Most importantly, sales have accelerated and sales cycles are starting to decrease.

Other internal branding initiatives were embarked on to ensure the successes were communicated and integrated throughout the organization.

Summary
Companies invest a lot in marketing to generate leads. But even all the leads in the world mean nothing until they are converted into a sale and, ideally, a long-term customer. That is why investing in your sales organization, processes, and personnel is crucial for ensuring that customer requirements for value – whether at the MD or user level — are consistently understood and addressed by the brand. Such understanding is hard to achieve from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ sales training class.

A sales process audit, customized sales instruction and sales manual can give companies the framework and structure to close more sales more often – without having to compete just on price. This in turn will build a comprehensive, well respected and, most important of all, profitable brand.

Tips for building a retail brand


In terms of service, Christmas shopping this year has been a roller coaster ride from the highs of the interactions in the luxury stores of Pavillion to the lows of the interactions in the wannabe Malaysian fashion store in Mid Valley.

And even though approximately 85% of the interactions have left me frustrated, I want to be positive during the festive season and so am offering free advice to those retailers in Malaysia who want to build a profitable brand.

1) Teach your staff to smile when a customer walks into your shop. It costs nothing and instantly makes the customer feel welcome.

2) If you are a clothes store, get your staff to wear your clothes. If you are not a clothes store, develop a company policy on dress and stick to it. It may also help if you are responsible for laundry, that way the clothes will get washed.

3) Make it a company policy that all customer facing staff must have a shower and brush their teeth EVERY day, before coming to work. This is especially important in restaurants.

4) Teach your staff to approach the customer and say ‘good morning/afternoon’ etc with a smile on their face.

5) Teach your staff to understand how to respond if another customer interrupts a transaction. Essentially, teach them how to say no.

6) If you are a luxury or high end store, make it a company policy not to allow staff to drink from plastic bags when customers are in the store. Actually, make it a company policy not to allow staff to drink from plastic anything, ever.

7) The same goes with food. I walked into one store as a member of the staff was eating at the counter. He was on his own so came to serve me. I walked out 9 seconds later with half his samosa on my lapel.

8) The opening line, “Can I help you?” Begs a negative response. Teach your staff to try something open ended, such as “Are you looking for shirts or trousers?”

9) Sales staff are not order takers. If a customer, despite all the attempts by your staff to prevent him from making a purchase, insists on buying something, teach your staff to show something that goes well with the purchase. You never know, you might actually sell something else.

10) Listen carefully, the statement, “NO STOCK LAH!” is being used by many staff to get the prospect out of the store so the staff member can go back to sending sms messages to his friends. Teach your staff to apologise profusely for the fact that they just sold the last piece 15 minutes ago. Teach them to then explain that they will be happy to call other branches to see if they have the relevant product/size/colour. If you don’t have other branches, then teach them to ask nicely for the prospect’s number and explain that your customer service representative will call the prospect as soon as the correct product/size/colour comes in.

11) If someone buys something they have gone from being a prospect to a customer. Remember all that money you spent on launch party/PR/mailshots/leaflets/brochures/billboards/print ads etc? Well, you did all that for this moment. It wasn’t to create awareness, it was to drive this person to your store. And now he’s bought something, what are you going to do? Well, most of you let him walk out the door! Are you nuts? You have a 5% – 15% chance of selling to a prospect and a 50% chance of selling to an existing customer. So what is the point of letting a new customer walk out the door? It’s criminal! I’m serious! Be nice to this person, flatter him, spoil him, kiss him, do whatever it takes to get his contact information because he is now a customer. He is familiar with your product, your store, your staff, despite their best efforts. Your job now is to get him back into the store, preferably tomorrow!

12) Not every white person is a tourist. And not every tourist is a white person, but that’s another story. Just because a customer looks like a tourist, doesn’t mean he is one. Moreover, if he is wearing a suit, he probably has a white collar job which means, in Asia that he is probably paid well. Even if he is visiting, he may be back or he may be lonely so ensure your staff engage him.

13) The needs of a Saudi are different to those of an Englishman. And the needs of an Englishman are different to those of a Korean. You get the point. Invest in some training that teaches your staff to be able to develop rapport with different nationalities.

14) Pay your staff a commission on sales. If you don’t where is the incentive to sell your products? Without a commission, all the staff are doing is increasing your energy bill and destroying your brand.

15) While we are on the subject of remuneration, I suggest you pay your staff more. Every sales person I spoke to complained about their salary. One was earning RM550 per month, with no commission. That is slavery. Sales staff are an investment, not a cost. They represent your brand and, with the correct training, can multiply your profits enormously. And good ones are worth paying for. And before you tell me about the lack of loyalty, please don’t bother. If you create a nice environment with good pay, your staff will stick with you.

If you implement the above into your corporate strategy (if you have one, and many of the stores I visited over the last week can’t even spell it) then I guarantee you will increase your sales and move toward a more profitable brand.

I’ve got about 100 more of these but I’ve got a plane to catch. Happy Christmas!