Ask Debra: How can I compete in this tough climate?

These are some simple tools and strategies to help your boutique stay ahead.

Don’t believe everything you hear. Just because the press says the economy is sliding downward doesn’t mean your sales will be affected.

Your mental mindset plays a tremendous role in your success.

While it is difficult to maintain a positive perspective during times like this, it is essential to keep focused on your main objective.

Associate with positive, like-minded people and avoid ‘doom + gloomers’ like the plague!

Retail guru Debra Templar, of Templar Group, answers a fashion buyer’s question on surviving tough times.


  1. Get Closer to Your Customers

Hopefully you have a great relationship with your existing customers. Now is the time to strengthen that relationship. Aggressively look for ways you can help them solve problems they may be experiencing.

Two things happen when shoppers are disgruntled in tough times:

Small improvements by businesses are noticed with gratitude, ie: more helpful service or more flexibility in returns.

On the other hand, what were once insignificant irritants become insults and reason for disaffection and abandonment.

Poor retailers will have a drastically reduced margin for error.

You won’t be able to mosey along as you have before, offering a mediocre product and service to an indifferent consumer.

The reality is that consumers are going to be far more selective, buy closer to need and look for genuine value.

  1. Become More Visible

Resist the temptation to crawl into a cave and hide until the economy recovers. Your customers will forget about you and you may die. Now is the time to increase your profile, with marketing and promotions.

When you increase your visibility you may just give customers a reason to buy from you versus a competitor.

Ensure your social media game is up to speed.  Recognise that Facebook and Instagram are a must for most retailers.  Ensure your pages are interesting – places your customers and soon to be customers want to visit.

Set the tone – it should be the same experience people have when instore.  Friendly, warm and welcoming.  And post regularly – preferably at least once every 24 hours.   And, no, you won’t “bother” your customers as most won’t be getting all your posts in their newsfeeds.  They’ll be getting some of them.

Make sure you use your database to send out offers to your existing customers.  Don’t have a database?  Come on!  Start one, NOW.

Most businesses (including your competition) will be doing less and doing with less: they’ll be cutting out marketing, they’ll stop promoting, they will discount deeply – and they’ll be scared to death to approach current customers for business for fear of alienating and losing their customers altogether.  Use all the tools at your disposal not just the ones you’ve always used…

As weaker retailers fall over, they will gift their marketplace totheir surviving competitors.

  1. Fine-tune Your Sales Skills

The skills you currently possess got you where you are today but they won’t get you much further. During times of economic uncertainty, it is essential to refine your questioning skills and learn to ask some tough questions. How have your customers’ buying processes changed?

What new challenges are they facing? What needs must your customers have satisfied now as opposed to later?

If you aren’t closing sales, it could be the economy; it could also be that your skills need sharpening.

Great sales skills will enable you to close sales even during difficult times. Conversely, not having the skills will allow potential sales to slip through your fingers. If business is really slow, use some of that extra time for education.

  1. Don’t Micro-Manage Your Sales Team

Leave them alone. Let them do their jobs. Don’t become a control freak – constantly calling meetings, demanding additional reports, basically driving them mad! Salespeople sell – let them sell. If you start to micro-manage through your fear, your insecurities – you’ll lose your top performers. Don’t misunderstand me – monitoring and measuring are essential. But, you should have been doing this anyway. If you haven’t – YOU now need to learn how to sales manage!

  1. Compensate Your Sales Force Fairly

Compensating a sales force is one of the most misunderstood aspects of running a business.

Far too many businesses don’t compensate their sales people in a manner that benefits both the business and its salespeople. Because sales activities are the lifeblood of most businesses, if the rewards fail to sufficiently motivate and reward your sales people, the overall success of your business is compromised.

And if the rewards overcompensate the salesforce, profits are unnecessarily eroded. Investigate what rewards your top salespeople would like.  You’ll be surprised.  It’s not always money.

These five tips all have one thing in common: They require action.

You can’t allow fear and anxiety about the economy to paralyse you. Instead focus on what you can accomplish and take steps to do so.

The one thing you can count on is that the economy will fluctuate. Right now, it is considerably more challenging than it was a year ago. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t reach your sales targets.

Get smarter. Get focused. Get busy. Get ready to succeed in a tough economy.

[author credit]

For the past  20 years Debra Templar has been working alongside small business owners teaching them about customers   how to find them, get them and keep them and all that entails.  She knows that businesses thrive or die depending on their offer to customers. Knowledgeable and pragmatic, Debra gets to the heart of the issue and offers cost-effective solutions, all with the aim of improving the business. This year Debra was recognised as one of Vends Top 50 Retail Influencers world-wide.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s