Fixing Bad Sales
( Originally Published 1902 )
There is a cause for everything.
If a department is sick, discover why, then apply remedies. There are several reasons why a department may suffer from poor business. Here are some of them:
An incompetent manager (usually the reason most abundant). Poor advertising.
Let us take up each reason and try and get at the right remedy. An incompetent manager should be replaced with a competent one. That is all there is about it. A business house is no elemosynary institution—no refuge for incompetent " members of the family "—no "soft snap " for a dull-witted "manager"—no home for one under the dominion of rum, or any other evil influence, nor is it the place for anyone, except the person who knows and does his business in a clean-cut way.
Poor advertising should not be tolerated. There is no excuse for it in this age. The manager should have a fair conception of how to get up sales. They are vital to-day to any department or retail business. To get up sales properly is to be sufficiently supplied with the right goods at the right prices —to be able to write and mark advertising copy in such a manner as to make a good, striking impression upon the public—to secure good illustrations if necessary—to advertise and handle each sale in such a manner that it will be a source of satisfaction to the public and the concern, and to keep in the narrow path between skimpy and extravagant advertising. No fool can do this!
Poor buying is an abomination. Occasionally the best buyers make mistakes in styles and colors. Once in a while they become too enthusiastic in the buying, and overloaded stocks are the result-true mountains of agony upon human shoulders! Friendships are dangerous emotions to buyers—so are enmities. Keep in the cool, clear wind, between both. Quietly study the many ramifications of the market—strike when the iron is hot, when the manufacturer is sick of his goods and willing to sell at a sacrifice. Then the buyer has an excuse for a successful sale —an excuse that the public (who are not asses) will see has a foundation—and will, as a result, respond. The buyer must know his goods-their styles, colors, fabrics, workmanship, finish and all such details. The buyer must know his public—their wants, whims, likes and dislikes. The buyer must know his market—its principal men, their strength, weakness, and what they have. And at all times the buyer must know himself and his resources. He cannot afford to " fake 'in his advertising. No incompetent can fill his position!
Poor location, in many cases, cannot be helped. In such a case the only remedy is to make strenuous efforts for betterment in other lines. If it can be helped without detriment to the other trade features, do so. I have seen sick departments put on a paying basis by being moved to a better location. We all know how the wrong side of the street makes all the difference in the world in the success of a store.
Poor methods of display can be remedied by almost any bright young man in the store. Do not kill his individuality by being too dictatorial. Give his God-given abilities an opportunity to assert themselves. Encourage him!
Inefficient salespeople are generally the result of inefficient heads. Competent merchants create competence on the part of their workers. Every move, effort and word on the part of a competent merchant or manager, has its effect on the rank and file, who are human beings, and as such are not impervious to impressions. However, if a sales person is naturally or persistently willfully incompetent, discharge such a person. Better for the business—better for the person when this rule is enforced!
Tardy deliveries are unmitigated nuisances that the shop-ping public will not stand for. An extraordinary amount of trade is lost by this cause alone. Keep promises in deliveries, even if at times a few cents may be lost by so doing. These few cents may be replaced later by a few dollars from the shop-per, who appreciated prompt deliveries.
A bad reputation is something that can be lived down by good deeds. The human memory is long when it dwells upon unpleasant subjects, but it can be made to forget the unpleasantness of the long past in contemplation of the good of the present and recent past. A business is like a person, in the respect that both are accorded certain niches in human minds—if the reputation is good, respect follows; if bad, the consideration is certainly not respect.
Insufficient capital is a matter that in many cases cannot be remedied. The best rule governing such a situation is to "trim your sails to the wind."
Lax business methods generally should be corrected by beginning at the head and working down—not at the foot and working up. The person to blame for a sick business is THE. HEAD OF THAT BUSINESS! No other. He is responsible and should be held responsible-he in turn should hold his lieutenants responsible, and they in turn their subordinates. The discharge of one or two subordinates never helped a poor business as long as those at the top continued the even tenor of their misguided way. It is a pretty safe rule, that efficient heads have efficient workers.