Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Tip #328: Become a Better Leader: 3 Communication Principles

This week, we’re sharing tips for improving your leadership skills through effective communication techniques. Pulled from an article in RCI’s Kettle Talk magazine, Joseph Grenny identifies three key communication principles employed by influential leaders and how to apply those principles to your own skill set. Joseph Grenny is the co-founder of VitalSmarts,as well as a four-time New York Times bestselling author, speaker and leading social scientist for business performance.

I’ve spent thirty years studying what makes leaders influential. After studying more than 25,000 people, my colleagues and I found that one versatile skill set accounts for a great deal of the most effective leaders’ influence: how they deal with crucial conversations—emotionally and politically risky issues or disagreements.

Having seen how central crucial conversations are to bolstering the influence of leaders, I set out to learn how the 3 to 5 percent who master these moments do it so well. The reason I was particularly interested in these crucial conversations was because these influential leaders found a way to be honest without compromising respect, and to be respectful without compromising candor.

In my books, Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability, I describe key principles that result in this kind of quality dialogue and increased influence. Here are some that make the biggest difference:

#1 Learn to Look
Those who are most effective at crucial conversations are most conscious of their own behavior. They are aware of their own “Style Under Stress” and catch it quickly when their approach begins to damage dialogue. Specifically, they watch for when their own or other’s behavior moves to silence or violence— some form of withdrawal or attack. When that happens, they stop and mentally refocus on their real goals. To get back on track, they consider what results they really care about. When the other person is reacting badly, they make it safe.

#2 Make It Safe
Have you ever noticed how some conversations—even about very risky subjects—go very well? And others, perhaps even about trivial disagreements, can degenerate into combat or retreat? Why is that? We’ve found that the antidote to defensiveness in crucial conversations is to make it safe. People can listen to tough feedback so long as they feel safe with the person giving it. How do you create safety? You help others understand that you care about their interests as much as you care about your own. When they believe this is true, they open up to your views. When they don’t, they shut down. Secondly, you must help others know you respect them. Mutual purpose and mutual respect are the foundation of safety.

#3 Make It Motivating
The key to influence is empathy. Before starting a crucial conversation, influential leaders carefully think about how the problems they want to raise are affecting, or will affect, the other person. They think about the natural consequences of the situation to the other person. And they reassure others that these consequences always exist. For example, if a direct report appears incompetent, it’s likely their incompetence is as frustrating to them as it is to others. The problem is that they don’t see how their weaknesses are connected to their own concerns. However, if in a respectful way you can help them see how their own interests are served by addressing the problem, they are naturally motivated to engage in solutions.

Now let me be clear about my claim. I am not suggesting that if you Learn to Look, Make It Safe and Make It Motivating, people will naturally give you everything you want. What I am suggesting is that your influence will increase. Rather than contributing to problems by “acting out” your concerns, you’ll be talking them out—which gives you the potential for a solution.

Can these skills be learned? Absolutely. I’ve spent years developing methods for teaching and training leaders to increase their influence by improving how they deal with crucial conversations. And when they do, relationships and results improve rapidly and remarkably.

Crave more? If you like what you read here, look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox. RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Tip #327: Tempt the Senses to Increase Sales

The secret to increasing sales may be right under your nose. The best way to entice new guests and keep them coming back is to manage the guest experience through highly personalized guest service.
In this week’s post, Jeffery Smith, with Peterbrooke Chocolatier, guides us on an exploration of each of the five senses and how to use them to ensure every facet of your location makes a quality statement.

It's time to take off your day-to-day blinders and put on your guests' eyes—have an open mind and experience your retail store as one of your guests, not as the owner/operator of your business. You can do so by focusing on your individual senses and asking yourself the following questions.

As you approach your location is the front of the store clean and attractive? Is the outside paint fresh and clean? Are the awnings clean? Is the sign in good repair and does the timer operate properly with dusk? Is the glass clean on all exterior windows, and all signage in your windows professional in appearance? As you enter the location is the packaging crisp? Are the shelves well organized, uncluttered and the product clearly labeled? Can the guest easily identify the price of each item on the shelf without having to turn it over to look for the price? Are all surfaces clean in publicly visible and nonpublic spaces? Are all of your chocolate items in temper with the shining chocolate appearance?

The sound of your location should be complimentary to what you are trying to achieve and should never be louder than a comfortable conversation level. In addition to the volume, music is just as important for setting the tone in a retail environment. If you are striving for a fun and lively atmosphere, seek upbeat tunes. Likewise, classical or jazzy sounds can create the feel of a sophisticated, high-end environment. Next, stand in the center of your location, close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. Listen for sounds you may have become accustomed to and would normally tune out. Do you hear compressors cutting on and off? Do you hear the employees talking about last night’s date? Does the air conditioning/heating unit squeak while operating? Is the music too loud to hear anything else? You may have gotten used to these sounds, but for a new customer they could be distracting.

Does your location smell like a chocolate/candy store? Are you employing the use of a scent machine to aerate the allure of chocolate into the street as a way of enticing guests to come into your location and purchase product? Does your location smell clean and fresh in all areas, not just the retail area?

How long has it been since you sat down and tasted your chocolate/candies during operating hours? Does all of the product you sell meet your quality standards for taste? Are you sampling the freshest, highest-quality product or items that are out of date and/or old inventory? Are the creamy items creamy, the cold items cold and crisp items crisp?

Are all surfaces both inside and outside of your location clean to the touch. There is nothing worse than dirty door handles with grime under the handle. Are soft surfaces soft? Does all packaging that is touched by your guest say quality? Hopefully by looking at your location through your guests’ eyes you can make it better than it already is.

As you begin to focus more on appealing to the senses, you may be able to improve customer experiences that may have been overlooked and poorly affecting sales without your knowledge. Change your focus and see how it affects your sales.

Crave more? If you like what you read here, look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox. RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Tip #326: Show Your Customers Some Love with Inexpensive Customer Appreciation Ideas

Customers are essential to any business. Finding ways to make them feel valued is key to creating return customers and champions for your business. Below we’ve shared five easy and inexpensive customer appreciation ideas to show your customers some love today.

Choose a Customer of the Day
Use the element of surprise to delight your customers. Use your POS system or an old-school tally counter to identify your 10th customer and surprise them with one of your signature products for free or a discount on their purchase. Post a photo of the lucky winner on social media to drive in-store traffic. Let customers know they’re just as appreciated during busy holidays as they are on a random Tuesday.

Think of the kids
Being part of an industry that relies heavily on gifting holidays, consider ways to cater to shoppers with kids. By simply creating a space for kids to color and enjoy a snack, parents will be able to shop more privately for Christmas/Valentine’s Day/Easter gifts in peace. Share photos of the space on social media with details on what parents can expect and watch as grateful parents thank you with their business.

Bon Bon's Candy House created this space for kids to color and enjoy snacks
while grateful parents shopped for their Easter gifts in peace.
Send a handwritten thank you card
It may be old school, but a thoughtful handwritten note is one of the easiest and inexpensive ways to show you care. If you have access to your customers’ mailing addresses through a loyalty program or corporate accounts, consider making it a habit each week to mail a few handwritten notes to your customers. Try to make it personal or include a coupon to use on their next visit. You may be surprised how much of an impact this simple act of kindness will make.

Train your team to call customers by their first name
Calling customers by their first name makes their shopping experience personal. Train your staff to look for customers’ first names on their credit card and, then, call customers by name when thanking them for their purchase. Over time, staff are more likely to remember repeat customers and will be able to recall their names without even looking.

Say “thanks” with a video
A study by TD Banks revealed, more than 80% of customers like getting thanked in person. Since this isn’t always possible, a thank-you video from you may be the next best (and certainly memorable) option. If you request data, like customer birthdays, consider creating an email template with a video or GIF (create your own GIFs with the app, Giphy Cam) of you wishing customers a happy birthday and send it to a group of customers who all share the same birthday month. Even though it’s a template, the message will feel more personal and special with a video coming from you.

Buffer is a social media management business that used this fun GIF
to thank customers for their business.

You don't have to wait for Customer Appreciation Day on April 18 to celebrate your customers. That's why we've shared ideas easy enough to start incorporating into your business today or any day. How do you show your customers you care? Share in the comments below.

Crave more? If you like what you read here, look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox. RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices.
Not a member? 
Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Throwback Tip #312: 4 Ways Distributors Can Help Your Business

Have you ever wondered if working with a distributor would benefit your candy business? In this week’s post, RCI member Chris Romocean, with Linnea’s Candy Supplies, sheds light on a distributor’s role, as well as some of the ways a good distributor can offer value to confectioners.

Manufacturers are not always able to service every customer as well as they would like and that’s where distributors can help. Whether due to a manufacturer's geographic location in relation to their customers or their ability to help with the administration of sales, customer service, inventory and logistics, having distributors lets a manufacturer do what it does best. Make product. To be successful, a distributor needs to add value to the products it sells.

Manufacturer’s lead times can be difficult for confectioners to contend with, especially during holiday seasons. Lead times can be anywhere from several days to several weeks. A distributor usually has product in inventory available for immediate order fulfillment.

A distributor should have a wide range of products that complement each other and meet the needs of confectioners. Having the ability to combine products from various manufacturers all in one shipment can significantly reduce shipping costs. Product bundling also saves time. Placing one order is much faster than placing several.

For many confectioners having a lower minimum order means they can order the quantities they need, not the quantities they have to. Requirements for precious storage space are reduced and their cash is not tied up in excess inventory.

The burden of keeping a large inventory is shifted to the distributor allowing confectioners to use just-in-time strategies and smaller orders on a more frequent basis.

There is a misconception that prices from a distributor will always be higher than buying direct from the manufacturer. Many distributors have prices that are comparable and sometimes lower than buying direct from a manufacturer. Distributors purchase products in large quantities from manufacturers and get discounts based on large volume orders or quantities committed to by contract. With this discount, a distributor can offer products at competitive prices.

Another misconception is that if a customer stops buying from a manufacturer and gets their products through a distributor; they are not as important to the manufacturer and will lose contact with them. While it is true the distributor will be assuming the customer service role, the manufacturer’s technical support, expertise and knowledge will always be available either through the distributor or directly. Manufacturers value their customers and want them to be successful whether they buy direct or through a distributor.

Distributors are faced with many challenges. Being able to accurately forecast, not only levels of inventory for thousands of products, but also planning for lead times and the logistics involved in replenishment is critical for a distributor’s success and the success of its customers. Good communication with the manufacturer and the confectioner is vital.

Another challenge is being efficient at getting products to customers fast, especially during the busiest parts of the year. A distributor needs to have a great team working together from the time the order is placed until it reaches the customers door.

In today’s business environment, now more than ever, a distributor creates value for manufacturers and confectioners alike.

Crave more? If you like what you read here, look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox. RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices.