Retail Lessons for the Digital Age

Retail Lessons for the Digital Age | Don Surath  training-slide

When a new digital solution for my clients is presented to me I request success stories.  Some new ideas have flopped causing irreparable damage to relationships.  With success in a related industry I’ll confidently present and often close the new digital concept. This is a technique learned owning a chain of shoe stores.

Shoes are the hardest retail product to sell because they have to fit. I learned the hard way to bring a female shoe model with me to shoe conventions. She let me know which shoes looked great and fit well.  If the shoe didn’t fit we had to quit.

Another huge  challenge was having the sizes available in popular models. The solution was carrying shoes from manufacturers who allowed fill in sizes,   Customer loyalty was enhanced because people had confidence in our service. City Feet put in an SKU inventory control system in the 80s when Nordstrom was still counting by hand. We knew every day what shoes needed to be re-ordered to prevent losing easy sales.

There is a direct connection to having the proper inventory in an ancient business like a shoe store to today’s necessity to be able to meet constantly changing ways to generate sales in the digital age.

I learned in my shoe stores that customer satisfaction was possible even if we didn’t have exactly what was requested as long as we understood our inventory.  Sales could be closed by offering shoes people wanted plus a couple they might like. That second shoe might either fit or looked better and sent shoppers off with a successful result.

Often electronic media prospects weren’t satisfied with whatever radio or TV station I represented until the digital age allowed me to fill whatever need presented itself. With thousands of choices, a larger arsenal is necessary to compete. It may seem difficult but we must embrace whatever vetted new option our organization presents to the sales team or lose closing opportunities that will not be replicated.

Like having the right shoe size, the perfect digital fit demands that we constantly embrace new solutions

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4 Ways Patience Pays off

4 Ways Patience Pays off

The first letter of the word P.A.C.T. I use to describe successful personal selling is “P”.

P is for patience.  As you become a more successful sales person you will understand that each deal has it’s own rhythm and not having the courage ( C is the third letter in my word) to wait until the time is right can destroy a major opportunity.

One of the secrets of having patience is to have enough prospects in your sales funnel that you are able to pinpoint when is the right time to continue the process and when you should pull back.

1. “I’m not ready to take the plunge on your new concept yet” may mean no, but to me says yes, not yet. Instead of pushing for the start date your manager wishes, why not ask: “When do you think that will be?” Then shut up! Unless they say never, set a time to revisit while you are at the meeting.

When they give you a time, ask what has to change.  By casually moving them in your direction you have an agreement for another meeting where you both will have a better understanding of the situation. You’ll fill your calendar with another meaningful meeting that might be crucial to make  your year.

2. What if you know your product or service is perfect for an organization but you can’t reach the decision maker?  Try LinkedIn to see what you can find out about your Ultimate Decision Maker (UDM) that might help break the ice. Maybe there is a common connection.  I found a connection this week who agreed to give me an intro. How about cultivating the gatekeeper?  Make him your new best friend first. It will make his day and be fun for you.  He will then be more inclined to give you tips on the best way to reach the UDM.

3. Some deals take a long time to close.  My longest waiting period was 14 years. Because I believed in the viability of the client and the large volume of the potential deal, I was able to withstand years of close calls by not showing my disappointment to the prospect. After finally closing the deal we became good friends and had many great business connections. In perspective, the day following my big sale I closed a different prospect on the first call.

4. Do not show frustration when a sale falls apart.  A no from your prospect gives you the opportunity to discover the reason that a maybe does not provide. Learn from the no, then ask if you can keep in touch if any new information should occur. The prospect will be relieved that you aren’t pouting and usually agree to revisit if new information becomes available.

My next post will have the “A” and “T” of P.A.C.T. Can you guess what they are?

Don Surath is an award winning author of Conquering Cold Calling FearThe Revised edition is now out in E-book available at Amazon,com and at

Please help me understand why you smoke

As I headed to work this morning, an attractive young woman was walking in the rain with one hand holding an umbrella and the other, a cigarette. I had to wonder why she smoked and why it seems more young people are smoking these days

That’s where you come in. if you are under 30 and smoke cigarettes can you please share with me your reasons for smoking? I must be missing something because after all these years if health warnings as well as seeing friends and family members succumb to tobacco, I need help understanding.

I asked one of my MBA students from Bejing for a reason and she said young people in China take up smoking as teenagers to look more mature. Was that your reason? If so, now that you’re an adult why did you continue?

There are lots of construction workers in our neighborhood who smoke. With all the physical labor they exert daily it seems that smoking would slow them down. Do they smoke as an excuse for taking a break from work. If so what about the non-smokers? Do they keep working while their co-workers stop several times a day. Please advise.

I think I understand recovering alcoholics and drug abusers. Cigarettes might give some oral gratification in lieu of their addiction. If that is you, please confirm or correct me.

Another of my female students from the Middle East says she only smokes when out drinking. Are you one of those the bar smokers?

A bright male student who smoked asked me for a reference when he graduated. I said it would be an honor to recommend him if he agreed to stop smoking. He asked how would I know if he was telling me the truth. My response was that it would be impossible. He didn’t respond. Would you have? and what would be that response?

I’ll publish the results if this informal poll if there are enough responses. No judgments will be made. I’m trying to understand what I see and need your help.

Wow! What a couple of SB50 crazy exciting weeks!

•Super Bowl City 3 blocks from my home
•Parties from San Francisco to San Jose
•SB50 tickets

  • Selling SB50 commercials
    •Lessons learned

As host of SB50, KPIX CBS San Francisco was charged to both be perfect in execution and sell out the event. We managed success in both areas getting kudos from the SB50 committee, NFL and CBS Corporate. The level of crazy excitement last week was unmatched in all the years I’ve sold media.

On the fun side, Here’s a rundown of the events attended.
Super Bowl Opening Night– San Jose’s SAP Center. Took three clients to what used to be media day. It was switched this year to allow invited guests to witness the media circus. Everyone was issued a goodie bag with snacks, deodorant (I’m serious) and a headset that allowed guests to listen in to 9 channels of player and coaches interviews. Miss Universe was wandering around posing with fans as well as players from both Denver and Charlotte who had to be there. Fun night for clients and me.
NFL Experience– Moscone Center, Huge crowds, great for kids, dozens of running around activities. I took a client with her kids. After an hour I had to leave and close a huge Super Bowl deal. They stayed until 7:30p.
•Sens Restaurant Broadcast Center- Our Anchor Ken Bastida was joined by Joe and Jennifer Montana for Countdown to SB50 several nights live from Sens balcony overlooking Super Bowl City. Staff was invited to a reception watching the cool live show on Thursday evening.
Prospect with San Francisco 49ers owners the DeBartolo family– Prospect is a great restaurant in my neighborhood run by the Boulevard folks. They hosted the DeBartolo family the night before Eddie was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame. We were at our usual place in the bar far from their private room in back.  Eddie DeBartolo was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame the next morning.
Crystal Jade– SB50 hosted event for various VIPs. I was a host on Saturday noon to 3p waiting for our Sacramento guests who never showed. The event had premier wine tasting, a premium bar, Peking Duck, as well as massages, makeup and hair treatments. Crystal Jade overlooks the main Super Bowl City stage where people who stayed long enough could see Alicia Keys from the balcony.
Super Bowl City– Although it was close to home we only walked through Super Bowl City to our other events until Sunday afternoon. Then my wife and I beat the crowds and were able to participate in some activities people spent hours in line to play until Sunday afternoon. The place was packed from morning to night with football fans wearing their colors happy to be part of this once in a lifetime amazing event, Super Bowl 50.
Sales– Not giving up was our theme this year. With the stock market tanking there was uncertainty in the air which slowed the usual land grab for slots in the game. Our staff refused to be denied, closing deals up to the last days making our sales goals with the slogan “It’s a marathon not a sprint.” Advertisers were rewarded with exceptional ratings on CBS to go with tickets to VIP events and even the game itself.
Operations– This was KPIx’s finest hour. (KPIX is the CBS O and O in San Francisco.) Every event we were responsible for connected perfectly. All departments worked until jobs were done no matter what the hour. The planning and execution could not have been better.
Lessons Learned– If you have 3 years to plan, start on day one. It took every moment of those three years to make Super Bowl 50 a success. The SB 50 Committee thought of everything. KPIX left nothing to chance. Our sales department kept pushing until every spot was sold.
Final Highlight– After picking up takeout on our way home we saw a middle aged wife trying to get her drunk husband up walking to the train. We asked if she needed help and she gave us a helpless look. I approached the guy who had sat down again on a bench and said. “There are cops out there who would love to put you in jail if you appear drunk, so get up and walk. It’s amazing how people can be on their best behavior when faced with AK47s… He walked.Peking Duck