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The Nuances of Gaining Trust and More of Your Questions for January

Like how to sniff out info on business you may want to acquire and when and how to greet customers.

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The Nuances of Gaining Trust and More of Your Questions for January

We have a small optical, the showroom is 1,000 square feet. If someone is near the front door and they greet a customer, when is it appropriate for others to greet the customer? Should everyone turn and say hi when they walk in? Should they be greeted by everyone else as they make their way through the store?

If you’ve ever walked into a Japanese ramen restaurant where the entire staff stop and holler a greeting you’ll know how disconcerting this can be for the unaccustomed. It’s also distracting to other customers who might be in the store, says Kate Peterson of consultancy Performance Concepts. “I do believe that customers should be greeted promptly by someone who is already positioned near the front of the store — with a smile, direct eye contact, and verbiage that doesn’t sound like a salesperson. “That said, if the initial outreach is met with a need to ‘browse’ and the customer is moving around the store, staff should stay busy — but attentive — and should offer that same smile and eye contact, along with a pleasant ‘hello’ when the customer gets near to where they are.”

My best salesperson just gave her notice. How should I handle it?

Professionally. This is most likely not personal, so don’t react as if it were. Marching her to the door is simply bad for business and a tad ungrateful considering the business she’s brought you. It will also hurt general staff morale and there’s a good chance you’ll need the departing employee to tie up a host of loose ends. Further, a hot or hasty response denies you the chance to make a counteroffer. Often there’s something other than money that can “make it work” for the salesperson, so ask her. If the relationship can’t be salvaged, part cordially and then get to work on identifying what made her such a successful salesperson. Maybe even call up some of her long-time customers and ask what they liked best about working with her. Make notes that can go in your training manual.

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One of the things I like most about the vision industry is that people are still willing to do business on trust, but I recently got burned on a handshake deal. What’s a good systematic approach to knowing when to trust someone?

There’s an old saw in law enforcement that you should trust no one at first. On a scale of 1-100 start them at zero and make them earn your trust with every interaction. Jason Fried, co-founder of the Basecamp software company and author of several bestselling books, says he uses a “trust battery,” which starts at 50% and then either gets charged or depleted each time he engages with someone. Such ways of thinking are fine when it comes to general employee behavior or in determining how dependable a contractor is but for commercial transactions there is no substitute for a properly drawn up contract. Yes, the optical industry is special but when you do a deal on a handshake, you’re not just putting your trust in the other party’s good intentions, you’re making a bet the future won’t throw one of you a curveball … and the last few years have shown just how predictable the future can be. Get it down on paper.

I’ve heard the owners of an optical store nearby may be looking to wind up. I’m interested in their location. How can I get financial information, particularly sales figures, to see what it might be worth?

Before you make a formal offer, which then entitles you to conduct due diligence, there’s no easy way to access privately held business information. The best place to start is the store’s website, which may include press releases on the store’s operations. After that try a wider web search. (Remember that figures given to the press haven’t usually been verified.) Then try public records such as legal judgments and lawsuits and business and professional licensing records. Former or current employees will often be able to give you indications of a how a store is performing, although you do risk tipping your hand. Two longshots are credit firm D&B at www.dnb.com and its subsidiary Hoover’s Online (www.hoovers.com). When it comes to pricing a business you may want to check DealStats (formerly Pratt’s Stats), a database of business sales.

Is it ever a good idea to refer a customer to your rival across town?

If she’s the hard-bargaining, never-satisfied type? Then yes. The other obvious situation is when it’s a service you don’t provide or a product you don’t carry. ECPs who cooperate in such circumstances obviously stand to gain a lot, although more often than not they refuse to help each other. Usually it depends on how much confidence you have in your store and whether you have the view that doing best by your customer will eventually pay off in future referrals and return service. It’s amazing how some small, good deeds get remembered for years.

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Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at [email protected].

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