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What Traits to Look for in a New Salesperson and More of Your Questions for August

Also some tips on how to get your advertising to resonate with a younger audience.

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I feel our advertising is not resonating with younger customers anymore. Any ideas?

It’s definitely a good idea to thoroughly review your advertising mix and the channels you are using on a regular basis. Millennials consistently tell surveys they don’t care for most commercials, especially loud and boastful ones. They hate being “yelled” at. But then, that is what consumers have been saying for decades, and the evidence still indicates the opposite: intrusive ads — be they billboards, loud radio spots or annoying YouTube interruptions — are still effective. And like the rest of America, Gen Y grew up with and accepts advertising as a natural part of the media mix. Keep in mind that for all the talk about changes to the media landscape and advertising, much stays the same: Your ad needs to make an emotional connection (and Gen Y does seem to respond better to understated humor) and then give the listener a path to act on. Keep changing things up, keep testing (A vs. B), and keeping getting your message out there.

What’s the single best personality trait to look for in a candidate for a sales position?

Personality tests of top salespeople reveal they score highly in traits that seem to both confirm and defy expectations: Yes, they are invariably conscientious, achievement-oriented, not easily discouraged and tend to lack self-consciousness (picking up the phone doesn’t bother them). At the same time, the best ones are most often modest, curious, and lacking in gregariousness (overly friendly salespeople don’t gain the “willing obedience of customers”). What is most important with any such list is that it’s the mix that counts, not one single trait. Nor is there one selling style that is most effective. The best salespeople bring their own idiosyncrasies to the game, and they probably can’t even effectively articulate why they are good — they just seem to have a natural ability to tap into what is important to a customer, instill confidence and know when to close. As a general rule in hiring, over-emphasis on any one particular trait is usually unwise. Tenacity is usually a good attribute, but so is knowing when to give up on a lost cause. Curiosity can have great benefits, but too much results in an inability to stay focused. Hunger for financial success can lead people astray. Knowing who will make a good salesperson is fiendishly difficult — until you see them in action, usually starting with how well they sell themselves in an interview.

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My store is looking worn. I don’t have a big budget for renovations but I don’t want to look cheap. What areas of my store can I renovate that cost little but make a big impact?

If you’re looking for striking changes that don’t cost much, Ruth Mellergaard, a principal with New York City-based design firm GRID/3, suggests targeting the most prominent areas of your store: the walls, the floors, and your frame boards and cases. Here are some tips to make them look a lot sharper, on a slim budget:

  • Use paint instead of wall covering. It doesn’t stand up as long as wall covering but it is less expensive and it allows you to change the character of the interior more often. For best results, one of the walls should be an accent color, everything else neutral. This is something that fashion stores do and they often change the accent color once or twice a year. (This is probably a bit much for optical retailers but it does allow you to use trendy colors, which gives a strong signal of fashion sense to your younger customers.)
  • Change the carpet. Buy remnants or closed-out lines to save money. There are two cautions regarding the carpet. Buy from a reputable installer who will give you some kind of warranty and check the “face weight” of the carpet. Says Mellergaard: “All the carpet that we specify is commercial-grade anyway — but, at GRID/3, we never suggest anything below a 28-once face weight.”
  • If your ceiling tiles are discolored, have the ceiling sprayed.
  • Finally — and remember, these are budget tips — if you want to recolor your store but don’t feel you have even the slightest touch for it, you can probably find help at your local paint and wallpaper store. They usually have decorators on staff that will help you. Home Depot also has decorators on staff.
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What’s a good way to approach people looking in your windows without scaring them off?

There may well be a reason they’re keeping their distance out there so go soft. The traditional opener — “I saw you looking in the window. Is there something that caught your eye?” — is not bad, but sometimes it helps to be less direct. Instead, ask them for their opinion on something. Sales trainer Dave Richardson suggests trying: “I saw you looking in our window. What do you think about the display?” If the window shopper says, “It looks nice,” you then follow up with, “You know, I couldn’t decide: should the centerpiece be our new line of lightweight frames or do you think sunwear would look better there?” From there you should be able to find out what had caught their attention and extend an invitation for them to come in and see it more closely.

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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