Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Gone FISHin

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Gone FISHin

Article excerpt

Is there a mall manager alive who has not had his or her fill of sales contests--exhorting merchants to give better service and offering prizes to the salesperson of the week?

When Sierra Pacific Properties of Pittsburg, Calif., wanted to combat stagnating sales and poor customer service reports at their Layton Hills Mall, located in Salt Lake City, they decided that just another sales contest was not enough.

Instead, the management decided to combine motivation with practical sales training for store managers and employees. The idea was simple: If you want to employees to sell more, teach them how to do it. With this in mind, Sierra created FISHin (For Increased Sales Here).

The program concept

The idea for the FISHin program grew from our concern that although sales at the mall were increasing, we had 15 to 20 retailers that we believed should have been paying higher percentage rents. Reports from secret shoppers in the mall also indicated a certain apathy among sales associates. The imminent opening of a Wal-Mart only a few blocks from the center was another factor in our decision to launch a proactive marketing program.

While our management responsibilities do not extend to the sales activities of individual merchants, retailing is a partnership. If the merchants do not succeed, neither do the owners.

We felt that training would be particularly beneficial because many retailers, even national chains, provide limited training to sales associates. They just assume that everyone is a natural-born salesperson. For mom and pop retailers who sometimes invest their life savings into a store, the need for training is even more acute. We also wanted the contest aspects of the program to create a sense of urgency among shoppers and merchants and to improve mall sales.

Our goals for the program were to obtain 70-percent participation among the merchants in the mall and to have at least 60 percent of participating merchants show increased sales during the promotion. With these projections, we hoped to achieve an overall increase of 7 percent in mall sales.

The training

In planning the training segment of the FISHin, we decided to focus our efforts on store managers, who would then train their sales associates using materials we supplied. In that way, each manager could modify the material to fit his or her particular needs. We did not want to create a conflict between our ideas and a company's selling methods or in-house training programs.

The written materials for the program were prepared by myself; the mall's general manager, Norman Morris; and the mall's marketing director. Managers' training materials consisted of a "Me First" book and workbook, which offered a seven-point blueprint for analyzing customer needs and selecting, motivating, and training sales staff for customer service.

The key to the training is to get people really thinking about how sales are made, rather than just giving them a few superficial closing phrases or introductions. The seven segments of the book consisted of:

* "Managing with a mission," which uses examples from well-known customer-oriented organizations to teach managers how to create an environment that fosters customer service.

* "Energizing the organization," which explains how to create an organization-wide vision of quality and a strategy and a set of performance standards for achieving that vision.

* "Fostering feedback," which emphasizes techniques for listening and responding to customers' needs and for handling complaints.

* "Selecting staff," which guides the managers through a hiring process that will yield service-oriented employees.

* "Rewards and incentives," which stresses the value of both monetary and emotional rewards in motivating employees.

* "Support," which instructs managers in ways to support the employees technically and personally so that they can provide good service. …

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