Rising To The Occasion

Better Service Lands Bigger Sales

Did you make it to the Canadian Florist Business Forum in Vaughan on May 30th? If so, I hope that you are enjoying bigger sales every day by implementing the plans I presented onstage. But if you did not attend, all is not lost … I am using my column space this month to give you highlights of what I taught so you can start to boost your sales too!

Tim Huckabee
My programme was called Better Service, Bigger Sales and it included points I have been teaching on-site to florists across Canada (and the world) for 20 years. In a nutshell, I challenged florists to get out of their comfort zone and engage customers in a whole new way. Consumers want and need better service and are willing to spend much, much more than you have been letting them. And you’ll prove that to yourself over the coming weeks.
To start, you need to change your thinking about what customers want from you. To achieve that goal, I offered the group four powerful mantras. Here’s one: Ask Fewer Questions, Give More Advice. We ask far too many questions to customers who are clueless and, ironically, counting on us to give them the answer with our professional advice. Here’s my best example. The old approach is to ask the customer who is ordering a centrepiece in a cube, “Do you want me to do a leaf wrap in that for you?” The customer has no clue what you’re asking, gives a sheepish response, and feels uncomfortable. A better approach: “I recommend a leaf wrap for that container so I can hide the stems and give it a nice, finished look.” The customer’s response to that advice would be, “Sure, thanks!” Get it? Follow that mantra.
I moved on to my list of ‘”Six Forbidden Questions,” which are silly time-wasters that should be banished from every shop. Here’s my favourite: “How much do you want to spend?” That’s ignorant, insulting, and counter-intuitive to giving good customer service! Can you name any other store on the planet that asks that question as a way of starting a transaction? I can’t. Many problems stem from it, including limiting the sale and making the customer feel awkward. What’s the alternative? Simple and easy: assert your role as the expert and make an appropriate suggestion and then the customer will adjust the budget up or down. Read this example out loud and listen to how natural it sounds: “For your parents’ 30th wedding anniversary, I suggest one of our large vase arrangements filled with garden flowers in rich autumn colours. That’s priced from $X to $Y.” No need to ask that crazy money question ever again!
We continued the session by discussing the concept of add-ons, which are referred to in FloralStrategies parlance as finishing touches. Interesting fact: when customers visit your website, they buy balloons, candy, teddy bears, etc. in droves, yet when they visit or call your shop, they don’t shop the same way.
Any guesses why? Customers cannot buy what is not offered to them, so if your staff is not “spreading the love,” customers are not spending the dough! To be fair, some employees do ask the occasional, “Do you want to add anything to your order?” or a slightly better, “Do you want to add a balloon to her flowers?” That’s still a long way from the gold standard I set for shops. I turn that YES/NO question into a statement (remember that mantra…) and polish up the language. The end result sounds like this, “As a finishing touch, I can attach a Happy Birthday balloon to your Mom’s flowers. They’re only $X.” Follow that simple upgrade to your presentation and you WILL sell more product, make more money, and have happier customers (since they love being given the chance to personalize their sale). The real secret to success in selling finishing touches is to be consistent and offer an appropriate item to every customer (just like your website does).
I am running out of real estate on this page, so I need to wrap it up, but I hope that I have given you some food for thought and plans for your staff to improve your sales. If you would like the complete handout from my workshop (with many more tips and ideas), then email contact@floralstrategies.com with the subject line, CFBF WORKSHOP.

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Tim Huckabee
Tim Huckabee AIFSE was born, raised and educated in Connecticut and moved to New York City in 1993 to start working at a high-end flower shop called Surroundings, where he learned every aspect of the flower business such as handling telephone sales and customer service issues and dealing with walk-in customers. In his frequent conversations with florists, he realized there was a dire lack of sales and service education in the industry. That motivated him, in 1997, to launch FloralStrategies, a company that trains florists in sales, customer service, and how to get the most out of their POS system. He visits 250 shops annually, hosts a monthly webinar series, speaks at floral conventions, and writes a monthly column for the Society of American Florists.

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