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Claw back sales with customer tracking

I had an ‘A-ha!’ moment earlier this year. 

I was at a Nationwide buying group conference and the speaker was talking about the five fundamentals of sales – the first one was ‘customer tracking’.

I was initially rather cynical, thinking, “Yep, heard this before,” but the longer the guest speaker talked, the more I realised I had let go of the most important part of the sales process – I had lost track of who was coming into the store, why they were coming into the store and the number of missed sales we were getting.

Some of the other jewellers attending the seminar were sadly either not understanding why this customer tracking was so important or putting it into the ‘too hard’ basket, not realising how simple it would be to implement into their own businesses.

To be clear, the customer tracking in this instance is not the kind that can be performed using in-store POS software. As retailers in the modern era, we rely heavily on our software reports and, while the technology is invaluable in many respects, it does not help with the customer-tracking process. This is far more old school.

Upon arriving home, I had a meeting with my co-owner and manager and put forward the idea of a simple tracking sheet – just tick the boxes using pen and paper.

"If you don’t know what your employees need training in, then you are going around in circles."

The tick system is a running line comprising the following: staff initial; battery/on the spot repair; repair in; repair out; lay-by payment; sale; lost sale; reason for the lost sale (written note).

We then held a staff meeting and explained how we thought tracking would enhance our business and how it was about making me a better buyer, trainer and manager rather than testing the staff’s sales ability.

I think it’s easy for store owners – myself included – to lose sight of what it actually means to be a manager. If you don’t know what your employees need training in, then you are going around in circles.

We implemented the tick system in March and the results have been staggering; it was all the simple things.

For example, we had one customer who had been in our store five times before spending a gift voucher. I was astounded that the sale didn’t get made the first time and resolved that we needed to conduct training on how to close on a voucher sale.

In another instance a sale was lost because a customer was looking for a brand that we didn’t stock. This highlighted that training on how to brand-swap and suggest similar items as alternatives was required.

One time, no one on the shop floor was able to serve a customer before they walked out of the store. I knew this meant that I needed to review our roster to ensure staff numbers were correct.

I could write a book about the sales we have lost but, more importantly, the data tells me the days when our lost sales are greater than our made sales. We never make our budget!

Since implementing our customer-tracking system, the good news is that lost sales have dramatically decreased. We are now working really hard on areas such as increased staff training, better selection of product, advertising more wisely and correct staff placement.

It has also made me more accountable to individual staff training, stock management, rosters – pretty much all that a manager should be doing.

As mentioned earlier, this is not the sort of data that a software system can collect; it’s the hand-written notes of missed sales that prompts the action required to stop those missed sales from occurring in the future.

There are people in our industry complaining about current retail trends who are not using the ‘quiet times’ to train and dissect the way they run their businesses.

I would encourage all business owners to step back and have a look at how simple and easy it is to implement a customer-tracking system. All you need is pen and paper! It’s doesn’t get much simpler.

Our store has had two days where no lost sales have occurred and my ambition is to make our business lost-sales free!

Who says you can’t teach an old bird new tricks? The first fundamental of sales has certainly taught me a lot.

Name: Judy Cameron
Cameron’s Fine Jewellers
Position: Co-owner
Swan Hill, VIC
Years in the industry: 19

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