GUEST: John Fairclough, CEO of Resicom
The internet has permanently changed the sales experience in brick-and-mortar stores.
What does “the shopping experience” mean when everyone can use dozens of shopping carts on their smartphones? We had a chance to chat with John Fairclough, CEO of Resicom, about how his company can optimize the store environment in an age when in-store shopping competes with one-click buying.
“The services we provide to retailers are to help them protect the shopping experience,” John said, “so it got us focused on understanding what the designed experience really is.”
This includes appealing to all of the shopper’s senses, even down to how much cologne is sprayed in a store. “The whole person is involved in the shopping decision, and I’m paying attention to that,” John added.
The atmosphere of a store makes a promise with just the right kind of light. Just the right kind of paint color. Just the right kind of scent.
Though the shopper experience may be implied by the sensory effect of the store itself, it is more important than ever that companies be cognizant of the promise their stores are making to the customer. “We need to make sure that the promises that we’re making, we can keep,” John said.
1. Delivering Value, Not Services
Resicom helps its clients execute their vision for their stores by testing, analyzing data, beta-testing, gathering more data, and finally rolling out successful company-wide changes. “It’s harder to do things better, faster and cheaper if you’re not trying something new,” John said.
Resicom’s mission is to find ways to better connect.
“When it comes to our sales team, we call them client advocates because their role is to understand the objectives of the client, bring those back to our team, look at it from a bunch of different perspectives, and provide something of value to them,” he said.
When your clients are household names–some of the most recognizable buyers in the world–you’re dealing with professional buyers. Not someone who buys services with just 10% of their time.
It’s more important than ever to understand what their objectives are and then provide options that will meet that.
Say you’re an industry leader and everyone’s trying to a) copy you or b) hire your people away. You’re thinking about attention to detail–and that shopping experience–at a whole new level. And all your salespeople are thinking about it, too.
“A lot of times we just follow this process and check these boxes and think good things can happen, but instead we should spend a lot of time focusing on the spirit behind the process,” John said.
It’s not mindlessly doing things and hoping it adds up; it’s intentionally doing what works.
“The only reason why people should hire us is if we can deliver great value to them. If we can’t deliver great value, there’s not going to be the longevity that we’re looking for in the relationship,” John said.
2. Forming Real Client Relationships
Relationship comes down to people.
“Getting our people to understand why we’re doing what we’re doing is critical,” John said.
They don’t just send an email. They go visit their locations to find something insightful to share.
It takes a lot of research to customize a message for just that person based on where they are located or what’s in their store. “In the opening paragraphs, we call why we’re a great fit,” John said, “like geographic presence, the finishes they have in their store, and how important the in-store shopping experience is to them.”
Being specific about why you think you’re a great fit is a way to demonstrate that you understand and advocate for the clients’ needs. “We can make a meaningful difference,” John said.
Just like the companies themselves are seeking to connect with individual clients, Resicom seeks to connect with individuals at companies. “Everything for us is around seeing how we can deliver what they want,” John said.
Reaching out in a specific way is just the first step in a process to form real client relationships. John uses the initial client email–full of all the research and value up front–to educate his sales teams on the importance of each of those topics. So that everyone will be prepared and informed to serve the clients’ needs.
“We’ve got a lot of great people working on things,” John said. That’s the fundamental message of all that effort behind the first, essential communications.
3. Thinking Long-Term
But it doesn’t stop there.
There’s a fundamental tension between appreciating the perspective of project managers (who have to deliver success on one project after another) and the perspective of the executive (who has to keep the big picture in mind).
It’s a struggle to coordinate short-term horizons with long-term goals–without putting that relationship at risk.
“The challenge for me has been recognizing the difference in points of view,” John said, speaking of long-term and short-term goals.
“I knew I had the winning argument because I would never do anything in the short term that would compromise the long-term health of the company. But without looking to the long term, we really can’t decide how we should handle the short term.”
And if you just let the short term do its own thing, it might not be taking essential long-term actions like cross-training. Or ignoring long-term goals in the face of urgent short-term ones.
“The biggest challenge I have found has been the lack of recognition around a time horizon and then all the subsequent problems that develop out of it,” John said.
The key to management is to reconcile those two, to execute the short term with the long term in mind.
4. Being People-Focused
“People buy from us because we’re easy to buy from,” John said.
There are a few ways to show your clients that you care about them (not just about their bottom line).
- Learn their lingo. One client may call it a wardrobe, another a freestanding closet, and another a framed shelf. Resicom develops glossaries of terminology so salespeople can speak to clients in their own language.
- Support the ground-level workers. If you’re looking to drive value, you need to get down to the work of the technician and figure out how to make it easier for them to be successful. Then the whole company benefits.
- Give clear instructions. You’ve put in all that preparation, so you need to put your best communicator on being available to answer questions and troubleshoot minor issues. Don’t leave an inexperienced person on customer care.
- Make yourself easy to buy from. Resicom evolved into being more of a broker because they found they were good at scaling up and down quickly. Focus on understanding the objectives, solving the clients’ challenges, and making people want to be a part of that process.
“With those kinds of things being our makeup, it’s not really about the services being provided as it is about the people that are delivering the services,” he added.
As retail evolves, people who sell things that people want to interact with physically before purchasing are going to see an incredible increase in attention to shopping experience.
But at the end of the day, buying and selling is done by real people.
5. Being Ourselves First
Nobody loves a canned response.
“To me, the most important thing is to know who you’re talking to or who you’re reaching out to and demonstrate that in your message,” John said.
The whole gist of a communication query can’t be–you want to save some more money?
It needs to be a sensitive, intriguing problem statement that shows a professional buyer and seller that you get where they’re coming from. John said he’s responded to an email with spelling and capitalization errors that nevertheless said something intriguing.
“Front and center is that we’re people first,” John said. “We all want to do good work. We all want to make a difference.”
Be who you are, because when you’re being your true self, it comes through. “It’s passionate, it’s not over the top, it’s real. And people can feel it,” John said.
Everybody has their strengths at work. If your skillset is in developing relationships and caring about delivering value to the other person, then sales or management could be great for you.
The number one thing is finding out who you are. What you’re really good at. What you really care about. Make sure that you’re sharing that.
“Know who you are,” John said, “and accept it, embrace it, and let it shine.”