Receiving and making phone calls has always been an essential ingredient in the success of any business. Contrary to popular behaviour – websites with no phone number listed, businesses that don’t accept or pick up their voicemail messages – revenue opportunities still arrive by phone.
Not sure what that sounds like? Donald O’Connor shares a story of spectacular success that all started when he answered an incoming call.
Who was calling Donald? And how did it translate into huge sales success?
I was managing a sports and footwear outlet store in Hamilton, Ontario, selling brand name merchandise and shoes below manufacturers suggested retail prices. We often purchased end of lines or discontinued items enabling us to offer popular brands at great discounts.
However, our location wasn’t in our favour. The store was off the beaten track in terms of traffic. We occupied an old warehouse on the eastern edge of the downtown core. Our front windows faced a vacant lot, just beyond the bus station. On Saturday mornings we would watch the police escort prostitutes onto the buses headed out of town. Yeah, it was that kind of neighbourhood.
Still, business wasn’t terrible but I knew it could be much better. And a phone call proved me right!
It was mid-week in May. The sun was shining and the temperature perfect. Very few people were visiting our store. The phone rang with a somewhat desperate voice on the other end. It was a tour bus driver. He had seen our miniature ad in the phone directory. His tour was wrapping up early and he needed to fill a few hours. Could he bring everyone to our store? Could they shop with us for a couple of hours?
I was stunned! Sure, I said, who are your passengers? Sixty seniors, all women, he replied. He then told me he’d be arriving in about two hours. I went into high gear.
First, I called in a part-time employee. Then I called our local Tim Horton’s and ordered a variety of sweets, muffins, 2 carafes of coffee, hot water for tea, milk, cream, sugar, sweetener … the works.
As the Tim Horton’s order arrived, the tour bus pulled up. Without any previous thought, I climbed aboard all smiles and greeted everyone. Using the public address system, I shared information on the various types of athletic sport and footwear we offered. I described some items with great excitement:
“Can you imagine? Brand new all leather Reebok athletic shoes for only $29.99! Nike nylon tracksuits, assorted colors and sizes, for as low as $29.99!”
Then I mentioned the food, coffee and tea, waved my arm out the bus door and shouted, “Come on in.”
To put it mildly, the next two hours were pure bedlam. We did in two hours what we would normally sell on one busy Saturday. It was amazing!
When I thanked the driver, who also made purchases, he asked if he could make it a regular stop on his tour. “Yes, of course,” I said. This soon led to other drivers including us in their schedules. Each time we worked to make it an experience for everyone: extra staff, coffee, treats and a quick welcome over the bus PA system. Then … we got out of the way.
The visits from the tour buses made a huge impact on the success of our store. And the lesson I learned? Amazing things can happen when you pick up the phone!
Donald O’Connor is a speaker and consultant for the retail and hospitality industries. Discussions include employee engagement, customer service, customer experience, and more. Contact: @DonnyoSpeaks – donaldoconnorspeaks.com He and I connected with on Twitter about five years ago. Since then we have created a friendship founded on our shared interest and passion in sales and communication. I’m honoured to be able to share with you some of his favourite lessons.