010 – What Is The Manager’s Mission?


Episode 10: What Is The Manager’s Mission?

A managers job should be very clear, but often companies promote key sales people into managerial roles without giving them the direction to grow their store or territory. Harry is going to define what the mission of a manager truly is and how they can achieve success in their role.


*Disclaimer: This transcription was automatically generated so we would like to apologize for any misspellings or grammatical errors in advance

Today were going to discuss the manager’s mission. Now every manager must consistently meet sales goals while satisfying customers at the highest level. Harry shared with us how he got his doctorate in retail and were going to share with you what metrics as a manager you must look for in order to best understand how to train your team if they are not hitting their goals.

Justin: Harry, welcome back. I thought we would discuss today the manager’s mission. What is the ultimate goal of a manager, a retail manager, store manager and what impact does he actually have on the business? Or what is the impact they should have on the business?

Harry: Justin, I am really feeling spunky this morning. Well, you have a good question there – what is the manager’s mission? This is very interesting to me because in fact the word mission, goal and target get mixed up sometimes. So let’s separate some of these things out. And if we want to, later on, bundle it as a mission, you should knock yourself out.

Well it’s really simple, a manager is put out there to meet goals. Right, that is the only reason a manager is put in a retail store. You can tell me that they are there to provide excellent customer service and to make sure that our customers are served really well and all that but I don’t know. I mean, I have been in so many executive meetings with retailers, Fortune 500 companies and everything else; we don’t talk about Fred as having a good high customer service rating as much as we talk about the fact that Fred has not achieved goals in six months. Let’s get straight about that.

Now it is something that we want, that we need and we have to have because the game should never be played at the customer’s expense. So you always want to achieve sales goals while satisfying their customer at the highest level. Fair enough?

Justin: Fair enough.

Harry: And let’s not talk about satisfying customers at the highest level until we talk about numbers. And we could say that providing really really outstanding customer service is really going to help us achieve goals. Would you agree with that?

Justin: 100% Harry.

Harry: Okay, so that’s not an issue. So you would have to say that a manager has to get people to achieve goals while also serving the customers at the highest level possible. So let’s talk about that. The vast majority of retail managers that I know of have the pedal to the metal put to them by a district manager, senior management to achieve store goal, first and foremost. It is number one. Provide an excellent customer service is number two. Now this is all fascinating to me. This is all fascinating because as a doctor of retail, which I have elevated myself to, you know I have a doctorate from the University of getting my butt kicked in retail for the last 45 years. You get your butt kicked. You have to fully look at the whole thing. For example, when a store is not achieving goal…’let’s put you on the spot here, so you have a manager and he’s got five or six salespeople on the floor and he’s not achieving goal. What is the first thing you look for Justin? What are you looking at?

Justin: Five or six salespeople not achieving goal.

Harry: Well the store is not achieving goal.

Justin: The store is not achieving goal. Don’t bust me here.

Harry: I’m not going to bust you here. I am supposed to be training you for goodness sake. I must admit that there is not one out of 1000 people that would get this right. I know I would get it right.

So the first thing I look for when a store is not achieving goal, before I started doing a tap dance on their windpipe, the first thing I look for is conversion rate. Because in fact, if they are not achieving why they are selling everybody that’s coming in; in other words they have a very fine conversion rate if you were to take a look… Let’s say the district is averaging 38% conversion rate, this guy is averaging 42% conversion rate. We could say, my God is not having a problem turning shoppers into buyers, he is above average. So he’s not achieving goal. So there is only a couple of other answers to that. Number one, there is not enough bodies coming into the store or number two, their average sale is low. When it would take two seconds to figure out if it was average sales that is too low and if it’s not, then it’s obviously the number of bodies.

First thing I’ll do, is I’ll get out there and get a body count in that store, no matter what. even if I have to hire somebody to stand at the front like when we’re coming through the turnstile at a sporting event with a little clicker in their hand, by golly, I am going to find out how many bodies come in. So we are very quick to tell this guy to sell more but we don’t really know what the truth is. So you do the detective work, you do the Sherlock Holmes on this thing and that starts to give us an impression of where the store is at. Once we have that in well hand, we start to get an idea of where this guy’s store can improve. Would you agree with that? So, if it’s bodies or if it’s average sale, conversion rate. These are all factual. There is no opinion here.

After that, I am going to take a look at the individuals in the store and say okay is there anybody that’s disproportionately strong in the store or disproportionately weak. And so the methodology of getting a store to achieve goals is through these processes. And as we find salespeople that are performing at a lower level, then we do further research to see what is this person’s problem. Do they not greet enough customers, are they not converting enough customers, do they have an average sale problem? All these things have solutions. So conversion rate has a solution whether it is the front part of the sale that is not doing really well, not approaching new customers and getting into conversations. Maybe it is the backend of the sale, he is have been trouble with objections or with closing the sale. Maybe he is not adding on, maybe he’s selling from his own pocket and not selling the better goods. Wow. I mean, once you have stats that can be available for sales people than the solutions to their problems are quite simple to resolve. Once you do an analysis of the people on the floor, then you look at the manager and you say ‘wow, do people like working for this person? Is it a motivated environment, is there learning, is there continuous improvement; there is a variety of things that you can look at. I have never failed to help a manager achieve goal if they wanted to, ever. That is one of my remarkable stats. I don’t think it’s such a big deal. When you go to the doctor who says you need an appendectomy. He says you know what, your appendix is coming out today even if I have a cold and I don’t feel good, your appendix is coming out. They don’t miss. They get the job done. It’s not that big a deal. If they test someone and they say they are going to replace that brain, you might not make it. But for the simple stuff of running a retail store, if you were to sit back a little bit and say well the statistics are available, the methodologies to change those statistics are available, the mood, the beat, the tempo of the stores, the reflection of the manager and if this person have got it going on, then we can get there.

The mission of a manager is to make sure that every salesperson achieves goal. Not the store but the individual. Because in fact if you have some very very top performers and some very very pathetic performers, your store can still achieve goal, so that’s not fun. So we never look at the store results. Those are results by the way. It’s not a goal, is not a mission, it’s a result. The goal to judge a manager’s success is the percentage of the sales staff that achieves goal. That’s the big one.

One of the other statistics that we look at is the percentage of turnover in a store. If he is not turning over huge amount, he is on point. If he’s turning over a huge amount of people then that is really not in our best interest either. And then customer service level, it is very very hard to measure that. The people are happier to get on yelp and all these places to complain about you than to say that they had a delightful experience. But surveys can be done especially as they leave the store. Go get the kid from the local college and have them put his college ID around his neck and say ‘hey, I am here from the local college and I’m doing a little survey would you mind?’ You might get some survey results. But frankly, mystery shopping with competent people that are highly trained to observe and understand the customer service level in the store would probably be an excellent way to do it as well.

Justin: You touch a lot on sales. I know manager’s responsibilities tend to be also on the operational side. And I believe you had thrown in there a couple of times, the importance of product knowledge and how that falls on the manager. Do you want to touch a little bit on operations?

Harry: Those are separate things; product knowledge and operations. So how about this- I don’t talk about operations that often because I think it is the single biggest, no-brainer, baloney thing that goes on in retail. And I am absolutely famous for this, if anything, I am a crazy human being about operations because I think they are so black and white and so easy that it shouldn’t be a consideration. So I’m not going to retreat on the reason I didn’t bring it up because it is not an issue to me. So here’s the thing, if you can’t get the trash taken out on time, every time without reservation, limit or fail, there is no reason to believe that you’re going to get a sales increase. Think about that for a second. So we identify the operational duties, tasks and responsibilities, we pawn them off to salespeople and get everybody involved in getting the store right and we get the store right. It is just that simple. The store should be so clean, so immaculate, so well merchandised, so gorgeous, that whatever your decorating style is, it should just smell good, look good, feel good. There is no tape boogers on the ceiling, there is no cobwebs on the lights.

You know, when I owned my own electronic stores, it was very interesting; Thursday was always a story day, cleanup day. And every Thursday night for an hour the entire staff was required to be there and we would paint, somebody would scuffle with a little bit of the wall and we would touch it up, if there was a little spot on the carpet, we would clean it, light bulbs were organized and that kind of stuff. So every Thursday for an hour and those stores look so great. They just looked magnificent. I just thought this was so easy to do. I just don’t even like talking about it. Any of you that have a store out there that is not exactly perfect, you just don’t even get it. When you come to a Friedman management course, so you can have your project goals there which are There is a whole chapter there; sales versus operations. We take the store, we make a map of it, we divide it up, we give salespeople areas of responsibility, we have behavioral standards, we get the store right, we take pictures of the store right, so even if the guy doesn’t want to read, we say how come your picture doesn’t look like my picture. We call those pride books that show the products or so.

Justin, I don’t talk about it and probably I should. It’s the idea that operations are easy, they are black and white, let’s get them out of the way, let’s rock the store, let’s get our stage right so we can perform.

Justin: Harry, have you had experiences though of a store that is performing on the sales side but operationally there just completely backwards, like how is this place even functioning yet sales are good?

Harry: Ys, of course don’t care. We still go postal on them. First of all, does it happen, yes. Does it happen for long, no. Usually those people are just so busy, understaffed or something is going on and they didn’t get it right. We just solve the problem.

Justin: So what about product knowledge?

Harry: What about it? It’s an ongoing thing. It’s an ongoing dynamic part of the whole sales culture. We teach it to within an inch of its life. I absolutely adore product knowledge. I think it’s the thing.

Justin: I’m assuming obviously, because of the context of this podcast, is it the role of management to drive product knowledge with their sales team and ensuring that each of their sales team has adequate information to be experts in all the products they offer, all the new products that coming? Is that correct?

Harry: Well you already know the answer to that. But in reality today we don’t do a very very good job of it. If the company has a training program of product knowledge and the salesperson takes that class or course, it is interesting to know that six months later the merchandise that he studied on may not still be there. And this is why the heavens above have created cell phones. This is the most amazing thing in the world. At my store what we used to do, every new product that came in the store, we pull up the cell phone and we would record the product knowledge on the new product and we had a copy of it so all salespeople had access to this education. And sometimes we didn’t know enough about it and somebody from the main office who did know about it, we would just bug him to do a little interview so that we had the information. My recommendation is that every store highlights five products a week put a picture of that on the back wall have people tear apart the features and benefits, have them tear apart who the competitive products are, how it is priced in the marketplace, why is it so strong, what are its weaknesses and all those things and then you can have little pop quizzes that are kind of fun. People love quizzes.

Justin: You think so? People love finding out what they know?

Harry: No.

Justin: No. They don’t at all. Well I think this is one of the powers of the Friedman E-learning platform. Is being able to upload these videos in real time and being able to check your teams and making sure that they are watching all the new product knowledge information that you post. Because right now a lot of people are looking at this and going ‘well how do I get all my salespeople to watch the videos, where do I upload them, and I’m texting everybody… It’s a lot easier than that. There is platforms available to promote and distribute information in real time.

Harry: Spoken like a true sales professional that you are. Listen, Friedman learning is the bomb. We have all these things that we talk about in the podcast, obviously come to a conclusion which is that we have already done 99% of the work out there to get you trained in the hippest, most current methodologies known to man. And we go head-on out over there or call you Justin personally around 3 o’clock this morning.

Anyway, getting back to the mission. The mission is for the manager to achieve goal while providing the best customer service known to man. So number one, you focus on the individuals to achieve goal not the group and by attaining their metrics you can find out what their weaknesses are so that you can strengthen them. Operations is never an issue because it just gets done. Maybe it is the first thing that you get done because that will give you discipline and all great organizations have discipline. You can never be a great organization without discipline.

And then you concentrate on making the finest presentations that results in customer satisfaction at a very very high level. And you would empower salespeople to satisfy and thrill customers.

Another issue is empowerment. But when you trust people, you could empower them to make great decisions for customers. Really, you really can. And as for mission, it shouldn’t be more complex than all of that.

Justin: Fantastic. Well, Harry any final thoughts to all the managers out there listening to this going ‘holy crap, I need to get my act together.’

Harry: In those words. I have managed so many stores, I think the manager… My final thought is that the manager’s position is the most important position in the entire company, without reservation I say that. And I truly mean it. I would say salespeople are the most important but frankly, because we turn them a little bit more off than we would like to, the consistent messenger at store level is the manager and they really rock the world. They are the superstars to me.

I have never had a problem achieving goal because I have always understood that it was an individual thing not a collective thing. And as the individuals start to achieve goals, the store has no problem. I was with a store with incredible discipline because I didn’t want the store to work against me. I wanted the store to work for me. So I got the store looking spic and span and ready to go for the day’s work. I spent all my time on the floor with the salespeople and customers trying to thrill them. And if I did those things, which I did, but if I continue to do those things the store never have a problem achieving goal and that’s the mission. It’s achievable, doable and I look forward to some managers writing us and telling us how they rocked the Cosmo as it were.

You have been listening to Retail Revisited. If our conversation today inspired you, please be sure to rate us on iTunes or share with your friends. You can see a full list of all or episodes at www.theFriedmangroup.com. And for more information on how the Friedman group can transform your business you can contact us at sales@theFriedmangroup.com

Special thanks to Harry J. Friedman for sharing his 35 years of unbelievable experience for all of us to hear.