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I quickly and dramatically improve a company's customer experience, frontline leadership, and results.

Magnetic Experiences
Keynotes and Workshops
Specialty Retail
Keynotes and Workshops
Sixth Star Consulting 

Keynote speaker | Customer experience expert | Performance consultant

Doug Fleener, the former director of retail for Bose Corporation, is known for bringing fresh approaches and powerful actionable ideas to clients and audiences around the world.
Typical client and audience results include:
  • Substantial increase in sales and profits
  • A differentiated - and more effective - customer engagement approach
  • A more sales and customer-focused staff
  • Improved strategic direction with a more aligned organizational focus
  • Increased customer loyalty and advocacy resulting in more customers
  • More effective OutFront managers and leaders at all levels of the organization
  • A more Magnetic Experience that attracts, wins, and keeps customers
"You did a masterful job of blending best practices, research, and metrics into a very inspiring and actionable presentation."
Tom Triozzi - AIMM

"Best speaker at the show. Well presented, thought provoking, and had many ideas I can take back and put into action."
Audience member 

Doug's Blog - OutFront and Unstoppable.

Doug Fleener's OutFront and Unstoppable Blog

By Doug Fleener 10 Jan, 2017

I define the customer experience as the perceptions, emotions, actions and reactions a customer has with your people, products, and environment. Environment can be a store, office, website, etc.

Combined, these elements meet, exceed, or fall short of your customer’s expectations. That determines if, and how much, a customer makes a purchase, advocates for you and your company to others, and will continue to do business with you.

That’s why well-defined and well-executed experiences can be so magnetic. Magnetic experiences attract new customers and keep current customers coming back. Both are vital for continued success in today’s ultra-competitive and rapidly evolving market.

How do you make your customer experience more magnetic? 

The answer varies from company to company, and even location to location. What doesn’t vary is the fact that if you’re not obsessed about making your customer experience more magnetic you’re at risk of losing current customers, and are less likely to replace them.

Here are the questions that I ask when leading strategy sessions to identify opportunities to make a customer experience even more magnetic. Choose one or two, and use it/them for a brainstorming session.

Involve as many people at different levels of your company as possible. Your frontline staff brings an important perspective and voice to the conversation. 

Brainstorm as many answers as possible, and then determine their validity and potential impact on your customer experience and results. 

1) How can we make it easier for customers to do business with us?

2) How can we save our customer time?

3) How can we add value to a customer’s purchase and/or life?

4) What do we do, and/or start doing for customers that other companies can’t or won’t?

5) What is really special and unique about our company and customer experience? 

6) How do we, and/or what can we do, to make our customer feel special and appreciated?

7) Why might a customer choose to stop doing business with us?

8a) What do we want a customer to tell others about us?

8b) What different things do we do, or can we do, to make sure that happens?

9) Where is the biggest gap between what we say we do, and what our customer actually experiences?

10) If our biggest competitor put a store/office right next door to us, what would we do to make sure people walks in our door?

End the brainstorming session with a list of actions (not ideas) you and your team can take immediately. One change rarely makes your custom experience more magnetic, but a series of small improvements will make a big difference in the people and the targeted experience.

So let me ask, how much more magnetic can your customer experience be?

By Doug Fleener 04 Jan, 2017

As a leader you have strengths that I'm sure serve you well. It's important to know what those strengths are, and that's why I encourage my clients to identify their five top strengths. I also believe that claiming your strengths makes it easier to claim what you need to improve.

These areas of improvement are your weaknesses, although I often call them areas of opportunity since some people struggle with the "W" word. Everyone has weaknesses of some sort, but not all of them impact your work. I can't hit a golf ball worth a darn, but that's not a skill that's usually required of a consultant/speaker.

It's vital to identify your weaknesses. Taking a hard look at where you fall short is not easy, but it allows you to increase your awareness and, if you address what you've learned, improve what needs to be improved.

It's easy to identify things you're not good at, such as visual presentation, but that's not the kind of thing that gets in a leader's way. Those are the flaws that are easily fixable by taking a class or an online program.

The weaknesses or shortcomings that I'm talking about are more personal. The more personal the weakness the more likely it is to negatively affect the staff and, potentially, results. What I'm talking about can be anything from anger management issues to avoiding conflict to talking too much to not getting things done. 

What differentiates great leaders from the rest is how they address these personal weaknesses. Since they are personal, it means you have the power to change and evolve. That's why we encourage clients to set what we call personal quality goals.

A personal quality goal is a way to take a personal weakness and turn it into a positive ACTION. The act of creating and sharing personal quality goals helps you be proactive in displaying the right behaviors and actions, instead of allowing those shortcomings to exert a negative effect on those around you.

Let me share some examples of how a particular weakness can be turned into a personal quality goal.

* A leader who struggles to take the time to recognize his/her team's performance can set a personal quality goal of recognizing two people a day.

* A leader who hates confrontation can create a personal quality goal of addressing any issue that arises on the same day, unless to do so would hurt the other person.

* A leader who procrastinates about paperwork can have a personal quality goal of completing all paperwork within 48-hours. 

* A leader who loses his/her temper can set a personal quality goal of never raising his/her voice to someone. And if it does happen, he/she has another personal quality goal of apologizing to the individual that same day.

* A leader who blames outside forces for problems can have a personal quality goal of always stating first what he/she did and did not do to achieve the goal. 

* A leader who talks too much, or dominates conversations, can set a personal quality goal of asking more questions and listening more. 

The key to successfully using personal quality goals is to share them with someone you trust, and who can help you stick to them. It can be a mentor, colleague, manager, coach, and even one of your employees. It just has to be someone who will call you out if need be, and someone you can rat yourself out to if you fall short when the other person isn't around.

So let me ask, what personal quality goal will make a big difference in your leadership and development in 2017?

By Doug Fleener 28 Dec, 2016

Here’s a fun questionnaire to use with your leadership team to identify opportunities to grow as an OutFront Leader and Coach in 2017. 

1. Do you begin your day with a positive attitude? One where you plan to succeed?

Most days - 2 points

Some days - 1 point

No and I don't care - 0 points


2. Do you have a written plan each month/week to make certain you achieve your goals?

Yes - 2 points

Most of the time - 1 point

No, I just hope for the best - 0 points


3. Do you regularly praise your staff?

I do. I really do! - 2 points

I probably think about it more than I do it. - 1 point

I have to talk to my employees? - 0 points


4. Do you recognize employees in front of their peers?

Yes, and they appreciate it - 2 points

Sometimes - 1 point

Everybody knows what everyone looks like so why bother - 0 points


5. Do you regularly thank your staff?

Always - 2 points

Most of the time - 1 point

Yes, if they bring me coffee - 0 points


6. Do your employees feel like you're a good coach and that you have their best interests at heart?

Yes - 2 points

Some of them do - 1 point

I have to coach them, too? - 0 points


7. Do you model expected behaviors as you work alongside your staff?

Almost always - 2 points

I try - 1 point

Do I look like a model? - 0 points


8. Do you regularly meet with your staff and discuss their development?

Every month (or so) like clockwork - 2 points

Pretty regularly - 1 point

Sure, if you count hanging out in the breakroom together - 0 points


9. Do you regularly meet with someone to discuss your development?

I make an effort - 2 points

It might happen from time to time - 1 point

I get plenty of feedback from my spouse - 0 points


10. Would you be proud to have every member of your team wait on your best customer?

Absolutely - 2 points

I hope so - 1 point

You've got to be kidding - 0 points


11. Do you constantly remind your employees what actions they take need to take to deliver a great experience and make a sale?

Like clockwork - 2 points

Yes, but could do more - 1 point

What actions are you talking about? - 0 points


12. Are you happy doing what you're doing?

Love it - 2 points

Most days - 1 point

You know where I can get a job? - 0 points


13. If you are out sick for the next 90 days, do you have someone who can step into your role?

Yes - 2 points

Sort of - 1 point

Get sick. Great idea! - 0 points


14. Do you spend as much time training and developing your staff as you do on administrative work?

I think so - 2 points

I try - 1 point

You're kidding me? - 0 points


15. Can you look back on 2016 and see how you personally have grown?

Absolutely - 2 points

Now that you mention it, yes. - 1 point

Sure. 20 pounds, to be exact - 0 points


16. Are you worried about business in 2017?

Yes, I'm worried how I'll be able to spend all the money I plan to make! - 2 points

Concerned is a better way to say it - 1 point

About that job  - 0 points


17. Do you have ideas on how you’ll be an even better coach and leader 2017?

Yes, I do! - 2 points

I don't know - 1 point

You have ruined my day. - 0 points


Add up your score and see how you've done. Are you pleased with your score? In what areas would you like to improve?


I encourage you write down three actions you’ll commit to taking in early January to not only improve you, but substantially increase the likelihood of your business having a highly successful 2017!


Remember, choose to create your success and take the daily actions necessary to achieve your goals.


Happy New Year!

By Doug Fleener 22 Dec, 2016

Over the next 10 days almost all of your customers will be delightful to work with but, inevitably, you will encounter one or two stressed out, unhappy customers. Here are five steps for dealing with the (rare) unhappy customer. 

1. Let the customer vent. Experience has taught me that that once the unhappy customer starts talking, let him/her go. Like a good fire, most of the time these customers burn themselves out.

- Don't be defensive.

- Listen actively with ears and eyes.

- Don't interrupt. You'll get your chance to respond. 

If he's speaking very loudly or inappropriately, politely ask him to lower his voice. If necessary, you can ask him to follow you to another part of the store – or even out the door – to continue the conversation.

2. Establish the facts without judgment. After the customer comes up for air, you need to get beyond the emotions to the facts. Say something like, "So what you're telling me is that you're unhappy that you bought this last month and it was your understanding it would never go on sale and now it is on sale?" Compare that to "Nobody who works here is going to tell you that something would never go on sale."

3. Express both your regret that he/she is unhappy and your desire to find a resolution. "I'm sorry you're upset but let's see what we can do." Remember that saying "I'm sorry" doesn't mean you or anyone on your staff was wrong. It just means that you are expressing sympathy and regret for what happened.

4 . Ask him what he thinks would be a fair resolution. More often than not the customer's suggestion will be something you'll find more than acceptable. Most of the time, unhappy customers just want to be heard. If your customer's resolution is acceptable, take it. If not, tell him what you can do for him.

Remember, it's important to tell your customer what you can do, not what you can't. Instead of saying, "I can't give you your money back." you could say, "What I can do is give you a store credit that's good for a year."

5. Afterward, thank your customer for allowing you opportunity to resolve the issue. This one little step will amaze your customers. A statement like that, one that most companies never make, is sure to turn even the crabbiest customer into a raving advocate.

Two other thoughts:

Dealing with refunds and exchanges. Sometimes it is smart business to just give in and do whatever it takes to make the customer happy. A disruptive customer can cost you a whole lot more in sales than whatever it is they are asking for. Think about the longtime value of the customer, and don't forget the aggravation it causes you personally. That's your call, but I'm not going to argue over a few dollars.

Most of all, don't let it ruin your day. Don't take it personally. Live and let live. Don't let someone else's character flaws bring out your own. Move on and enjoy the rest of your cheerful and appreciative holiday customers.

Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah, and Happy, Happy, Happy Day!

- Doug

By Doug Fleener 14 Dec, 2016

Here are some quick tips and reminders on engaging and selling to multiple customers. Applying one or more of them will help you deliver an even better holiday customer experience resulting in higher sales!

1. Introduce yourself immediately upon engaging a customer, and ask his/her name. This will make customers feel they're getting special attention, even if it is off and on.

2. Tell your customer you're committed to helping her purchase the perfect gifts for everyone on her list. Even if you are pulled away to help another customer, this customer still feels like you're there to help her. It also immediately establishes that you'll be helping her with her entire shopping list.

3. Always let your customer know when you have to break away to help someone else. This way, your customer doesn't think you've just abandoned her. Some associates like to ask the customer for permission. She will always say yes.

4. Give your customer an assignment. This is my favorite tip. Have your customer choose two or three products that catch her eye, and say that you'll tell her about them when you get back. You'll be amazed how many customers follow directions! (More on the assignment on this three-minute video .)

5. Go back to a previous customer when you're done with the others. As obvious as this sounds, I see some salespeople not reengage with a customer because they don't want to get tied up.    

6. Proactively ask an associate who is free to assist your customer. Introduce your customer to your colleague, then take a few seconds to brief your colleague on what's taken place to date.  

7. Sell to an audience. Invite other customers to join you when showing a product. It usually creates an even more fun and engaging experience.

Chances are you already put some, if not most, of these into practice. That also means that incorporating one or two more of them will help you be even more successful!

So let me ask, which one of these actions will help you engage and sell to more customers?

By Doug Fleener 14 Dec, 2016

The busier the store gets, the bigger the impact (both positive and negative) the leader has on his/her staff and results. That’s why I hope you’ll invest a few minutes to read these ten quick holiday leadership tips,

1. One of your most important tasks this week ­­is to create a joyful work experience for your staff. A happy, energetic, and engaged staff is most definitely a competitive advantage this week.

2. It is also essential to make your store a joyful and productive shopping experience for your customers. That's pretty much a slam-dunk if you've taken care of your staff.

3. Stress could be your biggest impediment to being a productive leader this week. Keep talking with your manager, mentor, friend, spouse, or whoever, about how you're feeling. Talking it through almost always leads to lower stress and higher focus.

4. Avoid excuses. Own what's happening in your business, good, bad, or okay. If you claim what's taking place you can also lead your team to even better results.

5. If your sales are falling short, do you know exactly where your opportunities are? You can't change or improve trends without understanding the cause. Are one or two of your product categories off? Is your average sale or transactions down?

6. Establish a daily action that focuses your team on improving the issue(s) you identified above. Too many managers/owners only talk about the desired result and not the actions needed to change the trend. The same is true for those having a strong holiday. Action is the key!

7. Be sure your team continues to focus on Who and not What. (Or as you learned in this video , Whonotwhat.) One retailer increased their store’s average sale by 25% last weekend by making that shift. 25%!

8. Back-ups at the register are more likely to happen during the weekday when there is less staff. Don't let the last steps of the customer experience be any less stellar than everything that came before.

9. Share the working with multiple customers handout with your staff before this weekend. You can download it here, or read about it below.

10. Last but not least, step up and be the floor leader your customers and staff need. A manager once told me that during busy times he saw himself as just another team member. I wanted to fire him on the spot.

You can't be just another salesperson or cashier. It doesn't mean you can't sell or ring every now and then, but you need to be leading and controlling what's happening in the store. Your team needs you to lead and coach them to success!

So let me ask, are you and your management team ready to lead the team to finish strong?

By Doug Fleener 06 Dec, 2016
By Doug Fleener 16 Nov, 2016

The next six weeks are "the most wonderful time of the year." Well, at least until you find yourself about ready to snap over the person who just stole your parking spot!

The holidays can be wonderful, and from time to time a bit trying. Just remember that your own attitude, behaviors, and actions ultimately determine how your holiday goes.

Here’s a list of tips and actions anyone working retail can use for a reasonably stress-free, enjoyable, and productive holiday. (Most work for non-retail teams as well.)

1. Have fun! It's pretty hard to be stressed when you're bent on having fun. Challenge a colleague to a sales contest, or who can have the most add-ons in the next hour. Have fun with customers - and their children. Time goes faster when you're having fun.

2. Try to improve your performance from the day before. Aim for a higher ADS or UPT. Shoot for 110% of goal. It's amazing how the little things don't bother you as much when you're striving to be better.

3. Keep conversations with your co-workers positive and upbeat. Don't participate in gossip and negativity. You don't want to land on the naughty list.

4. Try to do something nice for someone else every day . Maybe leave a little gift for a co-worker. Don't tell anyone.

5. Keep smiling. The best part about giving smiles is that you get them in return, or at least people think you're a little crazy which may true on some days. That can be fun too.

6. Ask to take five minutes off the floor when you get that crazy and overwhelmed feeling. Even better, suggest a five minute breather to a co-worker who clearly needs it.

7. If business is slow, ask a colleague to watch you and give you feedback about what you can do even better . A little tip or two can make a huge difference in your day 

8. Make an effort to leave work at work . I knew a manager who always clapped her hands when she walked out the door at the end of a shift. It was her way of physically moving from work mode to personal life mode.

9. Make an effort to leave any personal issues at home, or at least leave them in the car. Think of the lease line at your store as an attitude line. When you cross it, you need to make sure you have the best possible attitude.

10. Never be so busy that you don't take a moment to know your customer a bit better or do something a little extra special for him/her.   It will increase your average sale, and that will improve your attitude.

11. Give your customer choices.  It's great service and great for business. Studies show that customers are more likely to make a purchase if they are asked to choose between different products. Customers also find it is easier to make a purchase decision when choosing between specific products, not a general "to buy or not to buy."

12. Leave home early to give yourself plenty of time to get to work. Those extra minutes can ensure a stress-free start to your workday. Being late is also not a good thing when your colleagues are depending on you.

13. Don't stop the sale. It's bad for business and unfair to your customer. Never say, "Will there be anything else?" Wait until your customer says he/she is done. Until then, keep working your customer's list and helping them find gifts for themselves, too.

14. Don't skip the things that keep you centered. Whether it's church, the gym, Starbucks, or sappy holiday movies, don't be too tired to do what you like to do. Personally, I find my annual viewing of Elf important to my holiday performance.

15. Don't skip your breaks. They're extremely important to being productive and having a good attitude. Use your phone during your breaks to take a breather from the hustle and bustle. Listen to some music. Text a friend or loved one. Decompress. And when you're not on break, avoid disturbing those who are.

16. Use good manners. Say "Please" at every opportunity. "Please" is a word that every person appreciates. There's big difference between "Sign here" and "Please sign here." You really cannot overuse the word "please." Never miss a chance to look your customer in the eye and say "Thank you." Avoid answering or otherwise talking on the phone when ringing up a sale.

17. Skip the food court and bring something special for lunch or dinner unless, that is, you love lines. Plan your meals for the entire week and give yourself one less thing to think about before work. Organize a staff potluck on the weekends.

18. Help your customers buy themselves a gift, too. It really is the best gift, since the recipient gets what he/she wants, and it certainly helps your sales results.

19. Treat yourself to something special. You may not be able to buy yourself something every day, but it doesn't have to be a treat that costs money. Call a friend you haven't spoken to recently. Take five extra minutes of quiet time in the morning or evening. Sometimes you need to reward yourself for a good day or even a bad one.

20. Help a colleague with her/his sale. You can get the product, be a silent assistant by bringing your colleague additional products, or jump in and add your expertise if appropriate.

21. Watch for customers who are overwhelmed. To you it might just look busy, but to a customer who needs something in particular and doesn't know where to find it, your busy store can look like pure chaos.

22. Get your own holiday shopping done early, unless you love that last-minute rush . Go shopping because you want to, not because you have to.

23. Don't take things personally, especially when dealing with an unhappy customer. Don't let other people's character defects bring out your own. Fix the problem and move on. Odds are good the next customer is a happy one.

24. Invest in some new shoes if your current pair is worn or not comfortable. Seriously. Happy feet make for a happy you. That's one of the best tips I got when I started retail, many holidays ago.

25. Focus on the spirit of the holiday. Throw a little money in the red bucket on the way to work. Walk down and watch the kids get ready to visit Santa. Don't watch the ones in line who are still an hour away from Santa. That's never pretty, but it can be fun to watch if you're not one of the parents. If you're downtown, step outside and watch the shoppers.

26. Go above and beyond for every customer. (Get it? #26!) Karma is a wonderful thing, and holiday Karma is the best.

So let me ask, which of these tips can you apply to create a more stress-free, enjoyable, and productive holiday?

By Doug Fleener 16 Nov, 2016

OutFront Leaders champion these three mindsets during the holidays.

1. Champion WE. OutFront leaders position and reinforce how essential the team is to the success of the business. Henry Ford said, ""If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself." I believe that how well a retail staff works together to engage and sell customers can have a positive - or negative - impact of 10% or more. 

Specialty stores want to champion team selling, silent assists, colleague coaching, multi-customer engagement, and all other teamwork that results in higher sales and the best possible customer service experience.

2. Champion maximizing every customer opportunity.  Recently, while shopping in a department store I overheard two salespeople complaining about how slow business was. They were doing this, of course, instead of engaging me.

Holiday success isn't dependent on any one promotion or event, but it will be determined by the experience and level of sales focus on every customer that walks into the store. Miss maximizing even one customer opportunity, and it might be the one that makes the day.

3. Champion your customer's experience. What sets your store apart from all the rest are the products you sell, AND the experience a customer has when shopping with you. While some customers might be looking for deals, that isn’t the only reason they come into your store.

Customers shop your store because of how it makes them feel. The better they feel, the more they purchase. How we do that might change during the holidays, but the importance of doing it never does.

Take these three actions this week and throughout the holidays your store staff is sure to be Champions! (Cue up the Queen music!) 

So let me ask, what are you and your leaders championing for this holiday?

How to use this article.

Discuss with your leadership team how each of them sets the tone, and how championing key messages makes a positive impact on holiday results. Talk about these three key points to champion, and any others you and they feel might be vital to your store’s success.


By Doug Fleener 27 Oct, 2016

While observing a salesperson show her customer a watch, I started thinking about what the employee might have done differently if the customer had announced when she walked into the store, "I'm here to purchase a watch."
The associate probably would have put the watch on her customer's wrist much sooner.
She also would have also found out what the customer liked or didn't like about the watch, so she could show her something else.
And knowing that salesperson, I think she would have shown additional products to complement the watch.
Don't get me wrong; the employee did a nice job showing the watch. I'm just saying that she would have approached it much differently if the customer had announced her purchase intent.
Our stores are a better experience when people are engaged with the products . Trying things out. Trying things on. Learning about products. Playing with the products, etc.
We owe it to our customers to engage them as if they announced, "I'm here to make a purchase."
But wait? Isn't that being a pushy salesperson?
(Yes, I often have conversations with myself!)
I don't believe that engaging a customer as if he/she stated, "I am here to make a purchase" is pushy at all!
What's pushy is continuing to engage a customer if she communicates that she'd rather experience the store without our help.
This will result in not only a much better service experience for your customers, but it will absolutely increase your sales.

So let me ask, do you engage your customers as if they have come in to make a purchase?


Into Action

Try it out. Engage every customer today as if he/she told you as he/she walked in the door, "I'm here to make a purchase."

Have a colleague observe you with the customer, and then share some feedback on what you did well and could do better to help that customer make her purchase.


By Doug Fleener 19 Oct, 2016

1. Reach even higher. I like to think that managers maintain what is, but OutFront leaders and coaches create what can be.

2. Focus on HOW more than what.  Managers will tell employees what their goals are, or how they’re falling short. OutFront leaders and coaches will focus their conversations on what people can DO to achieve their goals.

3. Give self-confidence. Jack Welch once said that giving his staff self-confidence is one of the most important things he does as a leader. Self-confidence, he says, leads to people taking action. We give self-confidence by telling people WHY they can do or achieve what is being asked of them.

4. Show the way. When you invest the time to work directly with your staff, they will grow considerably faster than doing so on her/his own. That’s a huge ROI on your time. An ROI that shows up in your staff’s development and business results.

Here’s an example of how an OutFront leader in one of my coaching programs put these four into action: I’ll let Brittany tell you the rest.

"Yesterday I worked with <name removed>, and I took the advice you gave mel. After every transaction we discussed what we did with the customer. At the end of her shift her ADS was $79, which is a 16.5% increase from her current $66. I also saw her confidence increase as she said to me, 'this is so much easier than I thought it would be, you were right!'"

So let me ask, what will you do to maximize this week's leadership opportunity?

By Doug Fleener 19 Oct, 2016

Doesn't it bug you when people push their own values on you? After all, just because something is important to them doesn't mean it's important to me. I don't think they should tell me what I should value and I shouldn't tell them, either.

That's certainly happening in political conversations right now, but no political talk. I'm referring to retail salespeople.

That's right, too many retail salespeople are pushing their own personal values on customers, assuming they know what their customers are thinking, and it's costing retailers both customers and sales.

I once asked a salesperson, "So these shirts are $80?" She immediately said, "Oh don't worry, we have cheaper shirts. Let me show you these over here that are on sale." Fine, but I hadn't said I wanted to look at less expensive shirts. I wanted to confirm the price of the shirts I was looking at right then.

It is important that sales associates understand what the customer's values are and don't let their own get in the way. Not everyone wants the cheapest price. Most people want a fair price, which isn't necessarily the same thing as the lowest price.

Customers are looking for quality, selection, convenience and service in addition to price. Every customer values these elements differently and we should never assume we know in what order our customer prioritizes them.

Do yourself and your customer a favor and don't assume you know what it is important to him/her. All you have to have to do is ask them.

So let me ask, are you assuming what your customer values?

By Doug Fleener 12 Oct, 2016
It’s vital that your staff make sure that a customer’s purchase and experience is right. It doesn’t matter how good a barista is if she makes the wrong drink.

That’s why retail associates must take responsibility for what a customer is buying, whether or not they helped the person select the product. It only takes a few seconds to discover why the customer is buying a particular item.

If they’re the buying the right item, great! If there is something else the customer should consider, it’s great service to suggest he/she looks at it. If he’s buying the wrong item, the associate just saved the customer time and frustration, and the store from getting a return.

So let me ask, does your staff take responsibility for everything a customer buys?
By Doug Fleener 12 Oct, 2016
Time is a leader’s most valuable resource, one that must be invested wisely. For most leaders, their best time investment is working with and coaching their staff on delivering an even better service and sales experience.

Unfortunately, operational activities take up a great deal of a frontline manager’s time. That’s why it is important to reduce the time spent on these activities whenever possible.

You can do that by giving yourself shorter, specific, time frames to complete operational tasks. Instead of just “working” on your paperwork or saying you’ll get it done “sometime today,” tell yourself you have “45 minutes to get it done.” Why? Because you’ll use however much time you give yourself.

Think about it. How long did it take to write a paper the teacher assigned four weeks out? That’s right. Four weeks. If the teacher had said one week, that’s how long it would take. It’s actually called Parkinson’s Law. Look it up.

Give yourself less time on operational activities, and you’ll be able to get OutFront to lead and coach your team to higher results.

Try it out today. You’ll see and be able to invest the time you save.
By Doug Fleener 06 Oct, 2016

Most specialty retailers whose staff is sales-focused emphasize add-ons. When done well, this approach can slightly increase a store's average sale, but I believe it also reduces how well a staff can maximize sales opportunities.

In some stores, an add-on is an inexpensive item suggested to the customer at checkout. In other stores, it's a suggested item that complements a product a customer is buying.

Both approaches are better than just ringing up the sale without any suggestions for an additional purchase, but the best salespeople go far beyond adding-on.


Selling on is the act of continuing to show and recommend products and services the customer may want to purchase. This may sound like semantics, but it's a completely different mindset and approach.

The most successful retail salespeople never stop the sale.

They continue to sell on until the customer says he/she is done. They know it is poor service to assume the customer is done shopping until the customer says it.

Of course the first recommendation will be for a product that naturally complements the item the customer is buying. They'll show a wallet with a handbag, or treat with a bag of dog food. (Or whatever it is in your store.)

Top salespeople don't stop there.  They sell-on.

If the customer says "no" to the complementary product, they transition to additional products. If you focus on add-ons the customer's "no" means that the sale is over and it's time to check-out. When you focus on selling-on, "no" just means "no" to that product.

Do yourself a favor and reread that last paragraph. I'll wait. 


The salesperson that sells-on then moves to the next product and keeps showing and suggesting products until the customer says he/she is done.  

The customer might say no two or three times, but there's also a good chance there will be another one or perhaps two "yes" responses.

Compare that to the add-on approach of one "no" and you're done.

So let me ask, why limit your sales and not give your customers the opportunity to own even more of your wonderful products? The secret is to quit adding-on and begin selling on. Seriously try it for 30-days. You'll see the difference. You'll bank the difference.

Have a great week, and SELL-ON!

By Doug Fleener 28 Sep, 2016

The other day I was in a client's store when an older gentleman, helped by a younger woman, walked in. The associate went over to greet them, and then asked if she could help them.

He responded, "Just looking." Then he burst out laughing, because he was blind. The young woman, who was his aide, told me later that he loved to do that. There's not much I haven't seen in retail, but that was a new one. It was awesome. 

It got me thinking. If even a blind person will say he's just looking, people clearly don't always mean what they say. "Just looking" can actually mean many things.

"I have an interest in your store, but first I need some space to check it out."

"I may or may not be looking for something, but I haven't gotten comfortable enough to discuss it."

"I'd like to shop alone right now."

"Oh, no. It's a pesky salesperson! Please go away."

Here's the key.

Most of the time "just looking" means absolutely nothing. Zilch!

It's a natural response to an associate asking the customer if they need help. It is said without thought.

I've walked into a store wanting help and said it. It's just what you say when someone asks, "How may I help you?"

In the above example, I know that associate knows better than to ask how she can help a potential customer. I think the man being blind threw her off.

If she had said, "Welcome to XYZ. Is this your first time in the store, or have you been her before?" the customer wouldn't have responded with "just looking." Then again, he would have not gotten such a good laugh from all of us.

Here's my challenge for you.

How many customers in a row can you engage without them saying, "Just looking?" I guarantee that the higher the number, the better each customer's experience will be, and the more you will sell.

By the way, if they still say, "Just looking" all you need to do is give them a few minutes, and then reengage them.

So let me ask, how many customers can you engaging without them saying, “Just looking.”

Into action

Have a challenge today among your colleagues on who can have the longest streak of customers not say, "Just looking."


By Doug Fleener 26 Sep, 2016
If a customer has a less than stellar experience this week, what could have happened and what could we have done to avoid it?

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By Doug Fleener 23 Sep, 2016
It's Monday morning, and we look back and see that we had an incredibly successful weekend. We acknowledge that the extra effort the team put in made the difference. What are some of the things we might have had the team do?  

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By Doug Fleener 22 Sep, 2016

Last year I set out with a goal to eat better, get more exercise, and lose weight. I was really happy with how much I lost in the first four weeks, but then the dreaded plateau set in. As frustrating as it is, I learned that plateaus and dips are a natural part of losing weight.

Plateaus and dips are also a natural part of business and individual performance. Your team is working hard to improve their results. You’re making great progress, and then BAM. It stops. The dreaded plateau. Sometimes it’s not even a plateau, but your sales even dip.

Here are three things you can do when you, your business, and/or staff hit a performance plateau.

1. Change your routine. One reason you hit a weight loss plateau is because the body adapts to new eating and exercise routines. The changes you've made don't have as much impact as they did when you began.

The same is true with a staff. What once was new and different is now routine. Combat routine by switching things up. Change how you do Take Five (shift huddles) meetings. Focus on a different metric this week. Have a new game or competition. Do something to make this week different from last week.

2. Shift your focus to something new that will improve performance. A trainer will help you work through a plateau by making changes to your exercise program. He or she will probably target a different part of your body to focus on.

That same approach will work for you. If you've been focused on showing your customer additional items, shift the focus to reengaging customers. If you’ve been focusing on sharing more about the product, try improving getting customers in the dress room. (Or whatever is appropriate for your business.) 

It doesn't mean you stop what's been helping your staff perform at a higher level. What you’re doing is adding new areas of focus to keep improving and growing your sales. You can always circle back around to whatever you were focused on.

3. Improve your accountability. Many weight loss plateaus aren't plateaus at all. They're really the result of people slowly slipping back into old eating habits. That's why I used an app to track everything I eat. Total accountability!

Your plateau could also be a sign of people slipping back into old habits. I don't know of an app for that, but I do know that having people track and/or report back on how they perform key expectations has a direct impact on results.

So let me ask, are you or your staff in a performance plateau? If so, consider applying these three tips to overcome it, or even if you simply want to jumpstart your sales and service results.

By the way, I hit the best plateau of all….my weight goal. I’m maintaining it by continuing to do these three things. They work if you do them.


Doug Fleener, the former director of retail for Bose Corporation, is a frontline leadership expert known for bring fresh approaches and powerful actionable ideas to clients and audiences around the world.

For over twenty-years Fleener has helped executives, owners, multi-unit managers, and frontline managers accelerate the impact they have on employees, the customer service experience, and results. Learn more at DougFleener.com

By Doug Fleener 15 Sep, 2016

Thank you cards are still one of the most effective, and most affordable, marketing tools you have. They stand out even more with so most marketing materials going digital.

Think about it. How many emails did you get in the last two weeks? Okay, and how many handwritten thank you cards did you get? Point made!

The fact is nothing does a bette job of creating a future visit than demonstrating your appreciation for your customer’s last visit.

Unfortunately, thank you cards are also one of those activities that seem to fall off the radar when things get busy or the staff gets distracted.

Which is too bad, because every thank you card is an investment in creating a future sale. I know one retailer who believes each thank you card will create $120 in future sales. That's worth writing for!

Here are some tips for creating productive thank you cards that make a positive impact.

1. Give yourself a daily target of thank you cards to do. If you wrote just two a day and worked four days a week, you would send out 368 thank you cards over the course of a year. (I'm not including the holiday season in this count.)

If you use the thank you card value of $120, that could create $44,160 in additional annual sales. Of course, your number could be higher or lower, but any way you look at it, more thank you cards results in more sales.

2. Write legibly. The card doesn't have any value if the customer can't read your handwriting. Those with less than stellar handwriting will want to write more slowly and focus on making the card readable.

3. Put the date in the upper right hand corner. This demonstrates that you are sending the card in response to a recent purchase or visit.

4. Use the proper salutation. Keep them formal ( Dear Mrs. Johnson ) unless you have known the customer for a long time, and are already on first name basis with him/her.

5. Start with your appreciation. The first words of the first sentence should convey the message of the note. Thank you for... or I appreciate ...

6. Personalize each note. Don't generically thank the customer for his/her purchase or visit. Be specific about what he/she purchased, or the exact dates of when they visited.

7. Set up the next visit. Tell your customer you look forward to serving her again on her next visit. You might even reference showing her something that will go with the item she purchased. Make this brief so you don't overshadow the core message of thank you.

8. End with a second thank you. This way the start and the finish express your thanks. Thank you again....

So let me ask, how well is your store effectively using thank you cards? What will you do to increase and/or improve your customer thank you cards? Remember, each one is an investment in keeping your customers and creating future sales.

By Doug Fleener 07 Sep, 2016

I once worked for a manager who gave a lot of feedback. I appreciated that since most of my managers up to then hadn't given much at all. What I didn't appreciate was that he only focused what didn't happen or what went wrong.

I have no idea why he couldn't accentuate the positive. If you made a big sale he would point out that the paperwork wasn't done correctly.

If you scored a 98 on a mystery shop he would want to review the one item the employee missed. If you hit 104% of sales he would want to talk about what kept you from achieving 105%. You get the picture. His perspective was out of balance.

It isn't much different from the manager or owner who only focuses on the positive. 

One manager who reported to me was the King of Pollyanna-land. If his store burned down he would have found a way to position it as a good thing. Needless to say, this guy didn't have much credibility with his team. His praise went in one ear and out the other.

OutFront frontline leaders keep and share a balanced perspective.

They recognize and celebrate success, and they identify and share improvement opportunities.

They know not to undermine praise with poorly timed feedback, and to not weaken critical improvement feedback with false praise.

They avoid being critical, and focus on what they want employee to do better or different. (That’s exactly what I teach in my EveryDay Coaching program.)

Keeping and sharing a balanced perspective is a key to helping employees develop and your store to succeed.

So let me ask, do you keep a balanced perspective? How balanced is it? More important, how balanced does your team think your perspective is? What should you do this week to have a more balanced and productive perspective?

By Doug Fleener 31 Aug, 2016

"When people are highly motivated, it's easy to accomplish the impossible. And when they're not, it's impossible to accomplish the easy." - Bob Collings

I love the above quote. While we often think about how to motivate employees, sometimes leaders demotivate the staff and not even know it. As the quote says, that makes it impossible to accomplish the easy.

Here are four ways frontline leaders might unintentionally demotivate their employees, and what they can do to avoid doing so.

1. Take charge after not being on the floor. This happens when a leader walks on to a busy sales floor and immediately takes charge - without knowing what customers have been helped. Even worse, he or she asks customers if they've been helped. Both actions inadvertently communicate to the staff that their manager has no confidence that they are doing their jobs when the manager wasn't on the floor. (Which I am sure is not the case!)

Taking action: When walking on to a busy floor, always take a moment to ask the employees who, or how, you can help.

2. Undermining the company or their boss. Many leaders do this without even realizing it. I awhile back I heard a manager tell her staff that the company wants them to do something new. She immediately followed up by explaining why it won't work. You could see her staff's negative reaction. As a leader, you are the company. Your staff should never know if you don't personally support something.

Taking action: Be careful to not to undermine your company, or share your personal feelings when they are not aligned with the company or your manager.


3. Cherry pick customers.  I once had an assistant manager who did this all of the time. The minute he learned a customer was going to take a long time or be somewhat challenging, he'd hand him or her over to a colleague because he had "some important operational things to do." Funny, he never handed over that customer who walked in to make a purchase.

Taking Action: Be consistent in how you choose to turn customers over to your staff. Remember that each instance gives you an opportunity to teach your staff, and demonstrate your priorities and expectations.


4. Hold themselves to a different set of standards. Not many managers do this on purpose, but it happens from time to time. I see managers who take personal calls when the staff is told they can't.

I've also seen managers who don't always stick to their scheduled working hours. True, the managers might be exempt and have had to work for the store from home, but does the staff know that?

Taking Action: Be aware of what your actions communicate to the staff. Your actions are always teaching. Be proud of what the lesson is.

So let me ask, how might you unintentionally demotivate employees?

Using This Article

Discuss with your entire leadership team these and other ways a manager might unintentionally demotivate the staff.

By Doug Fleener 23 Aug, 2016

When I was nine or ten years old, someone told me about a great way to sneak in to the movies. At least I thought it was a great idea. I was told that all I had to do was walk backwards into the movie theater when everyone else was leaving.

One day my friends and I decided to try it at the Lincoln Theater. (I grew up in Illinois so everything had Lincoln's name on it.) As soon as the movie was over and the crowd started streaming out, we started walking backwards towards the exit doors.

Okay, so it wasn't such a great idea. We ran in to all kinds of people, got called all kinds of names, and then backed right into the propped-open doors. Either I was not a very smart kid or I was incredibly gullible, but you had to respect my willingness to try new things.

Walking backwards may not be such a great idea, but what does work is to work backwards in designing your sales and experience strategies.

In most companies the executives, buyers, home office team, and/or owners work from their perspective, not the customer's. They first determine what they want to achieve and how they're going to do it. The goal might be increasing sales, traffic, or sell-through of particular products. The solution seems to always be a training, which may or may not be the answer. 

There is a better way.  Start with the customer and work (not walk) backwards to the office.

Let's say you want to increase sell through of green widgets by 15%. What has to happen on the floor to get customers to buy 15% more widgets?

I've learned to start looking for the answer on the sales floor itself, asking frontline employees how they think we can create success. Then I spend time observing both customers and employees to identify other potential opportunities.

Working backwards, identify what you want the customer to think and do that will increase widget sales. Then, what behaviors and actions does the staff need to start, stop, do more or less of to enable the customer to think and do those things?  That's a big piece that is frequently missing in sales and service experience strategies.

From there you do the work you've always done, but do it backwards. Identify what tools and processes need to be adapted, added, or changed. What merchandising and in-store messaging need to happen? Once you've answered those questions you can start to determine the training, communications, and in-house support plan. Continue to work backwards to the marketing strategy.

The difference between the two approaches is that by working backwards, you start where success has to happen: on the floor with the customer and the staff. None of the rest matters if you miss there.

You'll always be more successful if you work backwards. Maybe I was just ahead of my time that day at the Lincoln Theater.

So let me ask, how well are you working backwards to find the right opportunities and solutions to improving your sales and service experience?

Have a great week!

By Doug Fleener 11 Aug, 2016

One of the most important aspects of a frontline leader's job is to develop the leaders that work for them. Here are three suggestions for better developing your frontline leaders:

1. Delegate more than tasks. There are three level that you can delegate: tasks, responsibility, and complete accountability. Too many leaders only delegate tasks to their managers, which gives them no true opportunity to lead.

When you delegate responsibility, you hand it off to the other leaders. She owns it, but you still consider yourself accountable. When you delegate accountability you are no longer involved at all. You should be delegating all three levels.

2. Create a specific individual leadership development plan. Every leader you coach should know exactly what his strengths and areas of opportunity are, and have a very specific development plan for you to help him be even better.

Don't fall into the trap of being too generic, saying things like, "Be a better coach." Be specific. "Work with all associates whose average sale is below x amount, and report back on a weekly basis for four weeks." is the sort of thing you want.

3. Give immediate feedback on her leadership and coaching. This is one of the most overlooked actions a leader can take when coaching a leader. Tell the staff the other leader is in charge for the day, and to only come to you in an emergency. Now spend your time observing how the leader leads and coaches her team.

Give her feedback in the moment so she can apply it immediately. This is a great exercise for all managers, not just those who have been recently promoted.

So let me ask, how are you doing coaching your leaders? Which of these three suggestions can you apply to help your leaders become even better? What specific actions will you take this week help your frontline leaders be more effective?

By Doug Fleener 04 Aug, 2016

With low unemployment and so many companies in need of help, the competition for top candidates is definitely on the rise. I can personally attest to this from consulting with a client who is working overtime to find good people.

Here are some tips and ideas for filling open positions with amazing people.

1. Cast a wider net. I believe in attracting as many candidates as possible. I recommend stop requiring people to have retail or sales experience. I’d rather wade through a bunch of nos to find an unexpected amazing yes, than hope I can attract that one yes that just so happens to be looking to change companies.

2. Compensate your staff for recruiting. Your best recruiters already work for you. I'd rather pay my staff a referral bonus than spend that money on advertising, but there's a good chance I'll have to do both.

3. Advertise where job seekers are looking. I know that sounds completely obvious, but I continue to meet people who are still using classified ads - with no luck. I've had the most success with Craigslist and Indeed, marginal success with Zip Recruiter and LinkedIn, and the least amount of success with Monster (unless it is for a high level position). Your results may vary.

Also, contact all of your local colleges. Especially with kids starting back up. I’m okay if I lose them for the summer. I’ll take an amazing employee for nine months over an average person that I don’t have to replace.

4. It's all in the headline. I've been doing extensive testing of what sort of headlines work best, and I've learned that the least effective headline is what perhaps 95% of retailers do - use the job title as the headline.

The most effective ad headlines focus on the quality of the work environment. Sample headlines I've tested successfully:

* Work Where You're Appreciated and Make a Difference.

* Join Our Amazing Team

* Work With Fabulous People and Products

* We’re the Company You’ve Been Looking For

5. Post on your own social media.  Just make sure you position it as hiring additional or seasonal help. You never want to inadvertently give the impression that your store is understaffed. Again, it's all in the headline.

6. Start with a phone interview. Phone interviews are a quick and easy way to screen your applicants. It also allows me to interview more applicants I've attracted with my wider net. I usually know within 10 minutes if this is someone I want to get to know better. If it is, I schedule an in-person interview. If not, I thank the person for his/her time and wish them the best of luck.

7. Have them work the floor as part of the interview. Anyway can say they’re a “people person.” Show me! I’m not just talking about roleplaying. I have the applicants welcome and engage customers. I always ask managerial applicants to work the floor for a few minutes. I want to see how they handle pressure. I know this has kept me from a couple poor hires.

My most amazing hires were people who were just okay in the interview, and then came alive when working with customers. Not surprising since that’s a situation they’re use to.

So let me ask, what else can you do to find and hire amazing people?

By Doug Fleener 26 Jul, 2016

Here are three tips and reminders for how to effectively coach customer engagement.

1. Observe to elevate performance. There are two coaching mindsets. One is coaching to correct; trying to see what people are doing wrong. The other is coaching to elevate performance or, as I often say, to be even better.

When you coach to elevate, you're closely observing the fine details of each associate’s customer engagement. You're looking for those small details to help him or her better connect with their customer.

What's your mindset? Do you observe your associates to see what they're doing wrong, or what they can do better?

2. The more timely the feedback, the faster the impact on performance. A storeowner recently told me how effective her monthly one-on-one meetings are. She said she always has lots of good ideas for each employee to use to improve.

While I complimented her on having a coaching focus, I asked why she waited until her one-on-ones to give the feedback. Her answer? That's what she's always done. Remember, the sooner you deliver the feedback, the faster the associate, the next customer, and the store, can benefit from a higher level of engagement.

How quickly do you give your associates feedback? Do you deliver the feedback between customers, or do you wait until the next Take Five or other meeting?

3. Avoid giving "pinball" feedback . I recently worked with a manager who did a great job coaching her team throughout the day. The only problem was that her feedback was all over the place. She bounced from one thing to the next. That's what I call pinball feedback.

The most successful coaches narrow their focus. They know that associates will always be more successful focusing on just one or at the most two things at one time to work on. Giving feedback in too many areas will almost always result in the employee doing nothing.

How narrowly focused do you keep your feedback? At the end of a day, how many elements have your associates been asked to focus on? If you keep that number low, there's a good chance your sales results will be high.

Have a great week!

By Doug Fleener 19 Jul, 2016

One of the biggest challenges in retail is the routine of it all. It's fairly easy to fall into the trap of doing and saying the same things over and over. Sometimes you don’t even realize you're doing it. This not only diminishes the customer's experience, many of the lines directly impacts sales.

Consider these lines to avoid ­­– and why, and what you can replace them with.

1. Avoid asking "How may I help you?" or "Can I answer any questions?" This line is fine if the customer is clearly approaching you to ask you a question, but it's an engagement killer when she doesn't. I believe eliminating it from your vocabulary is best.

Consider saying:

If the customer is just entering your store just say, "Hello, and welcome to _______." If the customer wants help, she'll ask. If she doesn't, you can begin to build a connection or learn if she's been in the store before.

2. Avoid saying, "Let me know if you have any questions." or "Let me know if you need any help." Sales people often say this after a customer conveys that he doesn't want or need help. It's fine if a customer wants some space, but making either of these statements limits your ability to actively reengage the customer. And, of course, actively engaging your customer is how you add value to his/her experience and maximize your opportunity.

Consider saying:

"I'll check back with you in a little bit, and in the meantime please let me know if I can be of any assistance." Now when you reengage the customer you're just following up on what you said you would do.


3. Avoid saying "Will that be all?" or "Did you want to look at anything else?" Of all the limiting lines, these cost a retailer the most sales since they're being said to confirmed buyers. Our job is to continue to show and recommend products until the customer stops the sale.

Consider saying:

* Use a bridge statement to continue to show products. Here are a few examples:

"You're going to want use this ____ with your _______."

"Here is the matching ______ that goes with those _______."

"I have the perfect _______ to wear with _________."

  So let me ask, which of these lines might be limiting your sales? Practice with your manager and/or a colleague what you'll start saying instead of the limiting line.

By Doug Fleener 11 Jul, 2016

As a leader, it's important that you and your team maintain a healthy relationship with customers and each other. And the foundation of a healthy relationship is trust and respect.

For example, you would never let anyone on your staff be intentionally disrespectful or dishonest with a customer or colleague, but some behaviors are accepted even though they potentially undermine the relationship and the customer or employee's experience.

My advice for leaders is to avoid accepting any behaviors in your store that could hurt an individual or your company's reputation. Here are three behaviors I find troubling.

White lies

White lies are minor lies that could be considered harmless. Usually they're only harmless if the customer or colleague doesn't hear the truth.

In my Sharper Image days we once had a customer call to inquire if the piece of luggage he had dropped off to be repaired was done. My fellow assistant discovered that the piece was still sitting in the office. He told the customer, "I'm not sure why we haven't gotten it back yet." Just a little white lie, right? 

Well, it was fine until a few days later when the repair place called the customer with a question about the luggage they had just received. You can imagine how angry that made the customer. Admitting you made a mistake doesn't damage a customer relationship nearly as much as being caught in a lie.

Strong leaders and strong teams don't allow white lies.

Sales fibs

I see this one more than I wish I did. You know. The salesperson says, "This is the last one in stock" even though there are more in the backroom. I'll never forget when I saw a salesperson say that to a customer and then the customer pointed to a huge stack of the product on the floor and said, "Looks like you just got some in."

Sales fibs are a lazy way to sell. Instead of learning enough about the customer to create purchase intent, the salesperson uses scarcity to create intent. The bigger issue for you as a leader is that you're condoning dishonesty if you allow people to sell that way. Spin it any way you want, it's still dishonest.

Strong leaders and strong teams don't allow sales fibs.

Speaking ill of others

Just about everyone has probably done this to one degree or another. Sometimes it's just a snide remark about what a pain the customer is, or what a colleague did. It's harmless, right?

While these words might be spoken in jest, when we accept them we're allowing small degrees of disrespectfulness. On the other end of the scale is gossip that can hurt others. Neither one is healthy for teamwork and collaboration among the staff, or for delivering the best possible experiences.

Strong leaders and strong teams don't speak ill of others.

None of us are perfect, but when we set high relationship standards and expectations and everyone on team holds each other accountable, chances are better than average that our relationships will be that much stronger.

So let me ask, do you and your team have high relationship standards and expectations? Even if you do, these are still great reminders for your next sales meeting.

- Doug
By Doug Fleener 05 Jul, 2016
Every summer my youngest daughter plays on a competitive travel softball team. Last year she was on a team coached by two women in their early twenties. I've been watching these two ladies coach these high school and college players, and I see that much of what they do to be successful applies to our "players" as well.

1. A daily routine. The players know exactly how they are expected to warm up for practice and games. It never deviates, and players are expected to begin the pregame routine without being told. They stretch, they run, they hit, and they field. In our stores, the routines should include Take Fives, roleplay, reviewing stock levels, reading communications, etc.

Into action: Do you set - and stick to - the routines that make your team more successful?


2. Expectations are communicated directly. One thing I love about these two young coaches is how comfortable they are telling players what they expect from them. One day they sent the following email: "Hey Ladies! Make sure to be ready to go by 8:45am tomorrow! Coach Shannon and I are expecting three wins so please get a good night's sleep and come ready to play!"

Into action: Are you direct with your expectations? Do you tell your team you expect them to win?


3. They will only accept a 100% effort by players. Anything less than 100% is unacceptable to these two coaches. That's how they played the game, and that's how they coach.

At the same time, they don't yell at or browbeat the players. Nor do they pamper them and say everything is okay. If there's an issue, they address it. They coach the player on what to do better or differently. They then reset the expectations, and get the player back onto the field. They continue to encourage her to play up to her capabilities.

Into action: Do you expect enough, and do you address and coach players who aren't "playing" up to their potential?

By the way, a lot of these players will go on to play competitive college softball. These young coaches and players know that the reward is worth the effort. I hope you and your team do, too.

By Doug Fleener 30 Jun, 2016

For those of you in the US, here are three different games/contests that can make the Fourth of July weekend more fun and productive. These will also work just as effetely for store or companies for whom July 4th is just another day.

1. Reach for Four on the Fourth
I like to use a multiple day, team-based, incentive to keep the staff focused and motivated over a holiday weekend. Here's a really easy and effective one to use on the Fourth.

This incentive runs for three days. You can make it Saturday through Monday, or Friday through Sunday depending on what days you’re open. First, decide on three different levels of prizes that everyone on the team will win if they achieve certain levels.

Cash or Gift card example: Level 1 is $10 each, Level 2 is $20 each, Level 3 is $30 each, and Level 4 is $40. You can replace the cash/gift cards with different products.

A store can achieve up to 4 points a day. If the staff hits that day's sales goal they score 2 points. If they also achieve their average sale goal, they score another 2 points.

To achieve Level 1 the team needs to score at least 6 points over the three days.

To achieve Level 2 the team needs to score at least 8 points.

To achieve Level 3 the team needs to score at least 10 points.

To achieve Level 4 the team needs to score all 12 points.

What I like about this weekend contest is that each day builds on the one before. Even if there is one bad day or not enough traffic the team can still achieve some level of prizes. Of course you can tweak the levels and prizes as you see fit.

2. Fourth of July Sales and Customer Engagement Extravaganza

The goal of this game is to drive higher levels of sales and customer engagement over the weekend using the Fourth of July theme.

The game cards are American flags, and the staff must complete 13 different activities and sales targets. Each time a person completes an activity or sales target, then he/she checks-off the completed stripe (line) on the flag.

There are two different cards you can download and use. The first one is semi-completed for you to customize with these 13 activities and targets.

1. Practice selling a ___________ with a colleague.

2. Find a customer wearing red, white, and blue.

3. Discover a customer's July 4th plans.

4. Do something nice and unexpected for someone.

5. Make a sale of $_________ or more.

6. Make a sale of $_________ or more.

7. Sell a ______________________.

8. Sell a ______________________.

9. Sell a ______________________.

10. Sell a ______________________ and a ______________________ together.

11. Sell two or more ________________________ to one customer.

12. Sell three or more ___________________ today.

13. Complete the first 12 and you get this one free!

The other card is blank so you can create your own targets and activities. 

There are several ways you can pick a winner.

1. If everyone is working the same shift, the first one to fill out the card can win.

2. The person who fills in the most stripes on the flag wins. In this version there can be multiple winners.

3. Everyone who fills in the entire card wins a prize and is entered into a drawing for a one big prize.

4. Split your staff up into teams and have them work a card together.

Download the flag playing card

1. Semi-completed card in Word

2. Semi-completed card in PDF

3. Blank card in Word

4. Blank card in PDF


3. The Customer FIREWORKS Game

This a fun contest that's very effective if you want your staff to create a more engaging and personal experiencing by learning and using their customers names. If your store or restaurant has a lot of out-of-town customers/guest, you can also use FIREWORKS to discover the name of the city the customer is from.

To play give each employee a sheet of paper with the word fireworks laid out like this:











The employee who discovers and uses the most customer names, or what city they are from that start with the letters F-I-R-E-W-O-R-K-S in a day wins. The winner's sheet on the name version might end up looking like this:










Here's a hint. The staff has a better chance if they find out the customer's children names as well.

Have a safe, productive, and fun holiday weekend!

By Doug Fleener 23 Jun, 2016

One day I walked into a store and an associate asked, "How you doing?" I started to answer, but then realized that she wasn't talking to me. She also wasn't talking to the couple that walked in right behind me. She was just talking at people mindlessly repeating "How you doing?"

As I continued through my day I started noticing that people either talk to you or at you. Outwardly, it looks the same, but as a customer you feel and experience the difference. The more aware I became of the difference, the more I realized how many people talk at you. Even in a one-on-one conversation.

Routine and repetition is the greatest barrier to delivering a great experience.

People walk in the door all day and we're expected to greet and welcome them. It's so easy to fall into the trap of talking at people. 

Here are a few reminder/suggestions to make sure you're talking to people, and not at them.

1. Make eye contact. There's a big difference between looking at people and making eye contact.

2. Smile. When you make eye contact and smile you can't help but make a positive impression on someone. You don’t need to force a smile. It’s easy to smile naturally when you make eye contact with people.

3. Make it personal. When you take the time to learn one or two things about someone, you're well on your way to talking with them. Where are there from? Have they been at the store before? If they have, what have they purchased in the past?

4. Acknowledge what people say. You can always tell when someone is talking at you because they don't really care what you say. They're just waiting for you to stop talking.

On a trip to Las Vegas a person at my hotel asked how my day was going. For fun I said, "Not good. I lost all of my money." He replied, "Okay. Have a good day." Who knows, maybe he's heard that a lot, but I would have appreciated a little empathy.

5. Keep it fresh. No, I don't recommend getting fresh with customers, but I do recommend that you keep changing what you say and do with customers. When we slip too deeply into a routine, that’s when we slowly drift away from talking to people and begin talking at them.

So let me ask, do you talk to or at customers?

How to leverage this article

Discuss with your colleagues what else can you do to make sure you're talking with customer, and not at them? Which of the above suggestions can you practice today in order to lessen the chance you find yourself talking at somebody?

By Doug Fleener 15 Jun, 2016

An important part of your job as a leader is empowering your staff. When you think of empowering, most people think about giving staff the authority to make decisions.

While this type of empowerment is certainly beneficial to delivering a good experience, there is a deeper and more impactful level of empowerment. That level of empowerment is giving your staff the confidence to be able to create their own success.

That's true empowerment. Just think about having that belief and the ability to control your own destiny. When your staff is that empowered... look out! They will find a way to be successful.

Here are four actions service selling leaders take to empower their staff:

1. Consistently connecting actions with results. Empowering leaders always reinforce what actions lead to what results. For example, some managers will tell staff they need to achieve a certain number of daily try-ons, "because that's the expectation." Empowering leaders always champion the idea that the more try-ons, the better the results, "So let's do at least x number of try-ons today."

2. They give each employee a balanced perspective. Focusing only on what an employee does well is easier for a manager, but it's not empowering. "Empower" means to make someone stronger. We make people stronger when we help them improve. People can only improve if they are aware of what they need to improve in. Hence, we empower when we focus on what people can do better as well as what they already do well.

3. Teach - Observe - Coach - Repeat! Empowering leaders know they always need to be teaching their staff the small details that create a more engaging and productive service selling experience, and then help them execute it by observing and coaching them.

4. Focus on solutions, not problems. There are two types of staff. The ones that focus on why they're not achieving the results they want, and the staff that is always looking for what else they can do to exceed their goals. The difference between the two staff is their leader. One is empowering, and one is not.

So let me ask, how empowering are you as an EveryDay Coach and Leader?

How to leverage this article´╗┐:  Discuss with your leadership team the different ways you empower the staff. Remember, "empower" as in giving confidence and the ability to control their own results. Additionally, talk about the ways your team, as leaders, can be even more empowering.

By Doug Fleener 09 Jun, 2016

There are always plenty of tasks to be completed in your business. At the same time you need to focus on the key behaviors and actions to be successful for the day.

That’s why it is not only important that you delegate, but you do so in a way that both tasks and key sales strategies get completed.

Here’s a simple and effective three-step approach to do just that.

1. Prioritize the day. To be an effective delegator, you have to first determine your priorities for the day. Notice that I didn't say that you immediately create a to-do list. Instead, identify what has to happen for the day to be successful.

Maybe traffic is down, so you want to make sure Average Sale is up $15 for the day. And with traffic down you want to make sure that each employee calls between 3-5 customers.

Then, of course, that order is coming in that will need to be put away, and there's a small merchandising reset that needs to happen. Just another day in your life!

Here’s what to do. Write down what needs to happen today. Then force-rank each item from top to bottom. You'll notice that most of the things at the top of the list aren't things you would have put on a to-do list to begin with.

2. Next, create a priority to-do list. Take a piece of paper and divide it into three columns. Label the columns from left to right: Me | Manager | Anyone.

Looking at the priorities you just listed, what needs to/can be done by whom? Put each focus/task in the appropriate column based upon who can do and/or be responsible for it. It will go in the first column if it is something that you and only you can do. It will go in the second column if it is something only a manager should do, and it goes in the last column if almost anyone working that day can be responsible for it. Add any other items that need to be done but weren't on your priority list.

3. Make sure your highest priorities are covered first. Before you worry about getting that order done, think about who is making sure the average sale will be up $15. Think about it - it doesn't have to be a member of management. Anyone on your team can lead the charge and coach that. Well, that is, if everyone knows you've delegated that responsibility to that person.

You'll also find that you may not have time to do many of the tasks on the list, as you need to be driving the highest priority items. That's why you should rarely be the person doing most of the tasks in the third column.

The fact is, most of us can’t get everything done we want to get done in the day. The key is to make sure you’re being as productive as possible, and that whatever doesn’t get done is not a priority in achieving success.

So let me ask, how well are you aligning what's important to your store’s/business’s success, and what are you prioritizing and delegating?

How to leverage this article

Consider trying this approach for one week to see it will help you and your staff be more effective and productive. (And don’t forget to read about my new productivity program for coaches and leaders below.)

By Doug Fleener 01 Jun, 2016

Your time is one your most valuable assets. One of the smartest investments of that valuable time is having a monthly thirty-minute one-on-one with each employee. This is especially important for frontline employees that are directly responsible for contributing to the store's sales success.

Here are some tips on making those one-on-one investments/meetings most productive:

1. One-on-ones should be scheduled on the calendar and the store schedule with a defined start and end time. "Catch as catch can" usually means they either don't happen or are no more than brief conversations on the floor. Sticking to a thirty-minute time frame keeps the conversations on track and the chatty people focused.

2. Have employees be responsible for coming prepared to lead the meeting. This gives an employee ownership of his or her development, and frees managers to focus on coaching people instead of preparing for a meeting.

3. Start with metrics, and then focus on actions. Review key store and individual metrics such as sales, ADS, conversion, UPT, and any other numbers you deem important. Then discuss the Threes below.

4. Use my 3x2 self-assessment approach. The employee identifies:

* Two actions and results they are proud of. Ideally, this will link back to last month's one-on-one.

* Two things they could have done better.

* Two things they will focus on in the coming month in order to make a great contribution to the store.

5. Have the employee share his or her insights first; you add yours after that. It's important that the employee go first since they're responsible for their own development, and you learn a lot by hearing their perspective before you give yours.

6. Reach an agreement on how you can support the employee in the coming month. This is an important step that shows you're investing your time and energy in the person's growth and development. It also creates some accountability for you.

7. Keep the one-on-one focused on the employee's growth and development. It's easy for this meeting to go off in a million directions, but this isn't the time to discuss store operational activities, marketing, etc. This conversation is all about the employee's development. It’s also why I keep these meetings to thirty-minutes. The non-employee discussion can wait for another time. 

So let me ask, how well are investing in your people? Since this is the first day of the month, it's a great time to improve, or begin, your monthly one-on-one investments/meetings.

By Doug Fleener 25 May, 2016

Here is a post you’ll want to be sure and share with your entire staff.

Imagine walking into a restaurant. You're greeted and shown to your table. The waiter appears with the menus and tells you about the specials. He cheerfully answers your questions and says he'll check back with you in a few minutes. 

He later reappears pushing a dessert cart, explains what's special about each dessert, and says he'll check back with you in a few minutes. A little while later he comes by and thanks you for visiting. You get up and leave.

Even though everybody at the restaurant was very nice, and you'd be the first to say it was a pleasant experience, there's one big problem. YOU’RE STILL HUNGRY! And isn't eating a meal the reason you go to a restaurant in the first place?

Of course, this rarely happens except unless you're on the receiving end of truly terrible service. Here's why. The staff of a restaurant knows you're walking into that restaurant because you're hungry, and their primary responsibility is to sell you something to eat, not just show you what's available.

The same is true in your store. Customers walk in because they have an interest in buying what you sell. You could even say they're hungry for something new. If all you do is show products, you're not delivering the best possible experience.

Our responsibility is to sell each customer the best products that meet her/his needs, and/or fulfills her/his wants.

We do that by getting to know the customer, and understanding what she likes, dislikes, owns, and aspires to own. We might want to know what project they’re working on, or where on vacation they’re going.

We also engage the customer with the products. In some stores we have her try them on, get her in front of the mirror, and then give her an opportunity to purchase any and all of those products.

Simply showing products will only leave your customer hungry for more, and there's a good chance she/he will satisfy that hunger somewhere else.

Remember this: Selling is the best service and experience you can deliver. Don't just show your customer a product. Take the time to engage and sell her the products she'll be happy and proud to purchase. That's our responsibility.

So let me ask, do you show or sell? Does your customer leave hungry, or do you “fill them up” with all they things they need and might want?

How to leverage this article.

Discuss with your colleagues some of the specific things you say and do to sell your customer. Then share two actions you can take today to ensure your customer doesn’t leave hungry.

By Doug Fleener 18 May, 2016