The omnipresence of the Internet and proliferation of smartphones forced new and established physical stores to create e-commerce channels. The aim is to meet the growing number of customers who are waiting for online shopping options.
Going online means your business is less limited by the geography of buyers than it can serve. However, the scale and scope of an e-commerce operation can put considerable strain on your existing logistics infrastructure. While it is possible for your business to pack and ship ecommerce orders itself, it can become unmanageable as the volume and variety of orders increases.
Outsourcing order fulfillment to a third party may be the answer you need to this headache. While there are certainly advantages to working with a third-party logistics provider (3PL), not all 3PLs are created equal. If you are going to reap the benefits of fulfillment outsourcing, there are a number of factors that you should consider.
Short and medium term needs
Assess your current fulfillment needs, then realistically extrapolate growth over the next two months or even a few years into the future. While you can stay on top of your order flow today, there's a good chance your fulfillment infrastructure will be quickly overwhelmed. You might need more space, more hands, more packing, and more trucks. If you're not ready to scale quickly, any rapid growth could catch you off guard.
Look for an outsourced fulfillment solution that will comfortably fit your growth over the medium term. The last thing you need is to find yourself with several weeks of backlog of orders and looking at customer complaints. No deliveries can only tarnish your brand and its reputation.
Reputation of the solution provider
To avoid getting caught up in chaos that isn't your fault, take the time to research the reputation of the outsourced fulfillment solutions you're considering. Make the most of the Internet. Google the company name and scan the first 4-5 pages of results for negative links.
If necessary, consult the company ' Google Reviews, Facebook Reviews, and Better Business Bureau Reviews if available. Visit the company's Facebook profile to gauge the sentiment of the comments. Of course, you will come across negative comments and reviews. What you are looking for is a trend. If a fulfillment company is regularly missing, it will be easy to notice after a few brief searches online.
Solution Provider Experience
There are no shortcuts to expertise. It comes about through practice and experience. While it's possible that a newly launched runtime solution could be exceptional in terms of QoS, that might not be a risk you would want to take. Remember, if the order management solutions provider is overwhelmed with incompetence and inexperience, your customers will blame you squarely. Your brand can suffer irreparable damage.
Ask to see the fulfillment solution provider's quality control protocols, industries served, services offered, and their expertise in global, federal and state shipping laws and regulations. Have a detailed conversation with all references provided from past and current clients.
Visit the warehouse
It's one thing for a fulfillment solutions company to list all the great things they can do for your retail business. It is quite another to see them in action. Nothing can replace a real visit to the warehouse when choosing an order fulfillment solution. And if the supplier is legitimate, they should have no qualms about visiting you on a reasonably short notice. If you cannot physically visit the facility, request a virtual tour.
Observe the operations and confirm that they are marching and talking. Check how the company manages warehouse security, security and emergencies. Without robust and actionable business continuity and disaster recovery plans, your company's order flow could be profoundly affected without an immediate viable short-term alternative.
Understand the total cost
Cost will definitely be a major factor in your choice of an execution solution. Once you've identified the fulfillment service providers that tick all the right boxes, you'll likely rank them based on which one will cost you the least with all other factors held constant. Before doing a price comparison, be sure to compare like for comparable products.
The cost structure will generally be represented as an item. For example, shipping labeling charges, packaging charges, shelving / stacking charges, and storage charges. Look at the fees in the context of your current and near-term order value and volume to determine who will really cost you the least. Pay attention to how processing errors are handled and who bears the chargeback costs.
Nulling down a list of dozens of fulfillment solution providers into a few that have what it takes can seem a little overwhelming. While there are many questions you can ask yourself, making sure you have clarity on the five factors above should make the decision-making process a bit easier.
About the writer: Will Schneider is the founder of insightQuote, a matchmaking service for B2B services, and writes informative articles on processing services at FulfillmentCompanies.net. He is passionate about helping businesses find the right solutions to improve their operations. When not working, Will enjoys coaching kids in basketball.
Are you a retailer ( or retail sales associate ) who’s struggling with how to approach shoppers ? Worried that you lack the magic touch, or that you’ll come off as an annoying salesperson ? Would you rather be awkwardly staring at your store’s point of sale software screen than actually talking to the customer in front of you ?
You should keep reading because, after years of being one of the strongest sellers at my store, I can assure you : anyone can sell. That’s not to say it’s not going to take a lot of practice. But over the years, I’ve found that a customer will tell you verbally and/or physically how to sell to them. If you’re listening properly and looking for the right cues, you can always tell if a customer is interested in what you have to say, what approach to take with them, and what exactly they’re looking for.
Check out the tips below, put them into action, and you should find yourself successfully closing sales : Practice Active ListeningActive listening isn’t just about standing in front a customer silently. There are a few important things you should be doing to engage in this practice :
The most important part of active listening is to not form a response while the customer is speaking. This is really to do, and is going to take a lot of practice. It’s very natural to latch on to one part of a comment and form a response to it, and then shut out the rest of the comment. to become a good listener, a sales person must resist doing this. Active listening should engage your whole body. Things like nodding and having an open stance show the customer that you are listening to what they have to say. Once it’s time for you to speak, give the customer a quick summary of what they said. This has a few purposes. First, it allows you to come up with a response post-comment without things being awkwardly silent. Second, showing the customer that you heard everything they had to say will often open them up to providing you with more information than they initially supplied.
Practicing réactive listening means that you are fully engaged with learning what the customer wants. This engagement makes a huge difference. Not only will you understand what the customer wants in a deeper way, but you also gain their trust easier.
Next : Pay Attention to Body LanguageAlong with réactive listening, you should be practicing ‘active looking. ’ ( Yes, I just made that term up. ) People will betray a lot of what they’re thinking in the things that they do with their body. A lot of body language experts will tell you some odd things to look for, like watching if someone scratches their nose, but I don’t think that level of depth is necessary. In fact, I think that if you’re watching for a customer to scratch their nose, you’re probably not practicing active listening.
However, there is still plenty of body language you should be paying attention to while you’re actively listening. Let me give you a short list of tells you can easily pick up on during a conversation with a customer. 1. Eye ContactWhere a person’s eyes are looking is one of the easiest ways to tell what they’re focusing on. If the customer is looking at you, or the products you’re sérieux with, that’s a good sign. It means they’re engaged with you and are interested in what you have to say and sell.
If they’re looking around, at someone else, out the door… anywhere that’s not where you are – that’s not a great sign. Usually if this is the case you should say something like, “Let me know if you need anything else, ” and let them do their own thing. No eye contact doesn’t mean you won’t be able to close the sale – but it could spell trouble if you don’t pay attention.
Hands/ArmsAnother important thing to pay attention to is what people do with their hands and arms. Typically, if someone’s arms are crossed, they are uncomfortable and probably not interested in what you have to say. You should tread gently : let this customer know you are there to help. If you’re talking with a customer who is clearly shy and uncomfortable with talking to you, I recommend acting in a more reserved manner and avoiding things like answering questions the customer has yet to ask. In addition, because this forme reflects a closed off mind, I mostly suggest avoiding suggestive selling. Suggestive selling does not work well on someone who is not interested.
Open arms and palms facing towards you, however, are an super sign. If your customer has taken this sort of position in your conversation, you’re doing well. In fact, I would definitely recommend going for it with suggestive selling. ( Of course, make sure you’re showing them items that are actually related to what they want, not just some pre-placed item that your manager wants to get rid of. )
Facial Expression—Particularly the Curve of Their MouthLastly, you should be paying attention to the locutions you customer is making. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s important to pay close attention to your customer’s facial expressions. Even if a customer is pulling a straight face at you, most people’s mouths are fairly expressive in small ways. Often, the corners of the mouth will be curving slightly up or slightly down. Down is not good for you – it indicates frustration or annoyance. Curving up, though, is an génial sign. Additionally, you should pay attention to how tightly the lips are held. If they’re pressed tightly together, it can mean the same thing as crossed arms.
That’s the three major areas of body language you should be paying attention to while actively listening to your customer. Keep in mind that while the customer’s body can give you an indication about how they feel towards you and your product, it’s the listening that is going to yield you the important information about what they want. Now that we’ve established good customer reading techniques, let’s talk about what to do with the information you pick up :
Respond With Similar Body LanguageOne of the easiest ways to set someone at ease is to “mirror” their body language. You don’t want to go overboard on this – that can seem creepy or just mean. But little things are really important. Start with pace and timing. Is the customer in a hurry ? Or do they want to take things slow and steady ? Speak and act at the same pace as the customer. If she’s in a hurry, speaking quickly and speed walking across the store, then you should speak quickly and speed walk across the store as well. If she’s speaking slowly and moves slowly, your speed talking and walking will only come across as aggressive to her.
In addition, you can do subtle things like adopt a similar position, or use similar hand gestures. With the hand gestures, be careful. You don’t want to come across as mocking your customer. Don’t make exact replicas of hand gestures, keep it general. Determine if someone is ready to buy ( or not ) based on non-verbal cuesHere are a few more tips to help you differentiate shoppers who are ready to buy versus those who aren’t interested.
According to SCORE contributor Lee Perlitz, signals that shoppers are interested in a product include : Spending time looking at or discussing one product type – When a customer spends time focusing on just one product, there’s a good chance they’ve already set their sights on that one and are interested in purchasing it. Looking around for somebody to help them – Catch the shopper’s gaze when you see them looking around. According to Perlitz, you can approach them “if they sustain the glance or raise their eyebrows. ”Body language – A shift in body language signals “a change in esprit state that may well indicate readiness to buy. ” For example, if the shopper suddenly styles relaxed after you’ve answered their questions, that could be an indication that they’re ready to buy.
Be sure to approach customers once you see them exhibiting these signals. Failing to spot these signs or not acting in time could result in you missing out on the sale. On the flip side, here are the non-verbal signals indicating that someone isn’t ready to buy. Avoiding eye contact – If a customer doesn’t hold your gaze when you look at them, it likely means they’re not ready to make a purchase yet. Making ‘not now’ excuses – Statements like “just looking” or “not now” are clear signals that they aren’t ready to buy. Perlitz recommends that retailers “make an encouraging remark to keep them looking and back off. ”Looking at many different products – Not being focused on just one product is another indication that shoppers should be given space.
When you see or hear people exhibiting the signals above, then it’s best to hold off on the hard sell. Figure out the type of customer that you’re dealing with and respond accordinglyAs you know, there are several variétés of customers who walk through your doors, and you need to tailor your approach accordingly. tera help you do that, we’ve put together a quick slideshow summarizing the most common genres of customers in retail. Check it out below :
More tips ? Those are our tips and tricks to help anyone become a good sales person. It’s important to remember that truly good sales people work on creating trusting relationships with their clients before they sell them anything. If you are capable of creating a trusting relationship, you are capable of selling. These tips are intended to help you create that relationship.
What tricks to reading customers do you employ ? Let us know in the comments below ! Author Bio : Cara Wood is a marketing administrative assistant at Capterra, a company that puts business software buyers in touch with software vendors ! When she’s not at work at Capterra, she can be found horse-back riding, reading and just generally having a good time at life.