The term “pipeline” is often used to refer to customers going through the various stages of your sales process. The general idea is you’ll have some that are just getting acquainted with your business all the way to loyal, raving fans. But in order to become raving fans, they first had to start at the beginning of your pipeline.
While the sales pipeline is the most common, there are other areas of our business where this mindset would also be useful: staff and services. Along with sales, they are the three S’s of music retail, if you will. For the next several articles, I’ll share with you some of the things we do at Springfield Music to keep our pipeline full.
First things first: Let’s start with staff. There is nothing more critical to the success of your business than the people who comprise it. To stuff this pipeline full, you are going to need people working in your business that get it, want to be there and have the capacity to do the job well.
Allow me to tell you something you already know. (I’ll still take credit for it, though.) You are always looking for good people. You might not always be hiring, but you are always looking. Let me tell you a story about why having a pipeline of good people waiting in the wings is so important.
In August 2016, we had what we now refer to at Springfield Music as our “August Surprise.” Our main location operates with five salespeople, a manager, an operations person and a repair technician (not counting our lesson teachers). That August, four of the salespeople and the operations person quit unexpectedly. That left the manager, one salesperson and the repair tech as the only remaining employees, one week before our school rental season kicked in! To say that we were stressed was an understatement. We were caught totally unprepared for this, and trust me when I tell you that you do not want to put yourself or your business through this.
So, I’ve scared you enough to get you moving and realize you need to always accept applications. Now, how do we get applications? And, frankly, how can we get better applicants?
The first step is to write what the folks at Whizbang Retail Training call a Red Hot Help Wanted Ad. This ad should be written in a way that entices your ideal candidates, and dissuades the less desirable candidates. To do this, you are going to need to spend some time thinking about your company culture, who your ideal candidate is, and what type of person has succeeded in your company. To help you do this, my friends at Whizbang are giving you its training course on how to write this ad! Go to whizbangtraining.com/msr to download. Trust me when I tell you that you don’t want to miss this.
Okay, so you’ve got your Red Hot Help Wanted Ad written and perfected. Now what? Post it. On your front door, in a picture frame by the register, on your store website, on your store and personal Facebook pages (ask your existing staff to share it as well; they are often a great source of referrals for other good employees), local colleges, Craigslist and job hunting websites like Indeed.com. I really like Indeed. It’s free for employers to post jobs (you can pay to “sponsor” or promote your posting, but I’ve found it’s generally not necessary for our industry), and it has lots of great screening tools to help you weed through the candidates.
Another great idea is to use the Red Hot ad as an outline for a Facebook Live video. It gives your customers a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at your business, which hopefully will draw them closer to you.
Once the applications start rolling in, we generally like to ask them a few questions to help us ascertain those who have the most potential. One idea to consider is to ask candidates to bring résumés in-person during a certain period of time that is convenient for you. Then, you (or your staff) ask them three to five prewritten questions and jot down their responses. We even have the staff draw a happy face if they thought the person was worth talking with again for a more in-depth interview (or a frowny face, if they don’t think the candidate is a good fit).
Second step is an email interview. This idea came from my friend Peter Dods, the owner of Easy Music in Hawaii. The idea is to have the candidates answer some general questions, and then make them do some research on product knowledge questions. We all know that no one is going to walk into our business and have all of the product knowledge we need. It’s impossible. But it’s important that they know how to go out and find it. (Hint: It’s called Google.)
Once they have passed your gatekeepers (the in-store screening) and your email interview, then you should have enough info to decide who gets a sit-down interview. Once again, my friends at Whizbang have some excellent advice on how to conduct interviews and what questions to ask, but in a nutshell, I recommend having a prewritten interview form for every interview with the same questions. You can modify the questions as needed, but having some consistency will help you get better and better results over time.
Put these practices into place over the next 30 days, and you’ll be glad you did.