BOSTON -- Retailers selling seafood should invest more money and training in their seafood department associates who are in touch with consumers every day, a panel of experts said recently.
Using humor and skits to convey a serious message, the co-founders of Food Marketing Success offered tips on boosting seafood sales to an audience of retailers.
"Isn't it interesting that the people who usually get paid the least and are the least educated about the product and the company have the greatest impact on our most valuable resource, the customer?" asked Lex M. Barker, founding partner, FMS, Minneapolis. "The most important people in the store are not you."
In one skit, Barker and FMS partner, Lyle J. Larson, illustrated how uninformed, unmotivated seafood counter associates can drive customers to other proteins. Barker asked members of the audience if department managers stressed to potential associates during job interviews that a position at the seafood counter is a sales job.
After inquiring when the last time their seafood department posted a 10% to 15% sales increase, Baker urged retailers to examine the way things are done in the store and "don't be afraid to make changes."
"The six most expensive words in business are: We've always done it that way," Barker said.
He suggested managers spend 20 to 30 minutes a day on the seafood department sales floor armed only with business cards, and teach every associate to approach all customers.
"Find out if customers have found everything, introduce them to new products, or just say 'thank you,"' said Barker.
Sampling programs can be effective tools for building sales. By offering customers samples of items like the store's signature salmon salad, the department might have an instant sale.
"Then say, 'Here's my business card. If you ever need any seafood speciality items for any occasion, please give me a call."'
The speakers offered three steps to increase sales without adding new labor. First, they urged retailers to prepare 25 to 50 one-ounce paper souffle cups with a particular seafood offering.
Find out the cost of each serving because "this is considered good shrink." Before preparing a customer's order, any seafood associate at the counter should offer customers a free sample while they wait for their order.
"If they dislike the product, ask why, and thank them," said Barker, adding that an associate should then offer customers a sample of their favorite seafood and again ask their opinion. "Then ask, 'How much can I get you?' Always ask for the sale."
Finally, the pair offered a series of tips, dubbed "Lex & Lyle's Gold Nuggets":
- Win the hearts of your employees, and they will win the hearts of the customers.
- Learn to deliver extraordinary customer service that will create loyalty at every point of customer contact.