Terry Corbell, The Biz Coach
By Terry Corbell
Business Consultant

Profit Margins: 11 Tips to Increase Sales and Minimize Markdowns



Imagine being able to sell your products at full or nearly full margins. How would you like a dream situation – not having to mark down your products?

It’s important to develop and implement responsive, multi-dimensional strategies to maximize your sales.

Achieving a decrease in markdowns probably sounds like an impossible dream. Whether you sell computer products or high-fashion clothing, you can realize stronger profits with best practices in sales.

Here are 11 sales tips:

1. Update your Web site.

Consumers are increasingly shopping online. Women are leading the charge in shopping more on the Web. Make certain you have a strong brand personality – from branding slogan and logo to value propositions.

Massage your content and merchandising. You need high quality and accuracy in images and descriptions. Consumers love environmentally sensitive businesses, so if you’re progressive learn the right steps to brand and market your company as green.

Security breaches at major companies have prompted consumers to rethink shopping the nationwide box stores, especially in the all-important fourth quarter. This represents a growth opportunity for smaller businesses.

2. Avoid lowering price points.

You can’t compete on price with the big box stores, but you can strategize to compete on other values. Eighteen percent of consumers will only buy from you if you lower your price. That means 82 percent respond favorably if you target the five value perceptions that motivate them to buy.

From my article, The 7 Steps to Higher Sales, here are the five value perceptions – what your customers sub-consciously must perceive – to motivate them to buy from you:

Employees, Spokespersons – 52 percent. The key characteristics are integrity, judgment, friendliness and knowledge. Remember, about 70 percent of your customers will buy elsewhere because they feel they’re being taken for granted by your employees. And customers normally will not tell you why they switched to your competitor.

Image of Company – 15 percent. They are concerned about the image of your company in the community. Do know cause-related marketing can increase sales by double-digit percentages? So cause-related marketing is a big plus in forging a positive image. So is cleanliness and good organization.

Quality of Product or Service Utility – 13 percent. The customer is asking the question – “What will this do for me?”

Convenience –12 percent. Customers like easy accessibility to do business with you. That includes your Web site, telephoning you, and the convenience of patronizing your business. 

Price – 8 percent. Price is important, but it’s the least concern among the five value-motivating perceptions.

 3. Focus on service.

Your best asset is personalized service. This is especially critical around the holidays, as consumers are coping with extra stress. Consider hiring extra staff during the holiday-selling season.

Be prompt when you get inquiries and other requests. Make sure everyone is schooled in listening skills and are liberal in their use of the magic words, thank you.

4. Stay open longer.

Brick-and-mortar sales still outnumber online shopping. Consider extending your hours, particularly for  Q4 profit after Thanksgiving.

5. Include some freebies.

Take a page out of Costco’s playbook. The chain knows that consumers like added value. You don’t have to be a food retailer to emulate Costco. With certain products, give something for free.

For certain products, boost sales with a coupon offer or cheap gift card.

 6. Consider providing free shipping.

Extra shipping costs are a pet peeve with most consumers. Last-minute shoppers will appreciate shipping deals.

The one caveat: To consumers, clearly communicate your deadlines and inventory levels. Use words consumers readily understand like selection instead of inventory.

 7. Fine-tune your planning.

Arrange for unique products. Display some pre-wrapped, grab-and-go products that will entice harried shoppers.

Plan your calendar to make sales through the New Year. Shoppers are still in a festive mood and are conditioned to continue shopping. Your marketing should include events, product unveiling, e-mails and more.

 8. Track external exposure.

For items with your best profit potential, keep track of your marketing initiatives. You should be sure to align marketing with sales. That means coordination of all efforts to capture sales of products you know are popular in the marketplace.

 9. Listen closely to your prospects.

The voice of the 21st century consumer is online reviews. You can’t afford to ignore the potential of online reviews. They’re a factor in revolutionizing commerce.

Reviews are important because they influence prospective customers to buy from you. They’re also beneficial in improving your Internet presence because search-engine crawlers consider them to be relevant.

Beware of any negative reviews on your inventory errors or alleged Web site misrepresentations. Be sure to profit from online customer reviews.

 10. Be competitive with pricing from the start.

Once consumers shop you, you might not get a second chance. It’s a challenge but know your competition and customer buying patterns. Set your price points right the first time. On the other hand, don’t discount your prices too much.

You should manage the sweet spot – between your price-optimization and too-low pricing. For stronger profits, avoid typical pricing mistakes.

 11. Manage your inventory.

With proper inventory management, you can lower your expenses and increase your cash flow. For many businesses, that means taking a look at your inventory costs. When your products aren’t selling, obviously, it hurts. Products just lurking and collecting dust in your warehouse are costing you money.

If you mis-categorize products or over-stock items, you’re setting yourself up for markdowns. For the best cash flow, learn how to manage your inventory costs.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related tips:

To Cope with Rising Costs, Review your Pricing Strategy — Increased costs weigh heavily on the bottom line. If you’re being pressured by costs, it’s probably time to review your pricing strategy.

8 Simple Strategies to Give You Pricing Power — If you’re struggling with pricing strategies, you’re not alone. Many big companies have struggled, too. By way of explanation, according to a 2011 study, almost 90 percent of executives in a global survey forecasted their continued growth. However, they anticipated implementing just minimal price increases as they continue to slash costs, or at least closely monitor expenses, for positive cash flow.

Groupon Will Give You a Migraine for Ignoring Pricing Principles — Whether you’re an investor, small-business advertiser or even a customer, daily deal sites can give you a major headache. Continually, there are red flags about Groupon.

You Can Creatively Manage Your Cash Flow 7 Ways — If you’re taking the pulse of your business, of course, the first thing to consider is your cash flow. If your cash flow is poor, you feel poor because you can’t pay the bills nor can you use money for what you’d like to do. Your image can also suffer with vendors or with customers, if you don’t manage your cash flow.

“Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them.”

-W. Edwards Deming 


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.




Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.