Selling a Store Comms Platform Internally

How retail communications managers can make their wish come true

Retail Communications
October 10, 2019

Hey, Comms Manager – we get your pain. 

We see you, digging through that message submission email inbox, piecing together various drafts of communications from colleagues who can’t be bothered to send everything all at once. 

We see you, sending dozens of emails to department heads asking (or is it begging?) for the “final version” of whatever-it-is-that-needs-to-be-published. 

We see you, staying up all night so you can copy-paste that content into some giant sixty-page PDF that maybe, maybe, a few stores will read.

You know what would make your job easier? Better technology. Specifically, a communications and task management solution that automates and streamlines a lot of this work. One that centralizes everything in one portal.

The hard part isn’t finding the solution – it exists, you know! No, the hard part is convincing your company it’s worth the investment. 

Getting a large enterprise company to agree on a new software implementation takes some pro-level cat-herding skills; it’s not a linear process. You’ll need to bring folks along the journey at all levels of the organization, which takes time and strategy. Fortunately, we’ve got some tips to help you make it happen.

With the guidelines below, and a good dose of grit and tenacity, you can be the hero who improves store communication and task execution for the whole company…and (bonus!) you’ll make your life easier in the process.

Take it to the top

There’s no denying that buy-in from top execs is going to get you to “yes,” fast. If you can get an audience with your Head of Stores or Operations, take it. Then, focus your pitch on the points below:

Make it easy. Any new enterprise technology is going to require sign-off from quite a few departments. Your execs know this, and – surprise! – they don’t want to spend their precious free time wrangling department heads for sign-off. Beat them to the punch. Before you pitch your solution, make sure you have alignment from key players in supporting departments like Legal and IT. You’ll need the support of these folks to verify if your top choice complies with emerging security and privacy regulations, and if it will “play nice” with your company’s current tech set-up.

Focus on the bottom line. At the end of the day, your exec just wants to know: “what is this going to cost me?” Find ways to illustrate that your proposal is cost-neutral (or maybe it will even save money!). For instance:

  • Arm yourself with industry statistics that show the costs of poor store execution.  How much do you anticipate this new solution will improve sales? What about turnover rates? 
  • Think about the existing tools you’re already paying for that this solution could eliminate. Maybe you’re already paying for a survey tool, store email, or a document repository – subscriptions that could be eliminated with the introduction of a system that can handle all these types of use cases.
  • Your time is worth something, right? Think about the number of hours you’ll get back in your work week with the help of a communications solution that streamlines a lot of your administrative responsibilities. What else could you be working on, and what’s that worth to the company?

A little friendly competition never hurt anyone. The folks in the C-suite already have their eyes on the whole picture, and it’s their job to track industry trends at a macro level. Do your research: Which of your company’s competitors is already using a top-of-the-line communications platform? Who else in the marketplace is winning in your brand’s space, and how do they think about communication? If you make it clear that internal communication can be your company’s competitive advantage, you’re more likely to get the sign-off you’re seeking.

Manage the middle

While they might not be the ones to sign on the dotted line, mid-level managers in Store Operations and Field Leadership are going to be your best allies. Why is it so essential that they be brought along on the journey? Because they often have the ear of department heads, and can make or break your campaign for a better communications system. 

These “not-quite-stores, not-quite-HQ” leaders sit between two disparate organizations. These are the DMs, RDs, Field Visual, HR, and Operations folks that need to advocate on behalf of their store teams, but also have to help spearhead initiatives on behalf of HQ. 

While your instinct may be to focus on those leaders you have the best rapport with, it’s better to start with the ones who will be hardest to convince – the people who show up at your desk on a regular basis to complain about a message that went out without their knowledge. Turn the people you expect to give you the most problems into your strongest allies by focusing on the things that matter to them:   

  • Remind them that you realize it goes beyond stores getting too many messages. It’s also about prioritization. Tell them you know that when everything looks like a priority, field managers have to spend their time trying to sort out what actually matters most. A solution that prioritizes tasks for them will give them time back to focus on more important things, like improving customer experience and driving revenue.
  • Show them how your solution will improve task execution. Store teams will clearly see which messages have priority, what they need to do, when and how to do it, etc.

Remember: you don’t just want Ops and field leaders to share your vision. You need them to be excited enough to take action, whether that means persuading reticent department heads or answering questions straight from the C-suite.

Grassroots support from stores

You know who hates those 40-page PDFs almost as much as you do? Your store teams. These employees are arguably the ones most impacted by the decision to implement a new communications solution – and there’s also a lot of them! Fortunately, better workplace technology is an easy sell. Here are some tips to unleash store employees as your own personal sales squad:

Send a survey. Before rallying field teams around a new solution, it’s best to get a baseline understanding of where they’re struggling with communications. This will not only give you loads of great data to build a business case, but it will also prime your store teams to think about where communications have failed them in the past (making them even more receptive to a new solution!).

Stores’ time is precious, but you may be able to tag some questions onto a pre-planned survey – like a bi-annual engagement pulse survey. Ask questions like:

  • How much time do you spend finding, reading, compiling, and delegating communication every week in total?
  • Do you (never, sometimes, always) know when initiatives have been updated/what’s new?
  • How much duplicate information do you receive from your DM/other stores?

Help them see the future –A future free of inefficient systems and dozens of one-off emails. Maybe you decide to demo the product you’re pitching, or (better yet) conduct a small test or pilot with a select store group. Either way, get the new tool in front of the people who are going to use it and ask for their thoughts. Not only will your store teams feel more engaged and bought-in, they’ll also give you some pretty valuable sound bites that you can bubble back up to the C-suite.

Arm them with information. If an Ops leader or Exec is on the fence about your proposal, who are they going to ask for advice? Their store teams. Make it easy for stores to advocate on their (and your!) behalf, and make it relevant to their day-to-day lives. For instance, you could give them a few bullet points on how your solution could help with an IT initiative that’s scheduled to roll out in stores soon, or how it could help Managers rally Associates around a new customer service model.

Time to close the deal!

When it comes to selling a store comms platform internally, hitting every level of your organization with a tailored message is absolutely the best way. 

Sell the C-suite on an idea that increases both efficiency and task execution, and demonstrate the impact it has on the bottom line. Bring your ops managers along on the journey, so they understand how a communications and task management solution will increase efficiency and execution, leading to happier employees (less stress!) and a better customer experience. And, last but not least, don’t forget to rally your store teams around a brighter future – that excitement will pave the way for better adoption and a smooth roll-out.

Does it take extra work? Sure, but only in the short term. Once the transition is complete, everybody’s jobs should be a lot easier. Especially yours. Learn more here.