When all the "monkeys" are living with their proper owners, retail managers can actually help their staff to sell, deliver and service more furniture! Here's how.
View all articles by Cathy Finney
What to do once you get out there.
Editor's Note: Part 1 of "Get Out Of Your Office Now!" explained how managers can avoid getting swamped with tasks that rightfully belong to their employees (adopting "monkeys"). When all the "monkeys" are living with their proper owners, retail managers can get off the phone... out from behind their computers... or their pile of paperwork. They can actually help their staff to sell, deliver and service more furniture!
TRAIN AND WORK WITH YOUR TEAM: First of all, make up your mind that it is not only important for you to be "out here," you are also going to have a good (make that great!) time doing it. If you act like this is a pain & "I really don't want to be here," everyone will know. You might as well have stayed in your office with all that "wildlife!"
Train your team and work "with" them. Training is an on-going process. It is not something that can be accomplished in three days or three weeks!
THEY NEED TO KNOW "THE RULES"
YOUR ROLE AS LEADER: Never lower your standards to come down to meet someone else's! They must come up to meet the standard you have set! Remember that the speed of the leader is the speed of the pack.
- What is expected.
- How to do it!
- Why to do it!
- When to do it!
- What's in it for them & you and the customer.
- You'll never know "what" is getting accomplished from the confines of your office.
In your role as leader you wear numerous hats. You're the coach! You're also a psychologist, fireman, teacher, mentor, "mom/dad" (when needed), trend setter, and visionary. All great managers are a messenger of their mission statement. Let your people know your passion and your vision of the future. Tell them where you're headed & get everyone on board!
This list does not even cover all the other responsibilities that are listed in your job description under "etc.!!!"
As I roamed the sales floor, my consultants called me "E.F. Hutton" because I was always slinking behind the partitions! My philosophy, "if I couldn't hear them, I couldn't help them!" That was job #1!
This does not mean that you should become "Attilla The Hun" and cut them off at the knee caps. That is not your mission. To quote Ken Blanchard, "catch them doing something right!"
Also be careful not to commit what he terms as, "leave them alone Zap Management!" You know what this means. You let them "fend for themselves" out there on the retail floor, and whenever you do happen to hear something that's totally "unbelievable !@#!@! you zap 'em!!! Everyone loses here - especially you!
Don't hit the floor with a clipboard and a checklist either! This is not and should not be an "exercise in intimidation!"
Talk to your people. "visit" with them. Find out what are they working on and who they have coming in. Remember it's not an "interrogation" it's a "conversation." Don't beat 'em up!
If congratulations are in order, then thank them. If necessary, find out how can you help them. Be careful here, "think monkey!"
TALK TO YOUR CUSTOMERS: Next, talk to your customers to find out if they are enjoying their visit. Ask them if they are being assisted. If there are twenty people in your store and you find the one couple who hasn't been helped, don't go ballistic! Apologize, find someone, and introduce them to your consultant.
You will always find the ones who "haven't been helped!" It's in the owner's manual. You can spot them from a mile away! Good thing you were out there, huh?
When you find them, ask them what they are looking for. Make them feel at home. Thank them for visiting your showroom. Listen with your ears & your eyes to ascertain the mood of your showroom. Are your people & your customers having "fun?" What kind of experience is this? Put yourself in "consumer mode." Would you want to shop here? How long would you stick around? Are they treating them the way that you'd like to be treated?
What are your salespeople saying to the customers as they walk in. Are they doing what I call "drive by greetings." They approach the consumer, say something original like, "can I help you?" They get the standard response, "No, I'm just looking." They believe them! Then they run back to the counter/desk and hide out!
Are they reciting the same lines to everyone in the same way, in the same order, at the same time? What I now refer to as "Stepford Clerks!" They look and sound like robots doing this job by rote! Spilling their guts and telling them everything they know up front. This is not a pretty sight and it is not the way to elicit positive responses and build instant rapport!
How are your consultants handling all this? How do they look? Are they smiling? Are they glad to see those people walking through the door? Are they dressed professionally? Would you "trust" them? Would you buy from them???
While you're visiting with your people keep your ears open to what others are saying. You'll learn a lot out here on the selling floor. It's an education you can't get anywhere else. You'll be amazed! You'll be appalled! You'll also be very proud.
COACH 'EM BUT DON'T TACKLE 'EM!: After their "up" leaves the premises, talk to them. Go to their desk, a corner of the showroom, or just stand there and talk (alone). Never take them to your office. This is a "coaching session," not an inquisition. Ask how they felt about this opportunity/ up. What did this couple want? How did your salesperson offer to assist them? Get them to tell you what happened and don't tell them what you "think" happened.
In sales & management, remember it's psychology. It's all in how "you" say it. Ask them questions phrased so that you cannot get a "yes" or a "no" response. These are open-ended questions and begin with: Who, what, why, when, where, how, which or "tell me" (this one is great. It is the equivalent of Joan Rivers saying, "can we talk?").
You've heard of these questions many times. We all know what they mean. We just don't use them! We're not programmed to talk this way because we often want to get the shortest possible response.
These questions are crucial to developing your team because they cannot be answered with a "yes" or a "no." They must tell you what happened! These questions give you the answers that you need to know to assist them & assess the situation.
By asking them these questions, put this way, you get them talking. They tell you. It's less threatening & less intimidating. It now becomes a learning experience for them & for you.
Here's how it sounds:
- "How did you make out with that couple?"
- "What were they looking for today?"
- "What is their time schedule for completing their new room?" (believe me, they need a lot more than just a sofa!).
- "What were their names? They looked familiar."
- "When did you tell them you would be calling them?" (give them credit for having done it).
- "Tell me about their room."
The key here is to get them to tell you. When you tell them, instead of having them tell you, you're in trouble. When you tell them what they did or did not do they get totally defensive!
If you say:
They will say:
- "You didn't get their name."
- "You don't even know what they were looking for."
- "You really must re-approach them sooner."
- "You didn't even get their phone number. How are you going to get them back in here?"
- "No, I didn't get their name. They wouldn't even look at me."
- "No, I don't know what they were interested in. They told me that they just wanted to look around!"
- "Hey wait a minute. They said they'd be-back!!!"
When you tell them what they did wrong, it's your fault. When you ask them to tell you, they'll figure it out. They'll learn from it. They're the "heavy"-- not you. It's much more effective when they beat themselves up. They'll never make that mistake again.
- "What do we know now?"
- "What can we learn from this".
- "By the way, what did you learn from this situation?"
You are right back to empowering your people! This is what I call the fine art of management. It's all in how you say it.
It requires a tremendous amount of patience on your part and you might want to brush up on your people skills!!!
Just remember that you can't help them and coach them if you can't hear them.
PERFORMANCE FEEDBACK: There are going to be times when they don't know how or can't figure it out. They just don't know! You must now coach them & provide constructive feedback. Again, start it out open-ended:
- "How about asking.... This way?"
- "What about trying....?"
- "What would we find out if we...?
- "How would you feel about...?"
Think about what you're going to say before you say it. Respond instead of just reacting. When you react, or blow up you are employing crisis management. You know those days where you're wearing asbestos shoes because all you are doing is putting out fires! When you respond, you first think about what you're about to say.
People need positive training & reinforcement to reach their full potential. They need your help to do this. Coach, guide, & support them. By keeping it positive they will not only value your advice, they will seek you out so that they can become better.
Everybody needs the 'atta boys/ 'atta girls! Make them feel good about what they've learned, how much they've grown and what they've accomplished!
If you treat your people like winners they'll act like winners.
Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, "I want to be a member of the "loser's club." So don't "zap 'em" and make them feel like losers.
Armed with this knowledge, you are now ready! You can now leave your office and your comfort zone!
Cathy Finney is President of Ancell Affiliates \"T 'N T." She is a noted motivational speaker, sales trainer, and management consultant. Questions can be addressed to her care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cathy Finney, effervescent sales educator, motivator and management consultant was a longtime contributing editor to FURNITURE WORLD Magazine. Cathy helped retail furniture store sales and design associates to turn customers (she called them Fred and Ethel) into clients. An enthusiastic mentor and friend to up-and-coming salespeople, she told them to remember that they are skilled professionals and that “Ethel” needs them to get the best possible result for her room or project.
Finney got her start in the furniture business with Ethan Allen where she worked closely with Furniture Hall of Fame member Nathan Ancell. Her company, Ancell Affiliates \"T 'N T" resulted from that close relationship. She passed away at 59 years of age after a long struggle with Multiple Sclerosis. For more information about Cathy and here work email email@example.com.
View all articles by Cathy Finney