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‘Tis The Season To Follow-Up

Furniture World Magazine
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Article Summary: Even though the temperatures are dropping, and kids are back in their classrooms, your customers are not yet thinking about the holidays. So now is the season to follow-up. Here are some practical techniques on how to do it.

View all articles by Cathy Finney


It’s time to start reminding your customers to think about sprucing up their homes for the holidays.

 Even though the temperatures are dropping, and kids are all snuggled back in their classrooms, “Mrs. Let Me Get Them Back to School Shopper” is not yet thinking about the holidays.

That's why it really TIS the season for us to start promoting furniture. It's your time to shine! Now you have a priceless opportunity to plant the seed and create the need so your customer can start to think about getting her home ready for holiday festivities. Her attention is focused in other areas right now because she has no idea how long it takes Santa to deliver his home furnishings “goodies”. The purchase needs to be planned and move from the point of sale, down the supply chain and into her living room. She is not employed by the “big guy in red.” She has no idea how this process works, and if you don't explain the process to her, you will be the one to end up with coal in your stocking! You will be disappointed, and so will “Louise.” You need to tell her about scheduling procedures, and all the required fine-tuning. She needs you, her retail helper, her “elf in residence”. You need to find out WHICH holiday she's shopping for. WHAT she wants to purchase to set her home apart, and WHEN she is expecting her new presents to arrive! You also need to find out WHO will be enjoying her new bounty, and HOW they will be using it!

This holiday season, don't wait for her to put your store on her shopping list. Clerks wait for traffic to come through the door. Professionals create their own traffic. Yep, the pros are driving that “Be-Back Bus!”

To quote Doug Cleveland, Sales Manager at Harden Furniture, “Clerks are order takers. Professionals are Order Makers!”

At the risk of being booed off the written page, let's make a list of common situations salespeople find themselves in and then check it twice.

Situation #1 - Haven’t Spoken To Them In A While?
Let’s assume there are clients you have sold, but haven't talked to in quite a while:

• What happened to them?
• Where did they go?
• Where are they now?
• What is their next project? Or
• Is it time to help them clean out and spruce up?

If you haven't talked to “Harriet” in six months, don't just call her. Send her a note. Apologize for not being in touch. Tell her that you look forward to talking with her, to hear how the family is enjoying their new room. Let her know that you will give her a call next week so that you can discuss helping her get her home ready for the holidays, and any other ways that you can assist her.

Anybody can sell anything to anyone once. Why would you want to do that? She bought You, already! Reach out and touch her again and again so that you can assist her with all the rooms in her home.

Situation #2 - You Never Called Them After Delivery?
How do you handle clients whose merchandise was delivered, but you never called them after delivery?

First of all, shame on you! I picture lots of coal in your stocking! Did the reason you didn't call have to do with a “can” and something about “worms”! Well, if that was your thought process - stop it! If there is a problem or a concern, you are the one who should help her with the solution. You do want her as your client don't you? Or, did you just want to take the money and run? Taking the money and running is what clerks do. Are you a clerk? I didn't think so! I repeat - You did not just want to sell her one time, did you?

So here is Santa’s solution to your “fear factor”. Call her. Mea culpas are “the order of the day.” Yes, that's right, apologize profusely. You might say something like, “I apologize for not calling sooner. I'm anxious to hear how your new room looks, and how you and your family are enjoying it.”

But there will be no presents for you this holiday season if you say, “I'm calling about your delivery. Is everything okay?”

That follow-up strategy doesn't sound too confident! Plus - It's a huge Lizard phrase. If you are concerned that making a follow-up call will unleash a stream of discontent (that can of worms we spoke of previously), your worst fears will now be realized because “Harriet's” next move is to pull out her magnifying glass. When you question if “everything is okay,” then so will she. More information on Lizard words can be found in the inset at right and in past FURNITURE WORLD articles (to find them, just go to furninfo.com, and search the Sales Skills Article Index for the word “lizard”).

When you don't call after delivery, and there is a problem... your customer will call you. Hey, this is not the kind of surprise you ever want to receive!

But if she calls you with a problem... make sure that you fix it fast! When you take care of her concerns in a timely manner, she will bring you presents.

Situation #3 - It Was Such A Small Order
If you didn't call after delivery because she only ordered a sofa, or “just” a recliner, then you are not on Santa’s “nice” list.

First of all, there is no such thing as “just” anything. As Santa's helper, your goal is to turn this item customer into a concept client.

Elf Alert: The item customer is the one who really needs your help. Your showroom is gorgeous. So now “Bertha” thinks that just by purchasing a sofa, her room will look that way, too. When you call her after delivery, you may hear those infamous words.

“It's okay. It just doesn't look the way I thought it would.”

Instead of stuttering, stammering, and not knowing how to handle those words. Let her know…
“Of course if it doesn't look the way that you thought it would. It's not finished yet. We'll finish your room together, so that it won't look like anyone else's.”

Now you'll be helping her present herself with a very special present this holiday season.

Situation #4 -Were You Too Busy?
You did build rapport, and established a relationship. You got her name up front at the early stages of the selling process. At the end it was easy to get her address, and phone number.
You wrote up a quote sheet, proposal, or started a follow-up card. My, you are good... but…you didn't write or call her because…

  • She said she would call you.
  • You are too busy. You just don't have the time to call her back.
  • You don't really have a follow-up system, so you can't put your hands on her information. Your desk looks like a land fill, and you know, “it's in here some place,” but it got lost in the shuffle. If you lost “Dorothy,” she will not have any problem losing (forgetting all about) you.

Time is the most important commodity that, as a professional, you are selling. You invested your time to build rapport, and get the information that you need. You gave her the “gift” of you. If you don't follow-up you will fall down. Your best efforts will be wasted. If you don't write her or call her, there is very little chance that she will ever buy from you. Santa's good, but even he's not that good!

Elf Alert: If you do call back and get a machine. Never, ever tell her to call you back. You'll be retired before that happens!

Santa’s Solution For The Answering Machine: Say that you are sorry that you missed her. Let her know that you will be calling her back, and when that will be.

Situation #8- Did You Fail To Get Any Information?
You didn't get any information about her. But, you think it is OK because…

  • “She said that she'd be-back.” (Where is that Bus?)
  • “She liked you. You know that she'll be-back.” (I'm starting to see lots of coal, and no presents in your future!)
  • “She said she wasn't in any hurry”.
  • “She's going to call next week.”

Let's face it. There is no excuse for not getting the information you need to follow-up.
These five situations make up our list. Make sure that you've checked it twice before reading further. Then you will be ready to create an action plan.

Don't wait. The holiday season is fast approaching. NOW is the time to follow- up so you can help your clients “wrap it up!”

It's more important than ever before. Today's consumer wants something really special delivered by “the big guy in the sled.” This year it's time to splurge. It's time to indulge! Yes, this year’s Christmas shopper is chanting, “We're worth it! We worked hard. We're spending it.”


Lizard Words: Phrases You Never Want To Say...

You Say: May I help you?

Your Customer Says: "NO, GO AWAY!"


You Say: Anything special I can show you?

Your Customer Says: "UH - UH!"


You Say: Do you have a favorite color?

Your Customer Says: "NOPE!"


You Say: Point you in a particular direction?

Your Customer Says: "NO- GET LOST!"


You Say: See anything you can't live without?

Your Customer Says: "NO-O-O!"


You Say: Will you be taking this with you?

Your Customer Says: "NO, I HATE IT!"


You Say: Has this been a fun experience?

Your Customer Says: "NO!"


You Say: Browsing for anything special?

Your Customer Says: "NO, I'LL COME FIND YOU IF I NEED YOU."


You Say: Anything special I could show you?

Your Customer Says: "NO. NO. NO."


You Say: Seen anything that you have to own?

Your Customer Says: "UH, UH."


You Say: Could I write this up?

Your Customer Says: "NO, NOT NOW!"


You Say: Were you shopping for ideas?

Your Customer Says: "NO, I REALLY JUST WANT TO BROWSE!"


You Say: Should we get your order started?

Your Customer Says: "NO, THANK YOU."


You Say: Would you like me to write this up?

Your Customer Says: "NO, I'M LEAVING."


Luxury Spending:
The “Style & Design” Supplement of Time Magazine points out that luxury spending is soaring to new heights. Katie Betts, the style editor, says that, “Today, despite the general state of unrest in the world, the luxury goods business is up 27.7% in the U.S…. Luxury now enters every room in the house. An ironing system is even being sold for $999.00.” It is pictured in the magazine. If a glorified ironing board can sell for that price, just think what can be done in the world of home furnishings. Yes, this holiday season the possibilities are endless!

Dana Telsey, luxury goods analyst for Bear Sterns, says that, “There is a necessity for a feel-good factor for luxury… Retailers know that it's now about lifestyle. - the aesthetic look of the store, the advertising. Everyone wants to be able to live the dream.” That dream extends into the home in a big way. Consumers are creating home theatres in their abode. Some of these rooms are starting at $59,000! “The sales of giant flat-screen televisions have jumped 62%!”

Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, says, “the rise in luxury spending is directly proportional to the wealth of the baby-boomer generation, which will be profoundly influential on the economy through 2010.

“Instead of crocodile handbags, boomers are building media rooms in their homes and investing in elaborate renovations.”

According to Michael Silverstein, author of Trading Up: The New American Luxury, “the middle class who are participating in the new luxury market are putting in new kitchens, putting in new windows, they have home theaters… We're convinced that this market will grow from $440 billion to a trillion by 2010.”

Robert Polet, CEO of Gucci, points out that a luxury item can be as simple as a $20 tube of lipstick. “Luxury brands are more than the goods… It's how they make you feel. They give people the opportunity to live a dream. . . They allow people to be part of the world that they are aspiring to.”
You've made your list. Now find out what is on “Tiffany's.” Help your clients become part of the “new luxury” market. Make it easy for them to join when they work with you to help them live the dream. Yes, this holiday season, let them know how you can help them. Let them know that there really is a Santa Claus!


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 finney@furninfo.com.

 


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 editor@furninfo.com. 




View all articles by Cathy Finney

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