You will never maximize your customer opportunities, your store sales and your profitability without a sales staff that controls the sales interaction from start to finish.
View all articles by Hal McClamma
Many home sector retail salespeople are simply haphazard. Their professional actions are never planned, proactive and intentional. Instead, they bounce around the store like a ball in a pinball machine. They clock in and clock out and hope for the best. And sadly, they never reach more than a fraction of their potential, creating a mediocre underperforming store with a wide range of performance between salespeople.
Most stores have a couple of salespeople at the top, a large bunch in the middle and a few at the bottom. The bottom low performers seem to churn; their names may change, but over time this performance ranking list looks pretty much the same… a few at the top, a bunch in the middle followed by the bottom performers.
This wide range of performance should sound a ‘Priority 1 Emergency’ alarm for any retail sales manager or store owner. A wide range of performance can signify a HUGE problem in your store. It is not just LOST sales. In addition to a very real and preventable sales leak, a wide range in performance is proof positive that your customer has a vastly different experience depending upon who greets them at the door.
A while ago I was walking the floor with a client when his attention shifted to the front door. The next words out of his mouth were incredible… incredible in a very bad way. Perhaps you’ve said similar things when the doorbell rang in your store. He said, “I hope “So and so” is not up, that customer is my neighbor.” I snapped in reply, “Why in the world is ‘So and so’ working here, greeting your hard fought for customers if you do not have complete and utter confidence in his/her ability to properly serve any customer including your neighbor?”
Let’s take a look at a concept that was introduced in the January/ February 2014 issue of Furniture World called the ‘Silver Platter’. The ‘Silver Platter’ is a great way to validate what brand or variety of salesperson or sales team you have hired to represent you. It separates the wheat from the chaff. Generally, stores that do a great job controlling the ‘Platter’ have salespeople who operate in a narrow range of performance, maximize customer opportunities and sell more.
There are two types, varieties or brands of salespeople in home sector retail. First is a less than successful, undesirable and low earning amateur order taker who does not control the ‘Silver Platter’. Second is a highly desirable and successful professional high achiever, high earner who is planned, proactive and intentional. These high performers maintain complete control of the ‘Silver Platter’ in every single customer interaction.
So, what is the Silver Platter and how does one control it? And, why does it really matter?
When selling, an amateur salesperson often loses control of the sales process in one or more different parts of the interaction with the customer. When a salesperson loses control of the sales process, close percent and average sale plummet in dramatic fashion. Small negative changes in the average sale and close percent combine for a huge decrease in total sales.
And conversely, when a salesperson retains control of the selling process, the close percent and average sale both rise handsomely, leading to a very nice increase in total sales.
We use a visualization tool in our sales training program called the Silver Platter. Each salesperson is asked to visualize in their minds eye that they are carrying a 12-inch oval Silver Serving Platter’ under one arm as they greet each and every customer, as they qualify customers, as they present product, as they close the sale, as they release their customers and as they follow up with both buyers and non buyers.
This Silver Platter simply represents or symbolizes CONTROL of the sales interaction or process. Whoever possesses the Silver Platter, seizes control of the sales process. The salesperson MUST control the sales process and keep the Silver Platter tucked safely under their arm and all the while; the customer should always feel as if they are in control of the process.
I also want salespeople to visualize surrendering that Silver Platter to the customer each time they lose control of the sales process. Many times a customer leaves the store with out furniture. Instead they may walk out with three, four or more symbolic Silver Platters in their possession. The more Platters given away; the lower are total sales… every time. And sadder yet, the customer leaves having had an underwhelming experience.
If you are a sales manager, coach or owner, you will want to watch carefully for the six areas listed below in which many amateur salespeople give away that darned Silver Platter.
Lost control equals lost sales. Retained control equals higher sales.
Amateur Furniture Sales Person “JEANETTE”
Let me introduce you to Jeanette. Jeanette is a master Silver Platter donor. She is a timid fearful salesperson. Jeanette is an amateur who gives away 100’s of Silver Platters each week. Control of the sales interaction almost always rests with Jeanette’s customers. Perhaps you have a Jeanette on your sales floor. Worse yet, all of your salespeople may be clones of dear Jeanette. Let’s look at how Jeanette gives away those expensive Platters.
Here are the main points where Jeanette and many amateur salespeople lose control of the selling process.
Losing Control At The Greeting: Jeanette often loses control at the greeting when she greets poorly and elicits a dreaded “Just Looking” from customers. Then she lets many of them simply walk away.
- The Greeting
- The Close
- Follow up
There are two ways she loses control during the greeting. First, she uses the incorrect greeting and secures the “Just Looking” response a very high percentage of the time. The second way control is often lost in the greeting is when Jeanette releases the customer to look around with a phrase similar to, “OK, holler if you need me.” She has given the Silver Platter away because control now rests with the customer.
To retain control, why not teach Jeanette to avoid all of the stupid ill-advised greetings that elicit “Just Looking”. Explain how to greet properly and slash her just “Just Looking” percentage in half. And if a release of the customer is absolutely necessary, why not teach her to forecast something along the lines of, “Enjoy the store, if it is Okay with you, I will check on you in a few minutes and see how you are doing.” The control now rests with Jeanette and the Silver Platter is neatly and safely tucked under her arm.
There is a monumental difference between forecasting a re-approach and “Holler if you need me.”
It is time we retailers realize that “Just Looking” is another way of saying “Get Lost.” If your “Just Looking” percentage is high, sales will always be lower. The first sale a salesperson must make is… selling themselves. A salespersons’ first goal is staying with the customer because building trust, getting the customer to lower their guard and open up is impossible from afar.
Losing Control By Not Qualifying: Qualifying is another area where weak salespeople like Jeanette cave and give away the Silver Platter. Imagine her customer enters the store and does not say “Just Looking” but rather states a need for a new sofa. Jeanette then poorly qualifies by asking a couple of questions such as color preference, and then proceeds to take them on a product tour.
A product tour without proper qualifying is simply an invitation to lower sales and get a customer disconnect. In Jeanette’s defense, without her knowing how to properly qualify, her only option to qualify this customer is a product tour. She will show this one and ask “Do you like this?” Show that one and ask “Do you like this?” Show this one and ask “Do you like this?” By the time Jeanette gets to the 3rd or 4th sofa, the customer will likely disengage by saying something like, “I’ll know it when I see it. Just looking.”
Jeanette just surrendered another Silver Platter. And once disconnected, timid Jeanette shadows the customer as she shops around the store like a sad puppy dog awaiting a question from the customer. She desperately strains to make a sale. The harder she tries, the more elusive the sale is. The control of the interaction clearly resides with the customer.
Losing Control Of The Close: How does Jeanette lose control at the close? Many times she simply does not ask for the sale, therefore, control is lost. And many times she yields when an objection or concern is raised so control is again lost. To control the close, she must learn trust based relationship selling, proper qualifying and presentation skills. Charles Givens states that, “The goal of the perfect sales presentation is to make the presentation objection proof.” When the sales process is trust based, customer focused, planned, proactive and intentional, the ‘close’ is almost automatic and Jeanette’s sales will skyrocket.
Losing Control By No Follow-up: When a customer does not buy on this visit, many times Jeanette loses control by simply presenting her business card (along with another Silver Platter) and saying something like, “Holler if you need me.” Or, “Call me if you have any questions.” Jeanette must learn to release the customer from the store the same way she releases the customer in the store. Jeanette should retain control of the Platter by forecasting; “I had a blast serving/ helping/ meeting you today. If it is okay with you, Ill touch base with you in a day or two and see how you are doing on your shopping/ project/ room.” Most customers will say, “okay”. But most customers will also think Jeanette will never call. What a pleasant surprise when she does call.
I am sure you’ve seen this on your sales floor… weak salespeople simply sitting around in a group hoping that ‘So and so’ will come back today and buy that $1500 sofa. ‘So and so’ should be back today for that mattress. And ‘So and so’ should return for that bedroom. Of course ‘So and so’ does not come back. And many times if you ask Jeanette or other salespeople to call their ‘So and so’, they have no contact information and no follow up can possibly be done.
You’ve probably also experienced this in your store. The manager marks down a slow seller and Jeanette says, “I had a customer looking at that the other day.” And you know what happens next, don’t you? The manager says, “Call them and write that order.” And Jeanette so effectively displays the deer in the headlights look. She should have kept her mouth shut because she just indicted herself. She has NO contact information because she is a Silver Platter donor.
Controlling the release of customers and being intentional about follow up is a key success factor for professional high achieving salespeople.
Jeanette needs to learn how to control the Silver Platter throughout the sales process including following up with buyers and non-buyers.
Conclusion: Observe your salespeople while they are on the floor with customers. Become an expert at identifying the times when a salesperson gives away the Silver Platter. Look for the six points at which most weak salespeople give away the control of the sales process, then coach your salespeople on how to keep control.
Does it really matter if your salespeople control the Silver Platter? Yes it does. You will never maximize your customer opportunities, your store sales and your profitability without a sales staff that controls the sales interaction from start to finish. You will never reduce the range of performance of your sales team without high achieving professionals. And, you will never provide knock your socks off service to your neighbor without a lean mean Silver Platter controlling sales team.
It comes down to this; people either do not know what to do, or they know what to do and choose not to do it. I would much rather be accused of being ignorant than unwilling! And once people know what to do, the high achievers simply do the little things that the mediocre deem unnecessary.
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Founder of Integrity Business Coaching, Hal McClamma has over 30-years in the home furnishings, appliance and electronics industry. He has owned successful furniture stores and sleep shops. McClamma has been a distribution center manager, single and multiple store manager and company VP for Havertys Furniture, Barrow Furniture, Maas Brothers, Burdines and Jordan Marsh. Contact Hal at Hal@IntegrityBusinessCoaching.com or call 334.470.9999.
View all articles by Hal McClamma