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Seven Tiresome Habits of Moderately Successful Salespeople

Furniture World Magazine
Volume 148 NO.4 July/August


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Here is a list of seven poor retail habits RSAs hang onto, but give your shoppers a negative impression of your sales staff and your store.



The original title of this article was going to be A Shopping Trip with Kathy. It's likely that you've been asked by friends and aquaintences to give furniture or bedding purchase advice at one time or another. That's how Kathy and I ended up shopping for a new mattress. Kathy is typical of shoppers that you may see in your store every day. She is in the 50+ age group, and due to a recent change in family status is setting up a new household as a single adult. Kathy has a professional occupation but not unending funds to purchase.


"The RSA that greets a shopper at the door 'owns' that shopper.. Heaven forbid that another RSA talks to that shopper less they be accused of stealing an UP!"


I spend a lot of time in mattress, furniture, flooring, and appliance stores. I try to view those stores through the eyes of YOUR shoppers, but shopping with a friend who, like many of your shoppers rarely buys a bed, was a new experience. We shopped one full-line furniture store, and that experience was less than dazzling. Based on that trip and other shopping trips, here is a list of seven retail habits that RSAs hang on to, but give shoppers a negative impression of your sales staff and your store.

Habit #1: They Are In The Vulture Pit

Let’s face it, many people don’t like shopping, and many more fear having to buy a new bed. For them, seeing a gauntlet of sharpie salespeople at the door all looking like they want to pick meat off of the bones makes it even worse. Yes, I understand that RSAs have to be ready for the next UP, but there has got to be a better way than standing at attention within 10 feet of the door. It scared Kathy, and it was even a little uncomfortable for me.

Habit #2: They Lean Without Clean

We shopped on a rainy Sunday which meant that the store had a lot of traffic. I could tell because the store was a mess when we arrived! Sofa toss pillows were tossed about, price tags, were on the ground or missing, and test rest pillows and foot protectors were askew. It’s hard for me to understand this considering the five or six salespeople waiting at the door. You may straighten your store at night, but recovery is a constant ongoing job. If you have time to LEAN you have time to CLEAN. Plus, it's never a good idea for a salesperson to not look busy.

Habit #3: Not 'Theirs'... Not Friendly

I gotta tell you, Lowe’s and Kroger’s got us beat. Walk down the aisles of those stores and the store associates will say “Hi”, or ask if you need help, or acknowledge your presence in some way. Walk around the interior of a home furnishing or appliance store and the RSAs treat you as if you are invisible. It’s a RETAIL EGO thing! In our industry the RSA that greets a shopper at the door “owns” that shopper. Heaven forbid that another RSA talks to that shopper less they be accused of stealing an UP! The result is that your shoppers, the ones you paid $25 to $100 each to bring in to the store, become the unseen, ungreeted, and unattended. It doesn’t hurt to say Hi, and it’s not an act of theft to do it. BTW, unless your RSAs are chipping in for advertising expenses, they do not OWN any guests!

Habit #4: Say They Are In 'Sales'

I learned this 35 years ago and it is still true today. When they BUY, shoppers hold the power, when they are SOLD, the RSA holds the power. I bring this up because the RSA who “helped” us told us multiple times that she “has been selling mattresses for 17 years”. If it is true that people dislike SHOPPING for a mattress, you can be sure that they hate being SOLD a mattress, or any other home furnishings item. Simply change that phrase to “I have been helping people get the sleep they need for 17 years,” and you’ll move from salesperson to product expert. You can also take the word sleep and put in beautiful and functional rooms.


"If it is true that people dislike SHOPPING for a piece of furniture or a mattress, you can be sure that they hate being SOLD one."


Habit #5: They Don't Leave A Message

With the advent of robo-calls a lot of people are unwilling to accept a call from a number they don’t recognize. My general rule for my personal cell phone is “No guts, no glory” meaning if you call me and don’t leave a message, I will not call back. However, a lot of the messages I do get are garbled and hard to understand. And when the caller leaves their number they say it like the fast talking dude who used to do the FedEx commercials. Help your caller and your business out. Be prepared to leave a voice mail message. Speak your name clearly and always SLOWLY say your phone number two times. Chances are you’ll get a lot more calls returned.

Habit #6: Terrible Phone Greeting

I double dog dare you to do this today! Call your own store and listen to the greeting. If it sounds like “MATTRESS STORE” or “FRED’S FURNITURE” you have moved up on the list of unfriendly retailers! Every phone call is an opportunity to invite more business into your building. Even if it is a customer complaint, it is a chance to solve it and have these customers move on to their next purchase. Start out with something simple like, “Hello, thank you for calling Mattress Store” or copy Metro PCS who answers the phone “Hi, Gordon from Metro PCS-how can I make your day sparkle?” I’ll triple dog dare you to script something out and check to see if your people use it.

Habit #7: They Don't Thank

This totally blows my mind. I never received a THANK YOU note or call from salespeople at dealerships where I purchased my last four cars. I’m not a fancy car guy, so those four cars only totaled about $110K, probably not a blip on their screen. But the guy I bought a suit from five years ago sent a thank you card and reached out to me every three months for years reminding me to refresh my wardrobe. Darn, it’s so easy to thank someone these days by phone, text, email, even social media. Check out Dustin Schmidt at Schmidt Motors in Bismarck, ND who shows a photo of every car buyer on the company Facebook page with their new car.

Habits are hard to break! But it only takes about 21 days of consistency to break a 20-year habit. If you love the habit of mediocrity then you never have to feel the discomfort. If you want to excel, then knock out these seven practices one at a time, one day at a time.

Gordon Hecht is Senior Manager-In Store Concepts for Serta Simmons Bedding Company, introducing and expanding bedding business in conventional and non-traditional venues. He started his 30+ years experience in the Home Furnishings industry in Las Vegas, NV as a delivery helper and driver and later served in sales, retail management and consulting roles.
Read other articles by Gordon Hecht