Every successful coach holds a big meeting after the game. Do you?
There are two big challenges that can confront the retail furniture organization after a major sales event. The first of these is to deal with the "after sales blues" - an emotional let-down that comes over everyone. Second, the CEO must move quickly to capture the knowledge that has been gained during the event.
It is not unlike the challenge facing a head football coach. That is why every successful head coach holds meetings immediately after a big game. These meetings always have two major objectives: Refocus the coaches, team players and supporting personnel – and most important – to capture the knowledge that has just been gained. It is critically important that the CEO of a furniture store has that same kind of refocusing, analyzing and redirecting meeting after a major promotional effort.
The football team, win or lose, will soon face another opponent. This short time-frame creates an atmosphere where players and coaches find it natural to focus upon the new task. In a furniture store, the next big sale may be too far in the future. It is more difficult to get the staff back on the track of day-to-day business. So, the solution for the furniture CEO is to plan a minor in-store event of some kind immediately after the big event.
Have a meeting right after the sale. In your meeting set a positive tone. First thank everyone concerned and redirect them to the day-to-day business of serving customers.
Explain that there is a natural let-down after a big event. Point out that each day of ordinary selling is a building block for the next big sales event. Plan something to refocus the staff. Perhaps you could put all mattresses on sale, or have an accessory event. It is helpful to launch some kind of a sales contest to stimulate excitement. The idea is to get the staff refocused before the doldrums set in.
The second task for the furniture CEO is more difficult: How can you capture the valuable knowledge that your staff has gained from the event? The challenge is to capture this knowledge so you can make a strategic analysis. Just as a good coach must review the films of a game and interview the players, the CEO must review the numbers and interview the staff.
Vince Lombardi studied game films in order to detect errors that players made so that he could help them to make adjustments the next time around. If split second timing was lacking, then Lombardi drilled, drilled and drilled until it was there. He instilled the basics in seasoned players repetitively, just as a CEO must drill his or her staff on the basics tirelessly. Traffic counts, close ratios, and achieved markup are like a football coach's films of the game. They provide benchmarks to measure performance.
- What did we do right?
- What can we do better?
Suppose, for example, your ad pulled traffic and people were looking and walking. Generally, this means that people did not see what they expected to see. Perception is everything. The perception may have been that the prices were too high, or the selection was not so great, or there was not a selling atmosphere. This does not mean you have to give away the store to have a successful promotion. In many cases, skillful merchandising can help you achieve a higher markup during a sale than the store achieved before in day-to-day business. This is especially true with a negotiated floor. When sales people have the option of cutting prices, they often loose the art of enhancing the value of merchandise to achieve an equally effective perception of value. Remember, perception is everything. If a customer is not made aware of the value of a product, they are getting short changed. They like to brag that their sofa is upholstered in top grain leather, and like to be able to tell their friends what that means. If they don't know their solid oak furniture is made of northern-grown wood where the trees grow slowly, with closer rings, and the wood is harder and more beautiful, they are denied bragging rights. But even product knowledge is not enough.
We stumble when we forget to focus on the basics. For example, don't be afraid to drill the staff about the difference between product points, benefits, and dreams. Denver has one of the most competitive mattress markets in America. Yet, nearly all of the ads are alike. Emphasis is on price no payments until next year immediate delivery... we'll take away the old mattress, etc. These are table stakes in today's marketplace. It is hard to find a product point in these ads, harder still to find a benefit, and almost impossible to find a dream. On the sales floor, this lack of focus on value and the benefits is reflected in the salespeople. Some know their product, and some can use their point of sale materials well. But very few know how to convert facts and product points into benefits.
Explain to your sales staff that if a particular feature of an item is in the item at the factory, or on the floor even before its sold, it is a product point.
If I say to you: "This Spring Air 2000 Mattress has a revolutionary Visco-Elastic foam sleeping surface," that is a product point. "So what?" the customer may think.
But if I continue: "It's the foam with a memory that supports your body without pressure points so you sleep deeper and feel more rested in the morning," I have added a benefit.
Then, if I go on to say: "scientists believe better sleep can contribute to health and energy and help people live longer, richer lives," I am adding a dream.
All three factors need one another. Without the supporting product point, the comment about better sleep is just an empty claim. Good salespeople use both, but great salespeople add the dream, that is the vision of a better life.
The basic rule is: never mention a product point without mentioning a benefit, and always tie a series of benefits to a dream. The sales person who can enhance the value of a product does not have to negotiate price. What is a few cents a night cost relative to virtually endless nights of the most satisfying, refreshing sleep in the world?
The CEO or sales manager who says: "My sales team knows all that" is like the football coach who doesn't bother to look at the game films because he "knows" his team never "arm tackles". All salespeople forget the basics and develop bad habits unless they are continuously trained in the basics.
AFTER THE SALE, FIRST OF ALL ASK YOURSELF:
- Did our store live up to the expectations that our advertising created in the customer?
- Did we sign the windows with fresh signs? Were bright new over-tags on everything?
- Were there killer bargains in the front of the store, especially to the right of the main entrance? (Nearly all customers turn right.)
- Did we have a greeter at the door?
- Was the floor merchandised wisely, with plenty of "hot spots?"
- Did the sales people know the story behind the sale, and did they tell it?
- Did they all carry copies of the ads or the preferred customer letter?
THEN, ASK YOUR STAFF...
- What did they learn from this event?
- What did they experience?
- What did we do well?
- What can we improve?
- What did they hear customers say?
Do a critique of the sale, but remember, you are gathering information, you are not trying to give quick answers. Ask opinions, examine trouble spots. Promise to make adjustments, and follow through.
Follow this with a brainstorming session a short time later. Present some of the weaknesses you may have detected and ask for ideas to improve them. Close the meeting with a short, upbeat talk. When you are having a long sale, we recommend several of these evaluation and re-direction meetings at strategic points, as you go along.
Getting better is a process. Life is not a series of goals, it is an experience. The challenge is to learn from each experience. If you can do this, your practice will improve. It doesn't matter what you are practicing! Alternatively, if you keep doing what you are doing you will keep getting what you are getting. So, here are the steps you can take to help make the process more informative and more useful:
- Decide what it is you want.
- Next, do something. You can't steer a parked car. Don't worry about success or failure, you are only looking for results.
- Then evaluate those results.
- If they are not good enough, adjust what you are doing and try again.
- Keep at it and don't give up until you get exactly what you want. Don't settle for anything else.
- That's it. That's all of it.
Larry Mullins, President of UltraSales, Inc., has 30+ years experience in the front lines of retail furniture marketing. Larry's mainstream executive experience, his creative work for "promoter-specialists," and study of advertising principles has enabled him to continually develop new High-Impact strategies for independent furniture retailers that are sound, complete, and innovative. Inquiries can be sent to Larry care of FURNITURE WORLD at firstname.lastname@example.org.