It's not even a four letter word!
Retail is not a dirty word! It is not even a four letter word. Retailing... great retailing is the ultimate! It's time those of us in retail get our heads back on straight and stand tall and proud and honor the great profession of retailing. When someone makes comments such as:HIGH MARK-UP?:
"I hear furniture has a really high mark-up on it," stand alert and ready to educate this potential customer. Blow them away with some fun facts that will develop respect for your product.
ESTABLISH VALUE: Good furniture Is good value. Educate your customer as to the value.
How many hours do you think It takes to produce a fine piece of furniture? Maybe you can run a furniture manufacturer's video of work in progress and in an entertainment center you are selling. Most customers won't take the time to watch the video, but it sure would be a positive way to quiet their concerns about profit margins!
Have fun with your discussion by asking them to guess how much the average piece of furniture costs for daily use over its average lifetime? Do something visual. Create a jelly bean jar with a jelly bean for every hour of use a piece of furniture gets in it's home "floortime". Create another jar for other luxury items such as boats and fancy sports cars. You can guesstimate the hours or check with a factual source, My guess is there will be no comparison to the number of hours. I'd guess 1,000-to-one just off the top of my head. Comparing the daily value of a piece of furniture to "luxury items" creates respect for the use and abuse furniture receives, therefore, stressing the importance of making quality selections.DISCUSS YOUR SERVICES:
Discuss the average amount of hours required to properly recommend an appropriate piece of furniture for long term results.
How much time do you invest in recommending appropriate furniture choices to an average client? Explain the process your store goes through in recommending or specifying an appropriate piece of furniture.
Discuss the in-home services you offer and quality control steps provided along the way. If you just sell off the floor, are you peddling rather than professionally selling? Think about it.
AVOIDCONVERSATIONS ABOUT MARGINS: It is none of your customer's business. We do disservice to ourselves when we go around talking "cost plus" and 40% off list. Just because everyone else is into discount-mania doesn't mean that you have to be. Focus on proper and effective retailing. When you "give away the store" you often give away the profits. Help your customer to understand that furniture retailers cannot sell at wholesale cost if they want to stay in business to be there for their customers next year.GET INVOLVED WITH CUSTOMERS:
People really 'buy' the best communication experience. They buy trust and value and that comes from personal warmth, charm, your business ambiance... the verbal and non-verbal messages you communicate. The customer wants information and commitment. I have a big dish of gold foil wrapped coin candy at the entrance to my store. I offer a potential client a piece saying: "We treat our customers like gold here at Touch of Class Interiors, we value your business. Please take a piece of gold as a reminder of our commitment to excellence and you!"
DISCERN CUSTOMER'S HIDDEN AGENDA: How many things do you know about your customer? What is their "push button"? Are they sending mixed messages? As you work toward understanding your customer, narrow their choices professionally. Let them know how astute your are.
BECOME A SOLUTION-FINDER: What kind of service do they expect? Isn't the end result... the look... really more important than price? Provide just the right amount of information to help your customer. Show your knowledge and expertise when they want it. How many times have you found yourself having to listen to someone's spiel? Don't talk more than you listen. The more you get them to talk to you, the more quickly you can move toward being a solution finder.
DON'T WASTE TIME: Think Doctor! True professionals are always busy working on significant work. Make sure that you look and act like you are busy with good work. Respect your customer's time also. Whenever you can, make an appointment. That says you are serious and a professional. Tire-kickers and price-shoppers don't need appointments. They make their own decisions.
CLOSING IS THE NATURAL CONCLUSION: Work toward "closing" the sale. Make sure that you are having a positive and enjoyable communication experience. This is your art. This is your "show." Get excited about what you are doing. Get excited about their progress in decision-making. Asking for the order becomes unnecessary when you are doing effective solution-finding. Their signature... their deposit... explaining when they can expect delivery or asking when they need their delivery is just part of concluding your communication experience professionally. Congratulate them on their positive decision making.
MAKE A LONG TERM CUSTOMER: Customers are loyal when they respect who they are dealing with. Do you deserve that respect? What have you done to deserve respect and loyalty from past clients? Share this with your new customer. It costs five times more to get a new customer than to keep an old customer. Keeping your customers happy and loyal is done in many ways. Promoting yourself and your business is just a part of this process. Staying in touch with your customer over the year is the other part. Success breeds success. People want to be with winners, Take a closer look at your' reputation and how your customers think of you.
Retailing is exciting. How many ways can you make it fun and exciting to do business with you? Start counting today!
Kate Halverson is a well known author and speaker. She is owner of Weston Communications and Touch of Class Interiors, Ltd., and is a member of ASID and IFDA. Her book Dealing with Discounting is a "survival kit for today's business person coping with discount-mania." Questions can be directed to Ms. Halverson, care of Furniture World at firstname.lastname@example.org.