It’s time to step it up or you may find yourself stepping aside! I say this with the highest degree of respect for the industry and the people within it. The industry has been very good to me, and my only hope is to be able to give back and help furniture retailers prosper and grow their businesses. Further, the only reason I am writing this article is because I believe in the independent retailer and the small business people of this country and want to pass along any knowledge to help them not only survive but to thrive.
I have to tell you that I am amazed, if not shocked, at how few retailers attend the free education sessions offered by their various industry associations. With the economy as it is and sales being tougher and tougher to make, I would think that every furniture retailer would want to take a few hours out of their busy market day to learn something new. If you learn one thing, it might be the difference between a great year, an average year, and one that leaves you wondering if you will survive. Here is a known fact:
If you keep doing what you have always been doing, you will achieve the same result!
I have a challenge for furniture retailers — If you can answer the following three questions correctly then you don’t need to attend any of the educational seminars during the Las Vegas Market. If you can’t answer one or all the questions, you need to do yourself a favor and show up for the educational seminars at the NHFA/WHFA Retailer Resource Center. The answers will be at the end of the article and no cheating!
There are three ways a salesperson can increase sales in a retail furniture store, what are they?
Most businesses fail because they are managed based on something other than _____!
If sales are down, there is one of three things or a combination of three things that could be causing the decrease in sales. What are the three things?
Last June I had the pleasure of spending three solid weeks in a retail store as the sales manager. Running the sales floor took me back to my roots of the good old days when I was a sales manager working everyday on a retail sales floor. Not much has changed. Customers still say, “I’m just looking,” “I’ll be back,” “and “This is the first place I’ve shopped.” Salespeople still say, “Will that be all,” “Here’s my card, when you are ready come on back,” etc. Customers have habits they have fallen into just as salespeople use bad selling habits on occasion. I am not blaming anyone; I am just saying that is the way it is. During this three-week period, we did about $35,000 (an average week) in sales the first week, the second week we did over $70,000 (double an average week) in sales and the third week we did over $120,000 (a bit more than three times an average week) in sales. I am not telling you this to brag, just giving you the facts. The reason I am mentioning this is to point out — there is no second place to being on the floor coaching and training. You cannot learn to ride a bike, ski, drive, or fly an airplane by watching a DVD, reading a book, or seeing somebody else do it. This is true in the field of sales. It is the practical, continuous, application of proper sales techniques as well as using role-playing and live situations. This is where the real training, retention and application of the knowledge is accomplished.
The store owner, sales manager, store manager, sales trainer, floor manager — whatever title you give to the position — can have a dramatic effect on sales and profits. This position is the single most important position in the store when it comes to proactively creating sales and profits. Without a strong leader, people tend to revert to their safe zone or level of competency or incompetence depending upon how you look at it. In sports, it is proven every day that the coaching makes all the difference between a championship season and an average season. The exact same thing is true in a retail furniture store — coaching on the floor will make the difference between a store growing and flourishing and one that is just getting by. With the uncertainties of the economy and the stock market, mortgage foreclosures, layoffs, a new President, businesses going out and the price of everything skyrocketing, it is no wonder that many furniture retailers are scared. It is a serious situation, no doubt.
However, I do know that most retail furniture stores are still closing about 20 percent of the people that come in. Most retail stores are still averaging about 5 percent in add-on sales; most retail stores do about half of the business that they could be doing without making any changes other than improving the skills of the sales staff. Most retail salespeople sit back and wait for customers to come in, when they could be doing some things to create traffic in the store. Most retail stores have no turnover program, or one that is weak at best. Most retail salespeople don’t know what to do when a customer says, “I’ll be back.” Most retail salespeople don’t know the easiest way to add-on to a sale or to bump it up and don’t ask their customers for referrals. In other words — There are opportunities for huge sales increases available in most retail stores.
As a business, if you keep doing the same things that you did previously — why would you expect different results? I have heard some retail organizations that say 30 percent of all the independent retail stores will be out of business in the next five years. Many of the chain stores aren’t doing much better. If this doesn’t scare the heck out of you, I don’t know what will. There is no doubt in my mind that the answer lies in the people that we have serving our customers. We, as an industry, have to put more and more emphasis on training, knowledge, positive reinforcement, on the floor coaching, incentives, and giving our people the help that they need in order to maximize every potential selling opportunity. Further, we need our salespeople to create selling opportunities and look at their positions more as business owners running their own business within the business. I will go to the grave knowing that the store owner and/or sales manager is the one person that will make the biggest difference. When he/she is active on the sales floor, interacting with the sales staff and customers, we are on our way to positive results. I have seen a struggling store bring in a new manager, and the store explodes in sales. If the manager is a person that only makes the schedule, answers discounting questions, is responsible for making the daily deposit, helping only their customers, answering special order questions, then the store is in trouble.
The sales managers’ job is to: Provide the leadership, knowledge, training, incentives, consequences, positive reinforcement, critique, and feedback in order to recruit, hire, develop and maintain a successful sales staff. Anything short of this is unacceptable if the organization is going to grow and flourish in the future.
I recently heard an advertising guru say that retailers need to cut back on their staffs because traffic may drop as much as 25 percent in the coming year. I say — Don’t cut your staff — cut the unproductive staff and increase your staff with productive sales driven individuals that will produce results — give them the leadership that they need to be successful. An effective sales manager/trainer will make all the difference in the world. Nobody ever accepts a job wanting to fail. Something is causing them to not be successful. Usually it is the lack of training and coaching they are getting on the sales floor. The sales floor proves to be where all the action is, and your training needs to address this critical area. If you are not one as the owner, or do not have a proactive sales manager/trainer you need to hire or develop one from within.
Here are the answers to the questions posed in the beginning of this article:
Three ways a salesperson can increase sales: Get more people to come in — six ways will be discussed at the Retailer Resource Center, sell more of the people that are coming in through increasing your closing ratio – numerous ways to increase closing ratio will be discussed at the Retailer Resource Center. Third, to sell more to the people that you are already selling through add-ons and bumping up the sale – numerous ways to add-on and bump-up a sale will be discussed at the Retailer Resource Center.
Most businesses fail because they are managed based on opinions rather than facts and statistics. Statistics that need to be tracked to grow a retail furniture business will be discussed at the Retailer Resource Center.
If sales are down, there is one of three things, or a combination of three things that could be causing the decrease in sales. What are they?
Author, trainer, consultant, and speaker Brad Huisken is president of IAS Training. Mr. Huisken authored the books “I’m a Salesman! Not a PhD.” and “Munchies For Salespeople, Selling Tips That You Can Sink Your Teeth Into”, he developed the PMSA Relationship Selling Program, the PSMC Professional Sales Management Course, The Mystery Shoppers Kit, The Employee Handbook and Policy & Procedures Manual, The Weekly Sales Training Meeting series along with Aptitude Tests and Proficiency Exams for new hires, current sales staff and sales managers, along with the new Weekly Retail Sales Training Series. In addition, he publishes a free weekly newsletter called “Sales Insight” For a free subscription or more information contact IAS Training at (800) 248-7703, email@example.com, www.iastraining.com or fax (303) 936-9581.