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They say that champions don’t do 1 thing 100% better…. They do 100 things 1% better than their competition. In the first of this 1 minute video series, Tom asks you to take an objective look at your firm’s sales staff.

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As I visit with flooring dealers around the country, I often hear the lament “Our business isn’t what it used to be.” Often, this statement is made in reference to sales volume. I often wonder, however, if this statement isn’t telling of a deeper problem that many existing businesses face: they simply aren’t functioning internally as well as they once did.

There is one asset that I feel is being under motivated presently at most stores – the salesperson.  Ask yourself, does my sales staff have a leader? Don’t confuse a sales leader with a sales manager. These are very different tasks. It’s the primary responsibility of most sales managers to oversee the execution of their staff. Typical duties include coordinating staff schedules, assisting with estimates, receiving customer concerns, etc. Nearly every company has someone executing these tasks. Just make sure that you’re not confusing management with leadership.

Most sales people have been taught how to qualify a customer. What too few seem to realize is that the customer is busy qualifying them, as well. As a product presentation is made, they are forming a perception of not only what is being said, but also how it is being said. They are judging not only the merits of your product, but of placing their trust in you. They are asking themselves whether this person truly cares about me and my unique situation. Why is he so busy providing answers that he didn’t even hear my questions?

I believe that to be ultimately successful in business, one must always be looking downward to the lowest rung on the corporate ladder. This is particularly true of a service related business. I am constantly preaching the gospel that before you can be a good customer service provider, you must first be an aware customer service receiver. As you spend your paycheck, pay close attention to who your main point of customer contact is and how they make you feel.

Each of us in the flooring business realize that customers today are used to seeing pricing promotions – many which often stretch credibility to the limit. If you are to compete in this market, you too will need to have promotionally priced products, special purchases, etc. to entice customers into your showroom.  The emphasis for some customers seems to have shifted to bragging more about how much money that they saved rather than on how much they actually spent.

One great benefit of doing sales training, and consulting, on a national basis is that I get the opportunity to observe a large and varied amount of sales staff in action. One glaring observation that I have arrived at is that most of these sales people need one thing that appears to be sadly lacking in most operations: some constructive and active management. I’m not talking about someone who makes out the schedule and has the ability to approve offers. Every store has someone who fits this description. Their primary job seems to be to manage people.

A common tendency among salespeople is to do too much talking and not enough listening. Successful salespeople realize it is only when they are focused on what the customer is both explaining and requesting that they are learning the information necessary to suggest solutions which will benefit all concerned. Too often weak salespeople rush to judgment and offer both products and solutions before the customer has had the opportunity to fully explain her wishes and requests thoroughly.

Hartville, Ohio is home to America’s largest independent home center at 305,000 sq. ft. In the middle of Hartville Hardware sits a 1,850 sq. ft. “American House” – which was featured in the March 2013 issue of Home Channel News magazine – that is constructed entirely of “Made in the USA” products. Every product, from the foundation up to the shingles, was domestically produced.  Howard Miller, president of Hartville Hardware, and a member of the Do-It Best co-op, has seen a definite increase in customers who are placing an added value on products that are “Made in the USA”.

One of the greatest opportunities, and challenges, that a sales manager has is that he or she possesses the power of influence over what is selling well on the showroom floor. What is amazing to me is that most managers do not seem to realize this. They too often forget who their primary customer is.