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.
As a leader in your organization, I am sure that many days it seems as if problem solving is your primary task. When employees are faced with questions they don’t know the answer to, they come to you hoping you will either solve the problem for them or tell them how to solve it themselves. Some days it may seem as if the title on your office door must read “Chief Problem Solver”. If this sounds too familiar, it is likely because you chose this title for yourself.
When selling flooring at a full service specialty store, your offerings are often compared to a box store that wishes to place the primary emphasis on the product itself, rather than presenting it as an element of an installed floor. This type of outlet prefers to sell product first, and services only as required, as product is usually what they do best.
While there are clearly two schools of thought as to whether flooring retailers should allow samples to be checked out by a potential customer, the reality is that most stores still allow their samples to leave their showrooms unattended. As a consequence, the samples in many showrooms that I observe have something less than a crisp appearance.
There is a famous saying that states, “Sometimes you must lose a few battles in order to win the war”. I find that this attitude may apply when working with today’s customers as well. Let me explain.
Potential customers have more information available to them than ever before. Access to this knowledge makes some feel… let’s just say, confident in their newfound sense of wisdom. We know that occasionally what they believe to be so is not necessarily reality.
Even if you are an experienced executive, it’s likely very difficult for you to advise other people where they need to improve. Many bosses delay criticism until an employee’s scheduled employee review. That’s seldom effective. Neither is stockpiling problems, waiting for the “right moment” to bring them up. By doing so, chances are the employee will simply be overwhelmed.
Great dealers all spend time mastering the art of making a positive first impression when a customer enters their showrooms. While these steps are critical, they are only part of the customer service process. Let’s examine some opportunities to make favorable final impressions long after she said “Sold!”