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Lessons learned: Your first impression

February 18/25, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 19

By Tom Jennings

 

This past year I had the opportunity to visit a number of flooring dealers around the country. In nearly every case, I was seeing their showrooms for the first time, much like their own customers do. In doing so, I was reminded that one can learn volumes about how an operation is run three steps inside the front door before ever saying a word to anyone.

The overall best showroom layout I witnessed was completely wide open and welcoming at entry. There was at least a 10- to 12-foot area in all directions that was completely free of displays or merchandise, leaving one with plenty of room to acclimate to the surroundings. The store signage was proper and professional. The lighting was both dramatic and effective. The salesperson who rose to greet me was smartly attired. Not a word had been uttered, yet I felt both comfortable and confident that this store had its act together.

Contrast this with a showroom I had been in just a few weeks earlier. The first thing that greeted me was a pile of discontinued carpet samples offered for sale at $0.50 each. They were impossible to ignore, since one stack had toppled over and I had to walk around them. I noticed not all of the showroom lights were operational. When I was approached, the clerk had on an untucked golf shirt bearing the logo of a tool supplier.

Again, not a word had been spoken yet I felt totally different about the competency of this operation. The pile of samples screamed cheap. It may have been a good deal for a customer who needs a couple, but I think it was very expensive for the merchant. If he sold them all, he might have generated a hundred dollars. Contrast this to the potential cost of having to reduce margins on larger sales to offset the customer’s diminished perceptions. Remember, to a great extent it is you who sets the product’s value, not the customer.

In my experience, these samples would have generated far more value for this store if they were offered free to kindergarten teachers, Sunday school classes, etc. Plus, you can give them away in the warehouse, not in premium space by the entry.

The lights not being completely operational conveyed the impression this dealer either didn’t notice they were off or just hadn’t bothered to have them fixed. Either excuse would worry me. When I trust someone with a portion of my paycheck to perform work at my house, I want someone who pays attention to the details.

The golf shirt showed a complete lack of attention to detail as well. The shirt tail hanging out screamed “sloppy” and the distributor’s logo told me this guy was probably too cheap to buy a proper shirt. I am not talking about logo wear promoting your own business but rather a giveaway from a supplier. You will never walk into a nice automobile showroom to find a salesman wearing a shirt from the parts house down the street.

Many dealers mistakenly feel what they “have to say” will trump whatever the fancy store down the street may have to offer. What they fail to remember is if the customer’s initial impressions aren’t favorable, they may never get their chance to explain.

Most of the impressions that a potential customer may form come as a result of non-verbal communication. It’s usually no one thing that forms an impression but rather a compilation of many seemingly small things.

Tomorrow morning when entering your store for the first time that day, take three steps inside and stop to look around. Ask yourself: Would I be impressed with what I’m seeing?