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Dear David: Affordable perks to offer millennial employees

June 11/18, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 26

By David Romano

 

Dear David: 

I just spent the past couple weeks interviewing people for two retail sales positions. Most of the people I interviewed were less than 30 years old and a lot of them asked some very weird questions about benefits. I know you owned a recruiting company for the flooring industry and I was wondering if you could help me. Do I really need to give employees free food, memberships to gyms and be so flexible on hours worked? It seems pretty silly to me because I didn’t need any of that when I was that age and neither did my older employees. 

Dear Owner,

What you experienced in those interviewers is what all companies are now facing. The mix of benefits desired by today’s workforce is much different than past generations. The time to get on the bus and change how you think is now. In fact, according to a study conducted by Deloitte Consulting in 2018, 66% of millennials expect to leave their organizations by 2020.

Companies are at risk of losing a large percentage of their next-generation talent if they fail to adjust. That’s why cultivating workplace culture and incentives that keep employees happy and productive is critical.

One solution to consider for overcoming the millennial retention issue is company perks. Perks pack the potential to attract new and retain existing millennial talent. In the same Deloitte study, it was found that 64% of millennials care about company benefits (compared to 54% of Generation X and 51% of baby boomers). Perks and benefits are the No. 2 thing behind culture and values that millennials want to know about a company. According to Perkbox, 69% of 18-to-24-year-old millennial employees say company perks are crucial to job satisfaction, compared to about half of baby boomer employees.

Following are what millennials listed as important perks.

Travel perks. According to a study led by Harris Group, 72% of millennials prefer spending money on travel and social events. Allowing your employees to travel for vacation will make them love working for your company. They will also feel less stressed.

Flexible hours. Millennials value personal time. According to a recent study on The Cost of Millennial Retention, 45% of millennials chose flexibility over higher pay. There is no reason to have your entire sales staff come in at 9 a.m. and leave at 6 p.m. Let some come in later and some work from home.

Offer free food. Many companies are picking up the tab for meals. Other companies also found that free food during meetings and on Fridays encouraged more employee productivity and attendance.

Training and team-building. Millennials are proud to describe themselves as life-long learners. Team-building activities are ways to relieve stress and keep work relationships strong. Sandler Sales classes, bringing top sales associates to education day events at conventions and staff bowling nights should help.

Gym membership, spa or yoga. A healthy employee is a happy employee—and happy employees get the job done. Millennials are one of the most health-conscious generations. If you want to keep them, wellness programs will help.

Off-site charity events. Many millennials believe companies should contribute toward a good cause. If your company hosts off-site charity events from time to time, you’ll likely attract millennials and generate good press at the same time.

David Romano, formerly the founder of Romano Consulting Group as well as Benchmarkinc Recruiting, is currently the director of Dallas-based Romano Group. You can contact David at david@romanogroup.com.

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Dear David: First impressions of your showroom count

August 14/21: Volume 32, Issue 5

By David Romano

Dear David:
Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.37.51 AMI have tried just about everything to get my sales associates to better organize the floor but nothing seems to work. I know we need to look better, but there is only so much I can do myself and I cannot afford to hire a cleaning company to come each night to clean and organize the showroom. Any thoughts?

Dear Fed Up Owner,
I am sorry to hear that your sales staff is giving you such fits when it comes to cleaning and organizing the showroom floor. The first thing I suggest you do is make them aware that keeping the showroom in good working order is their job. Many times they push back and say they are paid to sell and not clean; I push back and say if they are not clean they wouldn’t sell anything. Here are common situations to avoid when organizing your showrooms.

  • Dirty bathrooms. Restrooms should always be sparkling clean, whether they are open for public use or not. Make sure to stock the bathrooms with plenty of paper products, soap, trash receptacles and clean it daily
  • Bad quality of the floors. If you sell flooring and your floors are dirty, worn, scratched, missing transitions or outdated, how in the world do you expect people to want to buy from you?
  • Loud music. Playing music in a retail store can help create a certain atmosphere for your shoppers. However, music that is too loud, inappropriate or of poor quality can ruin a positive shopping experience
  • Handwritten signs. In this era of technology, there is no excuse for displaying handwritten signage and price tags. Printed versions simply look more professional, and hard-to-read handwriting can be a customer turn-off.
  • Stained ceiling tiles. Ugly ceiling tiles can turn off many shoppers. Who wants to buy products for their home from a company that cannot even clean their ceiling?
  • Poor lighting. Replace any burned out light bulbs as soon as possible. Make sure all customer areas of the store have ample lighting and take into consideration shoppers with aging or less than perfect eyesight.
  • Offensive odors. Shoppers don’t want to smell an employee’s lunch drifting across the store or musty carpet that should have been replaced 10 years ago. Use neutralizers to combat any offensive odors or remove the source of the aroma altogether.
  • Crowded aisles. Consumers like a wide selection, but not if it means sacrificing comfort while shopping. Be sure your store is designed to allow adequate space between aisles and keep walkways free of merchandise.
  • Poorly maintained parking lot or exterior. Overgrown bushes and grass, old signage, litter or a poorly maintained façade is sure to send folks back to their cars before entering the store. Send out the warehouse guy every morning to take care of the exterior and hire professionals to maintain the building appearance.

To avoid the above scenarios, I recommend you create a “zoned” maintenance plan where you split the showroom up into regions and assign certain duties to your sales and reception staff. Each morning assign a zone to at least one member of the team outlining the areas to be maintained and provide a checklist to ensure everything is in good condition and well organized. More importantly, be sure to be consistent in the execution. At first it might seem like a lot of work but over time it will be very easy for employees to maintain. Remember, you pay them to clean up after themselves.

 

David Romano is the founder of Romano Consulting Group and Benchmarkinc, a group that provides consulting, benchmarking,
recruiting and software solutions to the flooring, home improvement and restoration industries.

 

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Dear David: Managing a business amidst sibling rivalry

July 3/10: Volume 32, Issue 2

By David Romano

 

Dear David:

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.37.51 AMMy father transferred our business to my three siblings and me quite some time ago. We didn’t pay for it and all have equal ownership. I now find myself doing more for the business than my siblings. When I ask them to work harder and play a larger role they throw our equal ownership in my face. I am now considering opening a separate flooring store without them. Do you have any suggestions before I make this decision and cause more conflict?

Dear Owner,

Starting a separate company may cause even more strife than your current situation. The thought of starting a new company may get your heart pumping and sound like a good solution, but when the adrenaline wears off and you are hit with your new reality it may be more than you can handle. If you are the one carrying the largest workload, you will most likely end up with two full-time jobs because completely exiting the family business could cause irreparable harm to your family.

If your father had structured the transfer differently you could have avoided this mess. Not assigning one of you controlling interest is the main issue and is a real impediment to an effective solution. Here are some recommendations:

  • Sit down with your dad and siblings and discuss what you’re feeling. Let them know just how bad it is and that you are considering opening your own flooring store without them. During the conversation ask for a renewed commitment from each sibling. They may not know what they are doing is having such a negative effect on you or the business.
  • If they do commit, define roles and responsibilities. A clear understanding of what is expected is important for everyone whether or not he or she is part of the family. This exercise may be enough to get them re-engaged. You need to define what each should be doing and what each task looks like when done right. Check on their progress in 90 days to ensure no momentum is lost.
  • Make adjustments to how everyone is paid so they are rewarded for their direct effort. Just because you are all equal owners doesn’t mean you all need to receive the same amount of pay. If you all sell, set up a plan where each gets a lower salary and then earns commission or bonus once their salary is covered. If anyone’s function is not sales related, research what his or her position would be paid if you were to hire someone else to do the job. If the position should be paid less, pay them less. If the position should be paid more, pay them more.
  • If all else fails get an objective evaluation of the business done to find out the value of each shareholders’ stake in the business. If some are not willing to pull their weight buy them out. If you do not have enough cash to pull this off, I suggest you look at getting some funding. If you cannot get the funding you may consider buying enough equity from them to gain controlling interest.

Best of luck in this venture, and if you one day find yourself in the same position as your father where you want to transfer the business to your children do not repeat the same mistake. Have them buy into the business, assign controlling interest and be involved in setting clear expectations.

 

David Romano is the founder of Romano Consulting Group and Benchmarkinc, a group that provides consulting, benchmarking, recruiting and software solutions to the flooring, home improvement and restoration industries.

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Dear David: The cost of negotiations

May 22/29, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 25

By David Romano

 

Dear David:
I recently had a discussion with my sales associates about the current mindset of consumers regarding negotiations and the true cost of discounting. They got defensive and said the ability to negotiate is an important tool to closing sales. I disagree but need some advice or data to counter. Can you help?

Dear Owner,
Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.37.51 AMThe most common stories about negotiations seem to center around sitting in front of a car salesman dickering over the price of a new vehicle. Millennials—which will soon become your largest customer base—are used to purchasing everything from music to groceries online and are changing that decades-old model. To accommodate this new type of buyer, more companies are embracing fixed pricing.

Last year Costco struck a deal with General Motor dealerships to sell 465,000 cars at fixed prices. Electric carmaker Tesla has made a practice of it, and other brands like Subaru and Lexus are experimenting with it in certain locations.

One reason is that instead of just dealing with a salesperson, millennials tend to research purchases online, visiting an average of 25 sites. That means they’ve largely made up their minds before they arrive on the lot. If this is happening at car dealerships, one must assume the same can be said for those looking to purchase flooring.

These buyers aren’t looking for a salesman; they’re looking for a customer advocate. The job of your sales team is to build rapport, establish trust, understand the features and benefits of each product and sell on value, not price.

When I owned a flooring company, I’d ask my sales staff: Do you think this customer is going to pay your rent/mortgage this month? Do you think they are going to buy you groceries for the next few months? Are they going to invite you over for dinner and the holidays?

When they’d say no, I’d ask, “Then why are you so willing to give up some of your commission to someone who doesn’t understand your sacrifice and doesn’t care?” I instructed them to stop relying on negotiating and sell on the merit of the product.

According to data from my company Benchmarkinc, the average flooring retailer generates just over $2,600,000 in sales. That company sells products at a margin just under 36%, with an average transaction around $2,200 and closes its opportunities at a rate of nearly 35%. Benchmarkinc is also able to analyze the effect certain practices have on business. Following are the results of allowing sales associates to negotiate: gross profit is 0.4% lower, average transaction is $35 lower and close rate is 0.5% lower.

Those numbers may look small, but the compounding effect is quite large. Based on the numbers above, the average number of opportunities is 3,376. If you take those 3,376 opportunities and close just 0.5% more you would have an additional 17 transactions, totaling 1,199. With an average sale of $2,235 ($2,200 + $35) you would generate $2,679,765 in sales. If you take that $2,679,765 and multiply by the 0.5% increase in gross profit you would have an additional $13,398 in gross profit dollars. For an average store generating $2.6 million in sales the effect is just over $13,000.

You can do the same exercise using an individual sales associate’s numbers and show him how much money he has lost by giving things away at a discount. When your sales team realize how much money they give away to complete strangers, I’m sure they will change their approach to negotiating.

 

 

 

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Dear David: Crafting the perfect job interview

May 8/15, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 24

By David Romano

 

Dear David:
I’m finding that I have to conduct too many interviews before I can fill just one position. It seems like I am wasting time on people who are not even qualified to do the job. Even worse, when I find someone who can do the job they decline the offer. Any ideas?

Dear Frustrated Owner,
Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.37.51 AMKeep in mind that 29% of candidates refuse a job offer because of how poorly the interview went. In order to avoid this, let’s create a protocol for your interviews so you can determine the best hire for your business and stop turning good people away or wasting time. Follow these three tips:

Establish an interview agenda. Build an outline for the entire interview, which should take no more than 45 minutes. Sketch out the framework with a set length of time for each section, covering information about the company, the job scope, position requirements, compensation. Include time to find out about the candidate through probing questions. Reserve a few minutes at the end for question and answer.

Focus on the candidate. Before asking the first interview question, review the job description, especially the hiring criteria, as well as everything the interviewee has submitted: résumé, cover letter, online profile, etc. This allows you to hone in on what you’re looking for in candidates. It should give you:

  • Firsthand information about the candidate’s background, work experience and skill level. It’s your chance to clarify what you learned from the résumé, profile or previous interviews;
  • A general sense of the candidate’s overall intelligence, aptitude, enthusiasm and attitudes, and whether he/she fits the job;
  • The capability to evaluate a candidate’s motivation to tackle job responsibilities, desire to join the company and ability to integrate into the current work team.

Don’t improvise. Prior to the actual interview, write down questions you intend to ask based on key areas of the candidate’s background. While it’s a good idea to have a core list of questions that you ask every candidate, it’s also helpful to jot down some targeted questions for clarification as you review the job description and résumé. Keep your list of questions in front of you during the interview.

Try this technique in your next interview; you will be surprised how much you learn. You can also mix up the types of questions you ask, but ask more open-ended questions since they require more thought on the part of the interviewee and will help he/she open up. Ask two or three hypothetical questions that are framed in the context of an actual job situation. Feel free to ask an off-the-wall question to see how the candidate thinks on his or her feet.

Pay attention to the candidate’s answers; don’t rehearse your next question in your mind. Although you have your questions written down, don’t hesitate to veer from those if you want to reword or follow up on something, or eliminate questions that were already covered.

After you’ve given the candidate a chance to ask questions, close the interview by thanking him/her for his/her time and tell him/her when to expect to hear from you.

As soon as the candidate leaves from the interview, collect your thoughts and write down your impressions and a summary of your notes. Collect feedback from any other interviewers while the interview is fresh in everyone’s mind.

You’ll find that if you focus on your business needs during your interview process you’ll find the best new hire every time.

 

David Romano is the founder of Romano Consulting Group and Benchmarkinc, a group that provides consulting, benchmarking,
recruiting and software solutions to the flooring, home improvement and restoration industries.

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Dear David: Grow your bottom line without increasing sales

April 24/May 1, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 23

By David Romano

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.37.51 AMDear David:
Every time I go to convention, read articles and talk to my membership consultant I hear that I am supposed to have a 10% bottom line. However, I am not even close and I feel I run a pretty tight ship. What is a good bottom line and how can I increase my performance?

Dear Owner,
Increasing your bottom line should be top of mind every day. Getting to that optimal level of performance requires constant monitoring and swift action. It also requires an intermediate understanding of financials, in-depth knowledge of your operating system and the desire to make changes.

A bottom line of 10% is simply a magical number. There is a small percentage of flooring dealers with that level of profitability and most are either very small (less than $1 million) or fairly large (over $15 million). In fact, the average flooring store generates just over $2.6 million in volume with a bottom line less than 1%. The silver lining is the small percentage of top performers generates a bottom line of nearly 12%.

What are the top performers doing differently from everyone else? They are just running a better business. Their sales volume is nearly identical to the average, their gross profit is less than two points greater, but where they really shine is how they control all their general operating expenses. If you want to make more money you need to have better controls/systems and a lot of discipline.

Here are some industry metrics to consider when analyzing your performance:

  • Personnel costs should be no more than 18% of net sales. Top performers show this cost just above 15%.
  • Occupancy costs should be less than 6% of net sales. Top performers show this cost just below 5%.
  • Advertising and promotions should be less than 2.5% of net sales. Top performers show this cost just above 1.5%.
  • Other general and administrative expenses should not be more than 8% of net sales. Top performers show this cost just above 5%.

I would venture to say that if you took all your expenses below the gross profit line and analyzed them, you would find a way to reduce many of those expenditures. Sure, sales and margins are important, but the real opportunity lies in squeezing as much juice from all areas of the business. Following are some places to start:

Telephone. Look at switching cell carriers, transition to a VOIP phone system and limit the amount of data for all cell lines.

Occupancy. Get Nest to help control the climate, look at reducing the frequency of your disposal pickup and reconcile inventory to the proper level to reduce property tax.

Personnel. Analyze your manpower plan to see if you are overstaffed. Do a market compensation audit to ensure you are not overpaying. Switch to a pay-for-performance plan for revenue generating positions, etc.

Advertising and promotions. Review your mix of traditional vs. online media to get the best return on your investment.

General and administrative. Look at those over 20 lines and shave a bit off each. Can you reduce your entertainment budget, office supplies, insurance policies, vehicles, etc.?

I also suggest you enroll in some basic financial and managerial accounting courses. Then spend time going line by line to determine what needs to be done, when and by whom.

 

 

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Dear David: Growing your business begins with leadership

April 10/17, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 22

By David Romano

 

Dear David:

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.37.51 AMI just attended the WFCA University sales management camp. I learned more than I could have ever expected and received a ton of ideas to grow my business. Initially, I was worried about how the staff would take to the change but they all seem excited about a new direction. Now my biggest issue is finding the time to put into action all I have learned.

Dear Overwhelmed Owner,

Every business owner has felt the same way about making considerable changes. The difference between those who get it done and those who wish it could be done is willingness, strategy and trust.

First, you must be willing to step outside what is safe and secure and get comfortably uncomfortable. What you have done or are currently doing may not be the best way to do things, and you must come to that realization. Take the opportunity to implement the tools and systems you learned at the camp and be willing to implement ideas regardless of the hard work involved. Be willing to take some heat from the team when they complain that it requires more work or doesn’t make sense. More importantly, be willing to stop making excuses as to why there is not enough time in the day.

Strategy is where the doers are separated from the dreamers. I challenge you to come up with a way to allocate time each day to implement at least one thing you learned. And most likely that time needs to be spent outside the four walls of your company.

Moreover, I suggest you make working remotely a habit. You should take every other Friday to recharge, strategize and stay away from the store. Think about it: eight hours a week, 26 days out of the year, to get out of the weeds and figure out ways to grow your business is a lot of time. Recent studies have shown that when it comes to creative and strategic work, taking time to recharge and engage with influences away from work boosts overall productivity. Matching company annual revenues to yearly vacation days supports the conclusion that a reasonable amount of time to recharge and relax is necessary to grow a successful company.

Trust is where I see owners struggle the most. They normally fall into what is called the “confidence trap”—thinking they can do anything they set their mind to do. The truth is the stronger an owner’s belief in his ability to control the future, the less profitable the business. This lone wolf tendency is a major occupational hazard for entrepreneurs, since the ultimate success in business comes from building a team and learning how to gain control by growing that team. If you are still struggling with giving up control I ask you to think about raising your child; did you do everything for him until he took off to college? Probably not. The older he got the more you had him do things on his own to prepare him for life’s challenges. The same needs to be done for your team. It is critical you prepare them to function without total reliance on your efforts so you can have both a life and profitable business.

Gaining great ideas—like you did at the WFCA University sales management camp—is the easy part. Doing something with that knowledge is tough. Set your mind that come hell or high water you are going to implement your ideas, carve out the necessary time to get things done and stop doing everything yourself.

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Dear David: Should RSAs generate their own leads?

March 27/April 3, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 21

By David Romano

 

Dear David:
Is it just me or do sales associates seem less motivated these days? It is like pulling teeth to get them to go out and get their own leads. Am I wrong in expecting them to generate their own business? Do you have some techniques that have worked to incentivize them to get out of the store and shake the trees?

Dear Owner,
What you are facing is most likely attributed to generational differences and a flaw in your philosophy. Workers today are much different than those of your generation. Some of the differences are amazing and some can be frustrating. Expecting employees to be “just like you” is not only an unfair request due to these generational differences, but it is also unfair because you are a business owner with different aspirations and priorities.

The bigger concern is your overall philosophy on generating new business. There are two types of people in this world: hunters and skinners. Very rarely do you find a person with both qualities. Most RSAs fall under the category of skinners, people who do a great job with product selection, measuring, quoting, etc. They are content to work with customers to solve a need and be an advisor throughout every step of the process.

A hunter, on the other hand, is someone with a thirst for the thrill of the kill. They want to prospect, close the deal and then go back for more business later. They don’t want to do any of the “mundane” tasks of a skinner. In fact, they are rather bad at that part. These highly specialized individuals make up less than 10% of the population.

You should have your skinners focus on doing the best they can with the customers in front of them. Don’t push them out the door to fumble the ball and ruin any real chance you have of securing new business. However, you are looking for marginal gains and want to feel better about your team driving more business. Here is what I recommend:

  • Have your team ask for referrals. Have them send an email to all closed customers with an attachment explaining your Friends and Family Program, which provides special accommodations to anyone who closed customer refers. All the referred customer needs to do is mention or print out the email to get the accommodation. For the person who provided the referral, they get a store credit for future purchases they can either use or transfer to anyone else.
  • Have them send cards with handwritten envelopes to previous customers inviting them to a special event. Include all customers who have received a quote in the last six months but haven’t yet purchased. Also, include customers who have bought flooring from the store seven-plus years ago.
  • Send a birthday card to the flooring. (Yes, I did just say send a card to the carpet, wood or tile.) Include tips to making sure it is cleaned and properly maintained. This simple, two-minute process will keep the RSA top of mind when there is a flooring need.
  • Have each RSA join local referral groups. A ton of business can be generated over a glass of wine with the girlfriends or having lunch with other businesspeople.
  • Make sure they are active with their online network of friends and colleagues on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. They need to let everyone know where they work and keep them informed of any special events or latest trends.
  • Lastly, make sure they always have business cards to distribute to potential clients.

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.37.51 AMDavid Romano is the founder of Romano Consulting Group and Benchmarkinc, a group that provides consulting, benchmarking, recruiting and software solutions to the flooring, home improvement and restoration industries.

 

 

 

 

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Dead David: How to make customers feel more special

March 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 20

By David Romano

 

Dear David:
I am getting concerned that competing on price and products is getting more and more difficult in the flooring industry. I feel confident we do a better job than most when it comes to installation, but I am not sure if that is enough to attract and retain customers. What would you suggest we do to provide a guest experience that is both different and memorable?

Dear Inquisitive Owner,
Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.37.51 AMGood customer service is expected and necessary for a retail business to thrive. But when we service customers in ways they don’t expect, we create a wow factor that sets us apart from the competition. In today’s retail environment that is a necessity. Customers don’t want their expectations met anymore; they want them exceeded.

This may seem simple and obvious, but in the hustle and bustle of daily work it’s often overlooked. Wowing your customers involves going the extra mile to create a memorable, delightful experience. Satisfy customers by providing the service or product your customers pay for in a timely fashion. Then wow them by going beyond their expectations and provide additional value. Here’s how to do it.

Do what you said you were going to do. The first step to wowing your customers is not upsetting them. That starts with doing exactly what you said you were going to do, without exception. Remember, 95% of issues encountered are directly related to not setting proper expectations. It is important to ensure expectations set by the sales associate and customer flow through quote to installation.

Follow up when they least expect it. If you get the element of surprise on your side, it’s easy to wow a customer. Pick up the phone and ask how everything is going: How was the sales process? How did installers do? Ask for suggestions on how things could have been done better. This has two distinct benefits. No. 1, it lets you know early on if she is having any problems. No. 2, if everything is great the customer has the satisfaction of knowing you’re thinking about her and you care.

Give them more than expected. Everyone loves to feel like they are getting a good value, and any small thing beyond the norm that a business can offer customers is a plus. For example, leave a baggie of grout with the color specified, leave some additional carpet or a few pieces/box of wood for repairs, place a sticky note on her bathroom mirror thanking her for the bathroom project, vacuum the carpet, wear booties, cover the floors, etc.

Offer them something they didn’t know they needed. Here’s your opportunity to consider the upsell, but you can approach it in a delicate way. It’s important to make sure your customer knows about everything you offer, in case she has a need she didn’t realize your company could fill. Sell her area rugs with wood floors, upgrade the cushion to a moisture barrier if she has pets or kids, sell heating elements for cold tile floors, push window coverings or cabinets, etc.

Express your gratitude. There are plenty of creative ways to thank people for their business and it doesn’t have to be complicated to make a big impact. The key is to put in the effort and do it. Send a cookie cake with a thank you message with your logo, give a date night package and if the transaction is large enough a quick vacation getaway which she will always associate with her flooring purchase.

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Dear David: The right way to greet customers

February 27/March 6, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 19

By David Romano

 

Dear David:

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.37.51 AMI held a sales meeting covering the proper ways to greet customers. During that meeting, we did a lot of roleplaying. What I noticed right off the bat was there was no consistency and lots of bias. I understand greetings should not be canned and sales associates should sell the way that makes them comfortable, but is there some standard I can teach them?

Dear Inquisitive Owner,

I first would like to applaud you for conducting a meeting using roleplaying. So many times I hear, and even witness, meetings where videos from 1986 and presentations from 1992 are shown to the sales team in the hopes they will understand how to greet customers. Watching those videos or presentations will never have the same effect as getting them involved in uncomfortable situations where they work out a solution in front of the entire team.

I do agree with your statement that greeting should not be canned; customers see right through that cold and impersonal interaction. It’s like going out to a restaurant and watching the manager ask the same question, “How is everything?,” to all the restaurant guests in the same manner.

Following are elements of a greeting that should be followed religiously:

  • A greeting with a handshake. A handshake can tell you a ton about someone. In one simple, three-second act, you can find out if the customer is dominant, impressionable, sweet or cautious. Knowing the customer’s personality style and adapting your selling style accordingly is what separates a great RSA from an average one. Remember: 20% of what makes a salesperson successful is her skills and knowledge; 80% is her ability to make a connection and build rapport.
  • Making an introduction. It is important to be on a first-name basis with the person who could potentially spend thousands of dollars at your store. That exchange of names should take place sooner rather than later in the sales process.
  • Offer your assistance. This is where you briefly find out what brought the customer in to the store. You can find out all the pertinent details when you offer the customer a beverage and a snack during the qualification process. For example, you might ask, “So, what project are you working on?”

I disagree with the reader’s notion that each sales associate should sell the way that makes her feel more comfortable. The common belief that you should treat others the way you want to be treated might be a good golden rule in life, but it’s not appropriate when it comes to sales. What I propose is, “Treat others the way they want to be treated if you want to be a successful sales associate.”

For example, if the customer is direct the associate needs to conduct himself accordingly. Conversely, if the customer is cautious the sales associate needs to become the expert and build trust. Customers who are sweet and sensitive want a sales associate who shows they are genuinely interested in providing a solution to their issue. Have your sales team take a DISC test to review the various personality styles in order to better understand the concept of relational selling.

Practice these tips and you will find the proper greeting will lead to better close rates, a higher level or return/referral business and more money in your pocket.