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Al's column: Managing multiple generations in the workplace

June 5/12, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 26

By Matt Beaudreau

 

(First of two parts)

Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 10.52.32 AMAcross many businesses today—including the flooring industry—there are as many as five generations working together. That’s a phenomenon unprecedented in the history of the U.S. workforce. This represents both a challenge and an opportunity. I will share some insights about how the flooring industry can work collaboratively across the various generations to improve communication and work processes.

First, it’s important to understand how the different generations think before beginning to understand their views on work. The parents of millennials, for example, are predominantly boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964). I often make fun of them in my presentations, but the fact of the matter is they have a lot of the skills we [millennials] don’t have. What everyone needs to understand about the baby boomers is they were taught to measure work ethic in terms of hours per week—and those hours do not count unless they can physically see you. That’s why they get to work so early. Boomers also believe there are not shortcuts to success. They believe you have to put in your dues and have policies, processes and procedures.

As a manager or co-worker, if you’re dealing with the boomer generation, you need to acknowledge the time they’re putting in—not just that week but over the course of their career because there is a lot of wisdom there. Also, they are the only generation that can think in a linear fashion, which is a helpful skill if you have a project where you’re looking to make something more efficient.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 3.49.34 PMNow let’s talk about millennials. This is not only your greatest group of customers but they are also now your largest group of employees. That being said, it’s important to dispel a common myth about millennials: They are not ‘tech savvy,’ as many people like to believe. Actually, they have no idea how technology works; they just know they can’t live without it. Rather, millennials are ‘tech dependent.’ That’s a critical distinction you have to make. As an employer of millennials, you also need to understand this: A generation that is tech dependent partially defines their relationship with you as a boss and with you as a company based on their technological relationship with you.

Then there’s ‘Gen Z,’ which is coming up right behind the millennials. They’re also tech dependent, but they paid attention to what the millennials went through. For example, they saw millennials get crushed under college debt, so for the most part they are picking less expensive colleges. That’s part of the reason why they are coming out of college with a lowered expectation of the workplace—which is great news for employers. In addition, Gen Zers tend to be very entrepreneurial and innovative, and they’re very hard working.

If you manage or work alongside millennials and Gen Zers, you need to understand the ways they prefer to communicate.

No. 1: Text messaging. Millennials hate detailed voice messages; they’re not going to listen to them. No longer is it considered unprofessional to text your boss or co-workers.
No. 2: Email. The magic for email is the subject line. What’s in there will determine if the employee is going to open the email in the first place. Use quick bullet points to get to the point.
No. 3: Social media. The shift has happened (similar to the move from radio to TV). Communication is all about getting attention.
No. 4: Telephone.
No. 5: Face to face.
Many millennials have degrees in communications, but eye contact freaks them out.

 

Matt Beaudreau is a certified keynote speaker at The Center for Generational Kinetics, headquartered in Austin, Texas. He is a millennial who has a reputation as a thought leader amongst his generation.

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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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Dear David: Sales associates vs. measure guy

January 30/February 6, 2017: Volume 31, Number 17

By David Romano

Dear David:
Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 3.15.31 PMI lost one of my sales associates and if I continue to have the salespeople measure their own jobs I am afraid the floor will be short until I find someone and get them trained. I have a retired installer I can get to go out and do the measures for my whole team. If I use him I won’t have to hire a new salesperson. What should I do?

Dear Torn Owner,
I can understand your dilemma and in the short-term you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Leaving the floor short could cause its own set of problems while having a measure person can create an entirely different set of issues.

I think the most important thing to keep in mind is what is best for the customer. If you were the customer, would you rather have the initial salesperson complete your measure or have someone you have never met enter your home to measure your project?

Better yet, in a recent study completed by the WFCA consumers reported a 20-point decrease in their propensity to make a purchase or refer a friend when the sales associate did not complete the measure. Once the connection was broken and another person entered the scene the customers were less likely to seal the deal.

I am heavily in favor of sales associates completing their own measures because the benefits are quite staggering. Close rates are nearly 10 points higher and average tickets increase by almost $300. However, to achieve those results sales associates must be properly trained, spend enough time building rapport with the customer, use the correct technology and do the job right. Having someone complete the measure who is ill prepared or cannot allocate the right amount of time to do a proper job is counterproductive.

According to the same WFCA study, the majority of measures lasted less than 20 minutes. 32% of Independents took over 20 minutes and only 22% of big boxes took over 20 minutes. Not surprisingly both groups scored poorly on the in-home experience. How much rapport can be built in 20 minutes? This is a great chance to get to know the customer and make a genuine connection. It is also a great opportunity to measure the entire home just in case she is thinking of other flooring projects in the near future.

Here are the negatives. Statistically speaking the gross margin, when sales associates do their own measures, decreases by nearly one point. However, even though the jobs become less profitable, the offset in increased close rates and spike in the average sale more than make up for gross margin deficiency.

There are ways to counter this problem. First, properly train your sales associates. Have them test measure areas in the store and present you with quotes for multiple surfaces. Also, allow them to shadow another sales associate on in-home measures until they are comfortable on their own. Second, have them use a measuring software coupled with a Disto laser to produce accurate measures.

The biggest advantage to your sales associates completing the measure versus a measure guy is the ability to quote in the home and seal the deal right then; hence the 10-point increase in close rates.