Vendors: May we please improve training?

The training quality in our decorative showroom business is all over the place. 

A few companies create solid content, but have not trained their trainers on how to train (Say that fast three times!).

Selling is not like training. They are two distinct talents. Would you let a school teacher sell your portfolio? Other vendors weakly educate the local representative and tell them to go forth and educate all involved. They send them in with catalogs and some samples. 

Really, is that how a brand should be presented?

Here are some notes:

  • No one likes product knowledge trainings. Showroom salespeople are extremely busy and do not want to give up the time during the day. Also, no one wants to come in early or stay late. 
  • Abide by the venture-capital-pitch 30/30 rule. No font should be smaller than 30-point, and no presentation should be longer than 30 minutes. Our minds can only stay focused in a perfect environment for a maximum of 20 minutes. So build a solid 20-minute presentation and have time for questions. Do not overreach! You will not gain a thing. In fact, you will lose what you gained in the first 20 minutes.
  • Do not train on a product that is not yet on display and ready to ship. The salespeople will forget all the information by the time you are ready to receive orders, even if it is just a week away.
  • Beta-test your training content in the field. Present your new training program to a few local showrooms, then note and implement the feedback. 
  • Train your own customer service team first. Present the training draft to them first and gain their feedback. Then, when a showroom salesperson calls with a question that references the training, all are on the same page.
  • Do not hand out any reading material during the presentation. You want the trainees to look at the presenter, not at a price book.
  • Recap, ask questions and offer rewards during the 20-minute training. Questions keep them engaged, and rewards make all stay engaged.
  • Do share samples; A LOT of samples. It is proven if people have product in their hands they will remain engaged.
  • Feed them AFTER the session. If they have food during the session, they will focus on that.
  • Finally, if you really want to do it right, hire a 100% full-time trainer. As we noted above, your talented salespeople and representatives are not always adequate trainers. 

Do you really want to get into an automobile with new brakes that were installed by a mechanic who was trained by the brake manufacturer’s local salesperson? Then why do you ask talented salespeople to educate the salespeople who sell your brand’s story to design and building professionals? 

If your training content and presentation are solid, you’ll always get the best training timeslots and the showroom’s salespeople will gladly attend ready to learn.

A version of this article appeared in the March issue of Supply House Times.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Being Prepared for S L O W

As we’ve said many times here, what will be waiting for us when we are able to leave our homes is a complete unknown. We all know there is some pent-up demand, but how will it come to our stores and factories? When we flip on the lights, will showrooms be overrun by customers and vendors phones ring off the hook? I certainly hope so. That we can handle. We are comfortable with too much business. Working 24/7 is what we do. It’s when things are slow that we struggle. It is easier to work with clients asking questions and placing orders, dictating the workflow. It is far more difficult to sit in a slow office and build and implement a strategy to bring old customers back.

Now that you have time it is best to prepare yourself and your team for both scenarios.

First step is to think of how you will feel and react if all is quiet when you reopen your business. You will be elated at finally getting back to your business, but there might not be any customers. Many unprepared owners will immediately feel frustration, then anger, and then find someone to blame. All of these are logical steps under such circumstances, but they are not constructive and do not have to happen. Take the time now and envision what a slow business reopening will feel like. What will you do? What is your plan to remind your good clients that you are still there and ready to help design new spaces? Spaces that trapped homeowners now dream of and spaces that will perform better should we all have to remain at home again? New spaces that will allow people to go home and feel like empowered, not remind them of these last few weeks. 

Take the time now and build your mindset, strategy and tactics for a boom or bust reopening. If you are prepared, you will not get as frustrated and will have the time and focus to help your team deal with whatever the world has for our businesses. 

This is only round one. How many more trials will Covid-19 take us through, I have not a clue. But I do know that those that take the time to mentally prepare for the roller coaster ahead will come out best. Surprises in business are not always a good thing. Take the time now to be prepared for as many surprises as you can foresee. Best of luck.

A version of this article appeared in the April 24, 2020 Issue of DPHA Connections

Image by TeeFarm from Pixabay 

Does Your Target Market Really Know You Exist?

Working at a store that had opened when Henry Ford was 19 years old, I assumed that everyone in town knew that we sold fine plumbing and hardware.  Boy was I wrong. Even those driving fine automobiles, at gallery walks, and on historic home tours would consistently ask me, “What do you sell there?”  This brings three points front and center; the products we sell are mostly purchased by building and trade professionals, are only purchased a few times in a homeowner’s lifetime, and the DPH industry does not market outside its core customer base very well.  

For centuries, good word of mouth has built many strong brands and it is still the finest marketing tool known to capitalism.  It is simple: do your job well, sell the finest products and support your clients. If all is done to luxury standards, these happy clients will talk to their friends and show off your company’s good work.  But in 2020, the year of the pandemic, is that enough?  

No matter how well we were doing before CV-19 hit, and how proud we are to have withstood 2008’s nasty recession, there are still plenty of well-to-do customers who have never experienced a beautiful entryway with the solid feeling of a mortise lock.  Nor have they enjoyed a well-choreographed DPH designed bathroom. Even if they notice one while visiting a friend or enjoy one at a fine hotel, they do not truly understand the beauty and spa-like amenities until one become part of their own lifestyle.  

From a tactical point of view, if there are potential customers that you are not reaching, eventually another competitor will find them and enter your market.  Once established, that new DPH competitor will also offer your good customers an alternate go-to for DPH products. It all goes back to the old story, if you are number 1, you have to constantly work hard and be smart to remain #1.

Now, with CV-19 affecting your business, you are focused on getting all the business you can remotely while trying to grasp what’s coming next.  Everyday tasks and issues, along with these new concerns, pack your endless days. There is just not enough time to plan and market your story to potential clients. Especially today, with all the print, television, digital and social media options, who knows where to start?  

In my world this is a loud call to find help.  No one can do it all, and for your business to continue to grow it is time to reach out to marketing professionals.  In this digital age, it is not difficult for a DPH company to reach outside of their market to try to capture a few new clients within your market.  Instagram, Facebook and Google have no boundaries, they reach out to whom they are paid to find.

Even if you have been in business since the horse and buggy days, you still need to get the word out.  No one really needs what we offer, but their homes are so much better when we have finished.  Do you want to leave the door open, allowing other showrooms to reach into the market you built?  That is not a risk I would like to take. You have built a successful brand, why not share your story with your entire target market to educate them on how good you really are?

I know it is difficult to admit you cannot do it all and that you really do not completely understand our quickly changing algorithm-run world.  Nor do you want to continually work and study to remain digitally up to date. But there is no excuse for letting the wonderful opportunities those algorithms create slip to a competitor.  Showroom owners must find time to meet and work with people that are deeply knowledgeable about these fantabulous marketing tools and are committed to remaining up to date with the rapid changes and new avenues being created.  

There are many individuals and agencies that offer the talent to help you reach your targeted audience with your compelling story, including some DPHA professional members.  This is not something to ignore or leave to a team member simply because they are Gen-Z and use social media a lot. We have zero idea of what the future will be but, intelligently investing in your brand is a good opportunity. I suggest finding a professional, paying a professional and reaping the benefits from a professional. Then you will be ready to roar when people are looking for the best partners to make their home luxurious. 

Related Reading:

From Business of Home, 

Decorators Best dragged fabric makers online. Now the site is their biggest customer

Photo by Leonardo Gonzalez from Pexels

Who Are You Partnering With?

There’s a hush all over the business world, giving us an opportunity to look at places we can improve and discover new avenues to success.

Let’s all agree; you want to market your luxury business to the top interior designers, architects, builders and stylish homeowners in your market.  So, what road do you take? Do you wade into social media on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok? How about joining the digital marketing world and improving your website to best in class.  Set up your digital ad spend on Google? Or do you meet with the local luxury showrooms that do not directly compete with you to work out ways you can build your brands together, focusing on keeping these wealthy folks from traveling to the major design centers and making them understand that their own luxury community has what they desire.

Where else do you go to share your brand’s captivating stories? Do we dive into the local social-digital worlds, or meet our wealthy and stylish clients in their world? What are the popular fine restaurants, elegant home-furnishings store and art galleries that always host the packed open houses?  If any of these are lacking a beautiful bathroom and equally elegant entry door hardware, there is an opportunity to meet your targeted customer. Working with businesses that also target your market can increase both brands’ reach. Might the gallery want to hang a few pieces in your showroom? At your next event, does that restaurant offer a catering service?  Does the fine furniture store have some pieces that would look great in your showroom? When you create a cool bathroom, all involved can plaster it all over Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest. It’s all a circle.  

Take a moment and list the trade showrooms in your market that your designers, architects and builders rely on.  Then add the retail businesses that cater to the well-to-do. Restaurants, surface showrooms, clothing stores, elegant spas and auto dealerships.  One of the finest bathrooms I have ever seen was the men’s room in an Audi dealership. Black steampunk fixtures highlighted a well-thought-out promo piece.  It stuck in my mind.  

Another, mostly forgotten product placement opportunity is fine salons and day spas.  They are a beehive of pampering and style: if the bathrooms are not a point of conversation, you should make them so.

Think creatively and barter with these companies to help them improve their store’s customer experience.  These are businesses that thrive on people who want the best, and we all know what a few carefully chosen cabinet knobs can do for a kitchen. Form a luxury service community; us against them.  Help these local partners in luxury products and service set up elegant bathrooms and place your brand’s logo tastefully on the mirror and on the inside of the door. Visitors will not miss it.  

All brick and mortar businesses are under attack from competition, the new generations‘ changing tastes and now this virus.  So why not work together? You are stronger going into a battle with allies. Put your business in the best possible position to succeed by leveraging you and your newfound local partners’ strong brands. Why Not?

Finally:  We are in a completely unknown business environment and speaking with people in your local market that target your key customers can be a very good thing.  You will likely discover their fears are similar to yours, and by working together you will all emerge better prepared to kick ass when we are allowed to build beautiful buildings.  

For the time being, please talk to many…while staying at least 6 feet away.

P.S. Vendors, At a past luxury brand, we considered these installations a display and priced it as aggressively as possible.  It was my mentor Alfred R. Dubin’s idea and he was 100% correct. From Beverly Hills to the upper east side of New York City, Phylrich had beautiful working displays in some of the most expensive real estate in North America.  It paid off handsomely.

Photo by Felix Ramirez from Pexels

How To Leverage Your Brick and Mortar Brand Online

Okay, we all are cooped up at home. Our normal workflow is gone and some of us are making busywork so we feel productive and to keep us from going bonkers.

Now that you have both a clear mind and time, let’s look into some new ways to grow your business. Have you ever thought to leverage your brick and mortar brand and go big time e-commerce? Have you thought about setting up or expanding your online store?

Why not? You know your business and your customers are already online purchasing and researching everything they can, and right now they are all stuck at home. By simply leveraging your day-to-day brick and mortar showroom business you can be THE player online.

Before building your online business plan, let’s dig deep to make sure your plan covers all affecting factors. Below are some questions that are not always included in online e-commerce business plans that are leveraging a successful brick and mortar showroom.

Please take a moment to review your target online customer and their unique needs. Keep in mind that your target customer in this instance is likely your current showroom customers, as they can’t access your showrooms right now. You may not even need to be fully e-commerce, but simply allow your clients to browse on your site and then receive a call or email from your showroom staff who may be working remotely.

  1. Why are you adding an online purchase point to your retail showroom?
    1. Make life easier for your current customers
    2. Reach new customers that only shop for your core products online
    3. Create a new online brand that focuses on a special niche of your product mix that you think offers an online opportunity
  2. What special terms will your online customers be looking for that you might not be currently offering in your brick and mortar showrooms? 
    1. Free freight
    2. Expedited delivery
    3. Free returns on all products
  3. What factor will you use for marking up prices from your cost?
  4. Will you have to increase your inventory to meet your online customer’s perceived needs?
  5. What kind of customer service will they expect?
    1. Email and text only
    2. Personal telephone support
    3. AI chatbot with personal chat support
    4. Any mix of the above
  6. Will you have to add any people?
  7. What do your direct competitors offer?

I suggest you take the time to answer these questions. With this information you will be able to build a better selection site that will delight your customers. After all, if you build a go-to site you will have added another quality way for your customers to interact with brand.

P.S.: In the e-commerce world it is easier to start small with one profitable, underserved product niche. This path allows you and your team to market your E-store to a needy market and learn the unique challenges of the e-commerce game. Those that open their E-stores with thousands of SKUs covering many product categories can get quickly overwhelmed and damage the brand they worked so diligently to build.

Good Luck and keep sane…

A version of this article was included in DPHA’s newsletter Connections.

COVID-19 Opp: It’s A Good Time to Communicate with Your Customers & Improve Your Team

As I was reading the Monocle Minute’s update on Italy’s CONVID-19 situation, this paragraph popped out: “La Scatola Lilla, a bookshop in Milan, might be closed but the bookseller, Cristina di Canio, isn’t on holiday. Instead she is recommending a book a day and taking orders for free home deliveries.”  

Yes, the next few months will be rough, but there are opportunities to be had. Customers may not feel comfortable coming into your showroom or office. Why not ask them if you can deliver samples for a meeting and sit in to help present your part of the job?  This can be at their office or at their client’s preferred location. This is a good time to show how you can support your loyal clients. 

If they are also slow, ask them if they have time to talk about your shared business. This is a great opportunity to gather information on your product mix, service and sales support. They might be interested in you training their team on key product categories. This can be done in person or via Skype, FaceTime, Zoom or any other digital video conferencing tool. 

If your showroom slows down, this becomes a good time to improve your team. Reach out to manufacturers to see if they have time to do a video PK. These don’t have to be in person!  There is a plethora of video classes on everything from sales to AI. You could take a few key personnel, put them in the conference room and play a video discussing sales techniques and follow up with a round table discussion.

This is a challenging time and you cannot wait for your customers to come back to you. This is a good time to reach out to those customers that do not buy from you.  You just might get the attention and earn a new customer. In slow times it is those think creatively that will emerge with a stronger business. 

P.S: Should you like any suggestions on videos do use with your staff please email me

Image by www_slon_pics from Pixabay

To Sell Products To Experience Junkies, Tell Them Stories

It is all about the experience economy.  Millennials would rather buy an experience versus buy a product and they love the journey involved discovering those experiences. An experience that is memorable and that they will relish. 

These are the last of the mall kids.  Everyday they ventured to the mall to experience life with their friends.  Not to shop but to be together and share wild stories of what they will do in the future.  They have matured, they have replaced those daily dream sessions with a passion to make dreams realities.  They desire to encounter the new, the unique and the thrilling. They want experiences they will always remember and can share with their tribe.  Clothes fade from style, cars degrade and cheapen and rented homes can be vacated at a moment’s notice. They are so temporary. Our minds stay true to our viewpoint.  What we wanted to recall about our trip to some exotic destination remains in glorious images. The bad hotel and that one meal that made you sick have been minimized or recast as comedies.  The trip in our mind was WON-DER-FUL.

That is what the next luxury monied generation is: experience junkies.  And that is a good thing. They are not looking for the products that are sold in Home Depot, Macy’s and the local supermarket.  They are searching for stores that offer an always changing palette of small manufacturers and importing vendors that are centered on creating new looks or innovative ways for a product to function.  These stores will remain the destination when Millennial, Y and Z generation are looking for special products to transform spaces in their home into a unique experience from themselves and their guests.  It is about making a statement.  

That is the future of non-price-competitive retail.  New, different and sometimes challenging products. All selected with a story to move it far away from the expected and everyday.  A product with a memorable experience to share.

Image by Diego Delso at Creative Commons

Team Building: How You Open Dictates Where You Will Finish

Every morning, do your teams come to work ready to perform their creative best? Do they have a game plan in mind?

This morning each team member is gearing up for the day ahead. Some of the sales team are passionately ready to go, others are busy chatting away while others are deeply engrossed on one of their screens. Every person has their morning ritual, but does it really prepare them for the day ahead? How about adding a quick morning meeting designed to start the day and help each team member focus on what they will accomplish?

Before outlining our rousing morning agenda, let’s look at some brain research.

Really smart people have proven that small daily wins offer our brains similar rewards to winning a six-figure bid. It’s also said that any defeat is twice as powerful as any win. Yes, people can land a good quote in the morning, then have their day trashed by an ultra-picky complaint from a customer. The sooner you can talk out the negative incident and celebrate the win, the better your team members will feel. Plus, this venting will free their mind to create a positive focus for the day ahead. People are so much more creative when they are in a positive frame of mind.

“But it isn’t just the person who shows up to tell their story most often who wins. It’s the person who has the patience and empathy to understand the story they tell must serve the people they want to matter to.”  – Bernadette Jiwa from The Story of Telling

It takes a clear, attentive mind to comprehend and process a customer as they describe their vision for their dream room. A brief, focused meeting every morning will help alleviate lingering negative feelings, celebrate the positive and get the team primed for the day ahead.

“Positive feedback is a signal to the brain to do more of something. When we acknowledge, we highlight the behaviors we want to see more of, and at the same time, we build the other person’s confidence and certainty around what they are doing well.” – David Rock, founder of the Neuroleadership Institute

There are many ways to organize these meetings. One simple way is to first ask each team member individually to share one negative thing that stands out from yesterday (or their last shift). Once all have processed their individual bad juju, ask each member for a positive event from the day. Now you have replaced any negative feelings with positive ones. To kick off the day, ask each person for one task they want to accomplish today. Simple and quick. Now they all are leaning more positive and focused on the opportunity-rich day ahead.

These start-the-day meetings also offer managers quality insight into each member of their team, as well as what is happening in their department. Take the time to note who needs an individual attaboy, who deserves a big high-five for a good effort, or who might need help on a large project.

Everyone will start the day having vented and been applauded. Not a bad way to prepare your team to be at its creative best for the day ahead.

A version of this article was included in DPHA’s newsletter Connections.

Being listened To Can Also Be Transformative For All Involved.

We all know if we listen effectively, we will better understand our clients and partner’s thoughts, needs and desires.  This knowledge will help us expand our knowledge and create great solutions.

The other wonderful benefit of listening effectively is how it engages and rewards the person you are listening to.  They are immediately flattered. Think how you feel when someone attentively listens to you. You feel that what you are saying has meaning.  When people know you are listening to their every word, they will feel more comfortable sharing information with you. They will then repay you by listening carefully to your thoughts.  This forms a strong partnership of understanding and trust.  

Listening well is a powerful talent no matter your job and improves with constant practice.

Suggest reading: 4 Exercises That Prove Listening Matters by Allison Press from the IDEO Blog

Good Product Design Delivers Twice

A company discovers an opportunity for a new product!  They first investigate thoroughly, define the target market, set a budget, and send the complete spec to the design and engineering teams.  They craft what they feel is the best product to dominate the defined opportunity. This design is then sent back upstairs to marketing, sales and finance.  This product is reviewed to make sure it can be promoted, it will sell and it will be within budget parameters. STOP. This is where badly designed products start their lives.  

Have we not all agreed that groupthink does not produce the best results?  Do we not tirelessly quote Henry Ford about faster horses and Steve Jobs on how the public cannot see its future?  All the people from sales, marketing and finance are so wrapped up in their immediate worlds, they are just as myopic as John Q. Public.  Is this really the correct path to create the go-to product for your target market?

The best way to woo customers to your brand is with innovative, beautiful and highly functional products.  Your new product’s look catches a person’s eye, they investigate and bring it home. They use it and are impressed with the experience.  Next, they do the greatest thing of all…they tell their friends and family. They extoll your product’s unique style and commend its functionality.  They have become your early adopter and will be on the lookout for your brand’s next cutting-edge product release.

Would you rather be competing against a product made in a cheap labor factory and sold at rock bottom price?

Risk is a four letter word that can lead to Wow, good, okay, bad and train wreck.

On the other hand, playing it safe mostly leads to okay and bad.  

Please manage this process with the goal of the best product.  Not the best product possible product created within the constraints of sales, marketing and finance.    Even if you have to price the item a bit more than the projected optimum estimated price point. Play the long term game.  When the early adopters get on board and share their enjoyable experiences,price limitations will fall away. I think it is worth the risk.

What game do you want to play?

Related Reading: from Fast Company, Jonathan Ive & Marc Newson comment on today’s design process

Image by FaceMePLS via Wikimedia Commons