|I hope everybody had a lovely Thanksgiving. A wonderful holiday allowing American families to pause for one day to celebrate the passing year’s blessings. Then consume mass quantities of delicious food. |
As Thanksgiving fades into memory, Christmas Day is on its way. The massive barrage of advertisements for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday have passed and they have been replaced by a consistent torrent of emails, ads and banners telling me that I can only have XX% off if I buy now! It is all so annoying.
Outside of that noise, I do enjoy holiday shopping. I love to discover just the right gift for my family and friends. Each gift I select has deep logic behind it, and I know it is something they never would purchase for themselves and will treasure for years. I hope to watch them peel back the shiny paper and see a bit of delight on their faces when they discover what it is. I love that look! Then sometimes they unwrap the gift and look at me, what the….? Off to the return counter.
The important thing is that my time searching, not dealing or discounting, is time that I spend thinking about the wonderful people in my life and in small, very small, way give them a bit of Holiday joy.
Ohh, P.S. As the 2019 Holidays pass, all will turn to talking about 2020. Before that happens, find a moment and congratulate yourself, yes you, for all the hard work you did in 2019. Every once in a while, it is good to look in the mirror and say, great job, well done! Cheers
It is the third Tuesday of the month and as usual, this outside salesperson will be visiting account ABC at 9am, DEF at noon for lunch, LMN at 2:30 and finish the day at XYZ at 4:00.
This looks great. During a full day of outside calls, you have the chance to tell your brand stories to your targeted customers. That’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s hit the road. One question: are you prepared?
Some interesting questions to ask before you schedule any and all outside calls:
- Do they know you are coming?
- What do you want to accomplish at each call?
- Do you have plenty of samples to share?
- Have you checked the companies’ websites and social media posts to know what they are working on and promoting?
- What happened on your last call there? Did you review your notes?
- What have been your company’s interactions with each customer since that last call? Do you need to bring any parts or soothe any ruffled feathers?
- DO THEY KNOW YOU ARE COMING?
This call routine was the first thing that was drilled into my head by my mentor, Al Dubin. If I couldn’t answer all of these questions, Al told me to get back in that chair! Unprepared salespeople were his number one pet peeve. R-E-S-P-E-C-T your customer and do your homework. You have to give to get.
|I am still amazed at how often salespeople, sales managers and local representatives would stop by with no plan, no product samples and no idea of what was going on with our shared interests. |
They would show up when staff was busy selling, purchasing agents purchasing, designers pitching, plumbers fighting inspectors and builders trying to find subcontractors. They would drop in at 11ish just to say hello and see if there were any issues or questions. People, time is incredibly valuable for all involved and must be used effectively. Put simply, no one should call on anyone if they do not have an appointment and a beneficial agenda for all parties involved.
Management has to be on top of this. Every sales call made should align with your company’s focus and what your marketing team is promoting. It is amazing what a company can accomplish when all the teams have the same game plan.
Let’s stop unprepared calls; take that time and generate the quality and additional sales from your showroom visits that you and your clients expect and deserve.
|A version of this article appeared in the December 6, 2019 issue of DPHA’s Connections|
We all know that Nike has parted ways with Amazon. It was all over the news last week and for a short time people will still go to Amazon to find Nike products and only see what resellers have to offer. Eventually the world will go to Nike.com for its brilliantly designed and marketed products. So no big deal – click Amazon for Nike wrong, click Nike for Nike. And so it goes. Heavens No!
Okay hold on to the guard rails. All of these players would absolutely thump me in any form of intelligence test but it is the age of self publishing, and heck, you read this much.
In the Amazon sales model it relies on the universal knowledge that they have everything and at the best price. And if that branded item’s Amazon price is a bit too high for your budget…well, Amazon offers these perceived lesser brands’ products and if that is still a bit too steep, we have our “in-house” brand. So Amazon makes money on every sale and the bait, the big brand (Nike) gets zip. This is the exact same path that Home Depot followed. They did not want the residential brands, they wanted the professional brands. The brands your local home center did not have. Then Home Depot beat up every brand for a better price. Sound familiar?
If brands feel they can do well without Amazon’s web site, and this is very important, their last mile solution, then why do they need this e-store? Nike now knows they have solved those issues and believes that its customers would rather shop at Nike.com than purchase on Amazon.com. That is the differentiating factor, buy versus shop.
I believe that people do not shop on Amazon, they hear about, read about, need something and they hit the easy button and buy. It is just that simple and vulnerable. It is not only easy for the purchaser but also the web site that hosts the article about the book that the reader now wants to buy. Add a rewarded hyperlink and easy button. If Highsnobiety reviews a new Nike sneaker, they have to think new and link to Nike, not Amazon. So do Adidas, Puma, et al stay with the old answer? Capitalist Game On. For the big brands.
In the early days, Amazon was it and the brilliant Mr. Bezos got that and started the day 1 flywheel. One of his moonshots is actually a moon shot, now that is vision. But nothing lasts forever if it stays stagnant. Yes, Amazon’s web site is stagnant. Its key selling points to brands and manufacturers is its huge following and a culture changing last mile solution. Big things but not everything.
So the questions: Can big, well known and respected brands leave Amazon? Can UPS, FedEx and other delivery services effectively pick up the slack? And finally, Has Amazon.com peaked?
More to come.
I would love to hear your comments on this rant.
Some other interesting articles:
- From VOX: Nike’s breakup with Amazon is a lose-lose situation for everyone — including you penned by Jason Del Rey
- From Quartzy: Nike’s digital strategy is to treat everyone the way it treats sneakerheads by penned by Marc Bain
- Frome Fortune: Nike and Adidas Are Caught Between China and the NBA. That’s Fine With Li Ning penned by: Grady McGregor
Original Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Earlier I wrote an article with the opening line, “So why is it that 47% of top interior designers purchase products online?” and most of your comments were that the websites offered free freight and lower prices. Wake up gang, that isn’t the major reason designers are buying online. We are losing more business to digital savvy designers that are specifying and buying on the Internet. Jobs that we will NEVER know about. Sure, there are top shelf luxury designers that are price obsessed, but most are looking for easy access to information when and where they want it.
Every time you lose a job to a low-ball bid, you hear about it directly from your customer. It hurts badly and sticks in your mind! All that time, all that effort, amounted to nothing. What about the job at that same design house that was completely specified and purchased online? You knew absolutely nothing about it and were not involved at all. What is worse for your business, losing a job to a low balling #@!*#**, or never getting a whiff of a large job as it was all worked on online?
After the recession, website companies remained unsophisticated and price was their key advantage. The surviving sites, and new designer-oriented sites, offer an addictive combination of an easily navigable user interface and anywhere, anytime accessibility with live solid phone and chat support. This is why talented designers are working on these sites. It has absolutely nothing to do with price. Do not mix these two up. Price competition is not going away, but in the luxury market it is not as big an issue as we portray it. People will take the easiest path first.
If a customer comes in and says they want to order a $6,000 list bathtub from lowestofthelow.com, just let them. Make a note on your calendar to check back when the job is trimming out and ask how that worked out. I think you will remind them not to do that again. I suggest not fighting individual pricing debates, unless it happens often. There will always be sites and stores that offer silly pricing. It is really not worth your team’s time, and you are worth your profit. Take the energy and focus it on the future.
I was not aware how many talented designers were specifying products online until we started to receive RFQs that were 100% built on websites. When we reached out to these good clients, they told us it was nothing against our team or showrooms, it was that our website was hard to work. So they matriculated their favorite brands’ websites that offered them the intuitive interface they craved. Now that hurt. We did everything right except offer our good customers the tools they wanted.
We have to believe and think big. Big like when you opened our business. We knew everyone would come because our look was so damn good. Let’s take that same attitude and build magnetic web sites.
Note: Please take another look at the proposed strategy in an earlier post. “So why is it that 47% of top interior designers purchase products online?” It offers a few tips.
A version of this article appeared in the November 256 issue of DPHA Connections.
If a solid vendor releases a new product, put it on display. No debate. Get it on the floor ASAP!
It is not about your taste, your style or what you think is hot. How many times have you heard the phrase, “I cannot believe they bought that!” There are fabulous tightly-focused luxury showrooms that are directly reflective of its owners’ style.
Roman and Williams Guild is directly derivative of the design style of the Robin Standefer and Stephen Aleshch. They curate the store’s collection of just about everything for the home with their style filter. This curation is also seen at stores such as Room & Board, Rejuvenation Hardware and Blu Dot Design.
They all have their design niche and stick to it. However, if you are to succeed in one or two home product groups, such as luxury plumbing and hardware, be known to have all the latest and greatest. How many times have I heard a showroom saying, “No one will buy that,” and it ends up being the hot look for the year. The truth is we do not have any idea what Mr. and Mrs. Smith will fancy, but it is up to us to make sure we can find it.
Sure some of the new designs die ugly deaths, but that is not the point. If you think every brand always hits the right note, think again. I am not going to dig deep here, but I would postulate that if a designer or go-to vendor hits one out of four, they are in rarified air.
Our market is too small to only show Euro-modern or transitional. At Phylrich, the great dolphin and swan series only accounted for 2% of product sales, but 7% of dollar sales. We never know what look will ignite a passion in a client. Show the new as long as you can. If it is only a fabulous dust collector, then move on. But if it hits a certain cord, Wahoo.
If I am a successful distributor of a quality company and they invest all the money and time to create a new product line, I will put it on display. In fact, we had the rule with our good representatives that if this brand introduces a new product, get it on order. We wanted to be the first in town to display its new look.
P.S. Vendors: If your good distributors follow this path, you should make sure they are supported in their willingness to get your new products on display. A DPH vendor’s best marketing is making sure the best salespeople in the best showrooms have its latest and greatest on display. Without the display, sales are tough.
Except for a few heavyweights, luxury DPH showrooms are poor marketers. Yell and scream all you want, but it is true. It’s not that we cannot market. We do not have the funds to do so. Five percent of $15 million is a lot less than 5% of $100 million. Heck, running a basic digital marketing package runs between $7,000 to $10,000 a month, not including website maintenance. To reach the design and building trade along with the interested homeowner takes coordination between factory and showroom. Both need to work together to get the word out.
Our strong calling card to our design and trade accounts is our function and deep product knowledge. If the Smiths want a faucet they saw in Domus magazine that is manufactured in Denmark and not yet available in North America, we get it.
If it is out there, we will find it and make sure it will work as specified.
If it is new, show it and share the story with anyone and everyone.
Anonter version of this post appeared in the November issue of Supply House Times.
Everyday your showroom sends out products to finish up a job. They range from the final 3 cabinet knobs on a simple kitchen upgrade to finally delivering the wall accessories on a wonderfully large home. But once those products are installed, your showrooms starts to fade from your client’s memory. They will not be visiting your showroom next week or next month. In fact, the homeowner might not need your expertise for a year or two or even longer. Your challenge is to make sure you remain front and center in their mind for years to come when it comes to all things decorative plumbing and hardware. They may remember your business, but if some new “shiny new” company pops up or a friend works with a competitor, your brand will likely slip their mind.
Sixty days after the job has been completed, I suggest mailing the homeowners a simple thank you postcard from the point sales person. Nothing elaborates, just your brand on the front and a handwritten thank you on the back with an image of the salesperson. Then every quarter, send a simple postcard with four images of new products recently added to your showroom along with your logo to their home address. On the back, add a handwritten commentary on those new products, an image of the point salesperson and an invitation to stop by any time. That’s it. Don’t over think it. The recipient will probably quickly look at one side, flip to the other side and then spin it into the trash, but they will see a familiar face and a brand they know.
“Snail-mail” is not what it used to be, but it still offers communication opportunities that the digital world cannot match.
P.S. Only send postcards, since thank you cards in envelopes have to opened and read. That might not happen. Keep-It-Simple.
Have an elegant soirée to attend? Do you have the right outfit? One that expresses your style and attitude? What’s a person to do? RENT! Point your browser to Rent-The-Runway and you and Chanel are off to the ball.
Renting instead of buying is nothing new; my father and I would often go to Sam’s Uhaul and rent tools to help us keep our yard presentable. In the 60’s, people did not own large, powerful gardening tools. Today, we fill our garages and outdoor sheds with equipment used just once or twice a year. People wanted to own “stuff” and it had to be professional quality. We stopped renting. Now, the tide seems to be turning.
Today, if you want that special tool, Google will find it and with a few clicks, it will be delivered to your door. Then, when your yard work is complete, tech will whisk it away, saving you money and space in your garage. Tech makes renting so easy, why buy? Do you really need all those tools and toys in your garage?
Uber did not invent taxi service, they made it easier. At the tap of your finger, Uber directs the closest driver to pick you up and deliver you to your destination. Not only is Uber easy, it is so easy that it has become a viable alternative to owning your own vehicle. Your pristine speed demon sits 80% of the day depreciating. In fact, if you do take a long drive now and then, it is less expensive to rent a car than to drive your own car. Do we really need two cars in our garage (if there’s even room in your garage!)?
New to the rental game is Feathers furniture. Feathers believes people do not really want to own expensive furniture pieces and lug them from house to house. If you move into a new abode, they will simply pick up the old and send the new selections to your new space with no delivery charges. If you grow tired of of the furniture you selected, they will change the pieces out at no change. In 2018, Waverly and Ikea sold just shy of 15 billion dollars of furniture in the US. Do you think Feathers VC’s might profit from their investment?
Is this the tipping point where we own less and rent when we need a specific product or service? In many instances it makes so much more sense to rent versus own. If an item costs $150 to buy brand-new or $35 to rent, as the old saying goes, if I use it 4 times I break even. Is investing in those “IF”s a good investment strategy?
A few relevant links:
- Macy’s, JC Penney, Banana Republic: Will Used Clothes And Subscriptions Help?, MediaPost
- THREDUP Site
- Lord & Taylor Will Be Sold to Le Tote, a Clothing Rental Start-Up, New York Times.
- Le Tote Site
Image courtesy of Ksenia Sergeeva via Pixabay
Your inside showroom sales person is finishing up a great meeting, their client is nodding like a bobble head and a HUGE order is now in play. Then, the sales person says goodbye and walks straight to their terminal to check their email and text messages. What? With all that knowledge and information flowing fresh in their mind, they shift gears and go to email?
And yes, many outside sales people do the same thing. They give a killer presentation at a top design firm’s office, then wander back to their car, checking email and text messages. Once done with that task, they simply start their car and drive to the next appointment. AGGHHH! Maybe, just maybe, they will review their notes and meeting memories before they go to bed tonight.
As both persons described above fiddle with their email and text messages, all that profitable information from their sales calls begins to diminish. Honestly, we really have to save all those wonderful stories, action items and product notes noted ASAP in order to be completely accurate. Sure, they took “detailed” meeting notes, but no one can write everything completely and correctly. Good sales people are listening, thinking and talking. With all that going on, even the best sales people will miss valuable pieces of information.
Our short-term memory is designed to help us survive life-or-death circumstances – it is not programmed to recall that the designer we talked to is starting a large job in November. That has no short-term value and your brain knows that, so the memory can very well slip away. Everyone needs to make it a habit to stop and review their notes, both written and remembered, and if remembered, that important information should be recorded as quickly as possible.
At your next sales meeting, take a moment to work with your associates to try and break this habit. Many may most likely fire back that they have to make sure their other customers have not been trying to reach them with a monumental catastrophe. The simple response is that the just-concluded meeting may have taken a few hours, so another 30 minutes shouldn’t make a difference. However, if the meeting notes are incorrect or incomplete, they might indeed be creating a monumental catastrophe for the future.Endeavor to make it a habit that your sales team always takes the time after a meeting, call or training session to review and edit their notes. Then give it one more go-over. Now, they are set up to slam dunk this opportunity.
Also published on the Decorative Plumbing & Hardware Association’s Connection s Blog: Welcomed Thoughts from a Fellow (Jeff Valles): Do Your Sales People Really Have All The Story?
Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.-John Kenneth Galbraith
“We can’t change that. Really, what are you thinking? That has done nothing but make money for us. I see no reason to change.” Sound familiar?
We loathe change and will protect our past decisions to avoid replacing a product, brand or process with something new. Change is even more difficult as a business owner, so much more. You not only need to handle change, you must decide what to change, when to change and how to change. The always intimidating triple-whammy.
We all know change is hard but if we do not improve our businesses it will become irrelevant to our customers. We need to grit our teeth and fully accept change, aggressive change. Change must become a major part of our business planning structure.
This level of change is necessary for two market driven reasons. First, we are in the luxury business. A business where yesterday’s hot profitable products will be copied by many. This diminishes its glow with luxury’s progressive product seekers and its profit will slide to commodity levels. Secondly, the 21st century is about how tech can make business better. In fact, quite a few learned people think all businesses must fundamentally be a tech business first, market-looking second. Might your next showroom be a new website?
In decades past, we walked into our businesses asking what was broken and needed to be fixed. Today, we need to ask what is next, and how do I get there as fast as my team is able?
Change is hard and it is even harder when you, yourself must plot the course, craft the process and get it done.
“You knew the job was dangerous when you took it…”– Super Chicken, Jay Ward
That moment, that very moment when you are in-between something over and something beginning, your “the next thing”. Are you there? Well no you are reading this, I hope…
The next time you are in that moment, do not face with your cell phone, do not look for a book or a magazine or anything to occupy your mighty-mighty brian, FULL STOP. Feel the slow creep of boredom setting in. Let the blahness overcome you. no
Now, you hear the slight, persistent whisper of “what do I do now, what do I do now…” Let the weird feeling of anxiety slip in and out, in and out and then you are there, utter boredom. The state when you mind starts looking at everything inside and anything outside. It’s called creativity.
Fun ain’t it?
A wonderful boredom overview , Boredom, A Quartz Obsession
Also published on the Decorative Plumbing & Hardware Association’s Connections Blog: Welcomed Thoughts from a Fellow (Jeff Valles): Stop! Do Not Do That. Go Get Bored