Before you go into an account for the first time do your research and discover something about this business that you really admire. Plan to open your conversation with a question relating to that action. Number one: It never hurts to let them know you studied their business. Number two: You are there because you admire something that they’re doing and want to be a part of it. Finally, if you open with a positively-toned question about their business, they are immediately positively engaged in the conversation. People love to talk about their businesses.
Do not simply pick something out of the air and say this is really great. If you are lying or blowing smoke you will get caught and it will be a difficult slog to reach your goals for the meeting. It might be tough to get back in the door.
If you cannot find anything you truly admire about this company, that tells me that scheduling a meeting is a waste of both their time and yours. I suggest moving on to the next target.
Starting a meeting in a positive tone and engaging your would-be client with an intriguing question will place you in a possible position to earn a new partnership.
Great showrooms are memorable. Good showrooms have a few special products scattered about. Bad showrooms are well, boring. I believe those that take risks with their product and product presentations are more memorable and will win more customers in the long run.
A majority of today’s Internet shopping sites present a vast array of products that are easily viewed on your screen, but a customer is still not able to feel the material and see how colors pop in person. Luxury clients enjoy visiting creative spaces to see, touch and shop for beautiful products. This is why people leave their screens. This is why people seek out great brick and mortar showrooms.
So, what is a great showroom? A popular definition is one that continually both surprises and delights its customers with its engaging ambiance and inventive product mix supported by talented salespeople and five-star service. Simple right? Unfortunately nothing that can be labeled great is simple and therein lies the challenge and fun, yes FUN.
Your luxury showroom is catering to designers who fly all over the US and Canada and enjoy antiquing in Paris. If your showroom is populated with gray and white factory displays and has not had a colorful addition in months, these good customers will visit once and move on. They do not need to shop in your place, there are plenty of other boring showrooms within driving distance. If your showroom is to make their go-to list, you must let them know you are willing to take chances by showing new, unique, even startling products and learn what they crave today
The next step is threefold:
First and most important: before you start working on numbers two and three, you must set a regular time, I suggest monthly, to quietly walk your showroom looking for ways to make it great. I suggest focusing on:
Displays that are tired and need updating.
Displayed products that are not selling, boring and need to be replaced.
Discovering places where you can add an attractive display, small or large. This display should both provoke your salespeople and captivate your good clients.
Second, commit to #1 above and start having fun in your showroom working to make it full of surprise and delight.
Finally, start learning what you customers purchase and discover what they are dreaming of. This comes from your sales data and setting up opportunities to talk with your good clients. We will dig deeper into this in following post.
Now, let’s get to the fun part.
“The one thing we all agreed on, our chief aim, was to be totally unpredictable and never to repeat ourselves,” Mr. Terry Jones of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
So why not have a bit of fun in your showroom. I am not saying that you have to completely redesign your showroom with a Candyland color scheme, but use your imagination and create punches of color and inventive product vignettes that will challenge your repeat clientele, intrigue new shoppers and keep your sles people hopping. People love to see and touch shiny new things.
One note of caution: bold displays lose their edge over a period of 6 to 9 months. Construction should be simple and easy to change out. Paint and wallpaper are easy to change. Also, try to work with vendors that understand that products in your bold settings will increase the visibility of their brands and increase bands awareness.
Luxury showrooms are there to delight and challenge their good customers, so make some changes and get out of the white and gray palette. It is really dull.
P.S: A good play here is to allow a good, strong willed, designer to design the vignette. This helps them extend their brand’s reach and you will presents a new look to your clientele.
P.S #2.: Those daring displays will play great on social media. If you can set six and change one out every month, you will always have interesting content for you and your customers to share.
A version of this article appeared in the January 31, 2020 issue of the DPHA’s newsletter, Connections.
Remember when you were young and you would dream something wild and dash to your crayons. You would then draw a magnificent picture of your creation. A wonder that the world cannot live without.
As we “grow-up” we still dream of fascinating creations. But instead of recording them on paper, we immediately think that will never fly and go on with our day.
Months, then years pass and to our amazement, you see that fascinating creation alive and think, I thought of that..
The moral is that some of the amazing ideas that pop into your head are fascinating creations. Draw them out, write their story. Who can it hurt? It might look better on paper than abstractly floating in your stuffed, overworked brain.
Who knows after a little tweaking and some outside input you might have the next big idea. It has better odds that the lottery and is a lot more fun.
We are in the midst of the largest retail shakeup in history. To put the DPH showroom performance in perspective, Coresight Research notes in its November 15 update, “US retailers have announced 9,052 store closures and 3,956 store openings.” Having just returned from the annual DPHA conference, I can tell you that the overall feeling is that business is good and will remain that way for the next 18 months. While this is not a statistic, deeply researched or confirmed, it has been a good indicator for years. I would like to congratulate all DPH showrooms for continuing to run ahead of the brick and mortar pack. Let’s make sure we stay ahead.
Think back to the time before the term “customer experience” was used to evaluate everything from Jiffy Lube to Hermes. As the industry began to pull itself out of the muck of the recession, the term “product value” was all the rage. Its catch phrase was: “Is that a good value for my money?” Customers were looking for value – the best products for their dollars, not low price.
As the industry became skilled on the “value” sales conversation, that term slipped into the background and “customer experience” emerged as the overall, undefinable, defining metric. Repeatedly we read and have been told that, “All great businesses offer a top-notch customer experience.” We see it referred to in case study after case study but, as with “value,” the challenge is to define and measure great customer experiences.
Angel investor Darren Herman offers guidance in his blog, Operating Partner. He proposed the following simple formula:
Value = Experience / Price
On first thought, that formula appears to be too simple, when you evaluate the equation in more detail, it makes sense. The kicker is defining experience. Price is simple: the lower it goes, the lower the experience factor can be to still deliver attractive value. But, if you are playing on the luxury-premium level, you have to improve the experience to justify higher pricing.
It has been proven continuously that the lowering price value strategy is a never-ending race to the bottom and that’s not a successful formula for DPH luxury experiences. The decorative plumbing and hardware industry can deliver on its value paradigm by focusing on the following five touchpoints: Showroom, Website, Salespeople, Customer Service and Vendors.
Breaking them down into easily defined deliverables allows you to create a manageable list to use as a brand experience evaluation scorecard (equally applicable to Manufacturers, Representatives and Showrooms).
Is your website easy to use and comfortable for your customers to shop?
Does your website offer the information your customers require?
Is your website easy for Google to find?
Are your key vendors’ presentations and product pages up to date?
Is your website respected more than your competition’s?
For e-commerce sites, does your showroom’s in-stock inventory cater to the products your customers really need before the vendor can deliver?
Side Note: Today’s customer wants to do their work whenever and wherever they are. To have a poor website is interpreted as you are not interested in their business. An effective and easy-to-use website is a must have.
Are your salespeople more knowledgeable and respected than your competition?
Are they consistent from customer to customer?
Do they listen actively?
Do they want to improve?
Side Note: Every time I am at a showroom or attending a conference the number one problem our colleagues mention is finding good people. Yet, few companies offer any type of sales training to make their good people better. I have never met a salesperson that cannot get better and that includes me.
Do you offer uncompromising cradle-to-grave service?
Do you proactively communicate both good and bad information with your clients as their job progresses?
Do you reach out to the client and end users after the job is finished?
Is your product return process painful for the client? Are they presumed guilty before being proven innocent?
Side Note: A significant factor in the continuing growth of showrooms and vendors is based on selling more to good customers. Will that hold true if you continue to offer the least?
Are they what they say they are?
Do they train and keep your purchasing, sales and customer service teams up to date?
Do they design and craft products in line with their pricing?
Do they deliver on what they promise?
Are their demands in line with their value to your business?
Side Note: Vendors, when was the last time you surveyed the key 100 showroom salespeople about what they think will help your brand improve? When was the last time you and your distributor showroom surveyed their good builder and trade customers about what they think will help your brand improve? Sitting in your office listening to a few loud folks is not the best way to build your brand’s foundation.
Is your showroom easy and comfortable for your customers to shop?
Is your showroom easy to use by your salespeople?
Is your showroom perceived as stylish by your core design trade customers?
Are your key vendors’ displays up to date?
Does your showroom’s inventory contain the products your customers need before the vendor can deliver?
Side Note: Maintaining a showroom is hard work and expensive, but when done effectively is can be very profitable. The more vendors, representatives and distributor showrooms stay in step, the better for all parties involved.
This list provides a tool to evaluate your business and to determine your customer experience rating. Each point can be valued good or bad or with a five-point scale. Determine which metric works best for your business and team.
There is one other factor to consider. Each point on the list focuses on eliminating FRICTION your customers encounter when working with your company. Both trade customers and end-users HATE friction. Removing friction requires an investment of money and time. Willingly taking back a polished nickel lavatory faucet that looks as if it was attacked by a steel grill brush is not easy or cheap, but necessary.
Do not lose sight of the fact that you are working to increase your customers’ perceived value of your business.
The bottom line is that each individual customer will evaluate your business. Having a metric to determine how your business is perceived will improve your customers’ experiences and help you develop effective strategies to address weaknesses.
“An experience makes its appearance only when it is being said,” – Hannah Arendt
And if we do not hear it, it disappears.
We are told again and again, that the art of listening is the most important talent a person can have. To be able to really hear what other people are trying to share with us is an advantageous skill. Now we must ensure that the person or people you are listening to are comfortable so they will share their true thoughts. They must know that they are speaking with someone that is genuinely interested in what they have to say because, if that’s not true, why meet? When people are comfortable their true insights emerge, and we learn so much more. Honestly shared information from diverse backgrounds builds the foundation for the best new ideas. We want people to share what they really believe so together we can all get better.
For example, you have arranged a meeting at a trade show with a key vendor to discuss projections and the pricing schedule for the upcoming year. Now this meeting will require focus. Your vendor has been meeting with dozens of people from all over the world, each with unique challenges and cultural concerns. You have been skipping from booth to booth also talking with people from different countries and investigating everything from drains to crystal handles.
To make this meeting as productive as it must be, time clocks must slow down and all attendees need to be reset to focus on the opportunities to be discussed.
Let’s start with making all involved feel important. If it is a one-on-one meeting, shake their hand, look straight into their eyes and thank them for sharing their time. Make sure they know you are looking forward to this conversation. If it is a multi-person meeting, welcome everybody and take a moment and introduce everybody. Even if the group is familiar with each other, still take the time to bring them into the meeting by simply acknowledging each person directly.
Now, with everyone feeling comfortable, it is time to get to work and hear all of the amazing conversations.
A version of tis article appeared in the January 24, 202 issue of DPHA’s Newsletter, Connections
Most of us are familiar with the Müller-Lyer Illusion that teaches us that what we think we see is not always correct. It is an illusion that the top line is longer than the bottom and if we had not been told that they are the same length, we would have walked away thinking the lines are not equal. Sometimes we simply need to slow down and take a good measure of the situation we are reviewing.
The key to these “tests” is to remind us to take time and bypass our fast, save our B-Hind thinking process and use the other part of our brain to press pause and think the situation through.
This takes on greater significance in our business. We all know we know the most knowledgeable folk in our individual businesses. In fact, if the Supreme Court required an expert witness to testify on anything about your industry, you would be number one with a bullet on the list. But this “insider” knowledge does not preclude us from making errors. Examples such as these two simple arrows ought to remind us to take a moment and slow down.
“Looking back over the last decade, I have made many good fast decisions, but I have nearly never made good rushed decisions. The former can be made from a place of calm, whereas the latter come from a place of turbulence and blurred judgment.” Tim Ferriss, 1-20-2020 Blog Entry
A few reasons that you might want to STOP and review your decision
This decision might be for a customer that has specific unique demands.
This bid just might have unique opportunities that have not been addressed.
This product is for a custom job with a lot of bespoke products and regular sizing might not work.
This product line does not look great but the team behind it really talented
No matter what we know, it can and will change. So everytime you see interesting brain teasers like the Müller-Lyer Illusion illusion, remind yourself that the brain teaser is not the focus, it is training you mind to stop for a moment and make sure your “easy’ decision is correct and complete.
Why would anyone purchase anything at list price? Today’s marketers continually believe the best way to move merchandise is to put it on sale. Stories no longer seem to be thought viable. And we all thought Amazon was to blame for the price dropping game.
Every marketer knows that email remains a powerful tool to build brand awareness and the email’s subject line is your brand’s calling card. Do you really want it to be all about how much today’s discount is? Can your brand only motivate people to open your marketing emails by shouting your products are marked down?
So after a consistent barrage of XX% off and free freight on any purchase, do you really think people are going to look at your brand as anything but a discount brand? Even powerhouse home brands such as Restoration Hardware and Williams Sonoma seem to run 50% off sales every other day. Why do I want to buy something that no one else wants?
Then think of the poor salespeople in the brick and mortar showroom. The first thing they must do every day is check to see what is on sale today. It is just like working in a supermarket and we all know how low their margins are. It is not sustainable.
As long as sales volume and product turnover remains high, these companies can get away with thinning profit margins but when a slowdown comes and sales drop 5%, that low, discounted margin might not be able to cover overhead and viola, losses appear. Then what happens? The markdown habit a brand gets into in good times are nearly impossible to break in bad times. Quarter to quarter planning is not a good play in the long game.
The quality of training in the showroom business is all over the place. Training is not like selling; they are two distinct talents. A few companies create solid content but have not trained their trainers on how to train (say that fast three times). 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 looks forward to product knowledge training sessions. 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 pts. and no presentation should be longer than 30 minutes. In a perfect environment our minds can only stay focused for a maximum of 20 minutes. So build a solid 20 minute presentation and leave 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 or 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, everyone is 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 help all stay attentive throughout.
Do share actual product samples…LOTS of samples. It is proven that if people have product in their hands they will remain engaged.
If offering food, save it for AFTER the training. 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 sales people 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 that was trained by the brake manufacturer’s local salesperson? Then why do you ask talented salespeople to educate the salespeople that sell your brand’s story to design and building professionals?
If your training content and presentation are solid, you’ll always get the best product knowledge training time slot and the showrooms salespeople will gladly attend ready to learn.