Do You Have Anything New to Show Me?

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

The Zippy Brand just added a great new series – its unique design is perfect for today’s popular minimal, transitional, punky look. The displays arrive and you set them in Zippy’s branded display area and educate your sales team. All is going to be great!   But hold on a minute? Do your key customers know that you just added this magnificent product to your showroom?  When AB Killer customer enters your showroom, will they notice this new amazing series nested among your other branded displays? I think not. 

The purpose of your never-ending journey to discover, sell and support the latest and greatest is to separate your business from your fast-following competition and keep your customers keenly aware that you are the primary source for your targeted market latest and greatest.  Your educated client base feeds on new products and, if you position your showroom as the leader, they will be looking to you to keep them the know. Getting the word out is not complicated. I suggest doing the following: 

  1. Designate an area in your showroom for new products. It should be close to the main entry or the area where most customers conjugate. The new products should be displayed on a table or a simple retail-tiered display. If an individual product is too large for the space, frame a vendor glory image and add a note on the bottom noting the product’s showroom location. Do not over think this. It is about getting the product noticed, not about the display itself.
  2. Use your email list. Send out a monthly email with new product images complemented by a quick brand note. Email service providers such as Constant Contact and Mail Chimp offer minimal templates that are simple to use.

The challenge is to make the time to set up the display, keep it current and build your new product monthly email. Heck, you might even find a vendor or two to share some co-op money.

Also published on the Decorative Plumbing & Hardware Association’s Connections Blog: Welcomed Thoughts from a Fellow (Jeff Valles): Do You Have Anything New to Show Me? 

Our Customers Are Nuts And It’s Our Fault

Woman dreaming of her new bathroom
Image by rawpixel from Pixabay

Today, people grab their smart phone and ask it (not her or him), to fulfill their next need, demand or desire.  An answer appears in seconds, no discussion or debate, just a list. We do not take the time to ask our partner or best friend, we ask our very own pocket computer.  And you are not skeptical of AI? More on that later.

Let’s understand- our customer’s instinct is to look at you as if you were an iPhone.  When they ask, you are to reply with all the information they want to hear, NOW.  

Our customers need an attitude adjustment.  Not a mafia-style baseball-bat beating but an insight into the world that will help them craft their dreams.

As you are getting to know the customer and understand the scope of their job, take a moment and explain this is not a sprint but a long distance run and you are their coach.  Let them know the generic timeline for their job. If it is a master bathroom remodel, 8 weeks is normal, a custom home 18 months. Try to avoid the 6 to 8 weeks phrases. The customer will always hear the 6.  

Then, make sure they know that you are their source for all plumbing and hardware information.  You have studied and worked for years and know your stuff. This is not the time to be reserved.  State the obvious and it will make this job go a bit smoother and maybe ensure they will go to you with their questions versus their best digital friend.

This is important on two fronts.  First, once they understand that they are not in a black and white situation, they will slow down and allow us to present beautiful products that they never would have considered.  Secondly, they will be less likely to lose it when they receive bad news. This adjustment will allow us more time to create the best solution and the customer will be the winner.

A version of this article was in the September 18, 2019 issue of the Decorative Plumbing & Hardware’s newsletter, Connections.

Has The Convenience Economy Evolved Into The Rental Economy?

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:

Image courtesy of Ksenia Sergeeva via Pixabay

All is Good But Are Others Farther Ahead? Forget About it!

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

Steve Jobs
Image by Richard Reid from Pixabay

It’s Friday afternoon, the sun is out and your business is strong.  In fact, you are ticking a bit ahead of your budget . Then a representative from from a good vendor walks in and informs you that your business is not keeping up with their other accounts.  Boom! The clouds roll in, the rain is pouring down, and you have to find out what is wrong. Horse poop! 

Always listen and learn; there are always new opportunities to research but remember to keep things in perspective…your perspective.  Short term thinking will only drive you and your team crackers. 

It is your business, not theirs.  You took the time to set your company’s goals and make a focused strategy to reach them.  Do not let others tell you what your business needs to be; it is not theirs.

Go back and enjoy your day.

Now, if you have not taken the time to set your game plan maybe it is time.  

Also published on the Decorative Plumbing & Hardware Association’s Connections Blog: Welcomed Thoughts from a Fellow (Jeff Valles): It’s Your Business! 

Let Your Sales People Sell

Consistent follow-up habits are one of the most important talents of great sales people. Here’s a giant fallacy – your sales team must be available for the customers at all times. Take a moment and think about that. Your top salesperson is on the phone with a homeowner discussing the differences of two satin nickel finishes from different manufacturers being installed in the same room. Talk about a waste of time, not to mention that this conversation has no “right” answer. So, while your top producer listens patiently to this conversation, potential sales wander around the showroom unattended. Frustrating?

When showroom owners are asked what they need, better and more sales people top the list. So what does one do? Search, hire and pray that all the planets align and this person becomes the “Tom Brady of toilets.” Alternatively, you can make more time for your salespeople to sell. Yes, sell – don’t chase orders or play psychologist – simply sell.

It usually takes 24 months to prepare a salesperson to obtain the knowledge where they are capable of working with a talented trade person, specifying plumbing and hardware for a luxury home. At this point, they are ready to make money for your operation, but you now need to protect your investment from burning out. The question you should be asking yourself now is “How can I find them more time to sell and at the same time, remove the annoying stuff?” Hire a full-time customer service person.

The main arguments against taking after-sales follow-up away from the salesperson people is that the salesperson wants to always service their customers and it strengthens the relationship. The client may also demand that they deal with their salesperson; this is the person they trust. So what to do?

The salesperson has to learn to trust that the company (and your brand) will them back them up and coddle their customers – their customers, your customers. Your sales professionals need to know that the company will service their customers no matter what the situation. The move to add a customer service person will help your brand expand its reach while allowing your best people to do what they do best. This process may take a bit of time, roughly 6 to 9 months, but when it is in place you will have a better company while probably adding even more to your bottom line.

Just do what you do best

Red Auerbach

A version of this article was in the August 2 issue of the Decorative Plumbing & Hardware’s newsletter, Connections.

Do Your Sales People Really Have All The Story?

Photo by from Pexels

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?

My Business Is Great Just The Way It Is!

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
The Human Touch II” 6″x13″ $80 Zinc etching using the Dodo bird as a symbol of something that can go very wrong, very fast; the result of human intervention. Created by Steve Nowatzki

“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

Stop! Do Not Do That. Get Bored

Photo by Matt Hardy from Pexels

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 

Hope Is Not a Strategy!

Your alluring showroom is targeted to captivate your market’s best architects, builders and designers. You know you display THE best product mix in the market.  Or do you operate more on the “gut feel approach” – “I hope the product I selected at ICFF will captivate my good clients?” Hope is a prayer, not a business strategy. Data added to your market knowledge increases your chances for a WOW product mix. Good data can only make your business better. But where does this good data come from? How do I get it? How do I use it? Let’s keep it simple and focus on which finishes are your foundation – those that are starting to trend up and maybe (if you have the space) a handful of classic styles in their most royal, garish look. If a finish is not selling, there is no need to waste the space. When that unique customer comes in looking for satin chrome, your team is talented enough to control the sale. A finish sample will work just fine. What finishes do you actually sell, what is selling in your regional market and what is trending in New York, Los Angeles or Miami that you can show to keep your well-read trade professionals happy? 

Step #1: What data do I need?

  • Bathroom Fixtures: Simply look at lavatory faucet sales finish data.
  • Bathroom Accessories: Every bathroom needs a paper holder, so focus there.
  • Cabinet Hardware: With this category’s diversity, this total finish breakdown is best left to the wisdom of the crowds. Ask your top six cabinet hardware vendors for their finish sales in dollars and compare it to yours and get to it. Look for trends here. This segment is all over the place.
  • Door Hardware: With the diversity of door hardware styles (really, no finish has a historical dominance), use the same process for Cabinet Hardware above, focusing on door knobs and levers, only.

 Step #2: How do I collect the data?

  • Download the last 18 months of sales data, filed as noted, from your database for each product category listed above.
  • Contact your key vendors in each product category and ask them for their last 18 months sales reports by finish (filtered as noted above) in North America, your market only and New York, Los Angeles and Southern Florida. 

 Step #3: Review the data:

  • Walk your showroom and see what could be removed, changed and what needs to be added.
  • Review the data with your sales purchasing teams. They all have their individual perception and seeing the actual sales data will help them see the market a bit clearer.

It is paramount that showrooms and vendors work together on this to present the most viable products to the trades and engaged homeowners. These are the people that specify and buy, so show them what they want to see, not what a vendor or showroom thinks might be “hot.” Finally DO NOT LEAVE THE SALES REPRESENTATIVE OUT OF THE LOOP. If they are guessing on what to present on their trade calls and miss the mark, vendors and showrooms lose. Finally, all data is important and should be actively shared, reviewed and evaluated every six months. Why guess?

Also published on the Decorative Plumbing & Hardware Association’s Blog: Hope Is Not A Strategy.


“The confidence that individuals have in 
their beliefs depends mostly on the
quality of the story they can tell
about what they see,
even if they see little.” 
- Daniel Kahneman

Got a gut feeling
Got a gut feeling
Got a gut feeling feeling

- Devo
Photo by from Pexels

Today’s Venture Capital companies are constantly looking for new style trends and products to improve their portfolios and improve their market shares.  These businesses are managed by savvy entrepreneurs who are constantly harvesting the latest data and then adding market knowledge to help them create and implement their best strategy.  Sounds like a good strategy, right?  Is this how your business works?

In our DPH world, each vendor and showroom has its own unique ways of market testing and the most popular process is each business’s perceived reality, your intuition or gut feelings.  You know it well; over a short period of time, a few showroom sales people sell a job or two in a matte black finish.  Then they frantically search for what manufacturers offer this finish and run to management proclaiming “We absolutely have to have this on the sales floor NOW!  This is getting really big!  We all think rose gold will be the next oil rubbed bronze… “ Well, we all know where that went.  Did anyone look at the showroom sales history and your product quote report?  How about calling a handful of manufacturers and simply asking them for a “most popular finish report”, noting the current percentages and a 3 to 6-month percent change?  Would that help?  Why in the DPH world is DATA not the foundation for market evaluation and forecasting?

I can hear the words ringing in my head – “I know what is going on in my business and my gut instincts have gotten me to where I am.”  This is the way so many DPH showrooms and manufacturers have governed their business since the 60’s, and yes, a lot of those businesses are still quite successful.  However, would you invest in a business with intuition as its sole source provider of market research? 

Perceived reality plays a large part in all of our lives, but it should be based on solid data from your business, one’s key vendor partners and monitoring leading style media.  Yes, it will take time to dig through your sales figures and quotes, as well as sharing vendor information and referencing 10 good style sources.  But at the end of the day, don’t you want to have the right product on display at the right time?  Don’t you want your customers to know your showroom is the place to see the popular, new and classic looks?

Suggested style emails subscriptions:

Design Milk

Wallpaper Magazine

Interior Design Homes

Also published on the Decorative Plumbing & Hardware Association’s blog: How Do You Forecast?