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.
“This is a race. It’s a race to be relevant. The big difference between today and yesterday is speed. You need to be much faster on the execution.” Arthur Sadoun, CEO of Publicis told the Financial Times in June 2017.
Many luxury showrooms take the time to inspect each received product. Each piece is carefully removed from its shipping container and painstakingly inspected then returned to its box to wait for the customer to arrive. Such attention to detail separates your showroom from the competition and makes your clients so very happy.
Do you take the same care when you collect your customer data? Do you check the information to make sure it is correct and siloed in the correct slot in your computer program? Do you enter notes on each visit, carefully recording the points discussed and any information that might help you and your team better know each customer’s unique style and needs?
Please, if you are thinking it takes too much time, think again. If you have time to meticulously inspect each order to delight your good customers, why not work to get to know those same customers so well that you will exceed their expectations. Your data is a prime foundation of your business and, as the world slowly adopts Artificial Intelligence, good data will become your key to delivering great customer service.
Vendors, your data is also key to the growth of your market reach. You, too, take the time to design and handcraft each beautiful product. Then your team inspects every item and carefully packages them so all arrive in perfect shape. Yet, your data systems are not in line with today’s customer’s demands. Delivery changes, before and during the manufacturing process, are hidden from view. When a product misses its acknowledged delivery date no one knows until the date passes and the reactive “I am sorry call”. This upsets good customers and damages both your brand and the showroom’s. When vendors leverage their good data proactively they will make life less painful for all involved.
Put simply, today’s available Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not HAL-like but an overlay on Machine Learning (ML). ML churns the data and makes it available in a form so that when you ask your AI a question it returns your answer correctly at lightning speeds. Your questions can cover all facets of your business and help you effectively peek into the future. However, to accomplish this your data must be clean, consistent and well-integrated. Remember the phrase, “garbage in and garbage out”? That has not changed.
Even the mighty Microsoft had issues getting applicable answers from it AI. Its retail division crafted a complete AI sales support system and when they rolled it out, the AI notes and suggestions were worthless. They revisited the data and the AI questions they were asking and hit reset. Now, sales are increasing. Salespeople are easily able to access customer, product and order information. With AI, a customer’s entire purchasing history and delivery time for each order take just seconds to view, now that the data is clean, consistent and well-integrated.
This journey starts with your teams. Careful collection of quality, comprehensive data must become part of your company’s culture. If you can enlighten them on how it will save them time and strengthen their customer relationships and show them how it will allow them more time to do what they do best!
I believe that AI will be a part of successful showrooms in the next five years and foundational in no more than 7.
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:
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.
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.
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.