Retail is full of first dates. Gordon Hecht reflects on how a bit of maturity goes a long way in pleasing customers, partners and improving performance in retail organizations.
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Perhaps if you think about it you can remember the experience of having a first date. Whether it was with someone you knew, or arranged by friends as a blind date, the feeling is the same. It’s a combination of nervousness and excitement which results in anxiety.
You think about where you will go, and what you will talk about. Then you prepare to wear your best outfit for the occasion. You drive to the destination, or wait for your date to arrive being sure to be ready on time; you pop a couple of Tic-Tacs and look in the mirror just to be sure. And then the moment arrives!
Many of us born in the 1950s and 1960s have had the experience of First Dates twice in our lives. For me, it was in my teens, and then again in my 30’s. There’s a difference in dating at those ages. In our teens we are more concerned with impressing our date with our smokin’ hot car, groovy clothes, and being extra cool. A more mature thirty year old is concerned with learning about their companion; their likes and dislikes, what they do for work and fun, and where they are headed in life.
Customer First Dates
Our Furniture Business is filled with first dates. The obvious example is a retail shopper who walks into our store. Your sales team is charged with meeting a stranger and creating a positive impression in twenty seconds. Some call that Speed Dating. Too often your customer is greeted by an RSA who acts like an 18 year old kid who hopes to make an impression by using “Dig-Me” methods. Greetings like, “Our Biggest Sale ends today”, “Everything is 72% off”, or “We have 72 month financing” are closing statements, not greetings. They are a sure TURN OFF. They have no meaning until your shopper gets to know your store and its offerings.
Simply said, RSAs want to jump to the Good-night Kiss (closing the sale) before dinner and a movie (Discovery Questions and Demonstration). RSAs who date like they are in their 30’s, 40’s, or older, know that one of the best parts of meeting people for dates is learning about their experiences, dreams, and desires. They ask these questions; “When was the last time you shopped for a sofa?”, “Have you seen anything on TV or in a magazine that you like? or “Who else will be using the dining room set?” They find out what turns on and motivates shoppers and they dance to the music that’s being played, tailoring the shopping experience to their date.
Employee First Dates
Chances are you have other daily First Dates in your business life. Onboarding new associates is also a First Date. New hire orientation often includes information on when your company started, HR policies, and how training is conducted. All important information, but the part about getting to know the person you just hired is equally valuable. Imagine what you will gain when you ask, “What kind of things are you really good at”, “What frustrated you at your last job”, “What did your friends say when you told them you are coming to work here”, “What do you consider your greatest day at work?” The answers you get will give you insight into how you can maximize your investment and your employee’s work experience. Just by assigning them things they enjoy and do well, and minimizing the tasks that drive them crazy will make every day their best day at work!
Vendor First Dates
Think about a First Date with your Vendor Reps. By asking the right questions you can determine if your Reps are 18 year olds who want to jump in the back seat, or 30 year old adults looking for a long-term happy relationship. Do they want to just sell you a product or help you to build your business and profitability? Ask them about how they improved another retailer’s operation, at what skills they excel, or how they feel about pitching in and helping your sales team on Holiday Weekends. Will they leave you for a prettier or more handsome store if things get rough, or are they with you for better or for worse!
Product First Dates
Training on new products and services need to be a first date for your sales and operations team. While the products can’t talk for themselves, make sure there is information available to everyone. Ask Questions like “How long will you be around? (durability)”, “If I call you on Monday, will you be at my store on Friday? (delivery time), “Where do you like to go (in the room)”, “Do you love pets?” (Cleaning instructions) and “Tell me about your friends” (what accessories make you look great).
Some people look to meet dates at bars, others at church. Dates are arranged by friends and co-workers. In the 21st Century more First Dates are arranged online than ever before. E-Harmony, Match.com, Christian Mingle, J-Date and others are becoming the way to view and communicate with people. Chances are your store has an online dating site also. It’s your website! Properly placed and promoted, your website should draw hundreds or even thousands of potential suitors daily. They click on your profile, see what you look like, what you have to offer, and decide if they want to get to know you, join you for coffee, dinner, or more!
Is your website a good first date? To find out, ask some of your single friends (not employees) to visit your site and look at it as if it were a dating website. Is the initial impression intriguing, friendly, or exciting? Does your site move to the same groove as the viewer? Can your website ask the right questions and does it move too slow, or too fast? The responses you get will help you change your website from disappointing “Mystery Date”, to romance, love, and marriage!
Second and third dates are great! We get there because of mutual trust and affection. Repeat buyers are like those dates, more fun and less anxiety causing. Unfortunately many relations don’t get past the first date and many be-backs never return. You can’t control the actions of your date or your shopper. Train your RSAs to become caring gentlemen and ladies who are interested in your shopper’s interests and well-being, and there may be many wedding bells and honeymoons in your future!
Gordon Hecht is Director of Sales for Ashley Sleep division of Ashley Furniture Industries. He started his 30+ years experience in the Home Furnishings industry in Las Vegas, NV as a delivery helper and driver. From that ground level start he started his sales career-and passion for our industry-while in college.
He has been recognized for outstanding sales and management achievement with several organizations including Drexel-Heritage, RB Furniture, Reliable Stores, and Sofa Express. He has served as Store Manager, Multi-unit manager and Director of Training. With his first-hand knowledge of our industry’s front line Gordon has devoted his career to guiding others to exceed their goals.
Joining Ashley Furniture HomeStores in 2007, Gordon managed a 44 store district covering 11 states and 4 time zones. He joined the Ashley Sleep team in 2009 and has worked to make it one of the fastest growing bedding lines in the country.
Co-author of the “Better Bedding Selling Tips” featured on Furniture World Online, Gordon has been a frequent contributor to company newsletters, and contributing writer for industry magazines. Gordon is based in Columbus, OH and is married with one adult son. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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