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Weekly Furniture Message From Margo - To Greet Or Not At The Front Desk

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Below is a question that a furniture store professional posted to the forum of the Furniture World Magazine Trade Message Board online recently (http://www.furninfo.com/forum), a post that I replied to. It poses an interesting look at how some people do business. Often, we do things in our businesses because they work for us some of the time, or because we have always done it that way, or because everyone else does it that way.
 
There is a lot to think about when we decide how we will do things in our businesses. Have you thought through the company van or car that you drive, how you welcome people, what the voice message (or live person) says to a prospect when they call, or your signup or billing process for example?
 
What may work for us in terms of things like costs, convenience, efficiency, or ease of use, may prove to be ineffective strategies when it comes to pleasing customers or getting people to choose do business with us in the first place.
 
No matter what business you are in, think through EVERYTHING that you do. In each interaction the customer has with you, your staff, your location, or your systems, you are sending a message. This is all part of the total image, the brand, you are marketing to others. Are you certain that everything you’re doing is working not just for you and your company, but for the customers first and foremost?
 
People today have a slew of choices in all industries. You can bee so-so, and slowly fade away, or you can be amazing, and really connected. It really is a choice. Choose to run your business so that you give your prospects and customers all that they want and need.

Here is the actual post:

Hello,
 
Quick question on store layout for a small showroom. We have a staff desk or 'fort' as I've heard it called on this website, positioned next to the entrance of the showroom. We normally have 2/3 staff at this desk and greet customers when they come in, then if they don't need any help let them wander the showroom for a while until we speak to them again. I get the feeling that most customers don't want to hang around and look at the products positioned around and in front of the desk area. I've been to a bathroom store which had a similar setup and felt that I was constantly being watched by staff at their desk, which did make me a little uncomfortable.
 
Does any one have a view on this or could you share what sort of layout you have in your own stores?
 
Thanks,
 
Tom
 

Reply from Margo

Thanks for the post Tom. I want to respond so that all of us as sales professionals can take a good look at the validity of this “desk idea”.
 
I am going to respond to this not as a business coach but as a customer who buys furniture (OK, as a business coach, too).
 
There is a furniture showroom in the town where I live that has a similar set up. You walk in the door, and BOOM! There they are! At least one, and usually two or three sales consultants "working" at the desk (or near it). The desk is right in the large entryway, facing those who enter, although as you enter, the desk is off to the left a bit. The INSTANT you come in, you’re done! You do not even have a few seconds to TRANSITION to a new environment (which is psychologically VERY important).
 
Immediately you are hit with the "can I help you?" routine. MOST people respond by saying they would just like to look around—that's also what I say (this is a clue). The staff and consultants are very nice, and if you say you are just browsing, they let you know they are there if you need them, but of course they come by very often as you are looking, and they try to "SELL" you “service” by asking typical and boring questions. This really means they are trying to “SELL” you something (anything, please). If you are truly there just to get an idea (pre-shopping—another clue) and to consider the POSSIBILITY of buying new furniture—to first consider the fantasy, which is how most people shop— then you feel totally uncomfortable the entire time you are there. You can’t try on the fantasy because you can just “feel” there is someone on the sidelines peering at you like a sales-peeping Tom (sorry Tom, not you)! You can feel them waiting to pounce (pounce in a nice way of course). All because the mood was set by that bigger-than-life desk at the front door.
 
My own PERSONAL opinion as a shopper is that this is a HUGE turnoff. I feel bombarded, like I am sales meat, even if the store associates are polite. With this approach, from the very start, my mind is no longer fully on what I want or need. Instead I am thinking, "When is she going to come back over and start questioning (or pressuring) me” and it takes so much away from the experience. I may not be there to buy (just yet) but to consider the possibilities—the fantasy. I really just need a friend to help consider this with me (another clue). Instead of focusing on the fantasy of buying new furniture, I am thinking “I’d better get out of here if I am not serious about buying today because these sales people won’t like that” (PLEASE read that last sentence again, it is another big clue).
 
Sure, sales consultants need to greet and interact, but in today's world where SPAM is the big well-known cuss word and INTERRUPTION selling is it's big-bad cousin, people see the hard sell (even though you think you are making it soft) as spam and an interruption. They resist it with everything in their being.
 
It is so much more important to use your showroom as a place for "friends" to come and feel super comfortable looking around, where they know that you are totally with them in their experience, and very close by if they need you. Friendship has to first be established (clue). The desk at the door sets the stage for pressure and distraction in the minds of the customers. It causes them to feel not like an important person with a need or desire, but like a piece of sales meat.
 
As sales consultants we need to make a friend, and friends don’t pounce and pressure. We need to help people visualize their own fantasy about a new way of living with gorgeous new furnishings—the fantasy that may soon become a reality through our help (this is your final big clue).
 
Of course there is a sales process, but I can tell you right now it is NOT the sales process of yesterday, when products were new and novel and people were not totally bombarded on all sides with advertising and sales pitches. People today have LEARNED to think differently about sales, advertising, and their own power of choice. THEY are in control of the shopping experience now, whether we like that fact or not, and business owners and sales consultants have to “get” that and sell differently, being a facilitator and letting the customer lead since they know what they want (and if they don’t, we can help them find out). A good sales person does not have to jump on anyone at the door in FEAR of not getting that sale. If you truly care about people and are sincere in wanting to help them FIRST and foremost and get the sale second, your sales process will reflect that (your final big clue)!
  
If you would like to see the actual post, that has a some additional  it is at
http://www.furninfo.com/forum/message_view.asp?TID=32333&TPN=1

Have a Wildly Successful Week,

Margo


Margarett (Margo) DeGange, M.Ed. is a Business and Design Coach in the Home Fashions Industry. She creates and delivers custom training programs for managed businesses and their sales consultants to help them communicate better with customers and increase sales and profits. Margarett is a Writer and Professional Speaker, and the President of The DeGangi Group and The DeGangi School of Interior Decoration, with both on sight and on-line courses in Interior Decorating, Marketing, and Redesign. For almost 20 years she has helped individuals and managed business owners in the interior fashions and decorating industries to earn more while fully enjoying the process.

Two of Margo’s popular products for furniture store owners and their sales professionals are The Decorating School Crash Course Power-Ed Pack (9 design lessons on video/audio with 12 hours of content), and the matching Decorating School Crash Course Learner Files to measure learning, provide added interactivity, and motivate sales consultants to own their opportunities for growth.

Visit Margo DeGange’s website at www.DecoratingForProfits.com  for more information. Send email and questions to her at Margarett@furninfo.com.

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