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Build A Retail Home Furnishings Sales Machine - Part 2

Furniture World Magazine


Get way out front now, while your competitor’s are sleeping - Part 2.

Marketing Techniques by Larry Mullins

People are frightened. They are bombarded with negative stuff from the news media. They hear negative things from their friends and neighbors. As suggested in the previous article, when you get into work tomorrow, look around at the folks who work with you and for you. What are their eyes saying? What is their body language saying? “We need you to lead us. We don’t know what to do.” So begin building your ultimate selling machine by addressing their concerns. But how? How do you begin to dispel the gloom and inspire them?

You begin by thinking and acting like a market leader; walking and talking like a market leader; a leader with a plan. First in importance is time management. If you are constantly overworked and harassed you won’t inspire the confidence of your associates. In my last article I briefly discussed time management.

There are plenty of books and programs out there on this, so I won’t beat it to death here. However, I got a note from a FURNITURE WORLD reader who told me: “Easy for you to say. I’ve had to cut staff. I get barraged with questions and problems all day long. I don’t have any time left to manage.” Once I consulted with a store manager who told me much the same thing. We were in his office, and in a two-hour period we were interrupted about four times by associates with problems. As the day progressed, the pattern continued. By the end of the day the store manager was burdened with nearly a dozen issues that needed attention. Meanwhile, his associates went home that evening free of concerns, because they had turned their problems over to the manager.

You get the picture. Don’t be a “got a minute?” manager. Remember the solution suggested by Chet Holmes, author of “The Ultimate Sales Machine… Turbocharge Your Business with Relentless Focus on 12 Key Strategies.” Follow his advice and issue a memo: “Don’t come to my door anymore and ask me if I’ve got a minute. The answer will be no. There are nine primary impact areas … reporting to me, so we are going to have nine meetings per week with each of these impact areas. Hold all ideas, unless urgent, until your weekly meeting.”

Recall too, the aftermath: The next day after the memo no one came to his door. He literally did not know what to do with his time. Of course, within a week or so people began appearing at his door again. He says: “It took pigheaded discipline and determination on my part to train the entire organization to respect not just my time, but theirs as well.” Believe me, understanding the discipline of time management fully will completely revolutionize your business life. Time management is the first critical issue to address.

Yes, that advice requires several meetings every week. You may not have nine primary impact areas reporting to you. You may have five. Each area needs your undivided attention for a finite period of time. You must commit to training as never before. And you must learn to conduct what Chet calls “Proactive Super-Power Meetings.” These regular meetings will impact every area of your business. The formula for a great pro-active, workshop-style meeting is very simple. First, have a general meeting that includes everyone.

Don’t lecture. Get input by asking everyone to take two minutes to write down what single thing they would change in your company if they had the power to change anything they wanted. If you are like most companies, this will be the first time you ever got together with a proactive goal to improve every aspect of your operation. Then, go around the room and get everyone’s take on the organization’s problems. Keep it short, don’t debate. Use an easel pad to record their ideas. The only thing you bring to the meeting is your judgment.

You will end up with 10 or 15 things to work on. With a reasonable time management system in place and regular staff meetings arranged, you are ready for the big next step: Becoming a Brilliant Strategist. This will change everything, and no competitor will be able to stand against you. And a strategist will beat a tactician every day. I advocate to managers the simple truth that every battle is won or lost before it is fought. This is true of wars, football games, and sales events.

Winning the Battle Before It’s Fought

Very few executives are master strategists. They are tacticians. There is a huge difference. A market leader is always a master strategist. The best example I can give you is football. Every great coach goes into a game with a carefully thought-out game plan. This is his broad overview, his master strategy. The way he achieves his master strategy is through the plays and formations his team executes on offense and defense. These are tactics. Every tactic, or play, is designed to move toward the goal of the master strategy. Now, it’s possible that the quarterback, or a key running back, will be injured. That will demand adjustments to the game plan. But go into each year, each season, each month, each week and each day with a master strategy. That is your game plan. The sales events you run are your tactics. When things go south, make adjustments.

How do you develop this game plan? Your first proactive meeting with all your associates provided you with the input you need to consider as you go forward. Beyond that, you need to ask yourself the most important question of the year.

Where do you want to be this time next year? Can you visualize your company as a market leader? Can you see the improvements you will need to work on based upon what your associates told you in your initial proactive meeting with them? This is your vision. This is what you want to communicate to your associates. You want to tell them the improvements you will strive for. And you will ask for their help. Obviously this will take some time to think about.

Back to time management. To create a broad winning strategy you need blocks of uninterrupted time. Two hour blocks are ideal. I manage this by getting up at two o’clock every morning and working a couple of hours or so. Then I go back to bed. I take a short nap in the afternoon to make up for this loss of sleep. (Dale Carnegie claimed that a one hour nap is worth two hours of evening sleep.) I have used this method for many years and the rewards are substantial. I get two hours of uninterrupted time, with no phone calls, no emergencies, no fires to put out. That is equal to over 18 forty-hour weeks a year! Imagine what you could do with 18 forty-hour weeks of uninterrupted time. Imagine the fabulous game plan you could develop.


In a week or so you will be ready to have a second meeting. This time you will have your vision for a better company worked out and in written form. This may all sound a bit corny and grandiose to some. But keep in mind for yourself, and teach your associates this mantra from Jay Abraham:
“If you fail to value, acknowledge, and respect the worth of what you have done, what you do, and how much more you should be doing for your clients—if you don’t respect and revere that, it’s shameful. If you do respect and revere that, you have a causal purpose to do even more. And also help your client appreciate it so they can understand the significance of what it means to their lives.”

Explain to your associates that you plan to begin addressing the issues they have in regular weekly meetings. If you have five critical areas, remember each of these will need your undivided attention in a separate meeting. Your goal for each meeting with your critical five areas is to make at least one incremental improvement associated with that area. Don’t attempt too much at one time. A little progress every week will result in a big annual improvement.

You now have a game plan, a grand strategy. All your associates know about it, but you don’t stop there. Imagine you are the coach of a professional football team. Imagine you have listened to the players and formulated a broad strategy to improve your team’s performance. You are now prepared to develop broad strategies for the offensive and defensive units. And then discuss improvements for individual players within these units. Only then can you create a game plan for each game of the season. But something is still missing. Unless each player is truly committed to personal improvement the whole effort will go for naught.

Ask each associate to take a few minutes to write down his or her goal of personal improvement for the year. This is the pivotal moment. Lest you think that I dreamed this whole idea up and it has no pragmatic application, I can assure you it will transform your organization. I was associated with the CEO of a progressive furniture company who totally believed in this concept. He applied it energetically for ten years. At the end of the ten year cycle he had increased his sales volume by a factor of ten. When he was asked how he accomplished this remarkable growth, he replied that the main reason for his success was the program I described above. He was a market leader. You can be one too, regardless of the size of your organization.

Rethink Your Advertising Media

The cost of media and its effectiveness is a huge issue for most stores. Here are a few ideas for reducing ad expenses.

Direct mail remains the most cost-effective medium for mainstream furniture marketing. A strong mailing list is no longer an option. Not all direct mail is effective, so pick your mailings carefully. Every other month is the best formula. Newspaper inserts are next in effectiveness. However, in large markets, and even medium-sized markets, consider avoiding the Sunday insert clutter and go for one of the weekdays when you can be the only show in town. Providing it is done with skill and professionalism. ROP newspaper advertising remains effective, especially in smaller markets. To save costs, for major events consider a five column ad x 18 inches or a 6 column ad x 15 inches. These ads require editorial copy from the newspaper and may be better read than a free-standing full page that is lost somewhere in the newspaper’s clutter. Radio advertising is intrusive, but can be effective when associated with an event. In smaller cities, remotes are effective, however, in many larger cities radio is becoming too fragmented and expensive to be much of a factor for home furnishings. Television is also intrusive and fragmented. The mute button and the remote have greatly diminished its power.

The internet has arrived as a big player in the media game. A strong website can be the most important factor for your company’s growth in the coming years. Why? Because, not only is it low cost, it is the least intrusive of all mediums. People are actually looking for you when they go to the internet and Google “Furniture stores [city name].” Imagine that! Prospects are actually looking for you every day. What will they find? If your store has a great landing page, and an effective presence, and your website is information rich and helpful, you may have captured a customer. Remember, content is king. Even if you have an expensive website and your webmaster is a whiz, the odds are remote that he or she will also be knowledgeable about selling furniture and mattresses. So visit your website regularly and ask yourself if it is providing the timely, robust information that people need to make home furnishings buying decisions. Some big furniture boxes have websites that are egoistic, all about them and do not address the issues that concern prospective customers. You can do better.

Finally, capture all the email names you can, and send these folks messages regularly. This is permission marketing, the key to your future as a home furnishings market leader. Intrusive advertising is on its way out. The more you learn about permission marketing, the further ahead of the curve you will be for the next big boom. I look forward to our final visit in the next issue of Furniture World—Part 3 of Building a Home Furnishings Selling Machine.

Larry Mullins is a contributing editor for Furniture World and has 30+ years experience on the front lines of furniture marketing. Larry’s mainstream executive experience, his creative work with promotion specialists, and mastery of advertising principles have established him as one of the foremost experts in furniture marketing. His turnkey High-Impact programs produce legendary results for everything from cash raising events to profitable exit strategies. His newest books, THE METAVALUES BREAKTHROUGH and IMMATURE PEOPLE WITH POWER… How to Handle Them have recently been released by Morgan James Publishing. Joe Girard, “The World’s Greatest Salesman” said of his book: “If I had read Larry Mullins’ book when I started out, I would have reached the top much sooner than I did.” Larry is founder and CEO of UltraSales, Inc. and can be reached at lmullins@furninfo.com. See more articles by Larry at furninfo.com or ultrasales.com.