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Seven "Magic" Traits Of Successful Sales Managers

Furniture World Magazine



The seven traits of the most successful sales performance managers, plus tips on how to develop them.

In the over 40 performance group meetings we have held over the years, I've noticed that the best performing sales managers share seven common traits. This article sums up those traits that together greatly improve store traffic, customer service and sales performance.

1. The Sales Floor Is Their Office:
I’ve seen managers that are "available" and managers that are “present”. Those who are “present” for salespeople and customers usually outperform those that are merely “available”. Sales managers who are connected with the daily going-ons on the floor facilitate higher levels of customer service. It is all too common for sales managers to sit in their office and become disconnected from the floor. When this happens, both close rates and average sale suffer.

2. They Use Selling Systems To Guide The Sales Process:
The use of a defined but concise selling system leads to improved salesperson and customer communication. Better communication increases the chances of favorable outcomes for both customers and salespeople. Customers get solutions that are better aligned for their situations, and the sales associates get bigger, more frequent sales. Top managers customize a five-to-seven-step selling system, which acts as a guide from the initial greeting through to the follow-up after the close. This enables new employees to get up to speed faster and helps average performers improve their game.

3. They Develop Product Category Specialists:
Retail home goods showrooms often contain a variety of categories and vendors. Within each area there are a multitude of choices. Commonly, salespeople tend to gravitate toward what they are comfortable talking about. Often, this is not what is best for their customers. In a worst case scenario, salespeople will avoid certain segments of merchandise altogether. I’ve seen this happen quite a bit. “Designers” don’t want to sell mattresses or protection plans. Mattress salespeople don’t want to go on house calls or shy away from custom solutions. Upholstery salespeople rarely sell occasional, rugs or lighting. The list goes on.

This is why top managers actively develop or employ product specialists. This isn’t to say that someone cannot be a specialist in every area. They can. Category focused selling systems can assist with this development.

4. They Have Goals That Make Sense:
Top managers help individuals set goals. These goals should be customized to the person rather than be the same for all. Having the same goals for all the goods in your store is a recipe for lackluster sales performance. Consistent top performers need to push the envelope. It’s in their nature. Average performers must improve their averages, and below average performers need to work to get to average results. Two types of goals are useful here; a standard goal and a stretch goal.

A standard goal for an individual may look at the past three or six months of performance, then add in improvements in certain areas. Standard goals look at things such as average sale and protection percentage, while a stretch goal might look at the best monthly performance achieved, and then add in the improvement.
Goals should be public, tracked and recorded by the salespeople themselves.

5. They Staff To The Store’s Goal And To Typical Weekend Traffic:
This might be the most important thing that the best managers do. We live in a time where brick-and-mortar traffic is on average declining due to an increase in online browsing and buying. Even with this trend, under-staffing is a big reason why showrooms under-perform. This occurs because some managers staff to their weekly traffic, causing sales volumes to decline further. In cases like this, a downward sales spiral can occur as the under-performing store steers itself toward the ground.

Alternatively, top managers set store goals, and then figure out how many people they need to reach that goal. They then watch customer traffic on the weekends to see if they are sufficiently covered. This ensures there is less double-teaming of customers so selling systems work as intended most of the time. Multitasking with customers leads to poor revenue per guest. Top managers and top salespeople want to spend the appropriate amount of time with each customer. Otherwise they risk being pulled in multiple directions, serving more people less professionally.

6. They Believe That Sales People Can Effect In-Store Traffic:
Traffic comes from either advertising or location, right? Not in many top performing stores! Some stores with the best quality traffic have low traditional advertising spends as well as average per square foot rental costs. My belief is that the best traffic comes from word-of-mouth and non-traditional advertising.

With regard to word-of-mouth, gossip, networking, posting, bragging or whatever you want to call it, both the positive and negative flow from customer experiences. Top managers work with their sales teams to produce traffic. They implement productive selling systems, teach product knowledge, and correct staffing levels. This is what helps to generate positive word-of-mouth.

Value-added activities are other tools that can be used to produce positive word-of month traffic. These activities may include:

  • Making sure every customer is “thanked” for visiting.
  • Special order updates.
  • Delayed shipment notifications.
  • Before delivery contact.
  • Delivery in process tracking.
  • After Delivery follow-up.
  • Anniversary of purchase courtesy call .
  • Next Purchase follow-up.
  • Private event invites.
  • Local charity and donations.

7. They Get Involved With Salespeople And Customers:
The seventh trait of the most successful sales performance managers expands upon trait number one. If the manager's office is the sales floor, when necessary he or she can get involved in interactions between customers and salespeople. Done right, this can add a layer of reassurance, and increase sales. Leaders can build confidence and validate decisions. Managers who are good leaders excel at this, and produce some great results. This can be as simple as a short greet. A simple example would be, “Hi, I’m _____ the store manager, and I just wanted to say thank you for coming in today, I’m sure _____ is taking great care of you. We are here to help you. Let me know if you need anything at all.”

There are many ways to put a spin on this approach. Bottom line, however, is that top sales managers are involved with what is going on in their showrooms. They are like the conductors of an orchestra. They set the tone and rhythm of the business. They do not spend their time in a glass room responding to a series of chaotic events as they occur. Top managers and leaders don’t let themselves be controlled by the game because they control it first. They are not fire-fighters – they are rain makers.

Adapt these concepts and ideas to your specific situation. Small improvements in front-end management can have the largest impact on your business. Don’t get comfortable - seek to continually improve.


About David McMahon 
David McMahon is founder of PerformNOW Inc.  PerformNOW has three main products that help home furnishings businesses improve and innovate: Performance Groups (Owners, Sales managers, Operations), PerformNOW CXM (Customer eXperience Management systems and processes), Furniture business consulting.  Your can reach David at david@performnow.com.

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