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Selling Face To Face

Furniture World Magazine


How to make the job of sales the EASIEST high paying position in your company.

I’m not a Human Resource expert, but if I was ever called upon to write job descriptions for our Retail World, I could wrap up that task in about four minutes. In my retail organization, every individual's position would have the same short paragraph.

UNIVERSAL JOB DESCRIPTION: "It is required to make a full effort to convert our local population into loyal, happy customers and raving fans. This applies to external and internal customers."

That statement makes it clear what is expected from every member of the organization and removes the excuse of “That’s not my job”.

Further, I would elaborate the job descriptions for the FUNCTIONS of "Advertising "and "Sales" as follows:

  • THE JOB of Advertising is to attract shoppers to our storefronts, including our digital storefront (aka website).
  • THE JOB of Sales is to convert those shoppers to customers and raving fans.

Business owners, managers, and even furniture and bedding experts often get advertising and sales confused. Whether they are promoting 60-72 month financing, or a $799 mattress and adjustable base combo, they are often disappointed when few, if any, shoppers take advantage of those offers. Despite the fact that incoming revenue increased, they opt to change or eliminate offers. We often hear, “Sure, I had a good week, but it wasn’t because of financing. Everyone paid cash!"


Advertising's Job Requirements

There is only one true way to measure how well your advertising is doing its job - and that’s footsteps into the store. Formerly known as counting ups, tracking the number of people who come into your store lets you know how effective your advertising investment is. Every incoming shopper is a paid for – in advance investment. That ROI is something you need to know! The more people that come into your storefront (both brick and click) the better job your advertising investment is doing for you.
Advertising your business today requires a mix of media and it's tricky to know the right mix. It’s hard to choose between traditional print, mailers, TV, and radio, or move towards digital and social media. If you want to attract more Gen X and Millennial shoppers, you are wise to invest the greatest amount of your dollars in the latter. More people opt for online research and spend more time with social media than media from the last century. Measuring traffic effectiveness is the only way to know what mix works best.

Advertising will NOT pre-sell your shoppers.

The job description for Advertising would be improved with more specificity. Every ad would be required to have a mix of The Four P’s (some heavy lifting required)

  •  Product: Include information on what you are selling! People today have an advertising attention span of 30 seconds or less. Ads that promote less than three products will fare better than a deluge of items.
  • Place: It’s how they find you. Start with your address, and follow up with a landmark such as a freeway exit, major retailer or restaurant, or locally recognized interest point. Remember to include your website and help your shopper out by making your phone number visible. After a visit to your website they may want to call for more information.
  • Promotion: The difference between Leap Year and other years, is that on Leap Year mattresses and furniture are on sale 366 days and not just 365! Just having a sale is not enough anymore. Shoppers expect it, because we trained them that way. Ads have to have a unique and HOT promotional message. Sometimes it is price, other times it’s financing. But it can also be Instant Delivery, Sales Tax Discount, Free Gift with Purchase, Package Savings, or Guaranteed Best Price of the Season.
  • Price: Ultimately shoppers will get out of their recliners and drive to the retailer with the best value for their situation. That does not always mean the lowest price, but PRICE is the final determination of value. “Buy One-Get One FREE!” means nothing until they know what the first item costs. Showing a mattress online or on Facebook without a price creates a catalog. Catalogs are wish books that sit on a coffee table. Your price completes your call to action.


Salesperson's Job Requirements

When your advertising does its job, it is up to the sales team to do their job, converting shoppers into buyers. Further, we have to understand that advertising is not responsible for selling merchandise. Once advertising does its job of bringing you motivated shoppers, it is up to your sales team to close the sale. Very often shoppers buy something completely different from the advertised item that attracted them to your store.

It’s been said that Sales is the hardest high paid profession. Often Retail Sales Associates make more on the sale than anyone else in your company, even the owner! When you consider that (RSA) often earn a base commission of 5-8 percent and bonuses and incentives, they often collect 8-10 percent of the retail price of their sales. When you study the P&L statement of many retail home furnishings companies, it is rare to find them netting out at much more than 3-5 percent.

We charge our RSA teams with the job of converting store traffic (paid for in advance) into buyers and raving fans. Typical furniture store salespeople close about 22 percent of the shoppers they greet. Mattress stores are shopping destinations, meaning people don’t browse, they are on a mission to buy. Sales people in those stores close about 40 percent of all shoppers. (If you think your close rate is much more than that, then invite me to your store one weekend and we will count ups together)!

When you flip those closing rate numbers around, you’ll see that RSAs fail 60-78 percent of the time. You wouldn’t accept that performance from your delivery team, your accounting and tax advisor, or your family doctor! Chances are good that you probably will never get to 100 percent close rate, but every step taken towards converting shopper to buyers helps your business grow. Do the math; a 2 percent increase in closing rate will make up for a 10 percent drop in traffic. That means in slow times you will survive and in good times your business will flourish!

Here’s some more math for you. Many stores measure average sale; that is the total amount of retail sales dollars divided by the number of sales. $1100-1200 is very typical for furniture stores and mattress stores alike. Most experts believe that the easy way to increase average sale is to add on one more item to each buyer’s shopping cart. That will cause an increase, but you will get a better increase by changing all of those ZERO DOLLAR interactions to collecting some revenue on every sales presentation. Change your mantra to “Every time the door swings, make sure the register rings!” and try to sell everyone something, even if it’s only $25-50, you will see amazing sales growth. This is despite the fact that you will have to explain what ringing the register means to anyone born after 1980!

You don’t have to invest in fancy sales seminars or costly tracking equipment or consultants to have an immediate impact on converting shoppers to buyers, and then onto raving fans! I’ll share the list below of the most common failures in the sales presentation process. What you do have to do is invest TIME and observe your sales team and then fearlessly coach them to success. If you tune into any professional team sport broadcast, you’ll see two fearless coaches who were not afraid to direct people three times their size on how they want the game played. If they can do that, you can too!

Coaching Job Requirements

1. Start at the FINISH! One of the most common errors RSAs make is not asking for the sale. At one point I competitively shopped 42 furniture and mattress shops and was never asked to place an order. One time I even had my AMEX card in my hand in front of the RSA. And it’s not just our industry. I recently shopped for appliances and counter-tops, not inexpensive items, and two of the three retailers visited did not invite us to do business at their location. Take time to rehearse some simple phrases with your team like, “From everything you’ve told me, this seems like the perfect item” or “Luckily we have this in stock, so you can be enjoying it this week” or “Would you prefer cash or charge”? I promise you, if you ask every shopper to place an order today, you will see an immediate increase in sales.

2. Shoppers have multiple home furnishing needs and you need to provide a complete solution. It happens every day! You greet a shopper and they tell you they need something for their home, for instance, a mattress. Since they are not mattress buying experts they may not realize that a mattress is only one part of a complete sleep solution. Always present the Three Ps, Power, Protection, and Pillows. And you already know that most shoppers have multiple MATTRESS needs, so always ask who else in the home needs to upgrade their sleeping comfort! Present the total solution and let the shopper select the items they want. As I learned at a recent convention, it’s easier to carry 100 pounds of sand downhill than carry it uphill. It’s easier to reduce the number of items in a presentation than to add on more.

3. Speak clearly and respond quickly. Most of the time RSAs are not rushed to present products and solutions. We sell BIG TICKET items and your shopper wants to make an informed decision. Take time to ask good discovery questions and take notes on what shoppers tell you. Give them solid options, and always show one DELUXE version. The only time to move quickly is when your shopper asks you for information, especially if it is via text or phone. Respond within the hour or less. In cases where information is delayed (weekend or holiday) always give your shopper a time estimate for a response.

4. Carry a BIG Tool Belt. Every RSA is equipped with all kinds of tools to convert shoppers to buyers: In-Stock Merchandise or delayed delivery, Step Ups and Step Downs, Financing options, cash or credit card, Gift with purchase, info on upcoming and past sales, plus a whole internet full of competitor information. Like any craftsperson, professional RSAs always have their tools sharpened and fully charged.

5. Quote the all-inclusive price! No one likes to be “nickeled and dimed” and in our business it’s $50s and $100s. Include tax, delivery, removal, and any other fees rather than add on at the counter. Do your shopper a favor and also quote the monthly payment. Many times there is a FREE finance promotion and everybody likes free money.

6. Start BIG but take small. Many RSAs like to play BIG GAME HUNTER. They want to get the elephant or hippo every time. However, some shoppers just want a squirrel, and some of them just want the tail. Arrange your presentation to have Best-Better-Good options, and finish with a “can’t walk” offer. Even if you can’t close on the main item, try for a smaller accessory to go from ZERO to HERO. For example, a new pillow will not cure all of a shopper’s sleep issues, but it may help them get 15 minutes more sleep-and who doesn’t want that?

7. Ask for permission to follow up. Things change in our retail world. The deal you can’t make today may be possible tomorrow. Changes in financing promotions and merchandise availability happen all the time. Simply let your shopper know that specials and new merchandise can be right around the corner, and if they will allow you, you can be sure that they know first.



RSAs have many roles in their job descriptions including Product Expert, Finance Expert, Delivery Coordinator, Customer Satisfaction Officer, and even delivery and maintenance crew on occasion. But the most important role (and never a distraction) is the role of directly facing shoppers. The better they are in that role, the more successful your company will be.

Get your advertising investment to pay off well by bringing people to your store and train your sales team to convert and maximize every sales presentation, and the job of sales becomes the EASIEST high paying position in the company.

About Gordon Hecht: Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry. You can reach him at Gordon.hecht@aol.com