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The Three Million Dollar Retail Salesman

Furniture World Magazine
Volume 151 NO. 4 July/August


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$3 Million Man

There is at least one retail furniture store salesperson who wrote the equivalent of $10,000 every day in 2020, selling furniture and mattresses.

People accomplish amazing things when they take a professional approach to opportunities and challenges.

It was just over 68 years ago that athlete and future neurologist Roger Bannister shocked the world by running a 4-minute mile, formerly considered an impossible achievement. His famous run was precisely 3:59.4 and occurred after he timed at 4:03, 4:10, and 4:13 runs in previous years.

Since that world record was set, an amazing 584 people have run a mile in under four minutes and that list increased by 18 new members in the last indoor season.

Records, especially from the disco era, were made to be broken. It’s true in our retail world too. There was a time when $1million in annual retail sales in furniture and bedding was deemed impossible-and many people could sell $300,000 to $500,000 and earn a good living.

There was a time when $1 million in annual retail sales in furniture and bedding was deemed impossible —and many people could sell $300,000 to $500,000 and earn a good living.

Check out business social media sites like LinkedIn around early December and you’ll start to see celebration, well-earned indeed, for RSAs crossing that mark. You’ll even see a few $2 million writers.

Just like Bannister’s record, the once impossible has become routine. And new records are being set. There is, at least, one $3 million salesperson in our nation, selling only furniture and mattresses. That’s no easy accomplishment: it’s equal to writing $10,000 a day, every working day of the year.

His name is Chris and he works in a southern state not known as a retirement mecca. I spoke with his manager and the owner of the company Chris works for. They told me how he reached this lofty goal.

Product Knowledge Part 1

Chris is not a specification wonk, but he has excellent knowledge of the product features that will benefit the specific customer he is working with. The knowledge is internalized; he doesn’t have to check a catalog or look online. And he uses that knowledge like a chef uses salt: just enough to give flavor, and not so much as to overwhelm.

Product Knowledge Part 2

Today, the greatest competitive edge is availability. Chris not only knows his products, but also knows the stock status. He knows what’s in the local distribution center along with what’s on the road heading to his company. He understands how to utilize clearance merchandise, and floor samples that may be ready for retirement. Based on the shopper’s requirements, he tailors his presentation to their needs. He also checks with the delivery team to know what slots are open for the upcoming week.

Dance to the Music Played

His store manager told me that Chris mirrors his speech pattern to match his shoppers. He is soft-spoken with quieter shoppers and can joke, laugh, and sing with the boisterous ones. He works to make a friend first and a customer second. Besides closing more sales, he gets more referrals than anyone else on the sales team. He has learned to sell himself first.

No Prejudice

It’s a fact, prejudice is still prevalent on sales floors today. And it has nothing to do with your customer base. Salespeople tend to sell the merchandise they like and stay away from items and categories they don’t understand. In typical retail furniture stores, many RSAs stay away from the bedding department, or don’t take time to enhance customer selections with lamps, rugs, and artwork. Chris sells a wide variety of products. He’s not the store leader in any one of them but sells a lot of all of them.

Put me in Coach

Athletes and musicians earning multi-millions have coaches to help them improve their performance. Even part-time duffers on the golf course or tennis court spend hard-earned dough just to take their game up a notch. But when it comes to training, coaching, and using new tools, our sales team scoffs and belittles the value. Chris builds his business by graciously accepting coaching and including it in his presentation in the next opportunity. You’ll see him taking notes during training, and you may even see him reading an article or blog between ups.

Honesty

Salespeople, and even some retailers and manufacturers, are infamous for embellishing the value or performance of their merchandise. Top performers like Chris know that it’s hard enough to sell someone the first time, it’s doubly hard to try to re-sell on a reselect. In this imperfect world we’ll never satisfy every shopper, but Chris spends less valuable selling time re-selling by finding the right item for the shopper the first time. He also provides them with a reasonable expectation on product performance and delivery time.

 

 

The Loser’s Lounge

Retail sales floors are a source of income and often become a social setting. We spend more waking hours at our store than our home. Some work conversations are light-hearted, others can turn dark. Chris is the guy who never accepts the invitation to the Pity Party taking place in the breakroom. While everyone else is complaining about business, he’s making a few hundred bucks.

It’s Where He Works

Don’t think that it’s an accident that Chris works for a leading regional retailer. His company helps Chris by providing opportunity. During the start of COVID in April 2020, they had a state-mandated shutdown for eight weeks. The owners knew business would return and increased their stock orders by 150% for the next three months. They’ve kept that rate of ordering up and always have a great supply of merchandise. They don’t have everything in stock every day, but they keep the barn pretty darned full. Their work week of four 10-hour days helps Chris maintain a good work life balance.

Drop the Ego

With all those sales, Chris will earn something north of $180,000 this year. He’ll earn more than his store manager, general manager, or any of the VPs in his company. They understand that they do better when he does better. Egos about earnings must be put aside when you have a high performer.

They (didn’t) Break the Mold. There are very few “born” salespeople. Chris has natural talent and charisma, but he needed training, coaching, encouragement, and the environment to succeed to sell $3 million. There may not be a lot of retail salespeople like him, but chances are good that there’s a potential multi-million-dollar performer on your team. And if not, they’re on someone else’s team, or may be playing at the college level or on a completely different field.

Create the right conditions, policies, expectations, and marketing, and you’ll attract a Chris of your own.


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
Read other articles by Gordon Hecht