Especially in periods of traffic decline, working to improve the SalesPer
Guest metric is one of the most critical things a retailer can do to
dramatically improve sales performance.
I have seen this game played before. A broad increase in home furnishings
traffic due to external factors followed by a decrease. This happened after
the housing finance boom in the first decade of the century and now
following the COVID boom. The current cycle will, as it has in the past,
separate the strong from the weak and shape the next 10 years.
Consumers shop at physical furniture and mattress stores when they are in
the dreaming stage, the ready-to-buy-now stage or may be planning for their
next purchase. They typically don’t visit showrooms because they have time
to kill. They visit because they want to experience product in-person, and
need help or advice they cannot get via an online transaction. Retail
managers who understand this can, and should, use the Sales Per Guest
performance metric to get the highest possible revenue from shoppers who
walk into their stores. The Sales Per Guest, or SPG, equals Sales divided by
the Number of Guests Served.
I have written about SPG in the past. However, right now, furniture
retailers need to implement the systems, processes, and actions used by the
highest-achieving SPG organizations or face consequences of
underperformance. Those operations that improve their SPG withstand
economic-caused traffic down cycles much better than their competitors. They
gain market share and become hugely profitable in succeeding growth periods.
Those that do not improve their SPG will eat up cash and may risk going out
SPG numbers for organizations range from $200 to $2,000, with an average
range of $400 to $700. From a sales management perspective, one of the most
critical things you can do is to improve your SPG state. This can be
assisted with13 practices, processes, and actions.
“No matter how much traffic is down from the ‘COVID bubble,’ THERE IS STILL
TRAFFIC! Keep in mind that shoppers who do not buy today, will likely buy
Inspect what you expect. Track SPG by day, week,
month-to-date, month-end, quarter and year. Report from the perspective
of your overall organization, by store, by team, by manager and by
salesperson. Tracking an important metric is akin to an athlete working
to improve a time, score, or average. Keeping score tells you if you are
winning or losing. Not keeping score is playing for the fun of it,
rather than playing to win.
Have a well-followed selling process. Just having a
selling process means nothing. Following a selling process, day in and
day out, means everything. In some operations, individuals far
outperform their company’s averages. This occurs because high-performing
individuals have developed better ways to consistently and successfully
approach selling. Underperforming individuals have fewer effective
approaches and may have work ethic issues. That is why it’s important to
continually work on implementing better selling processes and REQUIRE
everyone on your team to use these tools, as an organization, to achieve
Avoid chaos management situations. Adhering to systems,
processes and innovation implementation is almost impossible without
competent sales management to provide control and direction. Without
that, organizations must invest time and resources in conducting chaos
management. A good rule of thumb for most organizations is to have one
good manager per seven to12 salespeople. Small retailers that are
satisfied with their current sales volumes can get by with the store
owner assuming this important sales management role.
Salespeople working under strong sales managers generally follow
directives. Weak managers allow individuals to decide how they wish to
conduct their jobs. The result is that some managers effectively become
sales assistants, forced to solve customer issues that often arise.
Do not allow salespeople to EVER define their own ways of doing things
for the organization. That’s a recipe for producing sub-standard
results. Typically, individual salespeople do not look at data and
behaviors from a big-picture point of view. Instead, their decisions are
often based on exceptions and their individual experiences. Non-managers
are often not qualified to define and decide on best practice systems
Keep sketching. Drawing a simple rendition of a
customer’s room has been a proven and economical method of achieving
higher SPG for as long as I have been in the industry. It has also been
one of the most underutilized and disregarded tools by many salespeople.
Exceptional managers producing high SPG that I work with have
salesforces that consistently sketch. They also track and take pictures
of the sketches.
Encourage home visits. Home visits are necessary for
retailers who want to capture the biggest deals. Home visits are not
appropriate for every customer but can be very effective for helping
draw in those prospects who don’t purchase on their first store visit.
Many sales teams think home visits are only for designers; however,
simple measuring and photo services can be offered by almost any
furniture store. This enables people to complete their selection with
informed recommendations from sales associates back at the store.
Imagine trying to sell carpet without a measuring service—why is a
completely finished room any different?
Get information for non-closed, in-store traffic. A
recent Furniture World article on Guest Productivity in this series
stressed the importance of being more effective with non-closed,
in-store, prospects. No matter how much traffic is down from the “COVID
bubble,” THERE IS STILL TRAFFIC. Keep in mind that shoppers who don’t
buy today, will likely buy soon. You are wasting your advertising money
if you do not serve unsold customers properly. To do that, associates
must gather and record relevant prospect information. Optimal
information includes full name, email, phone, city, sketch photo, room,
timeline, budget range, likes/dislikes, a date for follow-up, agreed
upon follow-up and any other relevant topics that were discussed. This
info can be initially recorded on a simple notepad, but ultimately
should be input into a digital system. Paper management is old school.
The more information gathered digitally, the better the chance of
getting prospects back into the store to buy.
Do something with the information. Collecting
information is a waste of time and disrespectful to a potential customer
should there be inadequate follow-up. I have witnessed time and time
again that many managers have few systems to ensure timely follow-up.
Even worse, many salespeople are content to wait for prospects to take
responsibility for following up with them. Telling a prospect that they
should follow up if they are interested, is not a successful strategy.
Treat the process of selling home furnishings as a professional service.
One difference between professionals and amateurs is that professional
businesses have defined and required follow-up methods and systems,
whereas amateur organizations do not. Systems define outcomes!
Build bigger tickets. Most furniture and mattress stores get the highest percentage of sales
from seating, mattresses, beds, and tables. High-performing organizations
do a better job of selling add-on items such as protection, adjustable
bases, rugs, pillows, lighting, accents, and accessories. Their average
ticket per customer is higher as is their SPG. And, although not true for
all organizations, businesses that offer financing terms typically produce
higher average tickets and close rates as well.
Move prospects along an efficient path. Remember a
famous scene from the movie Glengarry Glen Ross: ABC = Always Be
Closing! When applied to home furnishings, this means continually moving
the prospect along the most efficient path to becoming a happy paying
customer. Ask for the sale and always confirm the follow-up, whether the
close is successful or not. The close is either a sale or a scheduled
Use a digital calendar. I cannot understate the importance of scheduling. Here is why: People are
busy and use their mobile phones as assistants to organize themselves. If
you want to have the best chance of helping people buy and keep them happy
after the sale, respect their time and schedule all follow-up activities.
Writing a follow-up date on the back of a paper card is as weak as using a
paper Rolodex for reminders—old school. Using digital calendar invitations
and scheduling activities digitally yields better results.
“Many sales teams think home visits are only for designers; however,
simple measuring and photo services can be offered by most any furniture
Dedicate manager(s) of pre-store leads. Shoppers find
you on the internet and if they like what they see, some will contact
you before visiting your showroom. Those operations with dedicated and
competent lead managers produce greater SPG for salespeople. The best
way not to drop the ball is to use online systems that capture
customers’ information as if they had already visited the store, so an
in-person appointment can be scheduled with a salesperson or designer.
Close rates and average sales for these hand-over leads are greater
because the prospects are vetted, serious and “warmed-up,” meaning their
situation, their wants and their needs have been pre-determined.
Survey customers about their next purchase. Realize
that when a shopper does buy, they may still be in the market to
purchase other home goods. The fact that they just spent their money
with you signals that they trusted you. It is a good idea to send a
short two- or three-question survey asking them about their experience
and how you may assist them with their future needs. Be creative, timely
and personal about how you ask for this information and you will
generate leads that you normally would not have.
Segment and target past customers to get repeat visits.
About 15 years ago, I wrote an article called The Power of e-Marketing.
It explained that “Batch and Blast” marketing produced average results.
It amazes me that marketers still use this approach to send messages to
previous customers. Technology has advanced so much since I wrote that
article. Now, advanced CXM (Customer eXperience Management) and CRM
(Customer Relationship Management) technology can look at what a
customer previously bought or did not buy and send targeted relevant
suggestions automatically from salespeople to customers. For example,
send an adjustable base offer to someone who purchased a mattress
without an adjustable. Or send vendor-targeted suggestions to people who
purchased a particular vendor’s goods. The possibilities here are
limited only by a retailer’s creativity and investment in technology.
“Weak managers allow individuals to decide how they wish to conduct their
jobs. The result is that those managers effectively become sales assistants,
forced to solve customer issues that often arise.”
Any of these actions, if implemented, would produce higher SPG. The two
important words here are “if implemented.” Even in slower times, this is a
challenge for people and organizations. Ask any successful team, individual
or business in any field if progress and proficiency can be achieved by
being comfortable doing things the same old way. My observation is that
high-performing individuals, managers, and organizations that successfully
execute and implement new practices are OK being a bit uncomfortable while
The suggestions in this article will succeed or fail depending on the degree
to which your organizational culture can overcome the challenge of learning
and doing. Those that achieve will produce higher SPG and gain market share
over their competitors during the current economic downturn.
See all of David McMahon’s articles
here. He can
be reached with questions about this or other retail operations topics at