Youth certainly has its advantages, but so does experience. I spent the
first four decades of my furniture retail career earnestly attempting to
climb to the proverbial mountaintop of my retail sales career. Youthful
energy and enthusiasm kept me moving along every day. However, just a few
years ago, I finally reached the pinnacle.
The world looks different from a top-down vantage point than it does from
the bottom-up. From my top-down view, I’ve seen my retail sales and sales
management career more clearly. Following retirement from active sales and a
transition to a post-retirement career in sales training, glaring weaknesses
and inadequacies in our industry that I did not identify earlier came into
It was as if my mind refused to retire from active sales. It was like a
computer that kept running, synthesizing unconscious memories and
experiences from years of conscious thinking about sales! Often, it
“connects all the dots” in a flash of insight while doing something
different, such as driving, out on a boat fishing or hitting the links.
Here are just two thoughts I would like to share in this Next Level Training
installment before moving on to the main focus of this article. First, keep
the mature people in your organization who have climbed to the top of their
profession! The energy and enthusiasm of the young and the perspective and
wisdom of older folks complement each other. Second, if you are thinking
about retirement, for the reasons just mentioned, your most important
contributions to our industry may occur after you retire.
The New You. When someone joins the military, they are
taught much more than the basic skills required to do a particular job.
The training is also designed to transform them as individuals into
steely “freedom fighters” with the resolve to persevere and overcome,
regardless of the odds or obstacles.
Similarly, when you onboard and train new salespeople, you must provide
them with much more than just information about how to do their jobs.
You must transform how they think about themselves by providing them
with the proper mindset to succeed and SUCCEED BIG! This means imparting
the many crucial Success Skills they must internalize during your boot
camp orientation training.
Every raw recruit needs to be trained exceptionally well regarding what
it takes to succeed in your organization. This includes how to:
- Achieve the proper focus every minute of every workday.
- Have the proper attitude.
- Sustain a commitment to constant growth.
- Consistently help other team members.
- Be known for having a great work ethic.
- Focus on conflict avoidance and ongoing self-evaluation.
- Identify personal and process weaknesses.
- Cultivate impeccable ethics.
To show a new commitment to excellence and avoid constantly “turning the
bottom,” your training motto should be: “We thoroughly train everyone to
Succeed Big!” That also means beginning every new orientation training
with the most important message of all: “Welcome to the brand-new YOU, a
committed, virtually unstoppable Success Machine!”
Teach Your Salespeople This Golden Perspective. What
accounts for the difference between a $1 million writer and someone who
writes twice that much annually? How about the chief difference between
a $2 million and a $3 million writer? In each case, superior writers
always take their customers to a much “better place” conversationally!
Here’s a simple explanation of what’s meant by that. The million-dollar
writer will do a good job focusing on all the important features and
benefits of the presented merchandise and other store offerings
appropriate for a particular customer. The salesperson writing twice as
much will do that too, but focus much more heavily on the customer
relationship, emphasizing product usage, presented in a way that
highlights their personal needs.
The first salesperson might say something like this, “These dovetail
drawers use the strongest of all drawer joints, meaning they are very
sturdy and will last a long time!”
The second salesperson would approach information-sharing a little
differently by presenting the same quality story in a much more
meaningful, personalized way. They might say, “Mary, you indicated that
your two little ones are only four and five years old. These dovetailed
drawers are perfect for you because they are the strongest drawer
joinery in the industry. If Jenny or Tommy ever pull, hang on or climb
in these drawers, they won’t break. Incidentally, this chest complies
with CPSC regulations that protect children from injury due to clothing
storage unit tip-over. Also, this type of drawer construction will
enable you to pass these pieces on to Jenny or Tommy as the perfect
heirloom gift and treasured memory of the wonderful time they had while
growing up in your home!”
So, after reading the second salesperson’s words, you may now wonder,
“What in the world could a $3-million writer possibly do that’s better
than that?” Here’s that very empowering key insight! They will always
focus on the customer’s future business rather than just today’s sale!
They would add the following types of phrases to set themselves apart.
“Mary, my mission is to help you to not only get exactly what you want
but also something that will work perfectly for you for as long as you
need it! I’m here to serve you, not the store. I truly have YOUR best
interest at heart. If I believe something won’t work well for you, I
will be honest and let you know. I believe that’s why nearly all my past
customers ask for me when they return with a future need.”
The differences among these three types of salespeople are based on
what’s primarily driving their thinking. The first salesperson was
focused almost exclusively on “the stuff” the shopper was looking at.
The second salesperson covered the merchandise well, but emphasized
“personalizing” the relationship. The last salesperson did these two
things, plus focused on building strong bridges and creating bonds with
customers to get their future business!
Hey, if you disagree, here’s a good question for you! What’s the very
best way to describe a $3 million writer? It’s someone who writes tons
of repeat business!
“How your salespeople view their role in the selling process is what
drives the rest of their thinking and their behavior in every sales
Take Them on a Journey!
The following insight is so powerful it could improve even a $3
million-dollar writer’s performance. I’d like to introduce you to a new
concept—one I refer to as “journeying” with your customer.
The more perspectives a salesperson enables customers to have when
presenting merchandise, the better those customers will bond with items
and the more comfortable they will be with the salesperson. For example,
when presenting a recliner, pull it away from the wall so the customer
can look at its back and underneath it. Then, fully recline it and ask
them to look at it extended while standing some distance from the side.
The idea is that greater familiarity creates increased likability, which
translates into greater decision-making confidence.
The feeling I used to get after extending my presentations in this way
was one of having been on a journey of exploration with the customer. I
hardly ever lost a sale once I reached this point. There is another type
of journeying that accomplishes the same thing. It consists of going on
a mental journey with a customer to several locations without physically
leaving the store!
Here’s what I mean. Through the use of skillful conversation, have the
customer take you on a tour of their room. A few basic questions can
easily get things off and running. “What’s your room’s focal point? What
items will you be keeping in the room? Where will they be located in the
room? What are your wall and carpet colors like?”
The more places you journey to, the better! Below are two examples I
Before reading them, remember that the “journey” taken should be
different for each store and customer. It would be inappropriate and
perhaps insulting to suggest (as in the examples below) that a customer
who selected a $20,000 sofa go to the dollar store to purchase fiber
filling. Or, to consider that they might want to change out the
custom-crafted hardware on a high-end bedroom set with knobs purchased
at Home Depot.
Example #1: “Ms. Customer, if you want to change the
look of this hardware later on, just go to the hardware aisle at Home
Depot and check out dozens of available choices. Have you been down that
aisle before? These knobs have no backplates, so they will be easy to
change if you ever want a different look later on.”
Example #2: “Ms. Customer, over time, this polyester
fiber filling in the oversized sofa arm cushions may flatten out. Simply
get an inexpensive bag for about $5 at Walmart and add stuffing. They
will be like new again! And also, to keep things from sliding in your
new living room table’s drawers and even the seat cushions from slipping
in the older furniture you’ll be keeping, just go to the local Dollar
Store, and for about $1, you can get six feet of no-slip grip material!”
I encourage you to brainstorm dozens of ways to journey with your
store’s customers. When done well, the net effect is that it helps them
in ways other salespeople never thought of. Doing this takes the
salesperson-customer relationship to a much higher level. After all, how
could you both not be much better friends after having just traveled to
the Dollar Store to buy non-slip materials or perhaps an art gallery to
purchase original contemporary art to go over their $20,000
Wishing You the Very “Best” on Your “Journey” of Sales Improvement. Happy