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From Home Furnishing Business

Game Plan for a Winning Season

In the last issue we focused on the need for the sales manager in a home furnishings store to be its sales team coach to maximize performance.

In future articles we will discuss the duties, tasks and talents necessary to do that, like observation, feedback, training and communication. While most readers agree setting up such a system is the right thing to do, many said they had struggled to make it happen on a regular basis in their store. A myriad of daily interruptions and distractions consistently pop up making the task difficult.

In many cases, that happens because we miss one of the most important steps in the coaching process—planning. In sports you must have a solid game plan before competing. It’s the same in business. Everyone has heard of the Five Ps of Business—Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. (Many of us might be aware of a sixth P, which I chose not to include since this is a family magazine.)


Successful organizations always have a plan in place to manage the most important areas like finance, inventory, marketing and physical assets. Since sales volume fundamentally drives retail, it makes sense to have a solid plan in place to manage that area, too. While most can put the numbers together fairly well, many tend to struggle when it comes to creating a blueprint to make things happen on the sales floor. We may know the ingredients to success, but without a proper strategy in place, we can’t make them happen consistently to drive sales growth. We understand the why and what, we just stumble with the how part of the success equation.

Here is an outline of a simple, fun approach to executing a sales plan that will help incorporate the power of team coaching into sales management efforts in the future.


Step 1: Treat the year like the coach and the owner of a pro football team would treat a season. You’ll play 12 games in the season, and each game pits you against an opponent presenting different challenges and opportunities. Your first game is against January; the second against February and so on until November and December when the playoff games determine success or failure.

Create a game plan for each game or month that maximizes the impact of advertising, merchandising and sales efforts. The person in charge of executing the plan is your sales manager or coach.

Step Two: Organize the plan’s execution for each game or month. Remember, each game has four quarters—the weeks. During the pre-game or kick-off meeting at the start of the month, the coach reviews the plan with the players, or in this case, the salespeople.

Be sure to present and review advertising and promotional efforts; address any new or special product information; and discuss staffing needs for events. Be sure to announce goals for important measurements like volume, growth and revenue per up, and train the staff on how to use key elements of the promotion to close sales.

Pump up the team and keep them motivated with monthly contests to drive performance. During the first week, the coach watches the game and tracks each member’s performance, helping where needed, being on the sales floor and in the game.

At the end of the first quarter or week, the coach meets with players individually, updating them on the team’s—and their performance—during the first week. All team members receive individual feedback on how they and the team are doing.

Above-average team members get positive reinforcement during brief, informal meetings. Team members with sub-par performance get special attention including additional training and coaching through formal one-on-one meetings on how to improve. The coach then reviews the game plan and covers any changes or new elements with the team.

During the second week, the coach again watches the game, tracks each team member’s performance, specifically following up with under performers to ensure they follow suggestions for improvement.

At the halftime market, or at the end of the two-week period, the coach should meet with team members to discuss how the game is going and announce additional events or elements to the game plan for the second half. All team members should receive individual feedback on how they and the team are performing.

Players above the team average receive positive reinforcement and are encouraged to continue their efforts in one-on-one meetings with the coach.

During the third week, the coach observes the game and tracks team member’s performance and again, follows up with under performers.

With roughly a week or so to go in the game at the end of the third week, the coach continues to keep all players up to date on performance through the first three quarters and double downs on efforts to drive sales. This is where great sports coaches shine because they know what needs to be done to win the game and focus on helping individual players rise to the challenge of a strong finish.

Team members are given individual feedback on progress. Above-average members are positively encouraged to continue their pace, and those team members who are below the average are given special attention, training and coaching in formal one-on-one meetings to improve their stats.

The coach reviews the game plan, covers any changes or new elements and provides positive motivation for the team to win the game.

Once the game is over, the coach leads the celebration after a victory and the post-game analysis following a loss. It is now time to discuss what the team did well and where it needs to improve. Congratulate the stars in public, and coach those that failed individually. However, there’s no need to dwell on either for too long. It’s now time for the kickoff meeting for the next game.

Besides, champions never rest on past victories. They focus on future triumphs.

Remember, you can only play and coach one game at a time. If you and your team focus on winning each game and put enough effort into the process, chances are you will win most of your games, netting a winning season.

Every coach should have a few tools to help build the best sales team possible.

An individual feedback report is an easy way for both the coach and the sales team to track needed information. It includes sales performance numbers for the team and for individuals.

It presents the information month-to-date so the coach can keep the team aware of ongoing progress. The format makes it easy to hand out and discuss with team members on a weekly basis. This example comes from the proprietary SalesWorks Online software program, available through and Impact Consulting Services.

An individual performance report, like the one below, is another tool for a retail sales coach. A performance report shows each individual’s month-to-date performance along with an analysis that shows how much those that underperform the store average are leaving on the table.

The report calculates what each person’s results would be if they were at the store average in closing rate and average sale instead of at their own level. The last column reflects the total sales that were missed had both performances numbers been at the store average. This information shows managers where the greatest potential for improvement lies so he or she can focus their efforts on that area with individuals. It is also very easy to calculate the lost income by person, which can be used to help motivate them to improve. This sample report also comes from the SalesWorks Online program.

Editor’s Note: Tom Zollar is retail operations practice manager for Impact Consulting where he creates and delivers sales training for retailer sales associates and managers, facilitates retail performance groups, coaches managers and helps retailers grow their business. In other words, he’s our resident coach … without the whistle.


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