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From Home Furnishing Business

Coach's Corner: Coach’s Greatest Hits List

by Tom ZOllar,

Historically, at the end of each year, we provide our readers with a list of topics that were presented in the magazine over the course of the last year. The thought process behind that strategy was predicated on the idea that if you do not know where you have come from, you do not know where you are going. In this issue we are going to expand on that and offer insight from the first five years of ideas and recommendations from Coach’s Corner. We have received very positive feedback related to our efforts, possibly because collectively we are naturally more prone to plan for the future than to evaluate the past.

What follows is a list of the top twenty articles from 2015–2019, based on input from readers and clients. You can find them in the Home Furnishing Business archive of past issues at Past-Issues. I hope you’ll read each of them in full as they contain valuable information.

1. February 2015 —“Missed Opportunities” — How well do you understand and manage the number of opportunities each of your staff members takes? Most salespeople will take all the Ups you can throw at them, but where is each one’s “point of diminishing returns”? How many potential clients are not getting properly served during your busy times? Fix this and you will find lost sales!

2. March 2015 —“Team Coach or Waterboy?” — Is your sales manager really leading your sales effort or is he/she mostly a support person for them, handling service issues and pricing questions? Is your manager coaching in the game or merely reviewing the results with the staff? Make sure your sales manager understands their role of driving sales improvement and is performing it consistently.

3. June 2015 — “Sketch to Build Sales” — There is no better tool for building sales and satisfying customers than the simple sketch. Most “big” writers sketch and none of the weaker ones waste their time doing it – perhaps there is a connection?

4. January 2016 — “Blueprint for Success” — Product knowledge and display are absolutely critical elements in the selling process for your staff. Do they have all the information they need to maximize their sales? When, by whom, and how are new products being introduced to them? Improve communication among your team as to why something is on the floor and who would buy it. This is a great way to increase sales without spending a dime.

5. April 2016 — “WOW ‘Em” — The in-store consumer experience is an area where retailers can differentiate themselves and become a true competitor in their market. You have already done something right by enticing the customer into the store. They believe you have what they want, or they would not waste their time coming in. This article highlights a few critical considerations that could help you stand out from your competitors.

6. June 2016 — “What is not measured cannot be changed” — We all tend to focus our goals and coaching efforts on total sales volume. However, the major problem with focusing on total revenue is that it is the end result of our efforts in so many areas within our business. Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to improve a result if that is all you focus on. You just cannot “coach” a result! You need to break it down into the individual factors that deliver what you want. This article presents some ideas about that process.

7. February 2017 — “Average Ticket Delivers Sales and Profit Growth, How to Drive It in 2017” — As managers you can do a fantastic job of bringing in the right customers and having the right product for them, but in the end, it is the sales person that CONTROLS your average sale! They and they alone are ultimately responsible for this result because it is their skill and desire to maximize the sale that delivers higher tickets. Therefore, you must do all you can to hire, train, and coach your staff on how to increase their tickets with each and every customer.

8. May 2017 — “Is Your Sales Management Effort Leading Performance Growth or Merely Providing Adult Day Care?” — The title of this article is based on what is meant to be a humorous commentary about what a sales manager ends up doing much of the time in most retail stores. Unfortunately, it is often a more accurate depiction of the situation than any business owner would want it to be. The reason is that many mangers get so wrapped up in solving the daily issues of their staff that they lose sight of their real role, which is to provide performance leadership that consistently improves the team’s results and actually makes all of their lives better.

9. July/August 2017 — “Our Mission Represents a Higher Calling Than We Think” — We all know that a successful salesperson on the floor can make a very good income. In most cases better than they can in other industries after spending more time and money on additional education. However, even when we show today’s younger applicants what they can earn, many of the ones we really want, turn up their noses and go elsewhere. Why is that? Perhaps it is centered on the fact that they are more interested in “making a great living” rather than just a good income.

10. November 2017 — “Why Many Customers Leave Our Stores Without Buying” — Recent research indicates that as many as 50% of those consumers who shopped a store and left without buying, stated that it was because the store “did not have what I was looking for.” Wow! That is an awfully big number. Isn’t it our sales peoples’ job to help our customers find what they are looking for? Let’s take a look at what could be causing this to happen.

11. December 2017 — “So Why Else Do Customers Leave Without Buying?” — Once we get the consumer talking to us about why they came in, we need to properly analyze their needs and wants, then develop a solution that fulfills their dream for the room within whatever physical or financial limitations they may have or they will walk out. This column presents the essence of the needs analysis and development process we train our clients to provide for their customers.

12. March 2018 — “Words Matter, So Be Careful Which Ones You Choose to Use!” — The highly successful retailer Art Van Furniture is investing a lot of money to convert all of their clearance areas into outlets, all because of the Millennials’ negative perception of that one word. This made me think about how important the words we choose to use are in everything we do, both personally and professionally. That reminded me of the famous standup comedy routine the late George Carlin performed in 1972. As a result, I put together my “Seven Word Choices You Should Say in a Home Furnishing Store,” when talking with targeted consumers and staff members.

13. April 2018 — “Are You Winning or Losing Your Market War?” — Are you winning or losing your competitive battle for share of the business conducted in your market? Every business needs to determine and understand this critical number because it is indeed the only true indicator of how you are performing in your market war. However, market share is heavily influenced by “share of traffic”. This article presents some ways to better understand and improve something even more important, our “share of customers”.

14. June 2018 — “Building the Perfect Beast. How to Develop Future Leaders” — Without training, including exposure to new ideas, processes and cutting-edge thinking, how can we hope to develop well rounded, professionals to take over our businesses and guide our industry? My best boss sent his direct reports to a great event featuring presentations from General Norman Schwarzkopf and other famous leaders. This article presents some notes I jotted down from what one of our great military figures said about being a leader.

15. November 2018 — “Where Have All the Shoppers Gone? Long Time Passing?” — Our very existence is based on the process of attracting shoppers and turning them into buyers. We like to talk about how to get more of them to visit, however, since in recent memory most furniture stores (particularly smaller ones) are getting fewer shoppers than the year before, an important question might be, where have all the shoppers gone? This made me recall the folk song Where Have All the Flowers Gone? written by Pete Seeger. Follow my rewrite of this great song to find out my opinion about where the shoppers have gone.

16. February 2019 — “Do Your Customers Know More Than Your Salespeople?” — Have you ever heard of a customer saying, “It felt like I knew more about what the store offered than the salesperson did?” That is a very scary thought, but unfortunately, if you are not consistently communicating with your staff about your products, promotions and website, it is probably happening in your store every day. Here are some thoughts about making sure your customers are not saying this about you.

17. March 2019 — “Are You Harvesting All the Low Hanging Fruit You Can?” — Low Hanging Fruit is used to describe those things that are perceived as being easier to acquire than others. It also can refer to those items that give a greater return than others for the same or less effort. Here is a short list of some of the places a home furnishings retailer could look to find some low hanging fruit they might be missing or at least not maximizing.

18. June 2019 — “What Do Top Sales Professionals Think About? The Numbers” — Do your salespeople ignore, fear or totally reject the performance metrics you use to coach their selling efforts? If so, perhaps you need to revisit the importance of these numbers with them to gain their buy in and help them be more successful running their “personal business” within your store.

19. September 2019 — “Selling WITH the Internet Instead of AGAINST It” — Has our fear of competition from the Internet caused us to miss an opportunity to use it as a tool to help our customers find what they are looking for? If most consumers start their search online, how can we incorporate it into our process to help them find what they want and get it? Here are some thoughts about where the Web is going and how it might be a good sales process asset for us.

20. October 2019 — “Turning Staff Downtime into Sales Uptime!” — What are your staff members doing when they are not working with customers on the selling floor? Making personal calls? Shopping on the Internet? Surfing the Web? Napping? Chatting? Arguing with each other? The fact is that some or all of these staff activities go on daily in most stores. It is the old cliché about idle hands. Here are some thoughts and a recommended activities list to help you turn unproductive staff downtime into productive sales uptime!

Hopefully some of these ideas and recommendations will help you improve your business in the months to come. This year has been a tough for all of us in ways that no one could have ever imagined last year. Let’s hope 2021 will be a vast improvement over 2020 and get us all back to a better “normal” than the one we have just been through!

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