Furniture retailers are all about making the sale. Not just a good sale — a great sale. Reviewing your sales team stats can lend insight on where you can make adjustments within your team, leading to a sure-fire way to score those great sales.
My daughter plays volleyball. Her team plays six hours a week, and there are eleven other girls all working hard to improve their skills. Even though this is a team sport, her value to the team depends on her doing her job on the court. Volleyball is very unforgiving because if a mistake is made, usually the ball flies out, and the point is lost. As it happens, the squad she is on has a few players who aren’t as good as some others and, even though those girls try, it’s tough to watch the mistakes at tournaments that lead to losing points and games. Even tougher is watching all the attention those girls get during practice. The coach spends a ton of time trying to get mild improvement out of the girls who, let’s face it, might be better suited for a different sport.
It got me thinking about the sales floor and what makes a great team, group, or organization. One may believe that managing a showroom floor is a subjective thing and operators distinguish the better salespeople from those who need work based on one number, production. Sales numbers are the driver that denotes a good teammate from a less than productive one. I used to think that way until the fog lifted and facts were separated from the land of make-believe.
Francis gets the sales
I’ll never forget Francis. He was an unbelievable writer. He sold pretty much everyone he approached, and he did it without the benefit of knowing much English. Francis, a soft-spoken Vietnamese guy, had an engaging smile, nodded, and pointed a lot, so I took a chance on hiring him because of that great demeanor and because the store was adjacent to a large Vietnamese community. I had no idea just how little English he knew until months after he started. I mean, he sold stuff; he had a ton of tickets under his belt and did not disrupt the apple cart. In a large store with 26 salespeople, he flew well under the radar. One day, I pulled reports and ran one buried in the menu called margin percentage per salesperson. Who was at the bottom? Francis. Dead last by a lot. I scratched my head, wondering how that could be. It turned out to be a lot of things. Upon a review of his sales, I discovered that he sold a ton of advertised items only. If we advertised a $149 recliner, that’s what he sold. There was no protection on anything because he didn’t have the vocabulary to offer it. There were no add-on items on his tickets for the same reason. No accessories — nothing. He was the king of the single item ticket. As it turned out, Francis was an unassuming gentleman who was there to get the customer whatever they wanted. His language constraint and personal beliefs prevented him from offering any economic value to me as a guy with a furniture store. I was sad because this wasn’t going to work, and I was embarrassed that I thought Francis was a selling enigma of epic proportion.
Stats lead to decisive action
I had to take responsibility for this. I hired Francis. I respected the hell out of him for doing what he was doing every day at work without knowing the language; you had to admire the moxy of that. Alas, this could not continue. I called him to the office with an interpreter, and we had a chat about the expectations and how we needed him to maximize each opportunity. A concept to which he was no stranger. We enrolled him in English courses at the local junior college and paid for a tutor to work with him to get his English up to an acceptable level, and his sales went up. When we brought in lunch on a busy Saturday, Francis would call to order it. It was a lot of fun. He went from mild-mannered to a force to behold, and his confidence shined. I learned a ton from Francis. Sales numbers are step one on the path to truly understand your floor. Good numbers and a stack of deals are a good start but are only the beginning. Individual stats at every level, like my daughter’s volleyball team, are the key to having a well-oiled squad. A girl with a killer serve who can’t seem to play the ball afterward doesn’t help the team win. Francis was a great server, but he couldn’t play the ball.
Some stats I started to use to gauge sales staff were:
- Accessory sales dollar percentage of the total ticket — if you can add on a silk tree, you can sell.
- Total items per ticket — Ya gotta add on, baby.
- Protection — Show me the money.
- Closing percentage — Always a tough one to measure accurately, but a critical number to know. No burning ups.
Train up your team
Of course, reviewing sales team stats and identifying the deficiencies in some of the people on the floor wasn’t enough. You have to do something about it. I wasn’t running a volleyball team. I was managing a business, so I had to look at where I could get the most increases to achieve the goal; to sell everyone I could the most things I could with honesty and integrity. To do that, working on my top 10% wasn’t going to get the max ROI from my time. They were doing fine. It was those bottom 40% I needed to work with because they had the most to gain. Once we established that these less successful players wanted to improve and were having problems with some aspect of their presentation, we established category boot camps to build knowledge in certain topics. We discussed foam density, fabric construction, sales theory, and wood specs. More often than not, confidence rose, and sales increased in lockstep.
Concentrate on the stats; they will lead you to the mountaintops.