Selling is show business

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I must preface this blog with the fact that I just got off a red-eye flight, and I’m sitting in the United Airlines lounge in Newark at o’dark thirty in the morning waiting to head to High Point for pre-market, so please bear with me. Don’t let the fact that I’m overtired and have been up for 20 hours detract you from my absolute conviction of the point I’m sure I’ll eventually make. I did a training with a store this morning, and something hit me like a… not a sack of potatoes? Not a lead balloon? Not a ton of bricks. I got it – an ice bucket challenge. Yeah, that’s it. Here it is. The furniture business is another way to describe the Cosa nostra that we labor and delight to figure out each and every day. We reflect, relive, and relish in the glory of a great weekend and scratch our heads when we miss the mark. We sell furniture. If you think you’re in the furniture business, I can assure you that you are either missing the proverbial boat or you’ve lost sight of the name of the game. Selling is show business.

As every marine is a rifleman first, every person in your organization must be a salesperson first. Two questions were once asked of my business several years ago in rapid succession, and they were doozies:

“Do you believe that you are a furniture store with salespeople in it, or do you think you’re a selling organization that happens to deal n furniture?”

This question really hit me hard. I began to wonder what my business really was. I always thought it was equal parts furniture and grind, but the grind was not always about selling. It was about all the other things that went with the business. The things that kept me up at night like merchandising, empty holes on the floor, a rogue salesperson that lost their way and needed to be coached, accounting, and my ten-mile long to-do list. You get the idea. I realized that I needed to be the latter and develop a process that would lend itself to that end. It changed my life. The other question:

“Who are you, and what are you doing here?”

What’s so special about your business that gives it a reason to exist? What do you do better than anyone else in your market – or even in the industry? I asked a customer this question once and was told they had the best selection at the lowest price. I looked around the shop and thought, you’ve got to be kidding me. This guy was kidding himself, and he was out of business a few years later. This is not a vision; this is a cliché.

If you are pondering the first question, allow me to add this. When the sun comes up tomorrow, and you turn the sign from closed to open, please note that business has really not changed one iota in light of how different life now is. The goal of every business and, on a molecular level, every salesperson, remains to earn a customer. If you can’t earn a new one, you better find an old one and connect with them because sitting on the up list is a waste of time. Perhaps this stems from my ownership days, but I lost my mind when I saw a salesperson in flagrante delicto, waiting for something to happen – just waiting. Standing there in their thoughts of whatever. Unengaged. Wasting time is a sickness of apathy or ignorance, and dare I say, less than stellar management.

Selling is show business, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a show. I know a lot of you get this, but a lot of you don’t. I’ve walked into stores in all regions of the country and observed salespeople unengaged and pissy about it. They are actually mad at the fact that they are bored at work. Have you ever seen anyone bored at a Home Depot or Costco? NO! Why? They have stuff to do. Shoppers to help and things to accomplish. If you are looking for the thing-a-ma-jigger at Home Depot and you see an orange apron, ya better ask. If you don’t ask now, you may not get the opportunity again for a long time. Your people need to be busy, and if they’re not, give ‘em something to do to keep them busy. Consider the fact that you should be a selling organization. Establishing that culture is critical to the mission of earning and keeping customers. Give them a reason to want to shop with you above and beyond that sofa they think they like. Script a selling process that is customer-facing and speaks to your values, ethics, and integrity. Give your customers a showtime performance with each and every up. If a customer is worth staying open till 9:00 for, they are worth giving an impeccable show of knowledge and professionalism – even at 8:59 when you want to lock up and go home.

Remind yourself and your sales team that selling is more than just business. Taking care of the customer is show business.

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