This weekend as a country we celebrate hard working Americans in all professions and occupations. Those of us who rely on the furniture business as our primary income also celebrate the retailer’s “Labor Day” sales that in many cases go on for three weeks or more.
No matter what the reason for the Monday holiday, this seems to mark the end of summer, the start of football season and need for reps to start getting ready for Fall markets. As you begin to look ahead to the next several months I encourage you to take a look at your business and business practices. Here are three questions I have been asking our team and they may be helpful to you as we come out of summer and you look to grow your business.
- What is your reputation? In any sales career you are only as good as your reputation. Guys get offers for jobs based on positive word of mouth. Guys also lose business and sometimes they don’t know why except word gets out they cannot be trusted. There’s a guy in our industry, many of you may know. He hit some hard times and asked me for a small loan. Promised he would pay it back in 30 days. After two years of no communication from him and only communication instituted by me, he has made one small payment. Now he doesn’t even bother answering my phone calls. I am so very disappointed in him because if he can’t handle personal matters, there is no way he can be trusted or recommended in business matters. Don’t be that guy. Try to hold yourself out there as one who is a man or woman of their word. People do business with people they know, like and especially trust. Be that person in all your actions.
- Is your business congruent? By that I mean when a customer looks at what you offer does it fit together in a consistent or harmonious way. If you are a retailer it is tough to offer $299 sofas and 8 way hand tied custom order leather sofas that retail for $1000’s of dollars unless you have a show floor and advertising budget as big as Nebraska Furniture Mart. So if you are a rep, why would you consider having two lines that are on opposite sides of the spectrum? If you do have you will have to be in every retailer and you will not be good to any retailer because you will be spread too thin. On the other hand, if you have in your bag two lines that essentially sell the same thing, that’s not so good either. How do you know what dining set to pull out for what customer? One final example along these lines. I get calls from time to time about selling a big order for a bar or nursing home or a hotel. I don’t solicit this business but usually a customer comes into a retailer account of mine and they don’t have any contract furniture and call me to see if I can help. But contract furniture is a whole different game than residential furniture and I politely turn the business down because I do not have any solutions. Focus on products and services you are good at and then become the best resource for your customer in that specialty.
- Are there customers you should fire? Whether you are a retailer or a rep, there are problem customers. They may be a problem because they are demanding or they may be a problem because you are trying to solve a problem for them that you do not have the ability to solve without stepping out of your area of competency. There are customers that are demanding, but when you work to figure out what they are asking, the change to meet their needs makes your whole business better. For example, they may demand better packaging because of the damages that occur. By changing the packaging you make your product better for everyone. That’s worth doing. But then there are customers who are just downright difficult in their demands to the point that you are not profitable or it changes your business model in a way that you are unhappy with the direction. Those are the customers you need to take a long hard look at whether or not you should continue to do business with them.
So those are my thoughts for you on Labor Day. Work smarter not harder! Just a little reviewing the business as we leave summer, planning for October market, tweaking of the business model, and making sure you position your business for future profits. As always, feel free to leave any positive comments below. Happy Labor Day and as the retailer’s sale ads say Labor Day held over by popular demand.