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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sell Vs. Cell: How can you sell when your customer is on their cell?

I commonly hear frustration from design consultants regarding the rudeness of customers shopping in their showroom on their cell phones. Here are some quick tips to deal with a cell-phone browser.

First of all, keep your cool and come from a place of understanding. Everyone has more on their to-do list than they can usually accomplish in a day. So, our culture is multi-tasking more than ever. That means it's quite common for people to shop and at the same time conduct business or connect with friends on the phone.

If you look at it from the customer's perspective, it's their time and they can do with it what they want. They don’t view shopping in your furniture store any different from browsing at Pier One or Ikea. And would you even think twice about using your cell phone in those stores?

So it’s usually not that they are doing it to spite you. Although, I have heard some Design Consultants mention that the customer’s phone has actually rung while they were “talking” on it – meaning the customer was using their cell phone as a defense against having to interact with a “sales person.”

Again, I encourage you to approach the situation with understanding and compassion. If you think your customer is pretending to be on the phone to avoid you, they obviously have had very negative experiences with furniture sales people in the past. They don’t know you, or your talents, or how nice you are to work with…yet. So, they assume that all furniture sales people are the same. They assume you will be just like the others they’ve encountered.

If you ever come across this situation, remember – it’s not you. It’s all the other “sales people” that have come before you that are causing this customer to feel they have to use their cell phone as a defense mechanism.

So how should you deal with your next “Cell Phone Shopper?” Here are my quick tips.

1) Interrupting or disturbing their conversation in any way will make you seem like the rude, pushy one – which is exactly what we are trying NOT to be. This customer may already have preconceived notions that all furniture store sales people are pushy. We are trying to step out of the “sales person” role and into the role of trusted, design professional. So don’t attempt to conduct a regular greeting over the customer’s conversation.

2) Instead, just give them an acknowledgement – maybe a smile, quick “Hello” and a wave. If you happen to get a chance to make eye contact with them, and you feel it’s appropriate, you can say a quick, “I’ll be here for you when you’re ready.”

3) When you see them conclude their conversation, approach promptly (before they get a chance to make or take another call ;). Acknowledge your courteous behavior by saying something like, “I hope you didn’t think I was ignoring you. I just didn’t want to interrupt your phone conversation so I figured I’d wait until you were finished.”

Then, try to make some social conversation before getting into “talking business.” Social conversation is the foundation for trusted, professional relationships. So, you’ll probably read something about it in almost every one of my blog posts. If they have an interesting cell phone or unique cover for it, you might even use that as your conversation starter.

4) If you think this customer may leave without ever getting off their phone, write a quick note inviting them back in the showroom when they have more time. Then hand it to them, along with your business card and any type of catalog or flyer that you have on hand to peak their interest in returning to the store, right before they’re ready to exit. Your note might say something like this:

I noticed you were on an important cell phone call and I didn’t want to interrupt it. My name is (Your name), a Design Consultant here at (Your store) for the last (number of years you’ve worked at the store). I would love to work with you on creating a beautiful, comfortable home - whether it’s picking out the perfect finishing touches for a furnished space or designing a whole new room. I invite you to stop back in any time. Or, if you’d like to schedule an appointment to make sure I’m available to give you my undivided attention, feel free to call or email me and we can set something up.

Have a wonderful day!

You might have a couple of these notes ready to go so you aren’t trying to scribble it out before the customer reaches the door.

These techniques will work much better than getting upset about your “rude customer” being on the phone. Keeping yourself in the “positive zone” is a key to long term professional success.

If you’d like to get my FREE daily tips on being successful in the retail furniture business, “Like” my Facebook page: FAB Results with Cathy Linard

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

NEW Room for the NEW Year furniture Store Promotional Idea

Want to kick off the New Year with great sales…and keep sales steadily coming in for the rest of 2011? This New Year’s-themed promotion just might help you do that.

It’s called the NEW Room for the NEW Year Program

Basically, customers that buy in the beginning of the year – January and February – lock in a special discount to complete the rest of their room during 2011. Plus, they receive added perks throughout the year, such as bonus discounts.

This program can work great for your furniture store for several reasons:

1) It incentivizes customers to stop procrastinating on redoing their room and get started right now.
2) The locked in discount almost guarantees that they will complete the room through your company, instead of taking your ideas and buying elsewhere.
3) Your design consultants can count on a steadier stream of sales from the customers who participate in the program.
4) It incentivizes customers to actually complete the room by the end of the year so they don’t lose the special pricing.
5) The customers who participate are more likely to have a completed room that they’re proud ofleading to more repeat business and referrals.

Here is how it works:

Customers who are considering redoing their room can receive a complimentary room analysis in the store. They can bring in pictures, rug, paint & wallpaper samples, etc. They then work with a design consultant to create a plan for the space. An in-home visit may or may not be necessary. If it is, it would be up to your store if there is an extra charge for that service.

If they make at least one purchase of over $500 for that room during January & February, they receive a special discount (say 20%, but you may choose to go higher or lower depending on your mark-up). They can buy as much or as little as they want initially at that discount.

By making this initial purchase, they also lock in that discount for purchasing the rest of the items needed to complete that room any time in 2011. So, whenever they’re ready to add the next phase in 2011, they’ll always receive that discount.

Plus, each month starting in March, a different furniture category will be featured in this program at an extra discount (say an extra 5% off on top of their locked-in program discount). For example, in March, you might feature occasional tables at an extra 5% off - on top of their locked in discount rate - for program participants.

Each month, the participants will get an email letting them know which category is an extra 5% off. It should also prompt them to call their Design Consultant to schedule an appointment if they’re ready to take the next step in achieving their beautiful, new room. Your promotional schedule may look something like this:

March = Occasional tables
April = Sofa/Sectional
May = Chairs & Ottomans
June = Entertainment Centers
July = Bookcase/Shelving/Etageres
August = Dining Tables/Hutches/Buffet
September = Rugs
October = Bar Stools
November = Lamps
December = Finishing Touches/Accessories

As an added bonus, one lucky participant each month will win a BIG DISCOUNT coupon for the month’s featured category. The discount might be a dollar amount, like $100 off, or a discount, such as 50% - 60% off. So, you’re not necessarily losing money by selling to one person at that discount. For example, in March, the name of one program participant would be drawn to win a 50% off coupon for occasional tables. The opportunity to win this coupon is definitely an incentive to make that initial purchase in the beginning of the year and join the program.

You can add other VIP perks that are appropriate for your store, like attending special store events at no charge, etc.

You can quickly implement this program via an email to your client base and/or a well-designed in-store flyer that is handed to each customer during January & February.

Here is some suggested copy for the email/flyer/advertising method of your choice:

Would you like a NEW room for the NEW Year?

If you’re ready to get started on making your home more comfortable, more beautiful, and more you, then we can help you get started…and finished… with our superior design staff, unlimited design options and locked in year-long discounts when you take advantage of our NEW Room for the NEW Year Program. Plus, you’ll receive lots of fun perks along the way. Here’s how easy it is:

Schedule a FREE in-store consultation for your room with one of our designers. Bring in measurements, samples (carpet, wallpaper, paint, etc.), pictures of your space, or anything you can think of that we’ll need to design around.

Your designer will work with your style & design preferences to develop a room plan that you love.

If you purchase over $500 from that plan before February 28, 2011, you’ll be automatically enrolled in our New Room for a New Year Program.

Here are the perks you’ll receive by joining this beneficial program:

A (20%) discount on your initial purchase. And, you’ll lock in that discount rate for the ENTIRE YEAR. So, when you’re ready to add more pieces, your discount will always be there waiting for you. (Of course, if our regular store promotion happens to exceed this discount, you will always receive the promotion that saves you the most money.)

Plus, each month, we’ll feature a different product category that will be discounted even further for our program participants only. If you choose to buy a piece from the featured furniture category, you’ll get an extra 5% off ON TOP OF your guaranteed 20% off! We’ll notify you of the monthly feature via an email each month.

And, as an added bonus, one lucky participant will be randomly drawn each month to receive the BIG BONUS COUPON for that month’s featured category – a 50% off certificate!

Wouldn’t that be wonderful to save 50% on the pieces you need to finish your room, like your area rug, bookcases, or even upholstered pieces? This kind of buying opportunity does not come along often. In fact, we’ve never done it before now!

You’ll also get other fun perks throughout the year, like VIP status for all our store events, a one-hour complimentary in-home consultation on any other room in your home, and more!

Need more info or interested in getting started, just notify your design consultant or the Store Manager.

It looks like 2011 will be a beautiful year!

Want to discuss how to implement this promotion in your store, email me at to schedule a free ½-hour consultation.

Want to receive my FREE daily tips on success in the furniture and retail biz? “Like” my facebook page: FAB Results with Cathy Linard.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The importance of music as a muse

I was shopping in a quant little store in the square of Medina and it felt oddly uncomfortable. Then it dawned on me, there was no music playing. I felt like the salesperson was listening to my every footstep and breath. Surrounded with lots of beautiful things, I was bored by it all and left without buying.

It reminded me how important it is to play music that is consistent with your retail environment to enhance the shopping experience. It should envelop the shopper and carry them away to a new and wonderful experience once they walk through your doors. They should be longing to take a little bit of this experience home with them through making a purchase.

Shopping can be an emotional or logical activity. With non-necessity items like high-end furniture or gift items, you want people feeling inspired and motivated to improve their daily life with the items in your store. This emotional feeling needs to override the logical thought of spending large amounts of money.

Songs that are not played on the radio are better - people don't have pre-existing reactions to them. Plus, in general, people are tired of the music that is played on the radio. Hearing familiar songs will mentally take them to a place in their life when that song was popular. So, it actually works against your goal of creating a unique experience for them inside your store.

Today, I landed on this wonderful blog/web site that used music to complement the blog reading and online shopping experience. She is an artist that sells her creations on the site and also blogs about her life – While reading her recent blog post – which was about a unique way she and her family shared Christmas cheer with strangers at the mall - and listening to the music that started playing once I landed on her site, I actually started crying. Talk about using music to evoke emotion and enhance the experience.

Think about what your store has been playing through its speaker system. Are you playing just the music the staff likes to hear or are you choosing songs that create an overall experience for your customer in your store?

Want to receive my FREE daily tips on success in the furniture and retail biz? “Like” my facebook page FAB Results with Cathy Linard.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Swimming through Christmas Clutter

Well my house looks like a Christmas bomb went off - toys, new clothes, gift boxes and bags, and suitcases of dirty clothes and miscellaneous stuff from the girls' stay at their grandparents' house during the days leading up to Christmas (like the balloon animals from their TGIFriday's kids-eat-free-on-Wednesdays dinner).

They call this pre-Christmas sleepover, "Gigi's Camp Christmas." Basically my parents (well, mostly my Mom) take the girls and do all sorts of fun holiday activities like making cookies and doing crafts because I am typically working a ton during the weeks leading up to Christmas. This year was a little different, though. I actually put my back out in November and have been "out of commission" lying flat on the couch for weeks. But Camp Christmas is now a tradition for the girls. So even though I was home, they still wanted to go to Gigi’s. Thankfully, this left me some time to do some last-minute shopping now that I was walking somewhat normally again.

The girls also still insist on sleeping over at my parents' house on Christmas Eve - something we used to do out of necessity when we lived in a tiny ranch-style home that left very little room for holiday celebrations. Plus, my parents (well, mostly my Mom) love having little kids at their home on Christmas morning. And I could never do what my Mom manages to accomplish to make Christmas a wonderful, relaxing day for all of us - a bacon & eggs breakfast, freshly-baked coffee cake followed by a full turkey "dinner" all by 2 in the afternoon.

So after 3 days of Camp Christmas for the girls, an overnight stay for me on Christmas Eve sleeping in a bed with my parents' affection-loving dog that wanted her belly rubbed at 2am, a surprising and violent stomach bug for my hubby that kept him home on Christmas Eve, 4 rounds of gift-opening at 3 different locations in a 24-hour period, and probably triple the normal intake of food, we were exhausted when we finally arrived home on Christmas night. In our post-holiday stupor, we managed to unload 2 vehicles worth of stuff, during frigid temperatures, into the "Dining Room." (I use that description loosely as we have never actually had dining room furniture in this room.) Yay us for not just leaving it all in the cars until the next day!

Considering for the last 4 weeks I’ve not been able to take care of the house due to my back issues, plus all the influx of Christmas stuff, I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed right about now. When my living or work environment is in a state of chaos, I can’t relax. At the same time, I feel paralyzed with everything that needs to be done. I’m a procrastinator by nature, but I realize that it’s time to tackle the clutter and start getting my house back.

I begin by doing the easiest things first: My oldest child’s new “real camping” sleeping bag - that will keep her warm even in freezing temperatures - can easily go up on the top shelf of her closet. Woohoo! That’s one thing out of the dining room. Then I think, maybe I should have gotten one of those sleeping bags for myself. In all likelihood, if she’s camping out in freezing temperatures, I’ll probably be with her.

Anyway, I create small piles of each person’s things that I periodically take upstairs before they get too heaping. Big piles of stuff overwhelm me. Small piles I can handle easier. Plus, I like getting the extra stair workout. Gradually I pick up steam as more and more items find a home.

Before I know it, I’m doing more complicated things like reading the instructions and cleaning the parts on my new George Foreman Grill to make hamburgers for dinner. By the way, it works great and everyone needs one to cook easy meals with very little clean up. (Make sure to get the model with removable grilling trays so you can just pop ‘em out to wash it. The other styles have an attached grilling surface and you have to practically juggle the appliance to get it clean without submerging the whole thing in water.)

My awesome husband tried to assemble the Zhu Zhu Pets Deluxe Skymall…and then had to pack it all back up again when he discovered the instructions stink and there is no way for this thing to actually go together like it shows on the box. Into the car and back to the store it will go. Bummer! It looked really cool. Maybe they can use their… CREATIVITY (gasp!)... to make a maze out of cut-up cardboard boxes like my brother & I did for my real hamsters when we were younger.

As I move from one vessel full of random stuff to the next, I keep hearing Dory’s voice from Nemo in my head. It's saying, “Just Keep Swimming. Just Keep Swimming...” She says this line in the movie when she and Nemo’s dad are on a long & frightening journey to find Nemo. So this has been my mantra since seeing that movie. If you just keep moving, eventually you’ll get to the end, no matter how daunting the task.

Well, I’ve procrastinated long enough by writing this blog post. Time to get back to clutter busting! “Just keep swimming…”

Sunday, December 19, 2010

How Watching Reality TV Helped Me: Talking Budget with Your Clients

You’re going to find out soon enough so I might as well just admit it early on in my blogging career and get it over with – I am a reality TV junkie. However, I justify this guilty pleasure by using the real-life situations I observe on TV to learn how to improve my own life, personally & professionally.

Once in a while, I’ll catch that show Say Yes to the Dress on TLC (The Learning Chanel), where brides-to-be are shopping for that perfect wedding dress and the sales consultants are working tirelessly to make the sale. Every episode is like a mini sales-training video. Although they’re selling dresses & we’re selling furniture, the process is very similar. They are both big ticket items that visually represent the individual's personality and design style.

One of the most important lessons I’m reminded of with every episode of Say Yes to the Dress is that if a client loves something enough, they will find a way to pay for it.

Every client will come in with one budgetary number in mind, absolutely adamant that they will not spend a penny more. But after being in the store for a little while trying on dresses, they soon find out that none of the dresses in their price range really “wow” them.

At this point, the consultant will usually say something like, “I have a dress in mind that I think is very much like what you’re describing to me, however it’s outside your price range. Would you like to just try it on to see if I'm on the right track as far as understanding the style you want?” (A low pressure way of getting the client to try it on without thinking she’s going to be pressured into buying it at the end.

Then the client, or usually her Mom or Dad who are actually paying for the dress, will usually ask, “Well, how much over?”

The Consultant, who is not afraid to talk about budget openly and confidently (another great tip: always talk about budget early on in the process), will respond, “About $2,000. You told me you wanted to spend no more than $4,000, I know. But I think, realistically, to get the type of look you want, it’s going to be more than that.”

I love it! Already the consultant is “planting the seed” that the client will be spending more that $4,000 – not because she wants more commission, but because, realistically, this is what the client will need to invest to get what she really wants.

Inevitably, the client does want to at least try on the dress just to see if the consultant is “on the right track” when it comes to understanding her style preferences. (Basically, the client totally fell into the “trap” at this point ;)

After seeing the more expensive dress on the bride-to-be,sometimes they will love it so much, they work out some type of arrangement to be able to afford it – maybe the bride agrees to clean her parent's home for the next year if they will buy her the more expensive dress. And sometimes, they decide, even though they love the dress, they don’t love it enough to pay the additional amount.

Either way, the best part is, when you talk this openly about budget early on and continuously throughout the process, there are no monetary surprises when it comes to the point of making a buying decision. They’ve already had time to “digest” the numbers. They’ve gotten used to the fact that they will be spending more than what they originally intended.

If you work this way with your clients, you’re less likely to hear the ‘ol “We’ve got to go home and think about it” - which is just a stall tactic usually used because they had no idea what they wanted to buy would cost so much. Therefor, they're not prepared to make that commitment.

And by the way, I can’t believe people are spending this much on wedding dresses. 13 years ago, mine was about $1,000 after alterations. We thought that was expensive! But this must be exactly how people feel when they go furniture shopping every 10 years.

Want to receive my FREE daily tips on sales, interior design, merchandising & marketing? Just “Like” my Facebook page – FAB Results with Cathy Linard.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Self-professed Control-freak of Design Relinquished Holiday Decorating Responsibilities to Her Kids, Husband & Mom

Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas just come too close together for me these days. It seems like I just get everything up and it’s time to take it all down again! So, I was experiencing a little holiday decorating burnout.

And it's a very time intensive process for me. Before the decorating actually begins, there’s sorting through all the tchotchkes that have accumulated over the years in the decoration bins - cutesy knick-knacks given to us by well-meaning friends and family, holiday artwork that the kids made and couldn’t bear to part with, plus all the little trinkets the kids receive – Christmas books, Santa-shaped Slinkies, dollar-store snow globes…and the stuffed animals...What to do with all the stuffed animals we have for each holiday! Do I really have to find places for all these things?

I just can’t set things out wherever they fit and forget about it, either. Each item must be perfectly placed. I want it to look so good that I feel the urge to stare at the beautiful accessory arrangement I’ve created every time I walk by. I want to elicit “oohs & aahs” from our house guests (despite the fact that most of our visitors are under the age of 10). Otherwise, I figure what’s the point of even decorating if it is just acting as more clutter.

I did great this Halloween & Thanksgiving. I even posted pics of some of my holiday “tablescapes” on my Facebook page for all to admire. But Christmas decorating came to a screeching halt when my back decided to "go out" rendering me helpless on the coach - and in too much pain to make critical decorating decisions.

Of course, as soon as my husband brought the bins up from the basement, the kids wanted to open them up to rediscover all of the treasures inside. And then, they want to “help” decorate the house right away. Before you know it, bubble wrap and packing paper is all over the floor, things like dollar store snow globes end up on my étagère amongst the artfully-placed year-round décor, and the tree decorating totally violates the golden design rule of proportion with large, heavy ornaments on small branches and small, delicate ornaments on the big, bulky branches.

About three-quarters of the way through, the "fun factor" must have run out. Half-empty bins, their lids and random holiday accessories were scattered between the foyer, den & living room for days. Finally, my Mom came over to help me out around the house since I was still incapacitated due to my uncooperative back. She ended up putting the "finishing touches" on the Christmas decor and cleaning up all the bins. "It's not perfect but it's done." she said, knowing how particular I am when it comes to decorating.

Now that I’m mobile again, I could spend the day rearranging everything so it elicits that “wow” reaction from our guests. But, I’ve decided that my family’s memories of decorating the house together to help Mom and their feelings of accomplishment are more important. (And honestly, I don't have the time.) Maybe I’ll even post some pics of their design work on my blog.

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