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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Selecting the Perfect Paint Color

I’ve made many paint color mistakes in my own home over the years. I’ve come to find out, even the high-end designers can’t just pick a color from the paint fan and have it be the 1 in a 1,000 perfect color for the room. They usually use a technique like the one explained in this post.

Here is a sure-fire way to make it right the first time.

1. Get a piece of drywall from a home improvement store. Saw it in half.

2. Saw one of those halves into 3 or so equal pieces.

3. Use those 3 smaller pieces and paint a color option on each one. Don’t paint several colors on the same board - viewing 2 colors very close together can alter how they appear.

4. Use the other half of the drywall as a neutral background.

5. Move the color samples and background board to several places in the room during morning afternoon and evening.

6. Mark the sample that looks best in each location during each time of day. For example, you’d write “Kitchen, Morning” on the sample that looks best in the kitchen during morning light.

7. Tally up which sample looks best in most locations during most times of the day. Also consider when the room will be used most. For example, if you'll usually be enjoying the room in the afternoon, you may want to select the option that looked best in afternoon light.

Yes, this technique takes more time than just picking a color from the swatch wall at the paint store. But, it can save you time and money in the long run – when NO repainting is required when the job is done.

Also, if you’re tempted to skip the drywall step and just paint the color sample on the wall, be advised that those paint samples will need to be sanded down before the actual painting begins. (Otherwise, you'll see the raised edges of the paint sample when you paint over it.) Plus, it may take several coats to cover the colors of those samples painted directly on the wall. (I know because I've tried to take this shortcut. ;)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How to Convey to Your Client that Spring Is A Great Time to Buy.

Spring is almost here. The gentle warm-up, barely visible buds on the trees, and sounds of birds chirping remind us that renewal after a long winter is just around the corner. Something deep inside us stirs. It’s an invigorating feeling of energy and excitement - an instinctive sensation to renew our living environment and ourselves.

This innate human reaction to the season usually manifests itself in a few ways:
1. Spring cleaning to remove the layer of clutter and dust that has accumulated over the winter
2. Dieting for a healthier, slimmer summer body
3. FURNITURE SHOPPING to make things beautiful during what is arguably the dreariest month of the year in the northern half of the country – March.

So, if you’re in the business of selling things for interior spaces, now is the time to “strike while the iron is hot.” People are already naturally motivated to redo & renew. Now, all you have to do is find the right pieces to make their living space “sing.”

Here are a few dialogs that might help complete the buying process:

"Since you’ve already invested time and energy into shopping around, it usually make the most sense to finalize your interior decisions now, while all your options are still fresh in your mind, and you’re motivated to make the inside of your home look fabulous. Once the warm spring weather rolls around, focus usually shifts to what needs to be done in the yard and furniture decisions will get put on the back burner. Before you know it, it will be fall and you'll be scrambling to try and find the right pieces for your room and get them in before the holidays."

Or how about this:

“Spring is a natural time to want to renew, refresh & redo. Our internal clocks are programmed to begin sprucing up our living environments when the weather starts warming up. If you make your buying decisions now, then you’ll have your new room before summer hits, just in time to do some entertaining - barbeques, margarita parties... And you can just relax and enjoy the fun knowing that your home looks fabulous.”

For regular tips on being successful in the furniture business, "Like" me on Facebook - Fab Results with Cathy Linard

Saturday, March 12, 2011

5 Steps to Avoiding "Spousal Sabotage" of the Sales Process

Have you ever had a customer 100% happy with everything the two of you selected… only to then have the spouse come in and hate everything. Then, it’s back to square one. That is, if the spouse will even agree to continue working with you. This is what’s commonly referred to in selling as “Spousal Sabotage.”

And it actually is human nature to do this. People naturally resist decisions they were not a part of making. Even if they say they don’t want to be involved, when it comes down to it, they usually have an opinion or want to feel like they’re needs have been considered.

If your customer is shopping alone, avoid potential "Spousal Sabotage" by following these 5 easy steps.

1) Collect info on the needs of all decision-makers

First, find out if there are other decision-makers involved in the process, maybe a spouse, girlfriend, trusted “designer” friend, Mom, etc. That way, you can be better prepared for how to handle the situation.

Start out with a simple, non-threatening question such as:
"Who will be using this room besides you?"
This will usually tell you if the person is married, single, or living with a significant other, without specifically asking about their living situation.

Then, you can also ask,"Who will be the primary user of each piece?" e.g. - Does the husband use the chair more while the wife uses the sofa? If this is the case, not each piece of furniture has to fit the comfort needs of both people perfectly. Sometimes, this is impossible to do anyway, especially if the wife is 5’ 2” and the husband is 6’2”.

Next, when your customer is trying out furniture options, make sure to ask how she thinks the spouse will like the pieces.
“You mentioned your husband needs a lot of support for his back, do you think this chair will provide that for him?”
“Do you think it sits deep enough for his height?”

Finally, when your customer brings in her spouse, meet them near the door and take control of the product presentation process.

2) Give him a quick recap of the info she gave you on their first meeting.

e.g. “Janet said that getting a new chair and sofa are the priorities for your room. She said that you primarily use the chair and she uses the sofa. Your chair has to be big enough to fit your 6’2” frame and give you good back support. Would you agree with that?" (hopefully you collect a “yes” to this question.)

3) Next, show styles and verify comfort level before showing any fabrics. This will keep the process more focused.

“So, before we look at any fabrics, I just want to concentrate on making sure the pieces we selected are comfortable for you, especially the chair since you’ll be using that more often. I’m going to take you over to a chair style that is deep seated with a high back and a lumbar cushion for back support. We really like the look of the chair for your room so I’m hoping the comfort level will work for you. Don’t pay attention to the leather that is on the chair. It can be customized from hundreds of fabric & leather options.”

Notice how this example dialog conveys how important his comfort is to this process. He’s more likely to go along with the chair choice knowing that his needs were considered.

If the sofa choice isn’t a perfect comfort fit for him, remind him that the comfort level of this piece is suited more for his wife, who has a petite stature, and guests, who will likely not be “lounging” on the furniture.

4) Finally, before showing any fabric or leather options, review the info that the wife gave you about the room. This way, he has a better understanding of why these particular fabrics and/or leathers were chosen. He’s more likely to go along with it if he first understands the “why” behind the design decisions.

e.g. “Janet told me that the room currently has a very rustic, country feel. Although you both like that style, she’s looking to update it with a slightly more sophisticated look, since this is the main room that you entertain in when you have guests over. So, a more “Sophisticated Lodge-Look” is what we were going with.

"To create this look and feeling, we really wanted to incorporate a beautiful, top-grain leather into the room. But Janet said that you wanted a soft, comfortable fabric for your recliner. So we opted to put the sofa in this oil & waxed, dark-chocolate leather. It is super soft to the touch and will conform to the user’s body temperature in just seconds…"

"For your recliner, we selected this textured chenille fabric in a shade of mocha. It will be super soft to lounge in. Plus, the color will be forgiving to heavy use. We’ll also fabric protect it, since Janet said this is usually where you eat your snacks…"

5) Make sure to ask for his input throughout the process. That way, you’re less likely to get the objections at the end, when you’re asking for a buying commitment.

e.g. “How do you feel about this fabric choice?”

For regular tips on being successful in the furniture business, "Like" me on Facebook - Fab Results with Cathy Linard

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tips for Interior Design Professionals: Providing the Agenda for a Total Room Plan Presentation

Before starting the actual presentation, provide your client with an agenda so they know what to expect. Otherwise, they may be thinking this is going to be a quick ½-hour thing and they’ll start to lose interest in the middle of it. An agenda can also prevent the client from “jumping around” and asking questions about things that will be covered later on in the presentation.


“Let me tell you what I have planned for us. I know you’re probably excited to see your new room. However, I’ve found that it’s best if I reveal it in phases. This will give you the ability to focus on one design element at a time and make small decisions along the way – instead of getting lots of things thrown at you at once."

"We will be “building” the room as we move through the presentation."

"The total room presentation will take about 1 ½ to 2 hrs."

"First I’ll show you the proposed floor plan.
I’ll explain why I placed certain furniture pieces in certain areas. These decisions will be based on how you plan on using the room as well as principles of good design."

"Once we’ve decided on the floor plan, I’ll show you the actual furniture pieces I’ve selected based on your comfort and design preferences. Some of the pieces I actually have in the store and we’ll sit on those to try them out. For others I have pictures. For those pieces, I’ll show you something in the showroom that will sit comparably."

"After you are comfortable with the actual upholstered furniture pieces, I’ll present the fabrics and/or leathers that will go on the pieces."

"Next we’ll go over the “occasional pieces” like tables and other wood items that will make the room more beautiful and functional for you."

"I’ll finish by discussing the accessorizing phase that usually happens on or after delivery to put the finishing touches on the room."

"At any time during the presentation, if you’ve got thoughts, concerns, objections, or comments, please let me know right away. This is your room and I want you to be happy with the final product."

"If I think one of the design choices will make more sense to you after more of the presentation is revealed, I may ask you to hold your final judgment until a little later. I promise we will revisit those concerns."

"At the end, I’ll let you know the room total including everything – all furniture pieces, fabric protection & delivery. However, you are always in control of how much you buy and when. Some of my clients do everything at once to get the room finished as soon as possible and some people choose to do it in phases as time & budget allows."

"Do you have any questions before we get started?"

For regular tips on being successful in the furniture business, "Like" me on Facebook - Fab Results with Cathy Linard

Tips for Interior Design Professionals: Fabric Presentation

Most customers have a difficult time visualizing how new furniture will look in their home. And a confused mind always says, "No." So if they aren't 100% sure that they're making the right decision, they'll usually give you the 'ol, "We're going to go home and think about it."

It's up to the design professional to help the customer "see" their new room with the words they use and the way they present the products. Here are some quick tips to use during the fabric-selection or presentation process.

Use correct fabric terminology when describing the pattern/weave type. This builds your credibility as a designer. People feel more confident following the advice of someone who seems knowledgeable and experienced in their industry.

Find creative names for the color. Instead of “shade of yellow”, maybe it’s “Honeycomb” or “daffodil.” This taps into the emotional aspect of choosing new furniture. NOTE: If your customer uses a certain color name, you should use that name, too – even if you don’t think it is 100% accurate. Color naming is subjective and this process is about making them comfortable and happy.

Before having the customer feel the fabric, fold the fabric in half. This way, their fingers aren’t rubbing the course back side.

Place the fabrics on the actual pieces the customer is considering. Make sure the fabric sample is oriented exactly the way it will be upholstered. Different furniture manufacturers place the pin tickets/tags in different locations. Consult the catalog to ensure you are displaying the sample correctly. Try to conceal the edges and tags, if possible, by tucking them into the cushions.

Place the fabric for the pillows around the actual pillow on the floor model. Layer this right next to the sofa fabric so the customer can see how the two fabrics work together. If you are proposing a contrasting welt, fold the welt fabric in half and place it behind the pillow so the folded edge is just peaking out from behind, giving the illusion of a welt.

If you’re working with three or more fabrics, try to also show the customer the fabrics in proportion to how they will be displayed in the room – sofa fabric being the biggest, chair fabrics folded to display ¾ of the sample, and pillow fabrics folded in ½.

If the fabric on the floor sample is too distracting, have a yard of solid, thick cream-colored fabric to place on the furniture piece before you place your fabric samples on it. You’ll neutralize the background allowing the customer to better visualize what their fabrics will look like on the piece.

Justify how the colors and patterns work together. E.g. "Even though we are using 3 different fabric patterns, they all work together because the scale is different. The sofa is an over-scaled floral with a mini-floral pillow. So the florals aren’t competing with one another. The stripe on the chair pulls in many of the colors from the florals, which will tie the pieces together."

When deciding between several fabric combinations, talk about the positives of each. Avoid using any negative words. This process is about what your customer likes & dislikes, not what the designer's preferences are.

E.g. "This floral combination is soft and feminine. The light cotton fabrics keep it more casual. The chenille tapestry fabric combination is still feminine but the fabric thickness and sheen add a touch of formality."

Then ask a decision-inducing question like, "Which style are you more comfortable with - soft, feminine & casual or feminine with a touch of opulence & formality?"

For regular tips on being successful in the furniture business, "Like" me on Facebook - Fab Results with Cathy Linard

Thursday, February 17, 2011

4 Quick Space Planning Tips for the Great Room, Family Room or Living room

1. Decide on your focal Point(s)

What will be the most interesting thing in this room – the T.V., the fireplace, the view, a grand piano? Most of the seating should face in that direction. So, this also means not every seat in the house has to face the T.V.

You may have more than one focal point in the room. Try to create seating spaces that can enjoy at least one. Swivel chairs are a great way to allow the room-user to take advantage of several focal points.

2. Consider Traffic Patterns & Flow
Keep your main walkways in the room at least 3’ wide. The path can narrow as you move through the room to no less than 18” to comfortably move between furniture; although, cocktail tables can be as close as 14” to a sofa.

3. Create Your Furniture Arrangement
When creating your furniture arrangement, try to work against the general shape of the room.

- If the room is more long & rectangular, create a more square arrangement, or maybe even 2 smaller sitting areas, to prevent the whole room from looking like a bowling alley (with all the furniture against the walls). Using square shapes – like a square cocktail table or square rug - will help widen the room.

- If the room is more of a big, open square, try to create more coziness by bringing the furniture into a more rectangular arrangement. You can fill space along the walls with bookcases, a cozy reading nook, or simply a focal wall featuring framed art.

- Keep each piece in the furniture grouping within a 10’ radius for ease of conversation and an overall feeling of comfort. If pieces are outside of that range, the room can start looking and feeling cold and unwelcoming.

4. Check for Balance
Balance is an overall feeling of equilibrium in a space.

It was once explained to me that you should imagine all the furniture in the room as if it were on a platform floating on water. Would one side of the platform sink? If so, that side of the room is heavier and needs to be balanced out. Here are a few quick ways to do that:

- Of course, choose larger scaled furniture – bigger pieces to balance out the heavier side of the room

- Select bolder colors of fabric & finish or bolder patterns – they have more visual weight

- Move 2 or more smaller pieces of furniture closer together to create a larger unit – kind of like the “teeter totter” effect – bringing objects closer to the center makes them visually heavier, while spreading them out to the edges makes them lighter. Make sense?

- Place something with more visual weight behind the lighter side of the room – a tall book case, an over-scaled piece of art, a tall tree, or opulent window treatments on the windows.

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

Friday, January 14, 2011

5 Quick Tips to Get Your Clients to Make An affirmative Buying Decision

Whatever you’re selling – be it cars, furniture, homes…whatever… you are really in the “Decision Making Business.”

A confused mind always says, “No.” So, your job is to guide the buying process, by getting your client to make small decisions along the way, until they get to the point where they feel confident making a buying decision.

I’m a professional development consultant for the furniture business. So these quick tips are geared toward getting the client to make a decision on home furnishings.

1) “This one or that one” – Instead of showing lots of options at one time – just show 2 at a time. Get the client to make a decision of which one they like better out of just those 2 options. Then compare the “winner” of that round to the next choice. Repeat until you have it narrowed down.

2) Get them to look at the options with “fresh eyes.” Sometimes staring at all the options just gets more confusing. Encourage your client to take a quick break – go for a stroll around the store, enjoy a coffee/snack break (preferably inside the store), or simply get them talking about something other than the decision at hand.

Usually, when you revisit the choices, you and your client will have a better “gut reaction” to what they like or dislike. At the very least, you may be able to absolutely rule out one of the choices.

3) Get the customer “thinking out loud.” Ask key questions which will force them to really think through the decision-making process, such as, “What do you like best about this fabric?” “Do you think this will coordinate well with the other pieces you have in the room?” What don’t you like about this fabric?” You’re almost playing the role of a design “psychologist.”

4) Collect your “Yes”s. If you know your client wants it, but they are just a little hesitant to finalize the buying decision, ask them questions which will create “Yes” responses, such as,

“You said this fabric will coordinate nicely with the area rug you currently have in the room, right?”
“This sofa is the most comfortable one out of all the ones you’ve tried, correct?”

Each “Yes” is what is commonly referred to as a mini “close” in selling – getting you one step closer to being able to “ask for the sale” at the end of the sales process.

Because my philosophy is more client-focused (rather than sales-centered), I call these “Yes”s small decisions that get you one step closer to getting your client to make an affirmative buying decision.

5) If none of the above techniques work, offer a housecall to take out swatches, samples, and catalog pages so you can both view the samples in the environment that the piece(s) will be placed.

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

Monday, January 10, 2011

Be the best you can be wherever you are right now and doors will open for you leading where you want to go.

A couple Sundays ago, I was flipping through the channels before prying myself out of bed and caught a glimpse of Joel Osteen’s sermon. I’m normally not a fan of T.V. evangelists, but his words always have great meaning and lessons that seem to apply to everyone’s life, no matter what your religion.

He was speaking about reaching your dreams and goals in life. He said being the best you can be wherever you are in life right now will make doors open for you leading to where you want to go. He went on to say that people you may not even be aware of will show up at the right time with the right opportunity for you. It made me think about my unlikely path from a design consultant with no formal interior design education to the exact job I wanted (but didn’t really think I’d ever get) as a professional sales & design trainer in the furniture industry. Joel’s words described my experience perfectly.

You can get all my background in my previous blog post. But here is a quick recap. I left my salaried advertising agency job to take a commission-based sales position at an upscale furniture showroom franchise, with only my natural talent, one 2-day training session, and some sales videos to help me out. By exactly following the specified sales program outlined in the training and videos, I managed to become one of the top design consultants in my area. Within 3 months, I was made the manager of the store.

But management wasn’t really what I wanted to do. I mainly took the position for the increased pay, the learning experience, and to prove to my parents that I made a good decision by leaving my corporate job; kind of like, “Look Mom & Dad, I’m the manager now.”

What I really wanted to do was become a trainer like the one that had visited our area during my first week in this new career. She conducted a 2-day training seminar on furniture construction, interior design skills and selling techniques. And it was fun! We played games, worked in groups, and even got cookie breaks. That sounded very appealing to me – hosting these fun training sessions (that were more like little “learning parties”), traveling to different cities, helping people become more successful in their design careers, and getting 3 or 4 days off between trips.

But honestly, I just didn’t know how that could ever happen for me. I was new to the business. Surely there were plenty of other people that had much more experience than me. Plus, I didn’t have an actual interior design degree.

At age 24, I was doing my best to maintain the daily operations of the store, hire and train a new team (seeing as there was almost complete turnover when the “new girl” became the manager), and handle every customer issue that arose, all while keeping up my own personal sales, which usually fluctuated between 30 and 50k.

It was a tough road and I wanted to throw in the towel several times. There were many days when I was so busy “putting out fires” in the store, that I had to lock the doors at closing time and stay there until 4am to get a presentation done for my own client.

So, I was extremely thankful when I was given the opportunity to attend two different training sessions with the franchise's Director of Training, Jim – the guy from those videos I watched in my first couple of days on the job. I needed all the help and information I could get!

The first time I met Jim, I really wanted to make a good impression. I studied our training manuals from front to back, just incase he called on me. I was dressed very professionally and feeling confident. On my way to the training room, I bumped into him just as he was exiting the restroom.

I decided to be assertive and quickly introduce myself, “Hi, I’m Cathy Linard, the Strongsville store manager.”
He responded, “Hi. I’m Jim and your zipper’s down.”

Ugh! I could have died from embarrassment! But I tried to act like I wasn’t fazed by it. During the class, I attempted to make up for this wardrobe malfunction by answering as many of his questions as I could.

A year later, I was able to go to his “Train the Trainer” class that instructs store managers on how to make fun, beneficial sales meetings for their staffs. We all had to come to the meeting prepared to conduct a 5-minute training segment on a topic of our choice pertaining to the retail furniture biz. Since creativity is one of my strengths, I thought I would do well at this.

In fact, planning great sales meetings was my strongest management skill. I would sometimes work until 3 in the morning getting materials ready for the next day’s meeting. If my staff was going to come into work 90 minutes early for a “professional development” meeting, I better make it worth their while.

I decided to make my 5-minute meeting about the importance of social conversation. Specifically, how you can use it to “Break down the brick wall” the customer has when they enter your store.

My plan was to start with a game of Pictionary to create the “visual aid” of a brick wall. Then I’d go on from there to talk about different social conversation tips followed by a skill practice in which the participants would make quick conversations with the person sitting next to them. Then we’d wrap up by quickly sharing what we learned about the person we talked with.

However, it started out a little rocky when my audience wasn’t able to figure out what I was drawing. So I had to make a joke about my drawing ability saying something like, “And now you see why I dropped out of art school.” It got a laugh but I wasn’t sure if Jim was impressed with my presentation.

He gave everyone 3 compliments after their segment was done. I still remember mine:
1. I wasn’t afraid to make fun of myself.
2. I was extremely enthusiastic and energetic. “How could a group be bored with that kind of energy?”
3. I addressed everyone in the group by their first names even though I had just met them all that morning.

(Now, I can look back and know that these are 3 characteristics of the best trainers: humor, enthusiasm & making each participant feel important.)

Up to this point, my almost 2 years of management were filled with long work weeks (50-80 hrs/wk) and tons of stress. And now I had a baby on the way. I decided to relinquish the role of manager in favor of a part-time design consultant position when I came back from maternity leave.

This worked out well for about 3 months. I was able to make almost what I had earned working full-time because I had built up a good clientele during my 2 years as a selling manager.

But I could tell that the new manager felt threatened by my presence. Although I loved the balance of family and work life that this part-time arrangement gave me, the work environment was becoming negative and uncomfortable. (A few years later, I’d find out I wasn’t the only one who had issues with her management style. Another design consultant would actually hit her in the face with one of those big, heavy furniture catalog binders. Now, as a manager, I may not always have been loved 100% of the time. But at least no one on my team ever bloodied my nose by whacking me with a catalog.)

Anyway, enough gossiping. So just when I wasn’t sure if I could stay at the store any longer, a “door” was unexpectedly opened for me, like I mentioned in the beginning of this blog.

It was on one of my days off. I was surprised to see that there was a call coming in from corporate headquarters. It was Jim!

He was calling to offer me a position with their Training Department; the job I, and so many other design consultants, had coveted. I’d go on a couple trips per month, most about 3 days long. The rest of the time I could spend at home with my new baby.

He was presenting me with the right opportunity at the right time. I didn’t even know I was on Jim’s radar! He’d only met me a few times. But I had worked incredibly hard for the last 2 years and didn’t give up when most people put in my position probably would have.

So being the best you can be wherever you are in life right now will make doors open for you leading to where you want to go. Give it your all!

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Why I left my salaried ad agency career for a commission-only position in a struggling furniture store.

After spending 2 years at an advertising agency after college, I realized that this type of “office” environment just wasn’t a good fit for me. The workdays either dragged because I was working on promoting some industrial product that didn’t interest me. Or, I was totally stressed out dealing with ego-driven CEOs and marketing execs, print deadlines, and all the little critical details that go into planning an ad campaign.

I also wanted to be more creative. I always aspired to work at an ad agency for that reason – to be creative – thinking up tag lines, product names, clever headlines, etc. But I was pegged as a “suit” not a “creative.” And once you’re defined in that role, it’s very hard to crossover to the other side.

Plus, I became frustrated with the slow income-growth opportunity. I was making $26,000/yr and was likely to only get a $2,000 raise every year. With a new house to decorate (well, new to us) and other “grown-up” expenses, this income level just wasn’t going to cut it.

Then, one day while my husband was getting his hair cut, I walked into a beautiful furniture showroom a few stores down from the barber shop. It was not only visually stimulating; but it smelled like a combination of leather and freshly-baked bread from the Einstein’s Bagel shop next door. Although I knew I was not going to be able to afford a thing in this store, I still got butterflies in my stomach just by being there.

I ended up filling my new nest with inexpensive upholstery, flea market finds, antique store curiosities and even garage sale furniture. But guests to my home would always compliment me on how nice it looked. I felt I had a natural talent for decorating. But what could I do with it?

That furniture store experience stayed with me. My visceral reaction to it was telling me that this was an environment I enjoyed being in. But I thought for sure you would need a design degree to work there. It was my husband who urged me to at least call the store to find out how their hiring process works. The fact that he thought I would be good at this, too, gave me the confidence to make contact with the store manager.

After going through a couple interviews and design tests, I was offered the job – at an $11 an hour draw against commission with a 90-day “trial” period during which I could be let go for any reason. Plus, even after the first 3 months, I could be fired if I had several months of not hitting my sales quota. O.K. is that even an actual job offer?

But something was telling me that I would really enjoy this – talking to people about their rooms, coordinating fabrics for them, and going out to their homes to put together a whole room plan. Despite having no experience doing this, it didn’t scare me at all.

But going on a commission-based structure both concerned and excited me at the same time. I tried asking the manager on different occasions, “How much do you think I will make working here?” Her response was always the same, “It’s up to you. What you put into it is what you’ll get out of it.”

I asked for a few days to think over the job offer. But now the time had come when I had to make that call back to the manager to give her my decision. Problem was, I still hadn’t made up my mind. Should I take a risk doing something new that I think I would enjoy but came with almost no guaranteed income or long-term employment? Or, keep my steady, salary-based job that bored me to death and totally stressed me out.

In that moment on the phone with her, I decided to just let my mouth answer and whatever came out, I would do. “I’ve decided to…” then I paused for what seemed like an eternity “take the job.” The store manager was so excited. I was actually surprised she still wanted to give me the job seeing how unsure I was about taking it.

My parent’s wanted to take me out to breakfast to discuss this job change. It turned out to be more like a career intervention. Basically, my Dad told me he didn’t send me to college to sell sofas. I had job security and a salary at the ad agency, which, in their eyes was better than the promise of commission.

I was lucky that there just happened to be a training session going on in my area right before I was scheduled to start my new job. To prepare, I tried to memorize the catalog the day before the training session so I didn’t look like a fool due to my lack of furniture knowledge. Despite my research efforts, I remember being in the class when an unfamiliar term was mentioned - a camelback sofa. I thought “What in the world is a camelback sofa?” That’s how little I knew about the industry.

My first week as a design consultant, I was literally thrown on the floor to start taking customers after just 2 days of watching some sales training videos. Wow! So much for that intensive training program I was told about. I guess it’s going to be more like trial by fire.

I just tried to do everything I was taught in the class and videos – make social conversation with the customers to build a bond, sketch their room as it is now to get a good understanding of their furnishing needs, ask for the sale, and if you don’t get the sale, at least take their contact info so you can continue to follow up with them.

During my first week, I mentioned to my new co-workers, “I can’t wait to get my first commission check!” They all laughed and told me that no one in the store makes commission - the store is in a bad location, the people in this city can’t afford good furniture after just buying their big houses, there are 5 other stores within an hour’s drive that sell the same furniture for less…” The list of reasons was ongoing. But there was no option for me. I had to make this work.

I did begin to get a little nervous, though, when 3 weeks went by and I hadn’t sold a thing! My first upholstery sale cancelled their order the day after they placed it. My first full room design client never showed up for their presentation.

Then finally, I sold a pair of candlestick lamps for $600. That same week, 3 customers came back in and bought from me. Plus, I sold a $5,000 sectional to a first-time-in customer. My first month’s total was a little over $20k – not a record-buster by any means. But in a struggling store, it was a great first month.

I even made commission on that month and continued to do so every month after that. When the other design consultants would ask me what I was doing differently than them, I had no idea how to respond. So I just said, “I’m just doing what they tell me to do.” “They”, meaning my manager, the videos, and the trainer. I knew nothing else besides what I had learned from them.

In my third month,December - which is typically a slower sales month - I had sales totaling $30,000. Not “Super Star” status yet, but being new in a struggling store – it was pretty fabulous.

That’s when I was offered the store manager position, as my manager was being moved to a different store. This was another hard decision to make. Management would mean working a lot more hours and loads of responsibility and headaches, especially considering I was so new to the business. But I wasn’t sure if this opportunity would present itself again in the near future. Plus, making more money was appealing. So I took it.

As a selling manager, I almost doubled my ad agency salary. And boy, did I learn a lot from all the hardships I endured by being 24 and running a million dollar furniture showroom. I also went on to bigger and better things which I’ll blog about in upcoming posts this week.

So, it just goes to show – my manager was right - you do the right things and the right things will happen. I followed my heart to find a job that I was passionate about. I didn’t let my lack of experience stand in my way. I listened to the right people and didn’t get sucked into the current staff paradigm that you couldn’t make money working in that store. And I put a lot of work into this new career– way more than a typical 40-hour work week between in-store time and housecalls.

Think to yourself, “What do I need to be doing in order to make the right things happen for me?”

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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Serious about reaching your goals this year? This post will start you off on a successful path!

“Begin with the end in mind.” – Steven Covey, Author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and other best-selling books on how to be successful, fulfilled & empowered both personally & professionally

“When you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time” – Zig Ziglar, One of the most famed authors & speakers on the subject of professional selling & success.

These are both famous quotes by motivational gurus that focus on the importance of determining – and aiming for - exactly what you want out of your life and career. In other words, knowing what you want to achieve is the first step on the path to achievement. Your next step is actually declaring that this is what you want to accomplish and creating a plan of how to do it – goal setting.

Setting goals can sound boring and trite. Or, maybe it’s something that you’ve been forced to do with a boss or coach, so just the phrase “goal setting” gets your eyes rolling. You may be thinking, most people can’t seem to stick with goals anyway so what’s the point in setting them. This is probably true. But, most people do not know how to execute proper goal setting and attainment.

There are actually 4 simple steps to proper goal setting that will put you on a successful path to reaching your dreams.

1) Set big & small goals. It’s important to have a main goal you’d like to achieve by the end of the year; something that would give you a great sense of accomplishment and pride - maybe it’s reaching a certain sales level. However, if you weren’t able to do that last year, you are going to have to change something about the way you’re doing things in order to reach that big goal this year.

This is why it is also important to create smaller goals that will help you to accomplish the main goal. These are the little changes you need to make on a regular basis that will keep you on track throughout the year.

Remember, goals should be things that you can control, not things your customers or employees will do.

2) There is another critical component of goal setting that is summed up in this famous quote by Peter Drucker, a management guru that worked as a consultant with many big corporations such as General Electric, Coca-Cola, Citigroup, IBM, and Intel:

“What’s measured, improves”

Meaning, your goals have to be quantifiable and measurable. If there is no way to measure your goal, there is no concrete way to determine if you’ve achieved that goal.

For example, say your goal was to make more follow-up phone calls to prospects this year to try and get people that you’ve invested time in to come back and make a purchase. If you just set that as your goal – make more phone calls to prospects – come the end of the year, there is no concrete way to measure if you’ve achieved this or not.

Instead, you would set a specific number of calls you should make every day/week/month. Then, you’d develop a way to track the number of follow-up phone calls you make each day. Maybe you create a “call chart” binder where you can track the following things: Customer’s name, what they’re interested in, the outcome of the call (got answering machine, got a family member, left a message, said you’d call back, talked with the customer, etc.) and your next scheduled call to that customer.

Now, your goal is quantifiable & measurable because you have stated the number of calls you want to make and have a way to track if you’ve accomplished the goal.

3) As you work on setting your goals for the year, make them challenging, yet achievable. Don’t set yourself up for failure by creating a goal or plan that you’ll unlikely be able to adhere to.

For example, if you usually only have time to fit in 3 or 4 follow-up calls in between everything else you have to do, you wouldn’t want to set a goal of making 20 follow-up phone calls a day. Setting your goal at 5 or 6 phone calls would be more than you’re doing now – so it would be challenging – but not so much more than it isn’t realistic to accomplish on a daily basis.

If you fall short on one of your daily goals, don’t get discouraged. Each day is a fresh start – a new opportunity for success. You can always do more in the next couple of days in order to still hit your weekly goal – and stay on track with what you want to achieve.

Just like having one candy bar doesn’t ruin a dieter’s chances of losing weight forever, one day of being “off your game” at work will not ruin your chances for success.

4) Structure your daily decision making around reaching your goals. Keeping with our follow-up call example: If a friend wants to go out for drinks from 7 – 8pm, but this is the prime time to call your customers and actually get a hold of them, then you know you either have to decline altogether or suggest a later meeting time. Having your daily goal helps you make a good decision that keeps you on the right path to reaching your big goal.

Remember to recognize and celebrate your daily accomplishments. These small victories will keep you energized towards reaching that big goal.

Now, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.” – Henry David Thoreau

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