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Build A Home Furnishings Sales Machine - Part 3

Furniture World Magazine


Get way out front of your competition by working to deliver uncompromising Integrity, Excellence, and Caring. - Part 3.


Marketing Techniques by Larry Mullins


The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article headlined: “Sales of Furniture Perk Up … Home Appliances Also Make Gains, Fueled by Promotions.”


The news in the article was generally good: better traffic and slightly better sales after three years of recession-based decline. The article reported that the TJX’s HomeGoods chain, home furnishings posted an 18% gain in November; After double-digit declines, mattress companies are reporting increased shipments to dealers; Appliances are showing signs of life, and they are usually a leading indicator for more discretionary home-related purchases. While we are in our third year of weak home-related spending, there are signs of improvement in housing and the stock markets. The article also points out that people are staying home more, and considering home improvements rather than lavish vacations.


Perhaps these are the first glimmers of light on the horizon for our industry.  If so, are you ready? The purpose of this article is to provide you with a final check so your Home Furnishings Selling Machine will hit the ground running and capture fresh market share. First, we will go through a quick review of the nuts and bolts, and then something even more important. A recipe for your “Secret Sauce.” This is the most important ingredient of all, because as important as evidence-based marketing is, an authentic secret sauce is necessary to distinguish you from your competition. If it is really tasty, it can permanently lift you out of the rat race to another level of performance.  It’s a matter of doing a few simple things with relentless passion, things that the big boxes simply cannot do.


The Key Building Blocks


Chet Holmes is the author of The Ultimate Sales Machine. Many of his principles were reviewed in detail in the previous two articles in this series. If you don’t have your copies, and want to review them, they can be found in the Marketing Management article archives on the www.furninfo.com website. The key building blocks of  business he mentions are:


1. Maximum Productivity.

This begins with your leadership. Teach by means of the school of example. Plan, time frame and prioritize. He who fails to plan, plans to fail.


2. Commit to Training.

Terrible training keeps a business small. Institute higher standards and regular training with videos, tests, role-playing and operations manuals for every phase of your business. (For details see The E Myth Revisited, by Michael Gerber.)


3. Hold Pro-Active Super-Power Meetings.

Hold these meetings in all your key impact areas every week, and strive for small, continuous  improvements. Even the smallest furniture stores have two areas of impact, Marketing and Operations. Larger stores break these down into at least seven. Marketing has at least three: Merchandising, Sales, and Advertising. Operations has at least four: Warehousing, Delivery, Customer Service, and Office. 


Refer to the previous two articles in this series for more details. Once these building blocks are in place, you can begin to roll out your grand strategy. Remember that every great leader is a brilliant strategist. This sounds a bit grandiose, but it is really not complicated. Research shows that of all the qualities a leader must have, the most important is vision. Credibility and Integrity are a close second. Here is where it all begins.


What Do You Want?


Ask yourself, “Where do I want to be this time next year?” Commit this to paper. All the management experts advise this kind of visionary thinking. Brian Tracy suggests you think about it this way: If I were the best that I could be, what would I be like? In your mind’s eye imagine yourself as the best that you can be in every respect. You need supreme self-respect to weather the storms of these difficult times. You must have, as well,  an equal degree of respect for your associates, your customers, your community, and your vendors. You are in the relationship business. Once this healthy self image is clarified and committed to, you are poised to define the vision for your company.


Ask yourself the question: If my company were the best that it could be, what would it be like? What would the customer’s shopping experience be like? What would she see, hear, and feel in my store? How would I distinguish my store as being remarkably different than all the rest? What would the displays be like in my ultimate store? What would the merchandising, the sales force, and the marketing be like? How about the back-end and operations? Would the general morale in my store be uplifting and energizing? How would I define the mission of my ultimate store? Would it be crystal clear? Would my associates believe it? Would they understand where we are striving to go, and what we are trying to do?


Britt Beemer tells us that more than 2,000 interviews were made several years ago at Fortune 1000 Companies. They wanted to determine the attitudes of CEOs, managers and staff toward the mission of their companies. The results should have been a warning and a foretaste of the problems of trust and confidence in management that were soon to wreak such havoc. Four questions were asked:


1. Does your company have a Corporate Mission?

  • CEOs: 94% said “Yes,” our company has a Corporate Mission.
  • Managers: 79% of senior and middle managers said “Yes.”
  • Front Line Staff:  36% of front-line staff workers said “Yes.”

2. Does your company have a Corporate Mission that is understood throughout the company?

  • CEOs: 65% of CEOs said “Yes, our corporate mission is understood throughout the company.”
  • Managers: 54% of senior and middle managers said “Yes.”
  • Front Line Staff: 19% of front line staff workers said “Yes.”

3. Do you feel your company has a plan or a vision for the near future?

  • CEOs: 91% of CEOs said “Yes, our company has a plan and vision for the near future.”
  • Managers: 59% of senior and middle managers said “Yes.”
  • Front Line Staff: 26% of front line staff workers said “Yes.”

4. Do you feel your company has a plan or vision for the long-term future?

  • CEOs: 80% of CEOs said “Yes, my company has a plan and vision for the long-term future.”
  • Managers: 44% of senior and middle managers said “Yes.”
  • Front Line Staff: 13% of front line staff workers said “Yes.”

It should be obvious that, as important as an inspiring vision is, it is of little value if it is not communicated to your managers and your line associates. As bad as the survey numbers above appear, imagine how little the customers, community and vendors of these companies knew about the vision and philosophy of these Fortune 1,000 CEOs! Why are these factors of such relevance to your success as a furniture entrepreneur? It is because your brand and your unique selling factor is wrapped up in your Secret Sauce. And your Secret Sauce springs from your vision and core values.


Communicating Your Vision and Values


The concept of shared values is becoming recognized as more than just fluff.  We are in a nationwide crisis of values right now, especially in three primary areas: Integrity, Excellence, and Caring.  First of all, and most dangerous, we are in a crisis of trust. The public no longer readily trusts the integrity of their institutions and their leaders—perhaps more so their business leaders. If you don’t want your company to be perceived this way, you must work on this issue with stubborn and relentless diligence.


The best way to communicate values is through the school of example. Many furniture retailers have trouble understanding this concept, believing that they can’t tell people what to value. They believe that their values are theirs alone. When it comes to matters of taste, this is true enough. But when it comes to the highest values, there is no more false or damaging idea that you could entertain. The reality is that all normal minds share the highest values of Truth, Beauty and Goodness. These are made visible and pragmatic in the business world by uncompromising Integrity, Excellence, and Caring.


For example, would you hire anyone who flatly admitted that they saw no importance in telling the truth? Of course you wouldn’t. We all value truth.  Matters of taste in food, or clothing, or manners, are all subjective. But in matters of truth, whether you are a college professor, an Australian bush person, or a furniture entrepreneur, Integrity is critically important to you. Years ago, at Curtis Bros. Furniture in Southeast Washington, D. C. (not an ideal retail area), the late Charles Curtis taught this simple mantra: “A promise is a promise.” And he lived by it. So did anyone who worked for him. He knew that a broken promise in a furniture store is not simply a mistake that you hope will be forgiven. It is a disappointed dad on Father’s Day who didn’t get his new recliner. Or a crushed homemaker whose dinner party was spoiled because the new dining room did not arrive as promised. Charles knew that people do not really forget things like that. Once trust is broken, an invisible bond is severed and can never quite be the same. He would credit this mantra with creating the largest furniture store in America under one roof back in the sixties.


In the same sense, would you hire someone who seemed uninterested in producing quality work? Or who admitted to you that they saw no importance in striving for excellence in their service? No, because we all admire Excellence, and we know it when we experience it. And finally, would you hire someone who was uncaring about the feelings of others and indifferent to the strife they cause on the sales floor? No, because we all know that if self-interest is not modulated by respect and Caring for others, it is lethal to long-term success.

These noble values (I call them MetaValues) are what you will strive to live by, articulate, and teach by example in your Home Furnishings Selling Machine.


Truth, Beauty and Goodness are at the core of every great business. They are made visible by means of Integrity, Excellence, and Caring. So think hard about your mission and your vision. Make sure everyone understands your vision for next year, and your mission that distinguishes your company from all the rest. Get input from your associates, ask for their ideas. Challenge them to tell you about what they will accomplish by this time next year. Ask them what they need from you to reach their goals. If you could monitor their private conversations, you would often hear a phrase something like: “If only they would _________, then I could __________.”  Getting the feedback you need is as simple as asking:  “If you could change anything about our company, what would you change?”


Before I run out of space in the final article of this series, I want to cover my own favorite seven most important innovations that will dramatically transform your business into a Home Furnishings Selling Machine and bring big increases in market share, sales, profits and customer satisfaction. Why? Because your competitors won’t do them.


Seven Transforming Store Innovations


1. Develop And Maintain A Killer Website. Check your website every week. Are you posting your ads regularly? Are you engaging your customers? Are you using videos? Review the exhibits in my last article, in which I showed how Tempur-Pedic maximizes their website and engages prospects.


2. Develop and Begin Using A Great Handout. Never let a prospect leave your store empty handed. Be sure to give them a silent salesperson to take with them. Here, you polish and tell your story, communicate your mission and values, and distinguish yourself from the crowd.


3. Offer A Shop-At-Home Service. Assign a couple of hungry sales people to develop the program and create supporting materials.


4. Develop A Customer Furniture Seminar Series. See the wonderful series of articles in Furniture World by Margarett DeGange, online at www.furninfo.com. Link to this ten-part series from http://bit.ly/6prZr3.


5. Develop An Internet Based Permission Marketing Program. Collect email addresses and request permission to send information about sales and special offers.


6. Learn The Importance Of Evidence-Based Advertising. See advances in Evidence Based Advertising, on the furninfo.com website at http://bit.ly/6arIJ0


7. Cultivate, Teach & Live Metavalues®.  See the FW article: “Crisis of  Values at Retail.” Leaders have lied to their people, the public, and themselves. But things will turn around. Use this transition period to rebuild. Read more about this on the furninfo.com website at http://bit.ly/4SZE41.


Also see: the FW Article “A Boring Mission Statement Won’t Cut It.” In just thirty-five minutes you can write a dynamic vision statement for your store. This article can be found on the furninfo.com website at http://bit.ly/6v7Bji

Finally, be prepared mentally for the challenges of 2010. Remember, every battle is won or lost before it is fought. Begin preparing by focusing on one of these innovative ideas. Develop a small team to nurture and develop the concept until it takes root and then focus on another innovation. If you plant the seeds carefully, and meet with your teams regularly, these programs will take on a life of their own.


Thanks for those FURNITURE WORLD readers who have passed along positive comments on my books, recently published by Morgan James.


Larry Mullins is a contributing editor for Furniture World and has 30+ years experience on the front lines of furniture marketing. Larry’s mainstream executive experience, his creative work with promotion specialists, and mastery of advertising principles have established him as one of the foremost experts in furniture marketing. His turnkey High-Impact programs produce legendary results for everything from cash raising events to profitable exit strategies. His newest books, “The MetaValues Breakthrough” and “Immature People With Power... How to Handle Them”, have recently been released by Morgan James Publishing. Joe Girard, “The World’s Greatest Salesman” said of his  book: “If I had read Larry Mullins’ book when I started out, I would have reached the top much sooner than I did.”


Larry is founder and CEO of UltraSales, Inc. Reach him directly at 904

lmullins@furninfo.com.  See more articles by Larry at furninfo.com or got to www.LarryMullins.com  for information on his new books.

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