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HFA Reports: Enhancing Sales Performance

Furniture World Magazine


Selling home furnishings in brick-and-mortar stores requires far more than simple transactional exchanges. Today, when customers visit an average of just 1.8 stores before making a purchase decision, it’s important for salespeople to focus on every interaction. This article presents effective sales strategies and practices shared with HFA by home furnishings experts: Jody Seivert, owner of OneXOne Consulting; Joshua Ortiz, sales director for NFM at the Colony; Mary Holzer, sales manager, Interiors Home, Inc.; and Matt Pridemore, Badcock Home Furnishings, owner and sales training for the HFA Sales Academy.

Building Authentic Relationships

Establishing a genuine connection with customers is fundamental to successful selling. Every interaction is an opportunity to build rapport and trust. Knowing how to greet customers warmly, recognize the right time to approach, and be helpful without intruding are important skills. Building strong relationships leads to increased close ratios, higher average sales, and long-term customer loyalty.

Hospitality: Josh Ortiz said, “At NFM, we create a welcoming culture so that our customers never feel neglected. I think that’s an important piece of relationship-building. Service is a monologue, but hospitality is a dialogue. We’re all humans, and sales is such a human thing! It is not only about being helpful in terms of product knowledge; it’s a process that our stores follow from the moment a customer comes into a store to when the product is delivered to their home. We make it easy for our salespeople to help customers navigate the sales process while being authentic and offering operational transparency.”

Rapport: “First impressions are extremely important,” added Matt Pridemore. “The warm greet and the time between the greet and the re-approach are very important. Salespeople need to be aware and respond the moment a shopper picks up their head, looks left and right as if asking for assistance. In many cases, that determines whether trust and rapport can be built and if a shopper will allow a salesperson to start building a relationship. They want to know that we value them enough to pay attention when they are ready to ask questions and get answers.”

“At NFM, we create a welcoming culture so that our customers never feel neglected. I think that’s an important piece of relationship building. Service is a monologue, but hospitality is a dialogue.” - Josh Ortiz, NFM

Relationship Building: Pridemore continued, “Their experience from when they pull into your parking lot to when they walk through your door should be memorable. It doesn’t matter if people are at a restaurant, a sporting event or shopping for furniture; they want to feel special, be greeted early on, and have a hospitable experience when they enter your store. These are the building blocks retailers can use to create relationships. If they feel special when they enter your store, they will tell their friends and family, post on social media and create referrals.”

Qualifying: “While many organizations tout a relationship-based approach, implementing this ethos across all levels is consistently challenging,” sales manager Mary Holzer emphasized. “When salespeople ask the right investigative questions, then show and sell the benefits of merchandise that meet shoppers’ needs, they increase the close ratio 100% of the time,” she added. “It takes persistence with customer after customer and with every opportunity. It’s about selling the customer the right thing. And they won’t find out the right thing unless they take the time to build relationships, investigate the needs that drove people into the store, and set themselves apart from the competition.”

“We say furniture retail is a be-back business, but don’t do enough to encourage it. As an industry, we just don’t make enough appointments. Jody Seivert, OneXOne Consulting

The Power of Preparation & Process

Effective sales strategies encompass more than charisma; they require a systematic approach to each sale. Tools like sketching, establishing processes for making appointments and offering excellent financing options play pivotal roles in closing sales. Doing it right requires a deep connection with customer desires and concerns. Sales managers, therefore, should not only teach but also personify what they teach on the sales floor.

Know Before Teaching: Pridemore added, “First and foremost, retail business owners need to understand exactly where their organizations stand so they can set expectations for how employees should relay that information to customers. It’s the starting point for training associates with all the skill sets necessary to meet those expectations. Next, sales processes must be properly defined to ensure that all team members provide consistent experiences to their customers.”

The Value of Appointments: Jody Seivert said, “Retailers need to rethink their be-back philosophy. We say furniture retail is a be-back business, but we don’t do enough to encourage it. As an industry, we just don’t make enough appointments. We just let customers walk and trust that they will return. Three things impact the close ratio and average sale, also known as dollar per opportunity. They are sketching the room, making appointments for either coming back to the store or a home visit, and offering financing early in the process to help customers determine what they can spend.”

In-Home Visits: “Our goal at Interiors Home, Inc.,” Holzer added, “is to sell or book a home appointment with one of our designers. That’s a slightly different selling mindset than what most other stores do. We benefit from sketching everything. It’s a best practice for stores that want to grow tickets and communicate to customers that their goal is to sell them the right home furnishings to promote their physical and long-term psychological comfort.”

Add On Sales: “One big goal I focus on is building average sales,” related Pridemore. “If someone comes into one of our Badcock Home Furnishings stores looking for a sofa, I expect our sales associates to take extra time to discover what else that customer might buy. Sketching the room and asking the right questions are key to adding rugs, lamps, tables, loveseats and recliners to a sale. When done correctly, it opens the door to providing customers with what they really want and need. More often than not, it’s more than just the sofa they came in to purchase. The result is a higher average sale, and close ratio.

“Your consumer base is always evolving,” he concluded. “And if we don’t constantly work to change, evolve, shift, and adapt within our tried-and-true processes, we will become stale.”

The Key to Execution

Often overwhelmed with tasks, sales managers must focus on coaching and driving sales to optimize customer experiences.

Defined Roles: “Sales managers occupy a pivotal role in retail furniture stores, yet their job is not always clearly defined.” Seivert observed, “To do their jobs well, they need to focus on exactly what they’re meant to do in terms of driving new opportunities, building skills and pushing performance.”

NFM’s Ortiz added, “The more hands-on and engaged sales managers are, the better. And, if there are systems in place to execute their missions, they will be in a better position to coach, train, observe, do the huddles—all of it. That shows up directly in sales performance.”

Another retail best practice HFA’s group suggested is aligning goals across departments to foster cohesion. Every department should be tasked with enabling sales managers to execute strategies with greater clarity and support from across the broader organization.

Hiring and Training for Success

Communication Skills: The process of hiring sales associates should focus on identifying individuals with strong interpersonal and communication skills, which are more important than industry-specific knowledge. Assessing coachability, using sales aptitude tests, and benchmarking are strategies to recruit candidates with the right attributes. Training should prioritize mindset before skill set, ensuring that new hires are well-aligned with a business’s core values and customer engagement philosophy.

Conversational Skills: Holzer recommends hiring people who enjoy conversation and connection, regardless of industry experience. “At Interiors Home, we look for sales people who will like to engage with their customers. So I try to hire people who talk more in an interview than I do.”

Coachability: Pridemore recommends looking for coachable sales associates. “One way I do that is to ask them to role-play sales scenarios during interviews,” he said. “It might start with me taking on the customer role. Then, depending on how they perform, I provide coaching suggestions, some quick hints and tips on how they might have handled the situation better. About five minutes later, I’ll ask them to role-play one more time before the interview wraps up to see if they’ve incorporated my feedback.”

From left to right: Joshua Ortiz, sales director for NFM at the Colony; Jody Seivert, owner of OneXOne Consulting; Matt Pridemore, Badcock Home Furnishings, owner and sales training for the HFA Sales Academy; and Mary Holzer, sales manager, Interiors Home, Inc.

Testing: Seivert suggested that retailers use pre-employment testing and assessments to gauge a candidate’s selling skills and core competencies. “I recommend that retailers use DISC profiles to ensure the right fit. The profiles do a good job of revealing the tasks prospective hires are good at and those they will never get right, no matter how much training they receive. We say we want people to follow up, yet most people don’t do it adequately because they aren’t wired that way.”

The Purpose of Training

Defining expectations and understanding the purpose of training are essential for achieving meaningful outcomes. Begin by establishing clear goals and objectives to guide the training process. With a well-defined framework, training becomes more efficient and effective. Mindsets: “It’s much harder to push training on people that aren’t ready to be trained,” Seivert said. Pridemore agreed and suggested that it’s important to set expectations as well. “Another piece of the puzzle is that progress can be invisible in the early stages. It’s like a slow drip of water in a pail. At first, it’s hard to see how the droplets at the bottom will be drinkable. Sometimes, salespeople who have the right mindset jump aggressively into their training. But soon they might think, ‘I watched five videos and listened to webinars. I did all these things but haven’t seen significant results.’ Then they give up. Like many things in life, progress is often invisible in the beginning, and it can be frustrating. It’s therefore a good idea to help set realistic expectations for salespeople to avoid frustration as they work to reach their full potential.”

Data-Driven: NFM’s Ortiz stressed the importance of using data to motivate sales teams and refine department-level performance. “A data-driven approach provides actionable insights,” he observed, “allowing sales processes to evolve in response to changing market dynamics.”

Measurement: Seivert wrapped up the panel’s suggestions by pointing out the importance of observing sales associates’ progress. “Sales managers,” she noted, “should observe and acknowledge incremental improvements. It’s a vital step in cultivating a growth mindset. If we’re not watching as managers and specifically observing actions, then we can’t celebrate small victories for individuals or effectively build teams.”

Conclusion: Sales performance requires a harmonious blend of relationships, processes, and managerial excellence. Retailers who want to improve sales performance should nurture relationships, perfect processes, invest in their teams, and then watch sales soar!


About HFA: HFA is a trade organization dedicated to serving furniture retailers for over 100 years. Our mission of service is built on Community, Advocacy, Resources, and Education designed to support retailer interests and the success of the home furnishings industry. HFA provides members with programs, resources, services, and a unified voice in government relations. For more information about HFA and its programs, visit www.myhfa.org.


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