Posted 07/14/2017How To Make Your Message Go Viral Word of mouth is responsible for 93% of messages passing from one person to another. Everyday, Americans engage in 16 word of mouth conversations where they say something positive or negative about a showroom, product, service or person. We recommend restaurants and movies we've watched to coworkers, tell family members about a great sale and recommend babysitters to our neighbors. American consumers mention brands 3 billion times a day. Our mentioning of brands is about as involuntary as is our breathing. We do it so often, we don't even thing about it. In his book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Jonah Berger notes that there are six key steps to creating viral messages. Step 1: Social currency. If we want our customers to talk about our showroom, we need to craft messages that help them achieve desired impressions. We need to make our customers feel like that have insider information and provide them with visible symbols that they want to show others, because it makes them look good. Step 2: Triggers. When you mention peanut butter you almost always think of jelly. Link the services and products in your showroom to cues in the environment. How can your showroom trigger a response and make a connection? Step 3: Emotion. A new kitchen is not about countertops, cabinets and appliances. It's about how it makes your clients feel every time they set foot in the space. People share emotions. Step 4: Public visibility. Things that are easily observable make them easy to imitate, and that makes them more likely to be popular. Trip Advisor has been monumentally successful because people use others' experiences to make decisions. In your showroom, highlight products that were used in different types of projects and applications. Write product reviews to help your customers make decisions. Have your designers designate a favorite product and explain why they like it. Step 5: Practical value. What information can you share that is useful? The secret behind Marcus Sheridan's success was to answer the questions his customers asked most often. Practical value is reducing stress, troubleshooting problems and being accountable. Help others helps them to share what you did with others. Step 6: Stories. You need to embed your projects with stories and ideas that others want to tell. The story needs to be valuable and covey a message so integral to the narrative that people can't tell the story without it.
Posted 07/14/2017People Don't Read: What Effect Does that Have on Your Marketing? Fact: Most people don't want to read copy if they have a choice of watching video or listening to audio. According to a study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans read an average of 19 minutes per day, including texts and emails (there are some exceptions, of course). Those aged 35 to 64 read an average of 19 to 23 minutes per day. Conversely, people watch more than a billion hours of YouTube every 24 hours. That's only YouTube. That does not include Netflix, Amazon, other social media sites or conventional television. Your web site and social media can no longer function exclusively as a resource to educate. They need to transform into a venue where education is mixed with entertainment. Your content needs to be offered in different formats that combine audio, video and text. Guidance for doing so will be offered at the DPHA Annual Conference, October 12-14, at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort, Chandler, AZ.
Posted 07/07/2017Close More Sales If you look around your showroom, how many products appear to be similar? Most decorative plumbing and hardware professionals will answer "too many". Imagine what a customer sees and thinks. The fact is that almost all products in a showroom, when you compare features and benefits, will function similarly within each product category. Recently a University of Southern California professor conducted a 76-part survey with 230 buyers to determine how customers perceive sales professionals and how they then make the decision to buy or simply walk away. The survey found 40% of respondents want sales professionals who can demonstrate that they listen, understand the customer's goals, wants and desires and then provide a solution. 30% of the customers want sales professionals to make them feel comfortable and assure them that the long-term needs will be met. This is easy to imagine in a showroom. Customers rely on a sales professional's expertise to specify the best solutions for their project. They count on the showroom to troubleshoot problems regardless of fault because they purchased their new bath from the showroom and not from a rep or a manufacturer. They expect their sales professional to help avoid problems by providing guidance to installers and others. Customers expect a showroom to inspect products before they are sent to the site and to stage deliveries as appropriate. Customers may not know that is how a showroom delivers value. To paraphrase Steve Jobs, customers don't know what they need. Meeting unforeseen or recognizable needs are where the showroom can truly shine. An additional 30% of customers want sales professionals to challenge their thoughts and perceptions, then recommend a better solution. Again, this is another opportunity to create value, establish trust and create avid fans. If you believe there are better options for your customers, ask their permission to suggest a better alternative. That way you can avoid the impression that you are a know-it-all or worse, that your customer is not smart. How many times do couples disagree over a purchase? In most buying situations there is one party that bullies his or her way to get what they want. When you recognize that this is occurring, focus your attention on the party who is dominating the conversation. The study found that buyers don't necessarily gravitate toward market leaders and are willing to look at alternatives. In the decorative plumbing and hardware world, there are only a few brand names that homeowners, designers and trade professionals recognize. The survey found that only a third of the buyers prefered the best-known brand with the highest functionality and cost. Instead, 63% of buyers would purchase a brand that had 85% of the functionality and 80% of the cost. Most people who enter a showroom know they are going to pay a premium. Too often, however, sales professionals evaluate a customer's budget based on appearance or what they can afford themselves. As Michael Silverstein explained in Trading Up and at a DPHA Annual Conference, consumers will spend three times the amount they mentally budget for when they make an emotional attachment. Don't prejudge a customer's budget. The survey found that price only becomes a factor to those who are price immune when the solution recommended is priced far more than other options. The survey also found that in the fashion industries, consumers are most attracted to charismatic sales professionals who they truly enjoy being with. Having the most technical acumen or product knowledge was not as important. The survey reinforces the fact that most customers who come to a showroom are not "rational" decision makers. When you can recognize the intangible, intuitive human element of the sales process, you will close more sales.
Posted 06/30/2017The Reasons to Tell Compelling Stories There are lots of companies that spend considerable time and resources developing mission and vision statements, which are generally not remembered by staff and customers. A better option may be to craft stories that emphasize the values that the company represents. Everyone likes a good story, especially when they are true. Good stories make people feel good because they are about the experiences of real people. Stories help to make team members and customers focus on priorities. At your next staff meeting, challenge your team and team members to relate a story that reflects your showroom's mission and purpose. When you document these stories, your team and customers will listen more closely and know what you stand for.
Posted 06/30/2017An Easy Button to Improve Customer Service In his book The Customer Service Revolution, John DiJulius proposes an "easy" button for elevating customer experiences. Develop a never and always list of six to ten actions and standards that are guiding principles for your entire team. These are non-negotiable standards that will place your showroom in the upper echelon of customer service organizations nationwide. DiJulius advises that each item should be one to three words in length, crystal clear and not subject to interpretation. For example, you may want to set as an always-rule to return email messages promptly. That's not a good directive because "promptly" to one person could mean two hours and to another two days.
Posted 06/23/2017The Sharing Economy Just Got Larger For those DPHA members of a certain age, you may recall an Alka Selzer commercial with the mantra, "Try it you'll like it." Best Buy is taking a page out of Alka Selzer's play book. The company recently announced a new try-before you-buy option on its website. Those interested are then directed to a third-party administrator's site to lease the TV, iPhone, wearable or other electronic gadget that the customer is considering purchasing. Best Buy's motivation is to sell more open box items - merchandise that was returned that can't be resold at full price. The new program is another means that Best Buy is using to connect with customers earlier in the customer journey in an attempt to capture consumer interest and wallets before they go to Amazon. The giant etailer currently does not offer a rental program, but that may not be too far off. Best Buy customers can either buy the product they have leased at a reduced price, purchase a closed-box item of the product they are leasing at full price or return the item. This week Amazon launched its new Wardrobe program that will enable its customers to order clothing and accessories and try them on at home. If the fit is not right or the consumer simply does not like what they have selected, they can return the items freight free. This is Amazon's attempt to gain more market share from brick-and-mortar retailers by allowing customers to use their own homes as Amazon's dressing rooms. Obviously, Amazon's risk is a potential huge shipping bill for free returns. However, just as Amazon is using predictive analytics for household items sold on Prime Pantry that has reduced the cost of returns, the company will use a similar model to control costs for Wardrobe to make more accurate and better product recommendations and thereby reduce the risk that customers will not keep the clothes they ordered. Best Buy's trial testing program and Amazon Wardrobe are new disruptive attempts to challenge conventional brick-and-mortar retail practices. What can your showroom do to capitalize on the sharing economy? What's preventing you from trying?
Posted 06/23/2017Customer Service Lessons From the World's Most Customer-Centric Company Amazon may be the most customer-centric company in the digital and brick-and-mortar world. That's because founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is laser focused on serving the needs of 164 million American customers. Why does Amazon stand out? Here are several important reasons why as well as lessons to learn. Understand Your Customers Amazon does not simply listen to its customers; it strives to understand them and their needs. Bezos and thousands of Amazon managers attend two days of call center training annually to teach and reinforce the concept that it is more important to not only listen to customers, but also to understand what they truly want. Cater to Customer Needs Bezos has said that Amazon does not focus on their competitors. Instead, the company focuses on customer needs and works backwards. That's how the Kindle came into existence. Customers wanted a tablet they could use to read books. It took a while for Amazon to perfect the technology. Lore has it that when one finance executive asked Bezos how much he was prepared to budget for the Kindle, Bezos responded, "How much do we have?" Translate Bezos' philosophy and commitment into catering to your customers' needs. Brainstorm at your next staff meeting regarding what changes you need to implement to make your customers and their projects more successful. The Most Important Person in the Room In the early days of Amazon when it struggled, Bezos would bring an empty chair into meeting rooms and tell his fellow execs to pretend that a customer was sitting in that chair. Bezos wanted to emphasize that the customer should be viewed as the most important person in the room. This practices continues today to help assure that the customer is omnipresent. 100% or Nothing Most companies the size of Amazon would be satisfied it if met its fulfillment goals 99.9% of the time. Not Jeff Bezos, who told his team they should not be satisfied until they hit 100%. Because Amazon's delivery goals are met so often, the company has created customer expectations that everyone should be able to deliver like Amazon. This is a customer mindset that needs to be addressed with every project. Customers Own Your Brand If customers are unhappy with product or service quality, there's nothing to prevent them from writing negative reviews on multiple social media sites or sharing their experiences on Facebook, Pinterest, Houzz, Instagram, et. al. That means decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms need to double down on service quality and respond immediately to negative reviews. Align Your Interest With the Interests of Your Customers Amazon's market capitalization is $98 billion higher than Costco and Target, which are also known for outstanding customer service. The primary reason for the valuation gap is Amazon's commitment to building a customer-centric company. Using data derived from customer experiences, Amazon can decide what is best for the customer and the company. In a profile in Forbes magazine, Bezos stated, "We don't focus on the optics of the next quarter; we focus on what is going to be good for customers." Take Ownership of Mistakes If you make a mistake, own up to it and apologize, which is exactly what Amazon did when it remotely deleted copies of "Animal Farm" and "1984" from Kindles in 2009. Mistakes are opportunities to shine because so many companies play ostrich when something goes wrong. Most people will appreciate and forgive if you own a shortcoming and do everything in your power to make things right, even if you fall short.
Posted 06/16/2017Just My Imagination Did you know that the origin of the word "store" is storage? Many decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms were developed as places to collect and arrange different components to sell new baths and kitchens. That makes sense. However, using your showroom simply as a place to show products no longer jibes with customer expectations. Remember, by the time a customer comes to your showroom, they have oftentimes traveled 75 to 80 percent of the way down their customer journey path. Retail expert Ken Nisch argues that today's retail environment calls for imaginative experiences such as those offered by REI or Patagonia, because those retailers help prepare their customers for future experiences they want to have. Kitchen and bath showrooms can take advantage of examples of successful grocers who are improving experiences by presenting the ingredients needed to make a complete meal together instead of forcing their customers to traverse aisle after aisle to find proteins, vegetables, fruit, spices, herbs, etc. How can you use the space in your showroom to deliver experiences that will cause your customers to imagine they are sitting in their steam shower to relieve aching muscles after a hard workout or lounging in their soaking tub to wash away the stresses of the day? Can you take a page out of Best Buy's new loaner program that allows customers to test drive open-box products before buying them? Amazon doesn't do that yet, but what stops you from offering showerheads, faucets and other easy to install fixtures to your customers so that they can try them out before buying? What prevents you from using your showroom as a meeting place for neighborhood groups to gather? Dr. Carmen Simon writes in her book, Impossible to Ignore, that using the word "imagine" is a powerful way to create anticipation and emotion. Isn't it time to use your imagination to improve customer experiences and make them truly remarkable?
Posted 06/16/2017I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues Don't wish it away Don't look at it like it's forever Between you and me I could honestly say That things can only get better And while I'm away Dust out the demons inside And it won't be long before you and me run To the place in our hearts where we hide And I guess that's why they call it the blues Time on my hands could be time spent with you Laughing like children, living like lovers Rolling like thunder under the covers And I guess that's why they call it the blues Little did Sir Elton John ever consider his 1983 hit, I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues would have an entirely different meaning in 2017, especially when relating to the color blue and it's impact on the value of a home. There are numerous factors that affect home prices, most notably, location, location, location, school district, access to public transportation, and date and extent of recent remodeling projects, among others. However, a recent Zillow analysis found that a fresh coat of paint in the right color may help sell a home for more money. Zillow discovered that homes with rooms painted in shades of blue or light grey may sell for as much as $5,400 more than those painted white. In its 2017 Paint Color Analysis, Zillow looked at more than 32,000 photos of recently sold homes to determine how certain colors affected average sale prices compared to similar homes with white walls. One of the most important rooms where color affected price was the bathroom. Bathrooms painted or tiled with shades of powder blue or light periwinkle sold for $5,440 more than expected. Light blue had the highest premium of any color found in the home. Other colors that resulted in price premiums included cool, natural tones such as gray or oatmeal. Blue bathrooms commanded the highest premiums. Homes with blue or soft gray-blue kitchens attracted more than $1,800 more than those painted white. Zillow's chief economist Svenja Gudell explains, "Painting walls in fresh, natural-looking colors, particularly in shades of blue or pale gray, not only make a home feel larger, but also are neutral enough to help future buyers envision themselves living in the space. Incorporating light blue in kitchens and bathrooms may pay off especially well as the color complements white countertops and cabinets." The Zillow analysis provides another story-telling opportunity for showroom sales professionals. Not only can you bring extra enjoyment and satisfaction to your clients with your recommendations, you can also demonstrate how working with you increases the value of their home both financially and emotionally.
Posted 06/09/2017The Root Cause of Disruption Business news headlines tout new disrupters such as Uber and Airbnb for taking a large bite out of established stalwarts in the transportation and hospitality industry. It is often considered that industries are disrupted by technological breakthroughs. That's not the case. The rise and success of disrupters is due principally to established businesses losing touch with their customer base, claims Alberto Brea, Executive Director, Engagement Planning at OgilvyOne. Every industry that has been disrupted failed to look through the customer's lens and provide a level of service or quality that customers wanted or needed. As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos pointed out in his annual letter to shareholders, customers are never satisfied even when they appear to be happy. Amazon did not kill the retail industry, writes Brea. Retailers such as Sears, Macy's, JC Penney's and K-Mart are responsible for their own self destruction by living in the past, staffing stores with personnel who don't know much about what is being sold and resorting constantly to the lowest common denominator by constantly luring customers with sale after sale after sale. Brea points to Borders as another example of a company that did not have a long-term vision or appreciate the need to service its clientele. Did you know that Borders outsourced its online book sales to Amazon? Why would any company send its customers to its biggest competitor? Plus, Borders ranked 266 out of 922 companies in customer service. By comparison, Amazon just might be the most customer-focused company on the planet. Netflix did not kill Blockbuster. Blockbuster alienated its customer base by charging excessive late fees. Uber did not kill the taxi business. Taxi monopolies killed themselves with rude drivers, fare control and limited options. Apple did not kill the music industry. Record manufacturers did it to themselves by requiring customers to buy albums. Apple knew that most customers only cared about a couple of songs on any give album, so it ate the music industry's lunch by allowing customers to buy songs one at a time for 99 cents. Airbnb started because two guys in San Francisco could not afford the rent on their apartment. During a citywide convention where hotel rooms were scarce and extremely expensive, they developed a website to rent a room at their place at less cost than a hotel to convention goers. Technology is not the reason for established businesses being disrupted and losing market share and relevance. Lack of focus on what customers truly want is the reason why disruption takes place. Are you constantly looking through the lens of your customers to make sure that you are not a victim of disruption?
Posted 06/09/2017How Showrooms Can Effectively Utilize Reps to Increase Engagement, by Phil Hotarek, Lutz Bath & Kitchen I was fortunate to speak to the plumbing diva Mary Labowitz of Premier Marketing about strengthening relationships amongst showrooms and reps to expand horizons in the market. Although I have known Mary for several years, the most eye-opening aspect of the conversation was being able to see the industry through the lens of a manufacturer representative. Sometimes, it is too easy to neglect the difficulties your peers and colleagues experience while building your own business. Gaining perspective is the first step toward mending a stronger relationship; that is certainly the truth in both business AND life. Take a moment now to ask yourself, "am I proactively utilizing my business relationships to maximize engagement?" Feeling the Love Both showrooms and representatives have different needs. Coming from a small design showroom, we heavily rely on our reps for support and to promote our brand. From our perspective, we truly value reps that believe in our company vision while offering the best and most knowledgeable service in plumbing. Attention to detail, follow up, and just knowing that the rep is there for support whether it be in a consultation design or damage control in the heat of an unfortunate issue is so important for our business. But why would there ever be a problem in plumbing? Conversely, reps need to feel the love too. I did not realize the depth of the challenges until my conversation with Mary. What is important to reps is knowing that the showroom is genuinely invested in the line and not just adding a line for the sake of unlimited product selection. Showrooms being more selective with their product selections actually enhances the customer experience by preventing confusion in the design process, so it is really a win-win. Tip - Jobsite visits by both the rep and showroom designer are a great way to engage personally. with clientele It makes you unique as a designer and adds value to your service. Communication Naturally, building any relationship comes back to communication. For reps, if they do not hear from showrooms, most would be led to believe that no news is good news. Because showrooms have different needs, it is important to communicate to your reps exactly what you need. They are there to develop creative solutions to issues showrooms might have ranging from increasing sales and ordering parts, to helping with installation or assisting with projects. Showrooms also need to hear from reps when there are updates to existing lines. This goes beyond the annual visit to present new pricebooks and price increases. No one can learn everything there is to know in just one PK. Repetition is so vital when becoming familiar with new product and let's face it, showrooms sell more of what they are most comfortable with. It is the rep's responsibility to educate showrooms on their lines and neglecting a showroom will certainly reflect in those sales. Tip - Reps survey your showrooms to evaluate your performance. Surveying is a simple and easy way to learn more about what each showroom needs individually. Education - CEU Events The more our market knows about decorative plumbing, the better for everyone. Continuing Education Units (CEU) events and presentations have been the main source of education connecting manufacturers with the consumers. CUEs are required for architects and designers to maintain their licenses and or designations. For example, ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) requires a minimum of 10 hours of approved CEU every 2 years to maintain their status as a certified designer. This is where showrooms and reps can get creative. Marketing through CEU events is an excellent way to engage with existing and new clientele while strengthening the rep-showroom relationship. Collaborate on creative ideas for events; some are held directly at showrooms, others at off-site in a lunch setting, or social gathering. Why not bring the CEU event directly to the client in their office? The possibilities are endless and organizing successful CEU events are one of the most under-utilized engagement tools over the past several years. Tip - Showroom designers should go beyond basic sales education and learn as much as possible about plumbing. The sale does not end with the payment, and continues long after the project is completed. Your customers rely on you for knowledge and the more plumbing knowledge that you have, the more value you provide. Conclusion One aspect I love about the plumbing industry is the people. Once you are in the plumbing industry, you never leave the "black hole." I'm not sure if that is a blessing or a curse, but probably a little of both. In any case, after being in business with the same people for years and years I find that you develop lifelong friendships and foster a family culture. In an age of technology, text messaging and Instagramming, the best tip of all is to never forget that good business will always be done with good people.
Posted 06/09/2017A Tale of Two Luxury Brands Headed In Different Directions Michael Kors announced this week that it plans to shutter up to 125 stores in the next 24 months on the news that sales fell 14.1% in the second quarter of 2017. Not a lot has gone right for Kors recently as a luxury band. Problems for the company began to surface last August when Kors announced it planned to reduce inventory at several major department stores because of excessive discounting that tarnished its brand. Kors also told Macy's that they could not include Kors products in coupon promotions or annual sales. Kors realized, perhaps too late, that allowing its brand to be constantly on sale confuses customers and diminishes the brand's value as a luxury purchase. Conversely, Coach, which acquired Kate Spade a few weeks ago for $2.4 billion, has seen its fortunes turnaround by becoming proactive in protecting its brand image. That turnaround started by exiting 250 U.S. department stores last fall and establishing minimum sell prices for department stores in which the product remained available. Coach also realized that selling its brand at discount factory outlets resulted in a short-term boom in sales but long-term damage to its reputation as a manufacturer of high quality elegant leather goods. Coach CEO Victor Luis understands that less is going to be more for Coach as he attempts to create a luxury fashion empire in the U.S. Luis started his tenure in 2014 by closing 20% of Coach's stand-alone stores in order to better focus on high-performing locations in key markets. He cut the number of online sales events in its factory store business and expanded the merchandise mix beyond shoes and handbags to include outerwear and apparel. Luis is spearheading efforts to improve customer experiences by remodeling many of the Coach locations, incorporating a sleek look that is more luxury focused and creating craftsmanship bars to showcase the workmanship that goes into Coach products. The efforts to reduce discounting and improve product quality have proven effective. Fortune magazine reports that handbags that cost more than $400 generate half of all handbag sales, an increase of 30% from a year ago. Luis told Fortune, "We are, at the highest levels, moving from the lowest common denominator in pricing to a more innovative, more emotional positioning that provides consumers something they can't find elsewhere." The lesson for decorative plumbing and hardware is that it is virtually impossible to be viewed as a luxury brand if products are allowed to be discounted unchecked. Sales professionals will eventually gravitate away from a brand that has to be severely discounted in order to be competitive. Luxury is about telling compelling stories and delivering meaningful experiences. After all, no one who comes to a showroom wants to tell their dinner party guests that they purchased a cheap item cheaply.
Posted 06/02/2017You Deserve a Break Today As entrepreneurs and creative designers, you work hard. Your jobs are stressful. The services you perform for your clients are meaningful because you make a significant difference in the quality of many lives. That's why it is healthy to take a break and recharge your batteries and one of the best ways to re-energize is to travel. Traveling for business or pleasure gets you away from the showroom and provides opportunities for downtime. When you take a break, you reduce your stress and improve your mental and physical well-being. Traveling also can be inspiring. How can you think outside of the box if you never leave the box you are actually in? When you go to a new city, resort, country or place, you see the world through a different lens. You look at the same things differently and this can help your creativity when you return home. When you venture to uncharted territories you learn to communicate differently. Granted, if you travel outside the U.S. citizens in most westernized countries speak English. But when you encounter someone who does not, you are required to improvise and that's healthy. As an entrepreneur and designer, improving your communication skills will help you improve relationships with fellow team members and clients. Traveling with family members or in groups provides even more experience opportunities because there are multiple sets of eyes viewing new experiences and others may see things differently than you do. And when you travel with family, compromises almost always have to be made which strengthens connections and emphasizes the benefits of being selfless. When you travel, the chance of making new friends or potential business contacts skyrockets. There are DPHA dealer members throughout the United States and most of them would welcome the opportunity to host you in their showrooms. Every time you visit someone's showroom - whether a dealer, representative or manufacturer - you learn something valuable and new. When you travel, you greatly increase the time you have to think strategically about your business. Whether you are skiing in the Rocky Mountains or relaxing on a beach in Mexico, use this time to reflect on where you are and where you are headed. This time will serve as a brainstorming session where you can think of new ideas to grow your business because you know during the chaos of everyday, more often than not, you make spur-of-the-moment decisions. Enjoy the summer and take some time off.
Posted 06/02/2017The Changing Mindset of Luxury Consumers In an age where income inequality has painted an unfavorable portrait of the wealthy, showroom customer mindsets are constantly changing and these changes require a shift in marketing and sales approaches. For decades, luxury marketing was based on selling limited distribution and appealing to one's aspirational needs. When a woman carried a Hermes Birkin bag, she wanted to make a status statement. That's not the case in today's world. Consumers who buy luxury plumbing and hardware have already achieved a certain status. They are not looking, or necessarily wanting, to become conspicuously consumptive. Instead, as Pam Danziger points out, today's luxury consumers are looking for inspiration not aspiration. Luxury marketing has moved from the classic four Ps of product, place, price and promotion to the four Es -experience, everyplace, exchange and evangelism. Experience for a decorative plumbing and hardware showroom means more than simply providing outstanding customer service. That is a given for any consumer willing to pay a premium for products. Savvy showroom professionals understand that they need to focus on the experiences that decorative plumbing and hardware products can deliver. These experiences may include the ability to wash away the stresses of the day while having a refuge in their home that provides time-only for themselves, devoid of cellphones, texts, emails and other family members or to simply enjoy the aesthetic beauty of a well designed and specified new bath. The concept of everyplace means that consumers engage with your showroom's brand on their terms, on their time and with their agenda. This does not mean though that you have to sell online either on your website, social media or other venues. Everyplace may involve walking jobs more often, training installers in your showroom and on the job site, better staging of materials, troubleshooting problems instead of passing them on to manufacturers and representatives or allowing customers to trial test different products. Everyplace also represents opportunities to differentiate your showroom and approaches from others. To many luxury consumers, their time is more important and valued than their financial resources. Demonstrate how you save them time, make the purchasing process easier and ensure desired outcomes. Brainstorm with your teams why you are different and what you can do to serve your clientele on their terms, time and agenda. Exchange relates to appreciating the value of things, not just the cost. Value involves the premium you bring to their project and the reasons why a customer should buy from your showroom as opposed to online or the discounter you compete with every day. Value also involves the value of your customers. What is the value of a customer's attention, engagement and permission to give you their time? When you answer those questions, you give your showroom competitive advantages. Evangelism requires creating a mission and brand experience that is so inspiring to consumers that they engage with you - and subsequently share their enthusiasm with others. What makes evangelism so powerful today is how it marries the oldest form of persuasion - word of mouth - and the newest - social networking. Evangelism requires inspiring customers and team members with your passion. Remember, today's luxury is not a price point but a mindset.
Posted 05/26/2017Mother Goose Part 2: Why We Need to Tell Brand Stories At the 2016 DPHA Annual Conference, Don Miller explained why showrooms need to tell compelling brand stories where the hero is not your company or the products you sell, but the customer. Bernadette Jiwa points out that most showrooms think of story as a way to create and communicate value. However, story needs to move beyond a medium for becoming better known, increasing sales or making more profits. Jiwa notes, "the story, not of what is, but what's at stake and what could be is what drives our desire to succeed." Story done well explains the differences you make in the lives of your customers and community. While Macy talks about closing 100 stores because they are no longer economically viable, Jeff Bezos is trying to figure out how to make flying cars. Elon Musk is not simply selling electronic cars and looking to harness the power of the sun; his goal is to accelerate the use of sustainable energy and reduce America's dependence on Middle Eastern fossil fuels. Telling your story requires explaining why you exist, where you are headed, the values and beliefs that guide your journey and how you will accomplish your goals without compromising your values. Great story-driven businesses such as Tesla and Apple have a purpose, vision and values that are the foundation for their success. What story do you want to tell that will enable you to quickly adapt in times of change?
Posted 05/26/2017Proving Digital Advertising's ROI To prove the effectiveness of online advertising, Google plans to use data from billions of credit and debit card transactions to show that online ads drive consumers to brick-and-mortar retailers, reported the Washington Post. Google announced May 23 that it assembles troves of personal data from smart devices and personal computers, including where someone is located via Google Maps and other applications, the search terms that customers use in a Google search and customer web browsing behavior. Google uses that information to identify individuals when they log into Google services. Google has applied for patents for newly developed mathematical formulas that protect consumer privacy when the company matches a shopper from online behavior to purchasing at a brick-and-mortar store. Google claims its formulas convert the consumer's name and other personal information into a string of numbers that make it impossible for Google or anyone else to know the names of shoppers or for storeowners to know the names of Google users. What Google claims it can prove is that a match has been made between an online search and a brick-and-mortar purchase. Additionally Google does not know what was purchased; it only will know how much was spent. Privacy concerns abound with this new development. Many consumers most likely did not realize that when they signed up for Gmail, Google Search, Chrome or Google Plan, they gave Google permission to share their data with third parties. Other ways that third parties receive permission to obtain data is through loyalty programs and through location data. GPS signals from smart phones and smart devices are tracked. Google's goal is to prove online advertising prompts brick-and-mortar purchases so it can capture a much larger share of advertising dollars that are currently dedicated to television. Stay tuned.
Posted 05/26/2017Protect Your Data Global hacking was front-page news this week, affecting businesses, government agencies and hospitals in at least 150 countries, reported The Wall Street Journal. Disney also claimed that a hacker had kidnapped one of its movies and threatened to release portions of the film online if a ransom was not paid. What can you do to protect your business and personal data from being compromised? A recent article in The New York Times offered how-to guidance.
Posted 05/19/2017Are You Answering The Three Most Important Questions In Business? Inc. magazine recently wrote a glowing review of the Basecamp app, praising it as a combination of Slack and Microsoft Project. Digging deeper, the review found that the reason for Basecamp's skyrocketing popularity and success as a project management tool is that the app answers the three most important questions in business that every team member asks almost daily.
Posted 05/19/2017Brand Lessons From Chipotle Chipotle was cruising, sitting atop the fast causal food business with a product and business model that was first to market. The stock soared and everything pointed to a rosy future until the fall of 2015 when 15 of its restaurants were victimized by a supply chain issue that left 55 of its customers suffering from E. coli contamination. On one hand, Chipotle was punished for being true to its brand of using fresh ingredients to create superior products. On the other hand, Chipotle had received warning signs of potential contamination problems prior to October 2015. The E. coli breakout caused the stock to tank by more than 300 points from its previous high, revenue to plummet and perhaps most significantly, the brand's integrity to be compromised. Chipotle undertook a defined campaign to rebuild customer loyalty. It started by admitting fault and closed every one of its restaurants for a national safety day, viewed via broadcast by 50,000 employees. To win customer loyalty back, the company offered free meals. 5.3 million customers downloaded the mobile coupon for a free burrito and 3 million people took advantage of the offer. Chiptole grew from a small chain in Denver to an international powerhouse with more than 5,000 restaurants worldwide because of its core values that included a commitment to serving meat from animals raised humanely and sustainable food practices. Values combined with both quality of meals and price points made Chipotle phenomenally successful. Customers connected with the brand and became corporate ambassadors. And therein lies the lesson for decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms. To create your own enthusiastic fans who will recommend you to neighbors, peers and friends, you must understand that your business in not transactional. Your clients are not simply buying a new bath from your showroom, they are trusting you to make their lives more enjoyable and fulfilling. When a client or customer gives you permission to rip apart their home and inconvenience them for weeks or even months, you are being given an opportunity to create a deep personal connection. Remember, trust is the hardest thing to earn in the business world. Almost every project will encounter problems that can compromise the trust you have been given. Your response can either reinforce or break your relationship with the customer. Most likely that relationship will break if your problem solving approach is to turn the resolution of the problem over to someone other than your showroom. Customers purchased their products from you. If they encounter problems, they don't want to be passed on to a third-party. While it is perfectly acceptable to involve representatives and manufacturers, your showroom needs to own the problem and the resolution. Chipotle learned that human empathy was key to rebuilding its customer relationships. This was demonstrated by accepting responsibility, taking corrective action and continuing to improve on its core values. Chipotle teaches that brands need to be constantly reengaging and innovating to create and serve loyal customers.
Posted 05/12/2017The Power of Adaptability Our business world continues to change at an alarming pace. Imagine if you were in the automobile industry. Today, shared services - Uber and Lyft - represents less than 1% of all driving volume. Several experts predict that self-driving vehicles and shared service will represent 10% of driving volume by 2024. With the auto industry accounting for 15% of gross domestic product (GDP), the anticipated disruption is going to have far-reaching economic and social impact. Our industry continues to be disrupted by the Internet and new competitive players. Many showrooms are successfully combatting online competition by improving customer experiences and demonstrating the value they bring to their customers and their projects. To survive and thrive in a consistently changing retail paradigm you need to be adaptable, writes Rick Houcek in a recent 2-Minute Monday Motivator. If you need an example of successful adaptation, look no further than the wily coyote, suggests Houcek. Throughout time, coyotes have become stronger, more grizzled and in greater numbers than ever before. The reason is adaptability. Houcek points out that while other species have suffered as their natural habitats shrink, the coyote has learned to adapt. They can live in cities as big as Los Angeles, Washington DC and Philadelphia. They can live in all life zones - deserts, grasslands, low valley floors, open plains, foothills, tall mountains and populated neighborhoods. Coyotes, unlike most other breeds of animals, can hunt alone, in pairs or in packs and will eat almost anything. Coyotes do not miss a single opportunity. They are neither nocturnal or daylight foragers. They are 24-hour animals. Coyotes have survived better than almost all other members of the animal kingdom by their ability to adapt. Houcek states the coyote reminds him of an old German proverb, "There's no such thing as bad weather. Only inappropriate clothing." The key to surviving in today's ever-changing world is to have the foresight and ability to change. In your showroom, what adaptations should you make to meet customer demands and improve customer experiences? As the leaders in decorative plumbing and hardware industry nationwide, we all can take advantage of Gandhi's guidance, "Be the change you seek." We know that success is not guaranteed, prosperity is not promised and safety is not ensured. Your ability not only to survive, but thrive is a direct result of life-long learning, constantly improving and most importantly, adapting to whatever life and circumstances throws at you.
Posted 05/12/2017Enjoyment Beats Long Term Benefits What can you do to help your team achieve its performance goals? Researchers at the University of Chicago answered that question. They found through multiple studies that goal achievement success is tied directly to the immediate benefit of happiness or enjoyment as opposed to a longer term benefit of better health, grades or diet. In numerous experiments, it was found that individuals would pursue their goals longer if they enjoyed the process. Those looking to lose weight ate more vegetables if they liked the taste of vegetables than those who were eating vegetables simply to lose weight. Those who lifted more weights and lifted for longer periods of time did so because they enjoyed lifting weights. The longer-term benefit of a fitter physique did not have an influence on the amount of weight lifting or number of times a week someone went to the gym. The lessons for decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms are as follows. First, you can help you team meet personal and corporate objectives by assigning tasks that each team member enjoys. Second, reward top performances as much as you can. Immediate rewards have a more sustainable impact on goal achievement than waiting until the end of the month, quarter or year. When you reward immediately or frequently for superior performance, it frames difficult tasks less like work and more like fun. Third, identify the positive experiences of achieving the goal. The researchers found that people ate almost 50% more of a healthy food when they liked the taste, compared to another group that ate more for the health benefits. Goal achievement will most likely increase if you offer immediate rewards on the journey to the finish line.
Posted 05/05/2017Are You A Victim of Confirmation Bias? Most hiring processes are not effective due to a concept known as "confirmation bias". Most people who interview prospects for a position in their firm make a determination of a candidate's fit within five minutes of the start of the interview and then spend the rest of the time affirming what they want to believe based on those first impressions. That's why most job interviews are not really effective ways to determine if the candidate sitting in front of you can do the job that you are offering, will work with your team and/or will be a good fit with your culture. So how do do you bypass the challenges posed by confirmation bias? Look to Google for the answer. The company has its pick of best-in-class talent who want to be associated with a technology superstar. To avoid confirmation bias, Google uses an extremely structured process that allows apples-to-apples comparisons based on strict criteria that predicts whether or not a candidate will succeed at the company. The main criteria Google uses to determine if a candidate is a fit are:
Posted 05/05/2017Making Better Decisions Faster In his annual letter to shareholders, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos noted that most businesses make high-quality decisions, but they make them too slowly. In order to succeed and stay ahead of the completion, Bezos claims that you need to somehow make "high quality, high velocity decisions." This is easier for new organizations but more difficult for larger and more established companies. Speed does matter. But how do you decide quickly and avoid results that don't get to the root of a problem or circumstance? According to Jesse Sostrin in an HBR blog, high velocity decisions require reflective urgency or the ability to align your best thinking with swift action. Sostrin offers three strategies to practice reflective urgency. One is to identify the distractions that take away from quality thinking time. These may include trying to multitask when an important decision requires your undivided attention, agreeing to projects that will gobble up oodles of time with little reward and rushing from one meeting to another with unfinished business left on the table. Identifying the actions that prevent you from focusing exclusively and selectively on the most important decisions you need to make can help eliminate or mitigate distractions. Ask yourself this question - when you are stressed or feel there's not enough time in the day to perform effectively, what is the biggest drain on your time? Another impediment to making high velocity decisions is working on tasks and projects that are either easy or likeable. We all have pet projects that bring us joy. There's a reason the play is the opposite of work. We all have responsibilities that are difficult and challenging. To avoid putting off the difficult tasks, answer this question, "I would like to spend my day working on ____, but I know I should focus on ____." If you are like most company leaders, you can't reduce the demands on your time or attention easily. The bottom line is that there is not one right way to make decisions. Depending on the nature of the issue involved, you can determine how much thought needs to go into making the decision. Bezos recommended never using a one-size-fits all decision-making approach. Some decisions are easily reversed. He also claims that most decisions should be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you won't be acting quickly enough. Finally, you need to be able to recognize and react quickly when you make the wrong decision such as a bad hire. If you know how to change course quickly, it most likely will be less costly than you think, and certainly less expensive then being slow.
Posted 04/28/2017How to Create Compelling Customer Experiences Most retailers that attempt to create compelling customer experiences fail, claims Doug Stephens, owner of the Retail Prophet consultancy. The reason is that most retailers, including decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms, don't understand what the customer experience really is and how to make it more compelling. They mistakenly believe that the customer experience will be enhanced by rebranding, updating displays, bringing in new lines, re-configuring the showroom and transitioning from catalogs to tablets. Other misconceptions, says Stephens, are retraining sales professionals and improving customer service. Most showrooms and other retailers who make these investments are likely to be disappointed with the results. Most of the time these improvements will not increase sales or generate additional positive reviews on Yelp or Houzz.com. Stephens claims that updating displays, retraining staff and enhancing service is comparable to putting "fresh icing on the same stale cake." Creating a compelling customer experience at Nordstrom, Nieman Marcus or your showroom requires mapping the customer journey, breaking it down into its smallest component parts and then re-engineering each component to look, feel and operate differently from the competition. You need to dig below the surface within each moment to understand customer needs and design the combination of people, place, product and process that delivers delight in "that micro-moment." You need to weave your brand story into every customer interaction. You have to use different approaches, nomenclature, rituals, methods and processes from your competition. You have to offer an experience that can't be found anywhere else. Stephens claims that the remarkable customer experience is comprised of the following five distinct elements:
Posted 04/28/2017Stop Thinking You Sell Toilets, What You Really Sell Is Happiness There have been voluminous works published on the changing luxury paradigm. Today's luxury consumers, (e.g. decorative plumbing and hardware showroom clients), are not renovating their bathrooms or building new homes to necessarily impress neighbors or to make a status statement. The primary emotional driver of the decision to redo a bath or kitchen or build a new one is to become happier. Happiness is not the byproduct of what someone buys. Instead it stems from experiences or what people do, and converting a master bath into a personal retreat or providing a facelift to a powder room is an attempt to live a happier and more rewarding lifestyle. Cornell professor Brian Wansink has conducted numerous experiments that illustrate if you can change a consumer's perception of a product, you can change the consumer's behavior, e.g. they will purchase more expensive products and increase the happiness quotient from the purchase. In a recent experiment, Wansink invited two groups of diners to a eat meal. Group 1 was given a menu that listed the ingredients such as fish, green beans, scalloped potatoes, salad and chocolate cake and then were served the meal at institutional-type tables on paper plates. When asked to rate the quality of the meal on a scale of 1-10, the diners in Group 1 rated the experience on an average of 3.4 points. Group 2 though ate at tables set with linens, candles and floral centerpieces. The lighting was dimmed and the menu provided detailed and fancy food descriptions. The meal was served on real plates with restaurant-styled table and stemware. Group 2 received the exact same meal as Group 1, however, the average rating from this group was 8.0 points on a 10-point scale. The difference had everything to do with perception. And therein lies the lesson for decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms. If you believe and act like your role is to "sell toilets", you are most likely to receive the same rating that Group 1 gave their meal served on paper plates. However, if you tell compelling stories to clients - that your role is to make their lives easier, more enjoyable and happier by specifying the perfect products that will benefit their lifestyle daily - you are positioning your showroom to receive ratings similar to those provided by Group 2 or even higher. Consumers with the means to purchase luxury products don't buy because they want to make a status and prestige statement. That's the old world of luxury that no longer applies. Consumers with resources to purchase new baths and kitchens from your showroom want compelling stories and experiences that will make them happier.
Posted 04/21/2017DPHA Rep Info, by Traci D'Antoni of D'Antoni Sales Group Being an independent rep in the decorative plumbing and hardware business is both one of the greatest pleasures and frustrations of my life. I started as a rep working for an agency where there was no training program or a "how to" manual available. When I eventually started my own agency, I learned mostly by the trial-and-error method and subsequently, I was asked to share some of the insights I gained through this process. In the DPH industry, there are great reps, and there are ineffective reps. That can also be said for each of our association's member segments. I have always tried to learn from others what makes a great rep and some of that information has come from the ineffective reps as well. A rep is in a unique position - being the liaison between the manufacturer and the showroom. A large part of a rep's job is to build relationships with the showroom staff and management and bring to them the correct product/product mix to make the showroom more profitable and successful. Building relationships requires a great deal of listening to the showroom staff and understanding what their needs and issues are. You need to be able to hear the words that are being spoken and then understand the underlying meaning behind them. A showroom sales consultant may be bashing a product that they have had an issue with when the real problem was actually the way the issue was handled by the manufacturer's customer service department or that the homeowner was difficult to deal with. I try to put consultants at ease by getting them to agree to the fact that this is the exception rather than the rule. And sometimes, you just have to let them vent. In our very "immediate gratification" world, the expectations and the realities of our business tend to move a little slower than others. Training is another large part of a rep's job. Training can be as involved as setting up a lunch-and-learn CEU or simply taking 10 minutes with a sales consultant to show them new products. Training is not a one-size-fits-all program. Meeting each dealer and its staff has unique needs, and abilities are required for training success. If a rep can tailor training to meet these needs, then he or she will have a customer that will trust them and work with them. Training is an ongoing process, yet is the one task that seems to get the least respect and attention of all of the rep's duties. A well-trained consultant can sell more product in a shorter amount of time and for a higher profit margin. The fact is that homeowners are looking for that knowledgeable person to help them through their project. Correct training can also make you the "go-to" rep when a dealer needs information about a product and knows that you will get them the correct answer. Do you have rep "best practices" you'd like to share? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll add them to next month's article.
Posted 04/21/2017Leverage the Planning Fallacy Into a Showroom Asset We've all heard horror stories from friends and neighbors of bath renovations gone awry. Their nightmares involved shoddy work, cost overruns, incomplete projects, time delays and unmet expectations. Why do projects fail? One reason may be a concept that Noble prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman calls "the planning fallacy". In his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, Kahneman explains that the planning fallacy occurs when there are unrealistic expectations that do not account for the unexpected. Anyone who claims they will deliver a perfect project should be viewed with extreme caution. There are always surprises. This is why buying an entire bath online greatly increases the consumer's risk. The key for salespeople is to anticipate potential "what ifs" as part of the planning process. Unfortunately, your client may be unaware of some businesses that offer bath renovation services but thrive on the unexpected. They make their most profit on change orders or additions to the original plan. Kahneman claims that "the failures of forecasting in these cases reflects the customers' inability to imagine how much their wishes will escalate over time. They end up paying much more than they would if they had a realistic plan and stuck to it." Kahneman's advice underscores the benefits a professional decorative plumbing and hardware showroom provides to help turn customer dreams into realities without having to incur undue stress, unrealistic cost overruns and less than desirable time frames. The bottom line is to explain to clients the benefits they receive from you walking them through every stage of a renovation. A detailed plan saves time, money and headaches. Avoiding the planning fallacy begins by recognizing that bath renovations involve making decisions on everything from faucets and fixtures to flooring and wall coverings and cabinet hardware. The devil is truly in the details, and that's where you can differentiate your showroom from one that is limited to taking orders or an online etailer. Take the time to explain the benefit of ensuring that all of the i's have been dotted and the t's crossed before demolition begins. Changes are difficult, time-consuming and expensive when they occur in the middle of a project. When your clients spend the time upfront, they minimize the likelihood of changing course midstream. You should also review the existing infrastructure of your client's homes to help determine if it will be able to support any new additions that you choose. The age of a home can affect costs. Older homes may need to be rewired, re-plumbed, re-ventilated and re-engineered to meet present-day codes. Because it's almost impossible to see behind walls, recommend a contingency plan to deal with the unexpected.
Posted 04/21/2017Ten Half-Truths About Sales Anthony Iannarino had a great blog on April 3 identifying ten half-truths about sales. There are a lot of "truths" about sales bandied about on social media by people who have a something to gain if your believe their half-truths. Here are some to watch for: 1) Buyers are spending their time researching: I am sure there are some people in purchasing departments somewhere researching something they need to purchase for their company. My experience tells me that most decision-makers are not. If there is information parity between you and your prospective client, you are doing sales wrong. 2) Buyers are well-educated and well-informed: About many things, yes. About you and your industry and the choices that are available to them when it comes to producing better results, not so much. Buyers have experience when they re-purchase, and most of their education is gained through the experience of having bought and used a service. 3) Buyers are spending their time on social sites: There are surely some people in business with buying roles that are engaged on social sites. What you'll find to be true is that the higher up the organizational charts you climb, the fewer people you will find spending their time on social sites. 4) Buyers now control the process: If buyers knew how to get the results they needed, they'd already be getting those results. When a buyer has a process, it's called an RFP. What you sell is surely being commoditized, this process will never serve you, and it rarely serves the company well. You can still control the process if you initiate it. 5) Marketing is going to generate your leads: Marketing creates awareness. When things go well, they generate leads. The other half of this truth is that those leads will not be enough for you to grow your business. Sales is about opportunity creation as much as it is about opportunity capture. 6) Marketing automation can nurture your relationships: Marketing can automate messages. Nurturing is something different. You don't nurture a lead. You nurture a relationship. Your prospects don't have any relationships with anyone in your marketing department. When they have a need, they are not calling marketing. People nurture relationships with other people. 7) Inbound is better than outbound: Inbound can be enormously helpful. But it isn't better than targeting your dream clients, building relationships over time, developing a case for change, and winning your dream client. Outbound still rules the roost. 8) Salespeople are only necessary to close opportunities: Why, sir, so few opportunities then? If inbound isn't working, and marketing doesn't generate leads, where are the opportunities you need going to come from? Salespeople are necessary to create opportunities. That commitment comes way before the commitment to buy. 9) The best salespeople should not prospect: Closers. Sure. Whatever. The person with the greatest ability to create value for their dream client should prospect and they should be engaged early in the process, where deals are won and lost. Saving the best salesperson for the end of the process and allowing them not to prospect is a bad idea. 10) There will be fewer salespeople in the future: This is a half truth. If your model is transactional, this is almost certainly true. Where your model is high trust, high value, and high caring, this is not true. In fact, there is already a shortage of salespeople with the necessary skill sets to sell in businesses with these models.
Posted 04/14/2017Mitigating Stress in the Showroom Everyone has too much to do, challenging deadlines to meet and performance metrics to satisfy. Let's face it, work can be stressful. However, we know that a stressful environment can zap productivity and make it more difficult for everyone on the team to be as effective as they really can be. You can help reduce stress in your showroom by clearly stating what you want, your expectations and goals. When team members receive vague messages, they are caught in no man's land. What does a team member think if you send an email asking for a meeting without providing a hint of what the discussion will entail? They may think, oh no, I have done something wrong or my performance is not satisfactory. Be crystal clear in your communication so those you depend on, and who depend on you, won't have to spend time and energy fretting over what you may be thinking. The average professional receives an estimated 122 emails a day. If you are working on a project, it's easy to ignore emails so you can meet your deadline. Most emails don't have to be responded to right away, but there are some that do. When you ignore the time-sensitive and urgent messages, you send the message that you are not engaged or you don't care. Regardless of how busy you are or how time sensitive an approaching deadline might be, spend at least 15 minutes a day culling emails to identify those that need an immediate response. Avoid the temptation to micromanage. Most of your team will thrive if given a little leeway. If they feel someone is constantly looking over their shoulder though, it will compromise their performance and sap their confidence. If you have a tendency to micromanage, work with your team members to establish performance metrics and timelines. That way you can review performance at agreed-to intervals. Subsequently, your team won't feel as though you don't trust them. This in turn sends a signal of confidence and trust, which are keys to high performance. Being crystal clear in your communication, responding to urgent and pressing issues immediately and providing freedom for the team to perform will help reduce stress in your showroom and improve everyone's performance.
Posted 04/14/2017Do You Pass the "Back to the Past" Test? New York University professor and principal of L2, a marketing and research firm, Scott Galloway brilliantly summed up the challenge facing successful brick-and-mortar retailers that have yet to change. He said, "Another metric, in retail, is a "back to the past" test. Go to the middle of a store, close your eyes, clear your mind. Then open your eyes, slowly rotate 360 degrees, and absorb everything around you. How far, if at all, through the rotation would you realize you're not in 1985? I open my eyes in an Apple Store, and BOOM - before even starting to move, I know it's not the year Pat Morita was nominated (and robbed) for Best Supporting Actor in Karate Kid. At Sephora, you might get 90 degrees through your turn, and no doubt about it, you're not going to hear Tears for Fears playing. If you do the full rotation, and are not sure what decade you're in... then you are in the midst of fading greatness, ripe for disruption." When you close your eyes and then look around your showroom, what do you see?
Posted 04/07/2017The Challenge in Marketing More Effectively Bernadette Jiwa writes an excellent blog entitled, The Story of Telling. Her post on Sunday, April 2, hit the nail on the head, recognizing and defining the change necessary to market showrooms more effectively. Jiwa wrote, "The easy part of marketing is working out what to say, when where and to whom, in order to sell what we make. We expend most of our energy on the easy part. The hard part is understanding why it's important to say what we're about to say and who will care enough to listen. We should start with the hard part." That hard part entails understanding what the customer truly wants and that those wants are constantly changing, especially in the luxury sector. Luxury Marketing's Pam Danziger points out that making a luxury purchase used to center on aspirations. You bought a luxury item because acquiring that brand spoke to a special status or position. Aspirational purchasers though are now a dying breed. Danziger correctly notes that affluent customers who can afford to buy luxury items already have achieved plenty of status and position. They don't need to show off a Rolex watch or Hermes bag to prove it. The future of luxury business requires moving from aspirations to inspirations. Showrooms that focus on demonstrating how their products and services, yes services, can add meaning to their customers' lives will win. Features and benefits no longer have the impact they once did. When an affluent customer enters a showroom and is considering a new bath, they don't necessarily care about how many finishes faucets come in, thermostatic valve technology (which is now a quarter century old) or water flow rates. They want to know how their new bath will make their life better and what the showroom will do for them that an online etailer or order-taker cannot do. And showrooms can't depend on superior customer service to win the day, because superior customer service is now an expectation not an exception. New fashion retailers such as Stitch Fix and Trunk Club are disrupting markets by providing better buying experiences. These companies provide customers with personal stylists to select complete outfits for consideration. There are other companies that allow women to design their own handbag or dresses. The key to their success is that they are personalizing the customer experience and more significantly, making it easier and more enjoyable to buy. Even stodgy old Lincoln Motor Cars has changed its service paradigm to improve the customer experience. Need your Lincoln serviced? You no longer have to make a trip to the dealer. The dealer will pick up your car, service it and then return it to you. It makes you want to buy a Lincoln. What can you do in your showroom to personalize customer experiences? What can you offer that makes it easier for your customers and trade representatives to buy from you? Why your showroom instead of Amazon?
Posted 04/07/2017What Is the Best Business Advice You Have Received? Every time DPHA members get together and talk about the benefits of being an association member, the conversation inevitably turns to relationships they have made with fellow members. There are a number of members who opine that DPHA has helped make their business successful and that joining was one of the best business moves they have taken in their career. Recently, Inc. magazine asked successful entrepreneurs what was the best piece of advice they received to help their business. Here's a sampling:
Posted 03/31/2017Who Needs Exercise When You Can Take A Bath Instead? Here's another great selling tool to help tell compelling stories and create emotional connections with customers. Dr. Steven Faulkner, a researcher at Loughborough University, found that taking a warm bath burns almost the same amount of calories as biking does and aides in preventing type 2 diabetes. Dr. Faulkner explained that it was common knowledge that taking a warm bath is relaxing. He researched the effectiveness of "passive heating" on health and then studied the health effects of 14 people sitting in an hour long soak at 104 degrees Fahrenheit compared to an hour-long bike ride. The experiment found that biking burned more calories, but taking a hot bath burned the same number of calories as walking for 30 minutes. Faulkner explained, "The overall blood sugar response to both conditions (bathing and walking) after eating was about 10% lower when participants took a hot bath as compared with when they exercised." He also opined that passive heating may contribute to reducing chronic inflammation which is often accompanied by type 2 diabetes. Relaxation, no effort and eliminate calories? Loks like it's time for a soak!
Posted 03/31/2017Where Everybody Knows Your Name Everyone has a favorite place. It may be the coffee shop, a restaurant, take-out stand or a wonderfully merchandised boutique that always has something that catches your eye. Think about the places you go to repeatedly. What is the draw? As with Cheers, you walk in and everybody knows your name. It makes you feel good about being there. You know if you forgot your wallet, the owners of your favorite establishment would trust you to pay them later. It is likely that you are treated better than most other customers at the places you repeatedly frequent. You may get a little extra here or there as a way to thank you for your ongoing patronage. Consider your repeat customers. Does your team know the names of designers, architects, builders and installers who frequent your showroom repeatedly? Returning customers are not just looking for the latest and greatest products. They return because of the positive engagement and experiences they have with your showroom and your staff. Every time a repeat customer crosses your threshold, your relationship deepens. You know what they like, what they need and what they desire. Because of your intimate knowledge of how they operate and what makes them tick, you are more valuable and can therefore provide a better level of service than the showroom down the street that has no relationship with them whatsoever. After all, it's hard to have a deep relationship with a web site. The lessons for showrooms:
Posted 03/24/2017Is It Snap, Crackle or Pop? Snapchat went public about two weeks ago and saw its stock price increase by nearly 50% even though the company has yet to generate a profit. What is the fascination with this media platform that allows content to be accessible for 24 hours only? Can Snapchat be a viable medium to promote a decorative plumbing and hardware showroom? The answer is yes and the reason why is that if your target market knows that the videos of a new kitchen or a new product will only be available for 24 hours, the likelihood of your targets viewing them increases substantially. Here are several keys for using Snapchat to promote your showroom. Tell a compelling story instead of trying to sell someone on the need for a new bath. Explain how a new bath will improve their lives (not just the value of their homes) and lead to a healthier lifestyle. You can use video guidance for storing things more effectively. You can highlight smart shower systems and technology advances that are currently available. You will never lack for content to tell a good story. Other companies that are enjoying Snapchat successes use the medium to highlight the essence of their brand. For DPHA members this could be a commitment to the local economy and the importance of buying locally. Alternatively, you could tell stories of past projects and even feature customer testimonials. A distinguishing characteristic of Snapchat is that it's raw. Most of the videos that work are taken on cell phones and will never be considered a Hollywood production. The rawness speaks to honesty and integrity. The bottom line is that you don't have to produce a perfect video to capture attention. You can produce multiple videos that celebrate the ability to create an in-home spa. Another effective Snapchat use is to show customers what happens behind the scenes at your showroom. The culture of your showroom will appeal to Millennials who want to patronize companies that give back to their communities and have a higher purpose beyond making a profit. Use Snapchat to show your clients who you are and the love you have for your industry.
Posted 03/24/2017The Art of Creating the Showroom Plan, by Darryl Jones (QuickDrain USA) In this age of technology and a "right now" atmosphere, the creation of a planned method of attack for the showroom sales staff has become more important than ever. When working with a new designer or contractor, you and your staff should be able to give them a list of requirements of what's expected of both them and yourself. What follows is an example of what someone has used in the past. Welcome! If you are a trade professional first time visitor, here is what to expect when partnering with us! Partnering with the trade is our focus. This allows us to offer wholesale discounts to the trade and positions us to provide you and your client with information about our product lines and assist you in receiving the best overall value and service when selecting and purchasing materials for your project. Our showroom displays products from around the globe. Most displays feature the latest industry technologies, values and quality available in our market. You are always welcome to browse our showroom and we will gladly assist you with as much information as time will allow. It is appreciated when we can schedule a time to meet with you and/or your client to discuss and demonstrate the value and overall performance of our products. This also allows you to make the most informed decisions relating to your purchase. What is the primary difference between "Wholesale" And "Retail" Sales? Wholesale refers to the sale of products to a business or trade professional at a discount with the intention to resell it to the general public. The wholesaler establishes discounts based on the relationship with the business or trade professional, the amount of business that they produce and the size of the order. Retail refers to the selling of products to the general public that has the intention to consume or use the product for their own benefit and use. Retail prices are based on the amount that the market will allow. Please contact us to schedule an appointment a few weeks before you are ready to discuss your selection options so that we can set a date and time to meet. Also, please expect that we may need to spend at least a few hours with you in order to completely review product options initially. It is important to make sure products will fit and function properly. What to bring: Your budget allowance and a set of plans are helpful. If you can, please have "room counts" for your cabinet knobs, towel bars, rings, etc. We also welcome magazine pictures of what your client likes or new products with questions. Due to a lot of "breakables", we don't recommend bringing young children, but they are welcome and we have a play area set aside for their use. What to expect to cover: Unique features and new technologies for tubs, faucets, sinks, toilets and curbless showers, whole house water filtration systems, steam units, ironing centers, medicine cabinets, and make-up mirrors. Also, a possible flat-screen television behind your mirror, so you can catch the news while getting prepped in the morning. You can also try high-tech appliances, such as a self-cleaning toilet that can be controlled with a wireless remote. And of course, door, bath, cabinet and closet hardware. Count on us: We will record the product information during our meeting and provide you with a spread sheet that includes information about the products discussed. We can also prepare product specifications for you on request. Additionally, we have the ability to provide you with field service and support for your project. Before placing your first order, we will discuss establishing your account, credit, payment options, special order and sign off procedure's, order fax confirmation, freight charges, return policy, and delivery policies. Having a plan will help ensure that there is little to no wasted time and that the project will stay on schedule. Indeed, a schedule will add value to your efforts. Don't assume that designers or contractors know the inner workings of a showroom (this is not a course that they take when they get their license). Split large projects into manageable time allotments that can be done over multiple meetings. Most clients have a "fuel gauge" and will tire as the hour's progress. Separate what's important from what isn't at this time (i.e. rough-In valves before door hardware). Have a check list that you can measure against - checked boxes mean progress and a sign of completion.
Posted 03/17/2017The Perils of Being A Lemming How many times have you found yourself wanting to emulate a competitor or a bench-marking business that has a good idea? Do you kick yourself for not thinking of something that should have been so obvious? Do you really have to have the same lines as the competitor down the street? Is imitation really the sincerest form of flattery? What we don't typically ask about a new line or a new product that you want to acquire is - how do you know if it will be successful? We often imitate others without asking fundamental questions such as, was the new line someone else acquired as good as it was projected to be? How was the fulfillment by the manufacturer? What was the quality of the customer service? How flexible is the line? How are problems addressed and how quickly are they resolved? We tend to be enamored with bells and whistles while oftentimes forgetting to ask the difficult questions. Next time you come across a great new idea, don't jump on the opportunity immediately. If it is a great idea today, it will be a great idea tomorrow. Ask "what if" questions. Seek out fellow DPHA members that may have experience with a line or other business colleagues who have no skin in the game and can therefore take a less emotional view of the opportunity. Ask them if they see the same upside potential that you do and ask them what they see as the downside. Yes, there's something to be said about acting impulsively and taking action. However, when major investments of either time, expertise or resources are involved, a "shoot-ready-aim" approach may not be in your best interest. The key is knowing when immediate action is required and when you should take a step back to think things through. Billionaire investment guru Warren Buffet may have said it best, "The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything."
Posted 03/17/2017Improve Your Productivity Want to get more done in less time? Who doesn't. Start with eliminating distractions that eat into productive time.
Posted 03/17/2017Three Words to Improve Your Email Effectiveness Most of the emails you send require the recipient to respond. Chances are though that not all emails generate the responses you want and need. Here's a proven way to improve email responses - end each request with the words, "thanks in advance." According to a study of 350,000 emails, those whose closing salutation was some variation of a thank you received a response rate of 62%. On the other hand, emails that were signed "sincerely," "regards," "best", etc., only received a response rate of 46%, reports Roger Dooley in his Brain Pickings newsletter. The reason why expressing gratitude for an action yet to occur received the highest response rate is because it convinces the recipient to follow through. Dooley's research is also confirmed by a Boomerang study that found a warm thank you boosted email replies. Dooley also advises that when you are the recipient of a request-to-respond email that thanks you in advance, the best way to respond is, "no problem, I know you'd do the same for me", which comes from Influence author Robert Cialdini. Using this phrase will usually ensure that the recipient will one day return the favor because of the rule of reciprocity. This rule creates a sense of obligation when someone does a favor or something nice for us. Most people don't want to be indebted to another person, so they feel obligated to repay in kind for what another person provides. Experiment by thanking your customers, clients prospects and others from whom you would like to receive a response in your email and let us know if your response rate increases. We thank you in advance for sharing your results on the DPHA Facebook page or with our LinkedIn group.
Posted 03/10/2017What Signals Are You Sending? DPHA members that remember Don Schmincke's keynote address at the first DPHA Annual Conference will recall he related that every showroom has symbols that have meaning to owners, staff and clients. There are also symbols and signals that demonstrate general attitudes and feelings of your team members. Imagine that you were interviewing for a job at your showroom. When you walk in, how would you be greeted? Would it be warm and cordial, cool and aloof, or nothing at all? Employees who chat casually with one another and the receptionist reflect a warm environment, according to Liane Davey, author of You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along and Get Stuff Done. What does your kitchen say about your showroom? Is the sink clogged with dirty dishes? If so, you may be sending the message that no one cares about cleanliness or the common area condition. Are there passive aggressive notes attached to food containers in the fridge? Is there food still there from a team member who left the organization many months ago? Do you have someone who is responsible for kitchen clean up? Do you allow your team to personalize their space with photos of family and friends, favorite sports team trinkets, flowers and plants? Doing so better engages team members and encourages them to bring their whole selves to work, claims Davey. If you allow team members to personalize their areas and they don't, they may actually be sending a message that they really are not engaged in your organization. The restroom in a showroom typically doubles as another display or vignette. Is the ambience compromised by signage that may remind people to avoid flushing paper towels or disposing of other items that may cause clogs. If you have a sign similar to that in your restroom, ask yourself if it is really necessary. What messages are you sending to your staff and customers if you outfit your restrooms with nice towels, superior hand soap, moisturizer and feminine hygiene products? To many, the message is that you care about your team and visitors who come to your showroom.
Posted 03/10/2017Just Because I Like You Doesn't Mean I Like You If you can't figure out your return on your social media investment, you are not alone. 87% of the chief marketing officers in Fortune 500 companies cannot quantify if their social media efforts create new customers. The reason? Most everyone who uses social media doesn't understand how to take advantage of the platform that not only can generate new customers but can quantify a return on investment, concludes Harvard University professor Leslie K. John, Tulane University professor Daniel Mochon, Freeman School of Business professor Janet Schwartz and Gutenberg University of Mainz professor Oliver Emrich writing in The Harvard Business Review. Confusing cause with consequence is the biggest social media mistake most companies make, the professors write. Customers who follow your brand on Facebook are likely to have had a positive feeling towards your showroom and some type of interaction with your business. Why else would they want to follow you? The professors conducted 23 experiments and found that liking a brand or following a brand on social media though does not impact purchasing behavior or the purchasing behavior of online friends. Based on the experiments and findings of the studies the professors conducted, why should you spend resources on social media? Becuase their research also found that pairing 21st century platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and others with 20th century advertising techniques does indeed drive consumer traffic. Promoting endorsements you receive from fans also can help move the marketing needle. If a customer provides an endorsement, consider tweeting it to your network or adding customer photos of their completed projects to your Instagram, Facebook and web pages. Word of mouth also continues to have a powerful impact on consumer behavior. When customers recommend your showroom to friends or neighbors, there is a strong likelihood that those receiving the recommendation will act on it. Asking customers their opinion of new products to bring into the showroom or a new service you are considering can generate engagement and excellent feedback. It can also create evangelists for new offerings. If your customers are pleased with the quality of service that you provided, ask them to write a recommendation or endorsement and then post it on their social media pages. You can then take their comments and post them on your pages as well.
Posted 03/03/2017What Do Customers Truly Want? Many national retailers such as Nordstrom, Lowes and others are turning to technology to improve the in-store experience. Lowes' Holoroom provides virtual reality tools that customers can use to design different spaces. Nordstrom developed a chatbot to provide shoppers with gift ideas during the holiday season and Rebecca Minkoff, the women's clothing retailer, offers smart mirrors and walls to promote interaction with customers. These technology enhancements are cool, but guess what? They don't work, according to a recent study by GPS Shopper and YouGov. The study found that only 18% of all shoppers believe smart mirrors will improve their shopping experience. An equally tepid 21% of consumers felt that Amazon's Echo and Google's Home are improving the online shopping experience from home. GPS Shopper's May Mikhailov explained that, "while retailers fawn over the latest glitzy gadget, hoping it'll catch on as the next big thing, people just want to buy stuff as quickly and easily as possible." Speed and ease - that's the key and that's where kitchen and bath showrooms should focus their attention. Leverage how your expertise and product knowledge can save customers time and effort. There's no way a bot, robot or technology tool can match your years of experience in specifying products for a kitchen or bath, or determining what customers really want.
Posted 03/03/2017How to Demonstrate Sales Confidence High-performing decorative plumbing and hardware sales professionals appear confident. Posture, the way you walk, your body language and the spoken word all convey confidence or a lack thereof. In a recent article in Inc. magazine, Maria Takaba identified several phrases that all sales people should avoid because they "scream lack of confidence and make you appear weak." The first phrase is "I hate to bother you." If you are returning a call or having to convey information that can't wait, the discomfort is not that you are bothering your customer or prospect. Rather, the discomfort comes from the information you have to convey. It may be that a product delivery has been delayed or an item arrived damaged. When you say "I hate to bother you," you lose all control of the conversation. A better option is to say "When you have a minute, I would like to discuss something with you." The second phrase is "I'm sorry." You should certainly not avoid being accountable when a mistake is made or your information was not accurate, but how many people do you know that say "I'm sorry" repeatedly. Are they really sorry? If you have bad news to convey, a better alternative is to say, "I need to let you know of some bad news." Successful sales people rarely tell others that they are worried. Expressing an opinion of a potential negative outcome eliminates the ability to come up with a solution because you are focusing on the problem. Instead of saying "I'm worried that the finish won't match," a better alternative would be "I have some concerns that the finish won't match. An option to avoid this problem is..." Never use the word "just". It compromises what you might be thinking or the messages that you want to convey, such as -
Posted 02/24/2017What We Can Learn From Macy's Macy's is struggling. The giant retailer that owns Macy's and Bloomingdales plans to shutter 100 underperforming stores, its 2016 sales fell by 4.8% and revenue predictions for 2017 call for more of the same. On the upside for Macy's is its online sales experienced double digit growth last year, but that's not where Macy's is focusing all of its attention. In its fourth quarter earnings call, company CEO Terry Lundgren pointed out that 90% of Macy's sales still take place in a brick and mortar store. The company's future, according to the CEO, is tied to improving in-store customer experience. Here are several of the changes that Macy's outlined to improve customer experiences.
Posted 02/24/2017How To Make Your Weekends More Meaningful Who wouldn't like to get more done in less time? It seems today that there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish all that we would like to. You may be able to improve your personal productivity by following the examples of highly successful people who leverage their weekends to help them accomplish more in less time. According to a recent article in Success.com, highly successful people don't sleep in on the weekends. Instead, they wake up early because they realize that time is precious and it should not be wasted lounging in bed regardless of what day it is. Reading is fundamental to success. Reading helps anyone keep their fingers on the pulse of what's going on in their industry and to also discover new things that competitors may not discover. Weekends are the perfect time to read because they help increase your knowledge and improve your approaches for tackling the challenges of the coming week. Highly successful people use the weekends to plan for the coming week while also taking time to pursue their interests. Weekends are the time to decompress, pursue your passions and do whatever it is that you prefer to do in your spare time. Weekends also are the perfect time to give back to the community in which you work and live. According to Thomas Corley's book, Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals, 70% of successful people are involved in charitable or community related activities at least 5 hours per month. Giving your smart phone a rest on weekends is a habit that can be extraordinarily effective. Take the time to get away from it all by putting away your smart phone for several hours and avoid the temptation to constantly check your emails. This also helps highly successful people to connect with their families, exercise and build momentum.
Posted 02/17/2017How to Become a Superstar Sales Professional Here's just a few thoughts and guidelines on what sales professionals tell us we can do to improve our sales performances:
Posted 02/17/2017Training New Showroom Personnel, by Traci D'Antoni (D'Antoni Sales Group) Business is picking up. Your showroom walk-in traffic is up and Saturdays are busy. Your experienced sales staff is running fast and furious, they are not getting everything done and customers are frustrated. Now it's time to hire some new staff. You've interviewed candidates and hired new sales staff, but they have no plumbing, door hardware, tile and/or lighting experience. What do you do now? In our industry it is often easy to overwhelm a new hire with the amount of information available. There are lots of great sources of information and training resources. And of course, your existing staff should be your greatest source of training. Look at what strengths each member of your staff have and encourage them to share that information with new personnel. Don't overwhelm your new hire with overly technical information at the start, but give them a general overview of the topic. It is also important to let the information sink in before loading them up with more new information. Develop a training schedule and train one topic at a time. It is better to have a strong, well built foundation than to have lots of tid-bits of information that don't fit well together. Another excellent source of information are the DPHA education manuals. These are written by industry professionals and are full of not only basic, but continuing education for all levels of showroom sales staff. The manuals also have quizzes at the end so there is a quantitative way to measure the progress or comprehension of the new staff member. Your sales representative is also a great source of training after your new staff member has grasped the basic knowledge of the topic they are being trained on. The rep will train them on specific products and this will help your staff member have more specialized knowledge on different price points and types of products. It is also helpful to have experienced sales staff at these trainings so that they can assist the new staff members by using case studies or examples of how to use the training. Role playing and shadowing are great ways to get your new personnel comfortable in the showroom for dealing with customers and the questions that may arise. Working with an experienced staff member can help the new person learn what questions to ask and how to complete a sale. It also gives the experienced staff members a chance to mentor the new hire and answer any questions they may have. Training new staff is a commitment and there are lots of great tools available. Using a variety of training tools will get the best results from your new staff. Everyone learns a little differently, so tweaking the training program to each member will certainly help the new staff assimilate and retain information more effectively.
Posted 02/10/2017What Motivates People to Perform at Their Best? Dan Ariely is a renowned behavioral economist who teaches at Duke and writes fascinating books about what truly motivates people. His latest tome, Payoff, finds that most businesses are still locked into the mindset that compensation is the real reason people show up for work and the larger the salary, the better the performance will be and the better the results the company will obtain. Ariely does not dismiss the important role of compensation. However, when businesses place compensation as the be-all and end-all, they dismiss other factors that can have a dramatic impact on team member performance. Money alone does not make your team happier, more productive or efficient. Ariely believes factors such as a sense of meaning, making a contribution, camaraderie and a sense of progress and ownership are strong motivators and in many cases as motivating as the compensation that someone receives. There's more to compensation than "how much". The "how" can generate excitement motivation and interest and there are also ways that will achieve the exact opposite results. There are common approaches that actually demotivate. Ariely uses No Child Left behind as an example. Most teachers choose their profession because they wanted to help educate the next generation of Americans. Not too long ago, being a teacher was an admirable profession. No Child Left Behind sends the message that the only thing we care about is performance that we will measure once a year with a test. No Child Left Behind, Ariely claims, is not about education. "It's just about performance on this test." And if kids do well on the test, the teacher is rewarded with a $400 raise. When you set up a criterion that evaluates compensation based on a single test or criterion, you take away ownership, accountability and motivation. How you present compensation also has an impact on motivation. In research experiments, people were given a job offer and asked how much they would place in short-term savings and how much they would contribute to their 401K plans. One group was told they would make $35 an hour and another group was told they would make $70,000 a year. The amounts are actually the same. Those who were presented the annual wage saved more. The reason is that people looked at a year as a long-term commitment and the hourly compensation as a short-term commitment. You get better results when you frame performance with a long-term perspective. If you have hourly workers on your team and want to keep them, next time you conduct a performance review, present their new compensation as an annual salary.
Posted 02/10/2017Avoid Fighting With Your Spouse When You Come Home Many DPHA members have stressful jobs. We worry about business, providing meaningful opportunities for our team members and keeping our clients satisfied. We often leave our offices with hundreds of thoughts on our mind and too often nagging problems that have not been resolved. So what happens when you walk into your home? It's difficult to leave the stresses of the day at the threshold. That's why one of the toughest challenges most days is the attitude adjustment when we get home. What happens if you had a rotten day but your spouse had a fantastic one and the only thing they want to talk about is all the good things that happened? If your day was horrible, how receptive would you be to the good news your partner wants to relate? Researchers have discovered that couples will not usually be in sync when the arrive at home. Each partner will have different needs and recovery times when they greet each other at the end of the workday. What can you do? Let your partner know how long you need to clear your head before engaging in a meaningful dialog. Additionally, "Be aware that a degree of emotion management and self-monitoring can be particularly useful. We tend to approach our spouses and partners with the expectation we can just be 'ourselves' without worrying about how we'll be perceived or our impact on them," writes Stanford instructor Ed Batista. Batista points out that the interpersonal skills we use at our showrooms to make ourselves successful work equally well when you get home.
Posted 02/10/2017Improve Your Sales Presentations "What problems are you trying to solve" is a great way to frame a sale presentation to a potential new client. Too often, decorative plumbing and hardware sales professionals dive head first into recommending solutions without fully understanding the actual problem. If your prospective client is a custom builder, what goals do they want to achieve in the bathrooms? Why are your recommendations relevant? Why should they or their customers care? When you answer those questions, you capture someone's attention and make getting to "yes" a lot easier. Once you determine the problem, the next step is to put it into context. Why is the builder considering your showroom? How immediately does your client need a solution? Understanding a sense of urgency not only helps determine relevance but time frame. What's the cost of not specifying product from you and your showroom? In any high stakes presentation, it is important to highlight evidence of your competence, but do so with humility. Most customers don't really care how long you have been in business or that you may have been the first company to market with decorative products in your region. What they do care about is what you can do for them that will make their lives easier and their experience more enjoyable. The message that you want to convey is the basis for your recommendation. For example, we specified this faucet suite for the Ritz Carlton residences based on the quality of the product, the innovative nature of the design and the ability of the manufacturer to meet tight deadlines. Several examples and anecdotes will provide a comfort zone for your prospective customer that will inspire confidence in your ability and recommendations. Finally, any presentation must include a call to action. A simple call is to ask the question, "Where do we go from here?"
Posted 02/03/2017What's Popping Up on the Retail Landscape Traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores continue to be challenged. Macy's decided to close 100 stores. The Limited is closing all brick-and-mortar retail operations at more than 250 stores. Sears produced its worst financial results ever. On the other end of the retail spectrum, however, traditional etailers Warby Parker, Amazon and Bonobos announced plans to open more brick-and-mortar locations as part of their omni-channel strategy. Then there is Nordstrom, who is trying to reinvent itself and reach out to consumers to deliver better in-store experiences. It is accomplishing this goal by partnering with cult brands such as New Classics, Gentle Monstor, Madewell, Topshop, Warby Parker and Bow & Drape to create pop-up stores within Nordstrom locations, not only to create a different shopping experience, but also to cater to the Millennial generation. Nordstrom is not alone in its efforts to create new compelling customer experiences through creative partnerships. Nieman Marcus plans to create Rent-the-Runway stores in its traditional department store format. JC Penny has also announced plans to open nearly 600 Sephora and Nike stores-within-stores. Strategic partnerships with other retail brand names makes sense for department stores because it allows them to test new brands and merchandise without having to make a major investment in their inventory or a build-out. If the partnership works, the relationship continues on a more traditional retail paradigm. Pop-up stores also provide opportunities to quickly respond to trends while introducing new merchandise. What does this mean for decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms? Are there potential opportunities for you to partner with related products and provide a more compelling customer experience through a pop-up store within your showroom? Would it make sense to partner with a soft goods line that offers towels, robes, etc., or companies that sell bathroom organizing accessories, lighting or other products? Please share you thoughts on the DPHA Facebook page or with our LinkedIn group. We'd like to know if you believe a pop-up store would work in a showroom environment.
Posted 02/03/2017Turning Weaknesses Into Strengths We all know many of our limitations. You may feel uncomfortable confronting conflict or criticizing a boss or client. Almost everyone has habits that limit their performance. The challenge we face is first to confront our weaknesses and then figure out a way to overcome them. Usually, we are not particularly adept at doing so. According to a recent study, fewer than 10% of employees change habits or behavior following a performance review. When many people when have to confront a difficult project or engage in situations that make them uncomfortable, they tend to put off the unpleasant or challenging task by checking emails frequently, taking a break, returning calls, etc. To stop procrastinating, identify what you do when faced with a challenge or uncomfortable situation. New York Times best selling author Joseph Grenny calls these situations crucial moments. To become more comfortable, address unpleasant challenges head-on even if you only focus on the challenge for a few minutes each day. Practice will make perfect. Not all unpleasant situations will cause you to break out in a sweat. Practice responses to uncomfortable situations in those incidents that are less taxing. Afterward, do a debriefing with yourself and evaluate your performance and stress level. Over time, you will become more comfortable in these taxing situations and those that you typically want to avoid. The final key to turning weaknesses into strengths is to have the emotional competence to make unpleasant acts more pleasant or, at the least, manageable. Before addressing the issue, ask yourself, what's the goal and what do I really want to accomplish? This will help you to overcome fears and help you to better focus on goal accomplishment.
Posted 01/27/2017Building a Lasting Network We certainly know that taking a vacation from your desk and networking with potential clients and peers not only keeps your fingers on the pulse of your industry, but also helps your business grow. You can't think "out of the box" if you never leave the box you are in. That's one of the reasons why the DPHA Conference is a must-attend event (October 12-15, 2017, at the Sheraton Grand Wildhorse Pass Resort, Chandler, AZ). A common misnomer about networking approaches, especially with potential clients, is believing you need to impress someone or tell them what you believe they want to hear. This approach may actually make you appear inauthentic and self-promoting. It also can make you more anxious and less genuine. In fact, research at the Harvard Business School found this approach does not work. In one study of entrepreneurs making pitches to potential investors, it was found that those who catered to investors' interests fared far worse than those who were themselves and pitched their ideas based on their own merits. Another reason you should not cater to the perceived perspectives and interest of your target audience is that it requires too much guesswork. Unless you are intimately familiar with the interests and "ah ha" moments that will captivate your audience, more often than not you are shooting in the dark when you try to cater to someone's interests. Bottom line: Be yourself. It will certainly reduce your anxiety, especially if you are not exactly comfortable networking with others you don't know. And don't forget, most people can spot phonies a mile away.
Posted 01/27/2017Standing Out in a Sea of Noise Do you know anyone who would admit they don't receive enough emails or who want more information about anything? You, your clients and customers and those you want to be your clients and customers are bombarded in a sea of noise looking to capture attention on a daily basis. How do you stand out in the cacophony of digital communication? Dorie Clark found in her book, Stand Out, there are three foundational elements to break through: social proof, content creation and networking. Social proof is the reason why someone would pay attention to what you have to say. It takes considerable mental energy for someone to think, so most people would rather ignore you than determine if your message is credible and has meaning to them. How else could you explain that a large percentage of employees who are eligible for a 401K match don't take advantage of the free money because they can't figure out how to invest the funds that would be given to them. Social proof is the rule of thumb that individuals use to judge something. They base their affiliations, writes Clark, on people and brands they trust. If a previous client recommended your showroom to a neighbor, the new customer is more likely to trust you than a competitor down the street. The lesson here is to align your showroom with known entities that are respected by your client base. For example, if you start a blog aimed at the design community that makes their jobs easier and provides information that helps them expand their business, your credibility or social proof increases dramatically. "Social proof enables others to 'relax' about you; they don't need to be so vigilant in evaluating your credentials because you've already been vetted by others. That primes them to listen to your ideas more carefully and with an open mind." Clark concludes. That's the reason why positive reviews on Houzz, Yelp and other social media sites are so valuable. Content creation also is essential in helping you stand out from the crowd. As Marcus Sheridan related at a previous DPHA Conference, the easiest way to create content is to answer the questions your clients and customers ask most often. Focusing on content that makes it easier for your client base to buy from you establishes you as an expert in the field of decorative plumbing and hardware. Leveraging your network is the third leg on the stool of "standing out from a crowd". Having a vast network exposes you to different perspectives that not only can help you generate new ideas, but also will provide you with valuable feedback. Having a wide network allows your ideas to spread more quickly because you have a larger audience who may share your ideas with their network. The bottom line is that if you want to stand out in a sea of noise you need to be viewed as credible. Share your expertise and ideas so that you establish your credentials with those who are likely to buy from you and have a network that will share the content that you develop.
Posted 01/20/2017Who Are Today's Luxury Consumers? Surprise! The majority of luxury product sales are made by those with household incomes less than $100,000, according to Shullman research. Americans with higher incomes certainly spend larger amounts more frequently on luxury goods, but the average consumer of luxury products are mainstream Americans, claimed founder and CEO of The Shullman Research Center, Bob Shullman. In 2016, more than 67 million consumers in the U.S. bought luxury items, however, 37 million of those buyers made less than $100,000. Ken Nisch, chairman of the retail store design firm, JGA, claims there are major changes coming to luxury, and new markets and business models are likely to emerge that include clients following products through their life cycles instead of cutting ties after a sale. Speaking at Luxury FirstLook 2017 in January, Nisch noted that Gen Z (those born after 1995) might have more equity than Millennials because Millennials started their jobs and wealth acquisition during the great recession. Plus, Nisch said, Genzers are much smarter consumers. Nisch also believes that a paradigm shift has occurred in consumer thinking. Today's luxury buyers are more interested in the "how" of the life of their product and where it comes from instead of what it is. "They want experience over product and are willing to pay more for it." Shullman Research Center also found that currently the biggest spenders in the luxury market comprise Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers with incomes of more than $250,000 per year. Luxury consumers also continue to trade up and down, picking and choosing products and experiences that deliver the most value to their individual lifestyle. Someone may spend $5 on a cup of coffee and then go to Chipotle for lunch and spend $6.75 on a burrito. Providing compelling customer experiences will continue to gain importance in decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms in order to attract the hearts and wallets of the next generations of luxury consumers. Sales approaches need to focus on the "why" and "how" instead of the "what".
Posted 01/20/2017The Benefits of Routine Have you ever wondered why some people can accomplish so much more than others in a typical workday? It's not necessarily that one person is exponentially more intelligent or experienced than other team members. It may have more to do with Aritstole's observation of, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit." Chris Winfield writes in Inc. magazine, "Establishing a positive daily routine is both a self-investment and a way to do your best for the rest of the world. It also provides additional benefits like giving you structure, building forward-moving habits and creating momentum that will carry you on days when you feel like you don't have the strength to carry yourself." Winfield identifies the following keys to establishing a more productive daily routine.
Posted 01/13/2017Selling to a Material Girl in an Internet World, by Darryl Jones (QuickDrain USA), an Education Committee Member E-Commerce is still a fast growing and often changing segment. The pressure of Internet retailers on kitchen and bath showrooms has been immense and caused manufacturers and showrooms to review their sales practices. Manufacturers have added MAPP policies and showrooms are starting to charge for their design expertise. We are certainly not the only industry that has had to deal with price-gouging competitors, nor will we be the last. Auto mechanics got a wake up call when Auto Zone and Pep Boys opened and started selling parts directly to the STM (Shade Tree Mechanic, a person that works on their vehicle over the weekend). An STM would take the automobile to a mechanic to diagnose the problem and then purchase the parts from an auto parts retailer. In the DPH industry, kitchen designers took a huge loss when Eagle, Home Depot and Lowes opened their mega superstores. Potential clients would visit an established showroom, but would then take their drawings and purchase cabinets from a cabinet retailer. The market response has been to implement "diagnostic" fees if the car isn't repaired by the mechanic, or a design fee if the potential client wants a copy of the drawings. These two industries are different and yet the same, because initially neither had a perceived value for their services. The Darwinism that comes to mind is that it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but it is the one that is most adaptable to change. We as an Industry will, and must, change. An earlier article from the Washington Post stated, "A study from researchers at Ohio State University sheds some light on that issue, and also perhaps offers some insight on how Amazon has pulled off such explosive growth in sales and market share. (Point of note: Jeffrey P. Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.) The researchers studied household spending data in 19 states, examining what happened to shoppers' spending on Amazon after their state chose to implement what they call an "Amazon Tax," or legislation that requires Amazon and other e-commerce sites to charge them sales tax. The effect is significant: When the so-called Amazon Tax was put in place, shoppers spent 8.3 percent less for products on Amazon after the tax went into effect. The researchers described that dip in spending as a permanent decline even though shoppers' total tabs remained essentially unchanged. In other words, shoppers were shelling out the same amount overall on purchases from Amazon, but because a share of that tab was now going to taxes, the shopper was getting less product for their spending and Amazon was pulling in less revenue from that transaction. What service's do you offer that neither your competitors nor the Internet do? Does your sales force have the knowledge and tools in place to close the sale when the customer is in the showroom? Are you as a team making use of the tools that you have at your disposal (i.e. the DPHA training manuals)? We live in an instant information society and we need to know more about the products we sell than our customers do. Be sure to share in as many round table discussion's as humanly possible. Take charge, take control, and most importantly, never stop trying to learn!
Posted 01/13/2017Time to Get Lucky! The Connections Friday the 13th Issue Okay, we realize that some of our loyal Connections readers won't open this issue, because it is dated Friday, January 13. They are among an estimated 17 to 21 million Americans who fear this day. Some refuse to fly. Others won't buy anything and still more may not leave their homes. Why is Friday the 13th feared by so many? It has something to do with the number 13, which is viewed as unlucky. Next time you go into a high-rise, look at the elevator pad and see if there is a 13th floor, or at the airport, do you see gate 13? What's behind this superstition and fear of the number 13? One theory dates back to Greek mythology. Twelve gods were having a dinner party in heaven (aren't you curious as to what was on the menu?). A thirteenth uninvited guest known as Loki then arrived (we all know a Loki don't we). Loki was a manipulator and convinced Hoder the blind god of darkness to shoot Balder the Beautiful - the god of joy and gladness - (I wonder what they were drinking at this party) with a mistletoe-tipped arrow (how does a blind person shoot someone and consider that unlucky). When Balder died, Earth went dark, causing the entire planet to mourn. It was a bad, unlucky day. From that point on, the number 13 has had negative connotations. If 13 is associated with bad luck, then why is it only Friday the 13th that causes some heartache? You can thank Chaucer for making Friday deadly. When The Canterbury Tales were published in the 14th century, Chaucer wrote, "And on Friday fell all this mischance." Whoda thunk it? We, on the other hand, believe Friday the 13th is a lucky day because we get to share Connections with more than 2,500 members of the DPHA community. Happy and lucky reading.
Posted 01/13/2017Keys to Keeping Your New Year's Resolutions It's that time of year again when many of us decide the New Year is the perfect time to lose some weight, get in better shape, read more or improve our health and well-being. Unfortunately, most New Year's resolutions are not kept even though they are heartfelt and determined. We don't accomplish our goals for a number of reasons and many of them are perfectly explainable. One key to making sure you follow through on your change commitment is to start with a realistic goal. If you want to lose weight, don't set your goal at 20 or 30 pounds. That may be difficult (your Executive Director can attest to that). Instead, commit to losing two pounds in January and two pounds in February, another two in March and two pounds every month thereafter until the goal is achieved. (Tip: Want to lose weight; use smaller plates when you dine.) A second key is to define what you are going to do. For example, if you decide to get into better shape, consider exactly how you are going to do so. Commit to walking a mile every day or going to the gym three days a week. And get even more specific - if you are going to visit a gym, perhaps decide to spend 20 minutes on the treadmill the first day, on the second day spend 20 minutes on the rowing machine and lift weights on the third day. The more specifics you can attach to your resolution, the better the odds that you will achieve your goal. Famed behavioral economist Dan Airly points out that most Americans say one thing but do another. Changing your behavior is hard work. In order to be successful, you need to have the right mindset and this most certainly applies to one's work environment as well. It's difficult to improve your showroom's performance if your mind is distracted by having to care for an ailing family member. Time management is another key to resolution victories. If you commit to going to the gym but feel the pressure from the showroom consuming all of your time, then the gym most likely will be put on the back burner. Get yourself into a routine where the time you allot to achieve your goal is sacrosanct. With the year less than a week old, develop an action plan to achieve your personal and professional goals. Don't dwell on past shortcomings. Be positive and focused and prove that you truly can achieve the changes that will make your life that much better. Best of luck and welcome to 2017!
Posted 01/06/2017Emotional Competence How many times have you responded to a critical email or comment and wished that you could recall the email or retract your statement the moment after you hit send or responded? We've all reacted to situations in our business and personal lives where our emotions got the better part of our judgment. Dealing with our emotions effectively not only helps prevent making bad decisions, but also can help assure that we make better ones. When we are anxious, not confident, embarrassed, fearful of a task, meeting or potential confrontation, we tend to become defensive and subsequently are unwilling to challenge someone or speak our minds. How can you keep emotions in check? Social Scientist and New York Times best selling author Joseph Grenny offers some practices that you just may want to explore. The first is to own your emotion. Grenny says that you can't change an emotion you don't own. If you are insulted or your professional competence is questioned, it's okay to accept that you are angry or embarrassed. Most emotional reactions are caused by an incident or event. It's not the event that should be the focus on your response, but instead your role in the event. Emotions are the result of both the event and the story you subsequently tell yourself about what happened. Grenny gives each of the stories a name. A villain story is one that exaggerates the faults of others and attributes what's happened to evil motives. A helpless story, on the other hand, is one in which it does no good to respond. When we are challenged, we often focus on how the person causing the emotional reaction was wrong. Instead, it is often better to look through the lens of the accuser and assess what is actually correct about what they are saying. If someone is critical of you, ask yourself, what is the right thing to do? When you ask questions, you move from a defensive posture to one actually working towards a resolution.
Posted 01/06/2017Tips for Trainers: Getting and Keeping the Learners' Attention, by Fred Fedewa (Steamist), Education Committee Member One of the biggest challenges we face as trainers is getting, and keeping, the attention of our learning audience. There are many distractions (i.e. electronic devices) we must compete with. We know if we don't capture audience interest from the very start that the chances of a successful training session are greatly reduced. So, how do we win the battle to gain their attention? The key is a good introduction. The introduction is your chance to get your audience to take notice and establish a connection, as well as a chance for you, the presenter, to get comfortable. Too often the first thing we mention is how great the new product is, but that is not what is really on the top of the learners' minds. Before you describe what the new and exciting Widget 2000 will do for the end user, you need to answer the more immediate question of what selling the product will do for the salesperson. We accomplish this goal by answering five key questions that just about everybody has before they attend a meeting.
Posted 12/16/2016What Drives Top Sales Professionals? Respect and recognition as one of the best by their peers was cited by 84% of all top sales performers as factors that are most important to them in a recent study. Top performers were defined as anyone who achieved more than 125% of their sales goal and of the 1,000 sales professionals surveyed, only 15% met top performer criterion. 42% of the top performers believe their sales success is attributed to their likeability and ability to make customers feel comfortable. Another 32% claimed their success stemmed from their dependability and time management skills. 20% claimed that their knowledge was the primary reason they exceeded sales goals, but this group also had the highest sales, exceeding their quotas by an average of 170%. Top sales performers are driven by career opportunities. Selling is not simply a means to collect a paycheck; they think about their jobs more than 50% of their free time at night and on weekends. Half of the top performers described themselves as individuals who have written or mental lists of their goals and 36% said they try to project what the future will be like five, and ten years or more from now. Only a small percentage -13% - said that they take things one day at a time. The reasons why they decided on sales as a career were evenly split between wanting to control their destiny and the fact sales suited their personality. Only 19% of top performers stated their career in sales happened haphazardly. The top producers believe that emotionally connecting with customers is the top ranking strategy that leads to sales success. Second most important was tailoring a sales presentation to customer needs and third was asking questions that demonstrate expertise. Top producers noted showing the value of the solution and driving the topics of conversation as the least effective techniques for generating sales. Top producers are also willing to challenge customers, especially if the direction they are taking is not in their customers' best interest. The best sales professionals have "skin in the game". 36% believe they are personally responsible for their customer's success. Finally, the biggest differentiators between sales professionals who exceeded 125% of their quotas and those who did not achieve 75% of their quotas are confidence and professional pride.
Posted 12/16/2016Attention Grabbers: How to Write More Effective Emails Email is the business communication medium used most often. Do you know anyone who says they don't receive enough emails? Everyone is inundated with emails, eblasts and other electronic media that constantly compete for your reader's attention. How do you stand out from the crowd? Start by breaking down the different components of an email. The first is the subject line. Use this space as your call to action. In the subject line, let your reader know what you want them to do or learn. It could be a status report on an order or a progress update for a renovation. The subject may require the reader to make a decision, request additional information or to simply provide information that will help the reader with a problem, project or issue. Consider using capital letters in your subject line to emphasize the action you are requesting. It will help make your email stand out from others. The text should repeat the action required and answer who, what, when, where and why. The email should answer what's in it for the reader. The shorter the better. Most readers are not going to spend time reading a multi-paragraph email. Write in the active voice. This also forces you to put nouns before verbs that results in shorter, clearer sentences. Finally, consider linking attachments instead of including them. This tactic drives traffic to your website.
Posted 12/16/2016The Awesome Power of Metaphors to Increase Sales Robert Cialdini's Influence is an iconic work that explained how to motivate people. And that's what decorative plumbing and hardware showroom sales professionals do every day. Thirty-two years after Influence first hit the bookshelves, Cialdini has penned another seminar work entitled Pre-Suason: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade. Pre-Suason just may be better than Influence and a more than worthwhile read for anyone who wants to increase their sales, performance and professional sense of accomplishment. Cialdini relates the story of Ben Feldman who is arguable the greatest life insurance sales professional of all time. At his peak in the 1970s and 1980s, Feldman sold more life insurance himself than 1,500 of the 1,800 New York Life agencies in the United States. In 1992, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. To honor Feldman, New York life held a contest while he was recuperating dubbed Feldman February. Guess who won? Feldman. He made calls from his hospital bed to close more than $15 million in new contracts within 28 days. What was the reason for Feldman's monumental success? He used the power of metaphors. Feldman never mentioned death in his sales pitches. Instead, he portrayed someone's passing as walking out of life, which noted a breach in a family responsibility that needed to be cured. Feldman was quick to frame insurance as the metaphorically aligned cure. "When you walk out, your insurance money walks in," Feldman would say. The metaphor connotes the moral responsibility of life insurance, which resulted in many of Feldman's clients purchasing policies. Weight is considered serious in the English language. Studies found that resumes placed on heavier clipboards were rated higher than identical ones placed on lightweight clipboards. Similar results occurred when identical reports where placed on heavy and lightweight clipboards. The ones on the heavier material were considered more important. The lesson for showrooms is that if you want to sell a better faucet, have your clients hold a commodity type product in one hand and an all-brass faucet in the other and then ask them to compare. Almost invariably, they will pick the heavier one regardless of costs because of the metaphorical importance of weight. Warmth is another metaphor that showrooms can use to their advantage. Studies found that individuals who are given a hot beverage to hold briefly felt warmer toward, closer to and more trusting of those around them. As a result, Cialdini writes, they became more giving and cooperative in the social interaction that followed. The lesson for showrooms - offer warm beverages to your clientele. Metaphoric associations are reasons why sales professionals should avoid using terms such as cost or price, because they emphasize the loss of resources. Better alternatives are purchases and investments because those words communicate the concept of gain. Avoid negatives whenever possible. Discuss with your team how you can use metaphoric associations to better connect with your clients and sell more. Try it and let us know who it works by commenting on the DPHA Facebook page or sharing your successes with the DPHA LinkedIn group.
Posted 12/09/2016How Consumers Use Mobile Devices to Make Purchasing Decisions Google recently released a study of how consumers use mobile devices to make purchasing decisions. Visits to brick-and-mortar retail stores has declined by 57% in the past five years, however, the value of someone coming into your showroom has increased by almost 300%. This statistic shows that DPHA showrooms need to be on top of their game both online and in the showroom. The Google study found mobile purchasing continues to increase 30% year after year. It is most unlikely that your clients are going to purchase a new kitchen through their phone or tablet, but you may want to check out Google's Showcase Shopping ads that can plant seeds for a new kitchen or bath by showcasing recently completed projects. Video and imaging continue to increase in importance and influence. 64% of women who purchased clothing through their smartphones are influenced by products that have been influenced on Instagram. Why not take advantage of Instagram influencers to plant seeds for different products manufactured by DPHA members. Identify "best" selling products on your web site and in your showroom. Mobile search for best products has increased by more than 50% in the last 12 months. 88% of shoppers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Approximately 75% of consumers who search for a particular product locally, will visit that retailer within 24 hours.
Posted 12/09/2016How Customers Decide to Pick Your Showroom Have you ever wondered why your clients select your showroom? Is there a magic moment of truth that pushes someone over the edge and motivates them to sign on the dotted line? Decision-making is truly paradoxical, says Duke University Professor Dan Ariely. Ariely teaches psychology and behavioral economics, and conducts extensive research on how and why people make decisions. In a recent presentation at an L2 Conference, Ariely claimed that most Americans behave as if they have no objectives, goals or aspirations. A large majority of us don't do what we should or what we say we want to do. We tend to overeat and don't exercise enough. We don't develop three-, five- and seven-year plans for our lives. We have subscriptions that we don't use but don't cancel. There are lots of "don'ts" in most of our lives. He also identified elements of life that we are good at. For example, most of us wear seatbelts in a car. Why is this? Ariely claims that the high percentage of Americans that wear seatbelts is a combination of science and kids in the back seat screaming "if I have to be strapped in why not you?" Another thing that we are particularly good at is brushing our teeth, but the reason most of us brush at least twice a day has little to do with protecting our teeth. Arierly claims the reason we brush our teeth frequently is to be socially acceptable. Who wants bad breath? The traits and activities that most of your customers are good at or bad at has little to do with knowledge and information. Another example Areily talked about is the percentage of drivers throughout the world that are willing to donate their organs when they die. In countries where citizens had to check a box to donate their organs, the highest percentage of those willing to do so was 28% and most countries were in the single digits. In countries where you have to check a box not to donate, the percentage of those who are willing to do so increased to as high as 100%. This is called "opt-in, opt-out" and reinforces the notion that decision-making is the function of the environment we are in. Arierly says that we use our brain to tell stories why we made a decision after the fact. As an example, he asked the audience if they had vegetables and/or fruit rotting in their refrigerators. Most of the audience raised their hands. Why does anyone buy food to only have it sit and rot and not be usable? Ariely explains it's a function of bad refrigerator design. "You eat at eye level," Ariely said, "and you don't bend down to open the fruit or vegetable drawer. That's too much work." For another example, he related how an insurance company attempted to have its insured individuals switch to generic medicines and offered to lower their co-pay to zero if they did okayed the proposal. Less than 3% of those insured took advantage of the offer. The company then sent a letter stating that unless customers selected between generic and brand name medicine the company would stop paying for their medicine. That did the trick! This technique had little to do with returning a letter. It had everything to do with the notion of "opt in, opt out". Most customers don't do what they say they are going to do. How many actually have lost the 10 pounds they want to shed?