Flip the Funnel to Create Raving Fans

Have you noticed that customers will readily drop $20,000 on a new refrigerator for their kitchen renovation, but they balk at spending $500 on the most used appliance in their home, a new kitchen faucet. The fact that they may be without a place to cook for two months does not seem to bother them as much as a $200 change order. If you examined the things that drive your customers crazy, chances are they are not big picture items at all. Instead, it's the small, pesky inconveniences that send them off the deep end.

How can you eradicate annoyances that create negative impressions and leave your clients with a bad taste in their mouth? Flip the funnel. Everyone in your organization is a consumer. They purchase products and services. Have a brainstorming session and ask your team to relate the things that drive them crazy when they themselves go to a store or rely on a service provider. When you flip the funnel, you change perspectives and make problems easier to identify, claims management consultant Rick Houcek.

You are not asking your team to identify the complaints that your customers make, but the irritants that they actually experience when relying on others to provide them a service. Once they have identified the foibles that make them crazy, ask what they would do to eliminate them at businesses they patronize and then subsequently at your showroom. This is an exercise that should be conducted at least twice a year. When you eliminate the little details that leave negative lasting memories, you greatly enhance the opportunity to create raving fans who will recommend your showroom to their coworkers, neighbors and friends. Even if they don't, you'll save oodles of time and frustration from not having to deal with those little annoyances that drive your customers and you crazy.

Posted 03/02/2018

When Email Is a Way To Avoid Communicating

How many times have you sent an email rather than picking up the phone or attempting to meet face-to-face to discuss a difficult, controversial or complex matter? How would you feel if you received an email from a builder who you have been supporting and working with for the last decade that said, "We won't be needing you on the estates project. We've decided to go in a new direction." What?! You most likely would be disappointed, angry, upset and at a loss.

Here are several situations where email should not be used to communicate a message.

  • Don't use email to relate controversial decisions. Sending an email message, "I am sorry that you did not get the promotion. Hope you understand," most likely will result in a misunderstanding.
  • Don't use email to share sensitive information or for the sole purpose of covering one's backside. Creating a paper trail may be appropriate, but it may be more appropriate to relate the information face-to-face or over the phone and then confirm things in writing.
  • Don't use an email to avoid a conflict or a confrontation. Sending an email to inquire why a deadline was not met, a problem not corrected or a budget not followed will only put the recipient on the defensive and most likely will result in an unproductive series of back and fourths that leaves everyone at a loss.
  • Don't use email to paint the recipient into a corner by outlining every reason for your position so as to avoid questions or disagreements. Email is not effective as a court brief. How many times have you received a six or seven paragraph email and rolled your eyes?
  • Using email to say things you would not say face-to-face. How many emails have you sent or received and thought, wow, that really should not have been sent?
  • Using emails because you don't want to take the time to meet, call or simply walk down the hall. Yes, email is easy and quick, however, that does not mean it should be used when a more appropriate and effective form of communication is required.

      A good rule of the thumb is that if an email chain goes beyond three back and fourths, there's a good chance continuing a written dialogue is not going to result in a solution. That's when it's time to pick up the phone and have a candid and mutually respectful conversation. You can diffuse tense situations by starting a conversation or an email by stating, "We don't seem to be on the same page, but we both want to make sure the project goes well. When's a good time to talk? Let's schedule a call."

      Another key is to downplay or eliminate emotion and focus on facts and solutions. And when you do have a difficult conversation, recognize that the first 30 seconds are critical. That's the time you have to state your case before asking what the other side is thinking. If you speak longer than a half minute, chances are the other party will tune you out and not hear what you are saying.

      Email is an extremely effective communication tool, but it's not a be-all and end-all. Recognize when email is not the preferred communication medium. When you call or meet face-to-face for difficult, controversial or complex discussions, you will save time, reduce stress and eliminate misunderstandings.

      Posted 03/02/2018

      Three Keys to Attract and Retain Best-in-Class Talent

      Career, community and cause are the three primary motivators that motivate the 21st century workforce to perform at their best, concluded a study by Facebook of its team members.

      Career relates to a place of employment that provides team members autonomy, enabling staff to use their strengths and provide them opportunities to learn and develop professionally.

      Community involves an environment where team members are treated with respect, are cared about and recognized by others. This results in a connection and a feeling of belonging.

      Cause relates to demonstrating and explaining that what your team does every day makes a positive difference in the lives of your clients. You simply don't design new kitchens - you improve the quality of your clients' lives. The jobs you perform provide professional and personal satisfaction to the team.

      The mistake many companies make is that they believe if they offer their team two out of the three motivators, their team will be satisfied and that company will be viewed as a best-in-class employer. That's actually not the case. The Facebook survey found that career, community and cause are equally important to team members regardless of their age or place in their careers. This coincides with other studies that have found Millennials, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers had the same core work values.

      Facebook and other studies confirm that the secret to motivating your team is to provide them opportunities to make a difference, to grow and to be recognized for the contributions they make to your company and clients.

      Posted 02/23/2018

      Silence Is Golden

      Silence is one of the most underutilized listening skills, because most people find it difficult not to respond or talk. Silence is effective because it makes most people uncomfortable, and when someone is uncomfortable, they are primarily focused on flipping the switch and getting to a state where they feel good. Imagine if you are trying to convince a customer to rely on your showroom and ask the question, "What's most important to you?" then don't say another word. Let them respond. Avoid the temptation to interrupt because chances are the customer will relate much more information than they initially intended. When they are done speaking, wait seven seconds (count silently in your head, one Mississippi, two Mississippi, etc.). The chances are pretty good that your prospect will subsequently relate additional information that will help you develop the best solution for their project and gain their trust.

      Silence works well when dealing with type A personalities and assertive types because they typically want to dominate a conversation and hear themselves talk. When you use silence, you play to their ego while at the same time obtain additional valuable information. Attorneys usually learn this skill as part of their education.

      Silence can also help disarm anger and adverse behavior such as yelling, cursing or personal attacks. The reason why a silent response works so well in these situations is that most people don't want to engage in a one-sided battle. Typically, if you don't respond to an angry or unreasonable customer, their emotions will not get the better of them and they will return to a more normal posture.

      The Black Swan Group, which specializes in negotiation strategies, explains that silence can represent a tool to move negotiations forward. Using silence helps you better understand your counterpart's motivation for their position or behavior. Try it and let us know how it works on the DPHA Facebook Page or with our LinkedIn Group.

      Posted 02/23/2018

      The Power of a Good Story

      Many DPHA members, particularly our dealer members, complain about the Internet. So why then do customers come to the showroom? Have you and your staff ever considered that question? Do you they patronize your business because they know when they walk in the door you will offer them a discount even without asking for one? Do they come simply to see the products they are considering using, knowing they can find them cheaper on the Internet? Do they come simply to browse because they have been considering replacing their 20-year-old water closet with one that features smart technology and can order toilet tissue through a personal digital assistant? Most likely the answer is "no" to all of the above. Most customers come to a decorative plumbing and hardware showroom because it is a destination. They come, as Bernadette Jiwa points out in a recent blog (The Story of Telling), because it is an experience, not simply a trip to acquire products for a new bath or kitchen.

      Showroom owners and managers need to train their sales teams that their job isn't actually to sell "after-dinner chinaware". It's not about selling faucets, tubs and shower systems either. When someone walks into a showroom where there are $1,500 faucets, $8,000 tubs and $20,000 shower systems on display, they are not simply buying products made from solid brass, with thermostatic valves, ceramic cartridges and PVD lifetime finishes. They are also buying the story. Showroom sales professionals and their represented manufacturers connect the customer to the showroom's and the manufacturer's story. If your sales team is not passionate about the story and excited to share it with customers, they are missing opportunities to create value, connect with customers and make sales more easily.

      What's the point of looking for unique products, pioneering brands and differentiating your business from online etailers and discounting competitors if your team doesn't understand or share your brand story and explain what makes the products in your showroom deliver better experiences than customers could find elsewhere? As Jiwa points out, "There's no point in setting the stage if actors don't understand the importance of the script. A good story can't save a bad product, but it can make a good product great."

      Posted 02/16/2018

      Creating a Best-In-Class Employee Experience

      How do you make your showroom a place where people really want to work instead of a place to earn a living? According to the author of The Employee Experience Advantage, Jacob Morgan, becoming a go-to employment destination requires providing superior cultural, technological and physical employee experiences. Morgan found that companies that made the largest investment in employee experiences showed up 28 times more among Fast Company's Most innovative Companies and 11.5 times as often in Glassdoor's Best Places to Work. Experiential organizations also had four times the average profit and more than two times the average revenue of companies that did not make similar investments. They were also 25% smaller, suggesting they are more productive and innovative.

      Adobe and Linked-In are two organizations making the investment in employee engagement. Adobe has an Executive Vice President of customer and employee experience whose job is to insure that the company is investing in real-time employee feedback programs, diversity, and inclusion while providing access to consumer-grade technologies. LinkedIn allows its employees to break down and recreate human resource functions to reflect work that team members actually perform. Airbnb constantly changes its workplace floor plans, enabling employees to design and build their own conference rooms within a specified budget.

      Morgan says that the key is to focus on how your employees and customers experience your showroom daily. This requires changing from the old showroom model of featuring as many products as possible, and instead redesigning the space and practices around your team members.

      Posted 02/16/2018

      Creating Loyal Internal Fans

      Millennials get a bad rap. They are characterized as being lazy, entitled, impatient, etc. Recent studies have found those characterizations are not accurate. Millennials want the same things that their parents and grandparents wanted at the same age. They want to find meaning in their work (who doesn't?), be rewarded for their contributions and have the chance to work hard and advance. Millennials, similar to every other member of your team, want to show up at work and find meaning in what they do. And it is the responsibility of owners and managers to help their team members find that sense of purpose. Asking the right questions can help. Here's how.

      Ask each member of your team to relate the tasks that they excel at. Why are you the most qualified person to do X or perform Y? The goal is to help your team members to identify their strengths.

      Finding meaning is directly related to enjoyment. Ask your team members what projects they most like to work on. What forthcoming deadlines are exciting? If you had a blank canvas and could work on anything you wanted what would it be? Asking these types of questions helps team members identify what they most enjoy about working at your company.

      Ask team members to describe accomplishments they are most proud of in their careers, highlight the inherent value of what they do and how they make a difference in the lives of others.

      Asking the team to identify new skills and knowledge that they have recently acquired and what the future looks like for them illustrates that the tasks they are performing today will help them achieve future goals.

      You can help your team members think about and foster relationships that make their work more meaningful by asking if they could staff the showroom (or your business) with their favorite people, who would they select and what skills and personality traits would they bring to the business.

      When team members believe that their companies support their careers and ambitions, they will not only be more loyal, but they also will be happier and more productive.

      Posted 02/09/2018

      Why Sales Are Lost

      Many DPHA members, particularly our dealer members, complain about the Internet. They believe that the reason most customers don't buy from their showroom is because their customers can buy for less someplace else. Sales Guru Bob Phelps argues that a lost sale is never about price or the product. A sale is lost because sales professionals do not allay buyers' fears. Phelps argues, "When you can remove risk or regret, your shopper is likely to buy."

      Common fears among showroom customers include:

  • Can't afford the best
  • Can't find the best option
  • The solution does not meet performance requirements
  • My spouse will think that buying your solution is a rip-off

      Anyone who walks into a DPHA showroom knows they are not in a home center. Your customers also understand that the products on display and those that are likely to be recommended are not commodities. But that does not prevent a sales professional's bias from eroding margins or losing sales opportunities. How many of your sales professionals size up a client before they say a word and determine what their budget is likely to be just by their physical appearance? How many sales professionals believe some or all of the products in your showroom are too expensive? How many sales professionals make snap judgements and decisions before allowing the customer to tell a complete story? How many sales professionals will avoid certain customer types, because they believe they are not worth their time?

      Many showroom sales professionals sell what they want, when they want to and how they want to. That may be great for the sales team, but it may not be benefiting the showroom or the business. Phelps states that you can't change people's buying habits, but you can discover what they truly value. By asking the right questions and actively listening to responses to better understand what a customer believes is most important, a sales professional can lay the foundation for building trust and eliminating price as an objection.

      Many sales professionals mistakenly believe that consumers have changed. Wrong! Showroom customers want the same things today that they did 20 years ago. The difference today is that access to information, products and pricing has never been easier. However, that does not dismiss the customer's desire to be understood, to receive the best solutions for their project, to ensure that they receive value and that the person making recommendations for their home truly understands what they want and need.

      Posted 02/09/2018

      Today is Groundhog Day, But Here's a Few Things You Might Not Have Known ...

      In case you forgot, Groundhog Day is today, February 2nd. It's also true though that most of us don't know much about the day except for what we remember from the movie of the same name, Groundhog Day, which starred Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. That story is about the a man who, while in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover the Groundhog Day event, goes to bed at the end of the day and wakes up the next morning to find it is Groundhog Day all over again, a personal infinity loop.

      For those who can't remember the particulars of the day, here are some of the specifics. Every February 2nd, people gather at Gobbler's Knob, a wooded knoll just outside of Punxsutawney, to watch Punxsutawney Phil look for his shadow. If he sees his shadow, it means six more weeks of winter. If he does not see his shadow, it means spring is just around the corner.

      The legend of Groundhog Day is actually based on an old Scottish couplet - "If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, there'll be two winters in the year." But while we're at it, here are a few other obscure things you probably didn't know about groundhogs and Groundhog Day:

  • Falling midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, February 2 is a significant day in several ancient and modern traditions. Germans developed their own take on the legend, pronouncing the day sunny only if badgers and other animals glimpsed their own shadows.

  • When German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, they brought the custom with them, choosing the native groundhog as the annual forecaster. They used the holiday as an excuse to get together and party, which seems as good a reason as any for a get-together.

  • The first official Groundhog Day celebration took place on February 2, 1887, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. It was the brainchild of local newspaper editor Clymer Freas, who sold a group of businessmen and groundhog hunters - known collectively as the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club - on the idea. The men trekked to a site called Gobbler's Knob, where the inaugural groundhog became the bearer of bad news when he saw his shadow.

  • Punxsutawney Phil has a downright awful success rate. When you compare Phil's predictions against information from the National Climatic Data Center, Phil's success rate is 39%. Of course, if you ask the members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog club, they'll tell you he's right 100% of the time.

  • Groundhogs are really deep sleepers. Groundhogs hibernate through the winter, slowing their breathing and heartbeats and letting their body temperatures fall not too far above freezing. They survive the hibernation living off the fat they stored during the summer and fall months. In warmer climates groundhogs may only hibernate for as little as three months, but in colder regions it can last as long as six months.

  • Punxsutawney Phil has an awesome full title! Phil's full name/title is Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary. He was given that name by the editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper in 1886.

  • Groundhogs are actually far from the "warm and fuzzy" creatures you might think they are. As with most wild animals, their natural inclination is to be aggressive. They can be socialized if raised with lots of human contact, but in the end, you're still dealing with a wild animal, so proceed with caution.

  • Nowadays, the yearly festivities in Punxsutawney are presided over by a band of local dignitaries known as the "Inner Circle". Its members wear top hats and conduct the official proceedings in the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect. (They supposedly speak to the groundhog in "Groundhogese.") Every February 2, tens of thousands of spectators now attend Groundhog Day events in Punxsutawney, a borough that is home to only about 6,000 people.

  • The 1993 film "Groundhog Day," which many of us will probably watch again sometime over this weekend, was actually shot in Woodstock, Illinois.

      Posted 02/02/2018

      Writing More Effective Emails

  • Almost always use the recipient's name because doing so helps to establish or re-establish a connection.
  • Make sure your language is conversational.
  • Presenting options can help simplify a complex issue and prompts recipients to respond.
  • When appropriate, issue a call to action. What do you want the recipient to do?
  • Take the time necessary to craft a well thought out message.

      When crafting important email, look through the lens of the recipient. How do you want them to react? What are they expecting? What's in it for them? Why should they heed your call to action? Well-crafted emails should have an effect on the recipient regardless whether the purpose is to influence, gain a commitment or build your connection.

      Most well-written emails are no longer than five or six lines and they follow the rules of grammar. Capitalization, punctuation, syntax and spelling are important.

      If you are trying to influence someone with an email (e.g. our showroom is the best choice for your remodeling project), make sure that you acknowledge and articulate concerns the recipient may have. This helps to build trust.

      Posted 02/02/2018

      Motivating Your Team

      Finding and retaining top talent remains one of the greatest challenges in the decorative plumbing and hardware industry. DPHA members may be able to greatly increase their recruitment and retention rates by framing the services they provide to clients in a different light. While said in jest, many DPHA members describe their job description as "selling toilets" or in the words of DPHA's first president Jeff Burton, "after-dinner chinaware". While that description may draw a laugh, it does a disservice to the valuable role that our members play for their clients. DPHA members improve the quality of their clients' lives. They make a positive difference, creating havens in the home where individuals can wash away the stresses of the day. DPHA members provide daily moments when their clients' take time just for themselves, devoid of interruptions from other family members, a text or a tweet.

      Reframing the context and importance of the products, services and experiences that decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms provide is more than just a shift in nomenclature. Today's workforce, especially Millennials, want to know that what they do has a purpose, meaning and the potential to make a difference. Providing and delivering on meaningful work translates to healthier, more productive, engaged and professionally fulfilled and productive team members.

      Posted 02/02/2018

      Lights, Camera, Action: Use Video to Better Connect with Customers

      Google and Think reported that 40% of YouTube users viewed a video before purchasing a product. The reason: Seeing is believing - video enables consumers to see products in action. After all, it's difficult for many consumers to visualize how a product or service will work simply by reading a review or blog post or looking at one-dimensional pictures.

      Google and Think report that viewership of "shop with me" videos on YouTube have increased 1,000 percent in the last two years. And eMarketer reports that the average American adult spends 81 minutes per day watching digital videos, and that number is expected to increase.

      Indeed, video helps trigger emotional connections and responses. By showcasing innovative storage solutions, how technologically sophisticated showers work and the benefits of creating an in-home sanctuary in your bath on video, showrooms can create and attach emotion to information. A number of large retailers are employing in-store videos to further connect with customers by answering their questions and converting online shoppers to buyers. Geometry Global found that 80 percent of survey respondents were actually influenced by a video to purchase a product versus only 50 percent of consumers who were swayed by social media or text content.

      Lessons for showrooms. Partner with your manufacturers to select videos they may have produced that showcase their products. And look to make your own videos showcasing how new baths, kitchens and other rooms that you help create make your customers feel.

      Posted 01/26/2018

      Retail Lessons from the Retail Leader

      Apple retail stores generate more dollars per square foot than any other retailer in the world. Scott Galloway points out in his new book, The Four, that Apple differentiates itself from other tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon, because Apple is a luxury products company. Consumers spend eight to ten times more for an Apple iPhone than a Samsung Galaxy, because they are infatuated with the brand. Apple products connote a status that makes consumers feel good about their purchases.

      Apple's success does not stem from a vastly superior product. Lots of smart phones, tablets, computers and watches offer comparable features, benefits and functionality. Apple differentiates itself based on its ability to emotionally connect with consumers - whether it is to put 1000 songs in your pocket (as Steve Jobs described the first iPod) or to think differently, Apple leads the pack in delivering compelling customer experiences.

      Lessons for Showrooms

      Apple understands better than most that what we live in is an "experience economy." Given the fact that most employed Americans have very little free time on their hands, it is somewhat surprising, and even contradictory, the amount of time people dedicate to researching products and services before making a purchase. That's one reason traditional advertising is not as effective as it once was. Consumers don't want to hear a pitch or be sold. They crave to know how a product or service will solve a problem, make their life easier or better, or improve their current status.

      Apple developed 'Today at Apple' to help consumers learn how to use its products. In doing so, Apple also teaches customers how to use its products to enjoy new experiences in music, art, design and photography (among others). Today at Apple features subject matter experts providing information and educational content that informs. Apple does not focus on the speed of the processor, the number of pixels or the battery life of its products.

      Decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms can mimic Apple's approach by producing constant content that helps consumers make better informed decisions, not only to design a new bath or kitchen, but also on how to take advantage of the new technology found in fixtures, steam systems, shower systems and tubs among other bathroom components. Showrooms understand that building a new bath is never as easy at it may appear on Home and Garden television or on Houzz.com. Why not create a customer recipe exchange on your web site? What prevents you from offering entertaining ideas to your customers? Why aren't you blogging weekly that will enable you to show up on the first page of Google searches and stay constantly connected to your customers? Are you sponsoring remodeling how-to seminars in your showroom? Why not? What other programs, activities and events could you sponsor that makes your showroom a place for the community and potential customers to connect?

      Apple understands that creating compelling customer experiences involves catering to customer lifestyles and not simply meeting a requirement to have a smart phone.

      The first Apple store opened 15 years ago. The original design has been heralded as transforming retail space. The open floor plan and genius bar were revolutionary. Apple though, does not subscribe to the notion that if it's not broke, don't fix it. The company is transforming its retail spaces to move beyond simply a space to sell products. Instead, "the store has become one with the community," explains Apple senior vice preside of retail Angela Ahrendts. Ahrendts said that Apple's goal for its retail operation is to become forums for collaboration where customers come together to share and work collaboratively with one another.

      Apple wants to emulate Starbucks and transform its stores into a place where people congregate similar to what Starbucks has achieved.

      What can you do to transform your showroom from a place where people come to obtain assistance with a new bath or kitchen to a place where the community wants to hang out?

      Posted 01/19/2018

      Create More Raving Fans

      Positive reviews and word-of-mouth referrals are like gold to decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms. Imagine what your bottom line would look like if every one of your customers posted a positive review on Yelp or raved about the quality of your service and products to friends, neighbors and co-workers? Referrals can happen naturally or you can create them. Creating positive customer reviews involves:

      Delivering. Make sure that you deliver on the promises you made and when problems occur, don't run or hide. Use mistakes as opportunities to shine.

      Solving customer problems. You know the problems that need to be solved in the renovation of a bath or kitchen. If you want to gain more referrals though, make sure you know as much about your customers as possible, because birds of a feather flock together. Your customer's neighbors, peers and friends will tend to be have similar needs, tastes and problems.

      Promoting your customers' contributions and accomplishments. Ask permission to take before-and-after pictures and videos. Post them on your web site and social media outlets. Create case histories that you can issue to prospects.

      Asking for help. Many of your most satisfied customers will gladly provide a referral if you simply ask them to do so.

      Posted 01/19/2018

      How to Accomplish More in Less Time

      Dan Ariely is a behavioral economist who teaches at Duke University and is the author of three best-selling books on irrational behavior. He recently developed a smart calendar application, Timeful, to help people improve their productivity. Ariely found there are six keys to improving individual time management.

      Step 1. The first step is to recognize that the world is working against you. Traditional advertising interrupts and encourages you to purchase products and services. Internet links encourage you to click. Text messages make you stop in your tracks. If you responded to every email, beck and call, Ariely claims you would quickly be broke, obese and constantly distracted. His advice is to develop a plan to reduce distractions. Set aside a certain amount of time each day to read emails and texts.

      Step 2. Control your environment or it will control you, claims Ariely. Your environment truly matters. Create an environment that makes things that you need to do easy and the things that you should not do difficult. Google conducted an experiment at its New York headquarters where it offered M&Ms in a basket. When the company switched containers to a bowl with a lid, the consumption of M&Ms declined by 3 million a month.

      Step 3. Develop a daily, weekly and monthly to-do list. That seems like it should be a "no brainer", but few employees document what they actually need to do.

      Step 4. Take advantage of the most productive hours in a day. Ariely found that not all hours in the day are equal. Most people are more productive in the morning, approximately an hour after waking up. So if you get up at 6 a.m., your most productive time of the day would be between 7 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Schedule your most important to-do list items for those hours. Ariely found that most people miss this opportunity, instead focusing their attention on email and Facebook.

      Step 5. Avoid the biggest productivity drains: meetings, email, multitasking and structured procrastination. The latter is defined as focusing on tasks that give you the feeling of progress instead of focusing on deep work that really makes progress. Ariely explains that crossing off items on your to-do list may give you a sense of accomplishment, but real achievements take time.

      Step 6. Reduce the amount of time on email and texting. A University of London study found that constant emailing and texting reduced mental capacity by an average of 10 points, five for women and 15 for men. This is the equivalent of working after missing a night's sleep.

      Posted 01/12/2018

      I Can Help You, but First... by Kelly DeSola (Watermark Designs), an Education Committee Member

      The key to any successful relationship is communication. This is particularly true between showroom sales staff and a manufacturer's customer service department. To efficiently serve end users, we must all understand each other's requirements - we can all appreciate that time is of the essence and there is no room for mistakes. Whether it is simply checking the status of an order or troubleshooting a problem, a prompt and helpful response should always be the outcome. This raises the question, "What can be done to guarantee a positive solution for the end user?"

      When troubleshooting, the first step is to get an adequate description of the issues. Before contacting the manufacturer, make sure you have all your information together and with you. The initial interaction should consist of the inquiry or issue being presented in a detailed summarization, and the sales person should have the issue's entire history. Provide the dates that anything pertaining to the customer began, up to and including the current status or situation. If you previously worked with another representative, make sure the current representative knows this. All information is pertinent and should be relayed upon the initial contact to avoid confusion. The saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words," also applies to troubleshooting. If possible, always get a picture of the product or issue in question before contacting the manufacturer. Being prepared is essential to a speedy solution.

      Other basic information to have available: the model number of the unit eperiencing the problem, the purchase order it was originally ordered on, when it was installed, when the problem began, and a comprehensive explanation of what the problem is. If you have a faucet with a leak, then know which side is leaking. If there is low pressure from a shower head or hand shower, be ready to advise if this has been a problem since installation or whether it has just started recently. If it is a toilet is not flushing properly, have a video ready to show the manufacturer. If a customer claims something is missing from an order, be ready to provide the purchase order number. If there is a finish issue, find out what the end user is using to clean the product and when this problem began. Providing all of this information in the initial call to customer service prevents having to go back to the end user multiple times.. The more information you have upfront, the quicker issues can be resolved.

      When submitting an order, the sales person should always be sure they receive a confirmation. This may seem like common sense, but it's a critical piece of information and lets everyone know that the order has been received and processed. More importantly, you can use this confirmation to ensure your order was processed correctly and confirm the expected ship date. It is important to understand the difference between ordering a stock item versus ordering something that is made to order. Be sure to have the purchase order number and date that the order was submitted available when calling to check the order status. If you did receive a confirmation, offer the confirmation number to the customer service rep if they are having difficulty locating your order. Ask questions to understand the production of the material on your order, so you can provide the end user with a precise explanation of where the order is and the expected time it will take to be completed. The end user tends to be more understanding when you are able to provide all information pertaining to their order. This also builds confidence because you know the exact status of the order. If an order needs to be rushed, alert the customer service staff before placing the order - this is not always possible, but it is always worth the effort. Before ending the call, be sure to have the customer service rep commit to a follow-up date. Work together with the customer service representative to ensure all information is current and accurate.

      As George Bernard Shaw said, "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." When reaching out to a manufacturer, assume they know nothing of what you are inquiring about and be prepared to provide them with all of the information you can.

      Posted 01/12/2018

      How to Come Back from the Holidays Energized

      A lot of businesses either close or slow down during the last week of the year. It's time spent with the family, reflecting on successes and/or shortcomings and laying plans and goals for the coming year. Matt Plumber, writing an HBR Blog, says that to make the most of your time off during the last week of the year, it is important to understand your tendencies. He found three dominate types.

      The couch potato does nothing after sending the last email before the holidays. Couch potatoes may binge watch TV shows or generally sit around all day without accomplishing much of anything. If this tendency describes you or any members of your team, it may be difficult to come back to the showroom refreshed. While it might be helpful to disengage and do nothing, there are likely many other needs that you might have ignored such as meaningful social interaction, exercising, reading and active contemplation that you don't get by binge watching Netflix.

      The second dominant tendency is the holiday humbug - the person who works straight through the holidays. Even if they don't come to the showroom, these humbugers work on proposals, follow up with manufacturers and are engaged in day-to-day operations. The reason why so many people are drawn to the land of "humbugs" is that they view the time between Christmas and New Years as a time to catch up. They can work uninterrupted. However, taking time off and disengaging with work helps prevent burnout. Mr. Plumber points out that using this time to work may reduce short-term stress but with long-term detriment. His main point is how many times during the year can you take a week off and return to the showroom with no new assignments to catch up on?

      The third major type is the workaholidayic. These are people who instead of working all the time, celebrate all of the time. They travel to visit family members and go to one office party after the other, leaving little time to relax or contemplate. By the time they return to work January 2, they need a vacation.

      Many DPHA members have type A personalities. They are driven. They are goal-oriented. For those members, Plumber advises setting goals for the holiday season. How much sleep do you want to catch up on? How often and how long do you want to exercise? What other tasks do you want to accomplish that are not work related?

      Take time to clear your mental inbox. This will help you calmly and effectively address new experiences in the coming year. Find a quiet place to jot down thoughts or have deep conversations with friends and family.

      Set goals for the coming year and chart out action plans and milestones for achieving them. If you plan things up front, unlike making resolutions that are only kept 8% of the time, you are less likely to create unrealistic goals. If you want to lose 10 pounds, set the goal that you will lose three pounds in January, 3 pounds in February and 4 pounds in March.

      Create holiday traditions to help set and meet goals. Take a family trip. Spend a day together at a museum. Developing meaningful, productive and restful traditions helps ensure a meaningful and restful holiday season. Creating and fulfilling holiday traditions also helps ensure that you are spending time doing the things you want to do instead of being pulled into doing things that others may want you to do but that you have no interest in doing.

      Posted 01/05/2018

      How to Keep Your New Year's Resolution

      It's that time of year when many people consider making a resolution to improve their life, business, relationships, health or a host of other reasons. However, the odds say that most resolutions won't be successful. According to one study, only 8 percent of New Year's resolutions are kept.

      A recent article in The New York Times related that the three main reasons you may fail to keep your resolution are:

    1) You are not the driver of the decision. External forces such as friends, colleagues or society tell you that you need to change instead of you actually making the decision to change.

    2) You don't define success or identify milestones to reach a goal.

    3) Your goals are unrealistic.

      The Times points out that thinking too positively and not giving yourself enough breaks are other reasons goals are not achieved. Gabriele Ottingen, a professor of psychology at New York University claims, "The more positive people fantasize and daydream about their future success, the less well they do in terms of having actual success."

      The key is to be realistic and recognize that you most likely will revert back to behavior and acts that you want to change. But remember that having an ice cream while on a mission to lose 10 pounds doesn't mean all hope is lost. Enjoy the ice cream and then continue with your diet.

      Posted 12/29/2017

      How to Have a Successful Warranty/Job Site Visit, by Traci D'Antoni (D'Antoni Sales Group)

      Every showroom person dreads the phone call saying "I'm having a problem with my shower/faucet/tub and I need you to come look at it." However, these after-sale visits can be a great way to show homeowners the value of your showroom and can also be a great learning tool for the showroom staff.

      First, ask questions - LOTS of questions. How long has the product been installed, how long has the issue been occurring, have there been any unusual water or electrical issues at the house?

      Second, request pictures from the job site - lots of pictures. What a homeowner sees as insignificant can make a huge difference in how the issue is addressed. Photos can also help identify the manufacturer of the product.

      Third, contact the local rep. They may be aware of an on-going issue and how to solve it without a field visit. There are many plumbing issues that can be diagnosed and resolved while simply remaining at your desk.

      If it is determined that a field visit is necessary, assemble any necessary parts you think you might need before going to the site. It is better to err on the side of having too many parts with you than not enough.

      Set a time for a field visit. The showroom person, the rep, the plumber and the homeowner (or homeowner representative) should be there, if at all possible. The showroom person is the liaison between the rest of the job site attendees and should be there to represent their showroom while also learning from process.

      After the visit, the showroom staff should always follow up with the homeowner to make sure they are satisfied with the resolution of the issue. Ideally, no one likes issues with a product, but how you deal with those issues that arise can go a long way in making your showroom the "go to" operation in your area.

      Posted 12/29/2017

      The Top Six Design Trends for 2018 on Pinterest Pins

      Great news for DPHA members. Spa-inspired bathrooms ranked in the top six design trends for 2018 based on Pinterest pins. Searches for "spa-bathrooms" on Pinterest increased 269% in 2017. The other top five design trends expected for the coming year are:

  • Wall art: pins increased by 637% in 2017.
  • Patterned plants: specifying plants for new baths and kitchens help your customers relax and stay on trend. Pin searches in this category increased 533% in 2017.
  • Mixed metals: stainless steel kitchens and bath fixtures, countertops and toilets are hot. Pins for mixed metals skyrocketed 423% in 2017.
  • Terrazzo flooring: what goes around comes around. Very popular in the 1970s, terrazzo is making a comeback. Pin searches increased by 317% in 2017.
  • Statement ceilings: don't ignore this space in your bath and kitchen designs. Whether you specify paint, wallpaper, or a texture, it's a space your customers care about. Pins increased 310% in 2017.

      What's are the hot trends among your clientele? Share your thoughts with fellow DPHA members on our Facebook page or with our LinkedIn group.

      Posted 12/15/2017

      European Court Rules for Luxury

      Good news from across the pond - the European Union's top court ruled on Tuesday, December 6 that luxury product manufacturers can prevent their brands from being sold on Amazon, EBAY or other web platforms in order to protect their brand and safeguard their exclusivity provided the company does not discriminate among retailers, reports The Wall Street Journal.

      The ruling involved a case brought by cosmetic manufacturer Coty against a German retailer that was selling Coty brands Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs and Cloe on Amazon. Coty claimed those online sales violated its contract provision that barred retailers from selling through third parties.

      The court ruled that "The quality of luxury goods is not simply the result of their material characteristics, but also of the allure and prestigious image which bestows on them an aura of luxury. That aura is an essential aspect of those goods in that it thus enables consumers to distinguish them from other similar goods."

      The European Court decision is comparable to the Leegin Creative Leather Products decision that ruled a manufacturer can set minimum pricing policies for its products and can pull lines from companies that violate those policies.

      Posted 12/08/2017

      Yes Virginia, You Can Teach Old Dogs New Tricks

      Erin Bittner (Pierce Hardware) hired a new team member who did not come from the decorative plumbing and hardware industry. In order to get her up to speed as quickly as possible, Erin tasked his new team member with reading all of the DPHA Education Program manuals and taking the Recognition Program testing modules. When he logged on to the DPHA web site to provide access to the Education Program however, Erin realized that not all of his team members were registered for access to the Education manual, nor were they receiving weekly electronic issues of Connections and other DPHA information the helps build sales skills while keeping ones fingers on the pulse of what is happening in the industry. As Erin related, this was a big "Ah-Ha" moment for him and Pierce Hardware.

      "The second thing we realized was that only a few of our team members had participated in the actual DPHA Recognition Program," Erin said. His team thought that they were participating in the Recognition Program because they had downloaded the Education manuals and taken the tests at the back of each chapter, but did not realize there was another step. That's when Erin contacted DPHA Executive Director Jim Babbitt and asked him to explain to the Pierce Hardware team how the Recognition Program works and to walk them through the DPHA web site.

      In fact, many of the team members at Pierce Hardware are seasoned veterans with multiple years of experience, but following Jim's presentation, Eric challenged all of his team members to take the Recognition Program sample quiz and offered a cash incentive to the person who earned the highest score. Amazingly (or maybe not so amazingly), the winner of the cash prize was Erin's newest employee, the team member who had just recently read all of the Education Program manuals. (Erin scored second best with 61% of the right answers, by the way.) The test results opened Erin's and his team members' eyes to the fact that you can't rest on your past laurels and that regardless of how much experience you may have, ongoing professional development and education is essential to perform at the top of your game.

      If you would like more information on the Recognition Program and the testing modules, or simply want your staff members to have access to the Education manuals, weekly issues of Connections, etc., please contact Jim Babbitt at jbabbitt@dpha.net.

      Posted 12/01/2017

      Cool Product of the Week

      A French startup AiZimov (www.aizimov.com) has developed a tool that will allow you to search the Internet to find out every mention of a person's name and their organization in order to enable users to craft more personal messages to prospects they don't know. You already have access to company news releases, personal Twitter feeds and hobbies that might be listed on a LinkedIn profile. Imagine how much more powerful a presentation or an email message might be if you discovered that your prospect is a wine lover and brought a favorite bottle of wine as a gift or sent it as a calling card.

      Posted 12/01/2017

      Learning from Mistakes

      There's a fine line between risk taking and stupidity. Many of the great CEOs in today's corporate world, including Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Netflix' Reed Hastings and Coke's James Qunicey believe in the power of failure. If you are not taking risks, you are not thinking creatively enough they argue. One of Bezos' great competencies (and there are many) is that he is quick to pull the plug on projects that don't appear to pan out. As Scott Galloway points out in his new book, The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, Bezos divides Amazon's risk taking into two types: 1) Those you can't walk back from ("This is the future of the company."), and 2) Those you can ("This isn't working, we're out of here.).

      You can't innovate if you don't take risks. As Bill Taylor points out in a recent HBR blog, "If you're not prepared to fail, you're not prepared to learn." Given how fast the world is changing, constant learning is key to survival. Why do most companies stay the course, rely on the tried-and-true and are adverse to taking risks? The reason is their fear of failure. Most people won't try a new idea because if it doesn't work, they believe they will be considered failures. How many of your team members are reticent to try something new because it may not produce desired outcomes? Great writers often produce a lot of bad copy that enables them to write best sellers later on in their career.

      Failure is a necessary condition for success. The keys are to cut the cord quickly if the risk will not pan out and to learn from your mistakes in order to make your organization better.

      Posted 11/17/2017

      Avoiding the Trash Can

      Emails are no different than any other type of interaction. You only get one chance to make a positive first impression and for emails that first impression usually is made in the subject line. Avoid using all CAPS, more than one explanation point or words such as "warning", "you need to take action or else" or similar types of messages. Use the subject line to inform recipients how they can benefit from opening your email.

      Get to the point and your call-to-action in as few words as possible.

      Trial-test emails to make sure they provide the appearance you want on all devices, including desktops, tablets and smart phones.

      Make sure the message matches reality. You may believe you are the best decorative plumbing and hardware showroom in the world, but that's difficult to prove and most likely will not be believed. However, if you were recently honored with industry awards, that's something to boast about.

      Always use the recipient's first name, if you know it, when crafting your messages.

      Don't ask for the sale in an email. Next time you go to Starbucks, observe those people in line. Most likely you will find that many of them are reading their emails. Do you actually believe your request to have a contract signed would be well received by any of those folks? Use email to inform, educate and build relationships. Above all, email campaigns should always look through the lens of the customer and be 100% about the customers and their needs.

      Never insult the competition. Instead describe why it is in the client's best interest to rely on your services as opposed to the showroom down the street.

      Emails are comparable to commercials on television and radio. They serve to interrupt. A better way to engage is to ask for permission to continue a conversation by providing information that is useful to the prospect.

      What are some of your best email campaign tips? Please share your thoughts on the DPHA Facebook page or with our LinkedIn group.

      Posted 11/17/2017

      More Lessons From Doug Stephens

      DPHA 2017 Conference keynote speaker Doug Stephens (The Retail Profit) wowed members in Phoenix. Stephens told DPHA members to expect dramatic and significant changes in the retail landscape, explaining that online sales are compounding at a global rate between 12 and 35 percent, and that within 15 years he expects ecommerce sales will exceed purchases in brick-and-mortar stores. Virtual reality and the Internet of almost everything will make common everyday purchases automatically. Stephens explained, "The three quarters empty bag of dog food in your home will suddenly have the capability to re-order itself. Using the third-to-last diaper in the carton will trigger the order of 40 new diapers delivered to your door. The light bulb that's going to burn out will order its own replacement, taking into account shipping times from your online provider. Sensors in your running shoes will measure tread depth and trigger a reorder when necessary. By 2025, 30% of everything in the center aisle of a grocery store will be purchased automatically."

      Stephens told DPHA members that physical retail will no longer be a channel for buying because the vast majority of daily and weekly needs will arrive automatically without purchaser involvement. Physical stores will have to reinvent themselves and become places where consumers go to learn, be inspired and see and try new things. These new "stores" will have to deliver more compelling physical and emotional shopping experiences, Stephens said.

      Apple founder Steve Jobs explained, "design is a funny word. Some people think design means how something looks. But, of course, if you dig deeper, it's really how it works." Apple embodies the change in retail that Stephens believes is the key to continued brick-and-mortar success. Apple recreated the retail experience. Its stores are open and bright and enable customers to freely interact with products, receive expert advice and have problems solved. There are no cashiers at Apple stores, a trend that will accelerate across all channels and another sign of the paradigm shift in brick-and-mortar retail operations.

      Decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms have a leg up on most other retailers because DPH showrooms have the ability to engage customers on more than one sensory level. Stephens advised DPHA members to change their focus from store to story and to stop thinking about products and start thinking about productions. Shifting the focus of a brick-and-mortar store from selling products to selling experiences that involve products will enable the showroom of the future to differentiate itself and become the destination of choice for its market.

      Posted 11/10/2017

      Can We Take Advantage of Burberry's Strategy?

      Burberry CEO Marco Gobbetti announced this week that his company is doubling down on its luxury products and raising prices of its luxury products across numerous categories. Gobbetti believes the premium sector is tantamount to hell. He said, "Today's customers are polarizing between luxury and mass market. The mid-market used to dominate. It no longer has a place with the consumer, and this polarization will be reflected in our pricing."

      Gobbetti is moving Burberry away from mid-market products and pricing and focusing on producing more higher-priced leather bags and accessories and personalized shopping that gives customers immediate access to products they debut at fashion shows.

      Burberry was a digital pioneer among luxury manufacturers, being the first to use Facebook and Snapchat to promote the brand, and the first to live stream a runway show for its customers. Being first in digital marketing for a luxury brand paid dividends for Burberry, which saw its revenue jump 27% in 2011. Since then growth has slowed and currently it is not increasing at the same rate as its competitors. That's why the company is rolling out a new strategy to focus on higher-priced, higher margin products. Burberry plans to remain active digitally but focus more on improving the customer experience instead of "flash." This will be accomplished by creating a personalized product feed on the Burberry e-commerce platform that is going to be launched later this year and a universal mobile checkout system ala Amazon Go.

      Burberry plans to use its digital channels to build itself as a luxury brand and using social media to appeal to entry-level customers who may look to trade up. Burberry is betting on its ability to produce more upscale products more frequently.

      Is there a lesson for decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms? Are your customers moving away from mid-market products to either trade up or trade down? Would it be a good strategic move to position your brand as a true luxury player? Please share your thoughts on the DPHA Facebook page or with our LinkedIn group.

      Posted 11/10/2017

      Teaching Your Team to Upsell

      Most showroom sales professionals sell in the same manner as they buy. If your sales professional is a value buyer, he or she is likely to be a value seller. Conversely, if your team member trades up for the purchases that are most important, he or she is likely to recommend top-of-the-line products to customers.

      Most owners want their team to upsell, because higher-priced merchandise typically delivers higher margins. Sales professionals may not be as enthusiastic. They often gravitate to what's easiest to sell or the lines they know are most reliable without regard to margin and profitability.

      Your team may not upsell because they don't up-buy, or so they believe. In a recent blog, Retail Doctor Bob Phelps explains that almost everyone up-buys. McDonald's understood the value of upselling and was able to scale its business by asking one simple question "Would you like fries with that?", which has not only contributed to the growth of McDonald's across the world, but also has become an iconic catchphrase on its own.

      The key is to explain to your team that they up-buy every day. How many members of your team have an iPhone? Those who do may not realize that they spent $700 to $800 when they could have purchased a Samsung or other model with comparable benefits for $100. Does your team stop at Starbucks on the way to the showroom? That's an up-buy too. A stop at 7-11 or Dunkin Donuts would be half the cost. The sound you hear is opportunity knocking.

      The difference between your employees purchasing a phone at 700 to 800 percent more than a competitor or a cup of coffee at two to three times the cost of somewhere else without a corresponding increase in taste, value or convenience is because using an iPhone has cache and going to Starbucks makes them feel good. When customers come to your showroom instead of visiting a lower-priced competitor or shopping online, they do so in order to feel good. How would your team respond to the question, "Don't our customers deserve to have an iPhone experience at our showroom?" You can deliver that experience by providing the best quality products that fit their budgets. Michael Silverstein, in his book Trading Up: The New American Luxury, found that consumers will spend 300 percent more for products they are emotionally connected to.

      Taking note of the cars customers drive to the showroom, the clothing and jewelry they wear, the handbag that they carry, where they vacation, their hobbies, etc., will provide a window into the customer's willingness to up-buy. If your customers up-buy on major purchases, why would they want to settle for less than the best on the two most important rooms in their home? What prevents your team from asking, "Would you like steam with your new shower?"

      Posted 11/03/2017

      A Solution Driven Approach, by Phil Hotarek from Lutz Bath & Kitchen (an Education Committee member)

      Establishing a niche through problem solving has become an effective method in the consumer market. Some of these recently developed solutions were for small problems I did not even realize existed until they were revealed to me, to which I discovered the added comfort and convenience in my life with their presence. We are seeing this approach in various consumer products such as: voice activated electronics, food prep services, vacuum insulated bottles, direct to order fabrics, etc., and the list goes on. While industries may be different, commonalities are evident in that consumers are drawn to products and services that solve problems. Manufacturers can effectively use this strategy by developing products with unique solutions, and showroom professionals can make a deeper connection with a client by identifying a problem and selecting the right product.

      From bathrooms with small footprints to families with complicated schedules, the way products function has peaked consumer interest. Efficient storage solutions increase space efficiency and can even save time with better organization. Some products demonstrate their functionality features through energy conservation. The bottom line is - better function is a key indicator of superior design with the end user in mind.

      Concealed and Clean
      A minimal look is in and the more we can conceal the better. Products that solve clutter, are easy to clean, and show less hardware appeal to the modern day consumer. You may also hear designers describe something as having "clean lines," meaning that the design is smooth and has little disturbance in blending along the surface. The attention to detail will peak interest while highlighting uniqueness in the product.

      Low Maintenance and Longevity
      Where a product is made carries more weight in today's market. Consumers are willing to pay more for a product that has a storied history of quality craftsmanship. It gives peace of mind knowing that maintenance is minimized and it will be one less thing to worry about in the foreseeable future. This feature is the key to progressing the experience from a purchase to an investment.

      High Tech
      Advancements in technology continue to progress at a high pace and have become more relevant in plumbing. Technology is integrated in added convenience features as well as problem solving features. UV cleaning lights, electrical outlets with USB conveniently placed in storage ports, heated mirrors, mirrors with a TV, bluetooth and WiFi capabilities, and so on. Even when some technology seems ridiculous at first, the comfort added to our lives almost makes these features a necessity at the end of the day. Technology yields endless possibilities in creativity to the manufacturer and can solidify a showroom professional's reputation for always being ahead of the curve.

      Closing Thoughts
      Problem solving can come in various forms as long as the mindset is consistent. When product design is solution driven, the benefits come full circle for manufacturers, showroom professionals and consumers. The pressures of staying ahead of the crowd can be a burden to those who resist change and a blessing to those who are passionate. Showroom professionals can effectively use this strategy to establish a connection with potential clients by actively listening to what is important to them. And manufacturers can do the same by staying connected to the demands of the market while anticipating what may be important in the future.

      Posted 11/03/2017

      What Would It Take to Sell Projects?

      There's an interesting and opportunistic shift taking place in the way large and small businesses go to market. DPHA members may view their role as creating new baths and kitchens for their clients. Their tasks may include designing the space, specifying and selling products, and performing quality control. Showrooms sell both products and services, and retail gurus are advising showrooms and other brick-and-mortar retailers to sell experiences and solve the needs and aspirations of their customers. When a showroom creates a new space in the customer's home, they can focus on experiences by relating how warm and fuzzy their clients will feel with the daily ability to wash away the stresses of the day in their in-home spa.

      Most good companies are focusing on experiences. Then there are others that are adding value by selling projects. What's the difference between selling a project and an experience? If you are Nike, the product it might sell is a pair of running shoes. An experience they may deliver is a membership to a running club. A solution might mean providing guidance to help the customer reach a weight goal. If Nike took the project-based approach, it would concentrate on a goal that is focused and tangible such as helping the buyer to run a marathon, and would include running gear, training regiments, diet plan, a coach and a monitoring system that would prepare the customer to achieve that goal.

      Companies ranging from Microsoft to Philips are now taking project-based approaches to increase revenue streams while becoming more important and valuable to their customers. Airbnb started food delivery and plans to offer small tour projects. How would a project approach work in a kitchen and bath showroom? Showrooms would focus on how the kitchen is used and the complementary products that are commonly found in kitchens, such as cookware, cutlery, storage containers, organizational guidance, meal plans, dietary information, plates, care and maintenance plans, cooking classes, etc. Does that mean you would have all of those products on display? Not necessarily, but it would mean that you would curate all of the items for a new kitchen not just cabinets, appliances, tile, sinks, faucets and countertops. For repeat builder clients, taking a project approach may mean setting up a design center in their office or at the project, staging kitchens and baths on their behalves, producing sales literature and website and social media, conducting cooking classes and becoming part of the sales team.

      Posted 10/27/2017

      Dealing With Clients Who Are Right 100 Percent of the Time

      Do you know someone who believes they are right 100% of the time? These people are difficult to deal with, especially if they are your clients. They believe that because they may have been successful in life, or achieved a certain financial or societal status, that they have the right to tell others what to do and how to do anything and everything. How do you deal with a know-it-all? According to Priscilla Claman, president of Career Strategies, the first step is to pick your battles wisely. If the advice, guidance, directive or request is not going to make a difference in the outcome of the project or compromise the integrity of your design, let it go. On the other hand, if the client wants you to do something that will jeopardize quality, look and/or feel, Claman suggests that you respond to the suggestion with a have-you-ever question. For example, "Have you ever seen that appliance installed that way in a new kitchen or bath?" Asking what-if questions has the same effect. For example, "What if we trial tested the idea to make sure it will achieve your desired result?"

      Another option is to acknowledge the idea but take time to confirm the potential risks and rewards. If the client wants a particular product that you never heard of, you could say, "Let me research the company, read reviews and get references from other designers that have worked with the company to make sure that the quality and customer service are what you deserve."

      Also, don't be afraid to point out the risks of doing what the client wants. For example, you might say, "That's a really good idea, but I would like to confirm that the plan will meet building code requirements before we start demolition." Regardless of who the client is and their personality, your role is to make them feel great about their decision to partner with your showroom. To make those who believe they are right 100% of the time feel great about doing business with you, always remember to acknowledge their role in the success of the project and give them credit for having great ideas and being a great partner.

      Posted 10/27/2017

      Making Emails More Effective

      Did you know that the average person receives 121 emails a day? Do you know anyone who wants to receive more than 121 emails daily? Probably not. How do you stand out? How do you make sure your emails are read?

      Look at email through a different lens. What message do you convey when you end your email, "sent from my mobile phone, please overlook typos"? Simply because you use a mobile device to communicate, does that give you a pass for shoddy or sloppy communication?

      The following can help improve your email effectiveness:

  • Brevity is king. Determine what you want the reader to know and what is the call to action. Keep your emails simple, direct and easy to understand. Keep in mind though, that there is a fine line between brevity and rudeness. One line or single word responses may also send the wrong message. If the responses you receive often ask for clarification, that usually reflects a communication problem that can be solved by providing more copy and content.
  • Determine who needs to be copied. Pare down your list to include only those who need to be aware of the message.
  • Lead with the most important message. Ask yourself if you have answered the following questions: Does the recipient know what I am asking for, and why should the recipient care?
  • Does every email you receive require you to respond immediately or at all? The same can most likely be said for the emails that you send.
  • Emails do not replace human interaction because they can't convey voice tone, facial expressions and physical gestures. Sending emails may be a cop out for not initiating a human interaction.
  • Don't ignore pleasantries. Please, thank you, glad to hear from you, etc., help to humanize emails.
  • Use the subject line as the call to action, such as "Need your help! Please select your vanity by Thursday if we are to maintain our construction schedule".
  • In the first line of the email body, communicate what you want the recipient to do even if it repeats what's in the subject line.
  • Highlight either in bold or italic type the names of those who have been assigned a task and the deadline for completion.
  • Remember that email forms and reflects your business and personal brand. Take the same care and time that you would to produce a web page, ad or display that you use to make positive impressions.

      Posted 10/20/2017

      The Changing Retail Paradigm

      We all know that online purchasing is changing retail forever. Amazon captures 60 cents out of every online purchasing dollar. As Doug Stephens told DPHA members in Phoenix last week, "Amazon is the quickest way from wanting to getting." Stephens also pointed out that no one takes a selfie of themselves ordering on Amazon. It's not fun. There's nothing exciting about it. In a blog post, Tom Goodwin put it best, "No person in modern times has ever been so bored that they went window shopping at amazon.com."

      Online purchasing appeals to people who know exactly what they want. Additionally, there is a new breed of online etailers that limit options to make it easier for customers to determine what they want. Mattress specialist Caspar sells only one model. Stephens also pointed out that Amazon and others are making it easier to buy by not buying. Alexa may note that a consumer has not ordered dishwasher liquid for a while and will ask, "would you like to reorder a bottle of Dawn or garbage bags" or other household necessities without being asked. There are also subscription services such as Dollar Shave Club that send products automatically.

      One of the major points that Doug Stephens made in his keynote address at the conference is that eCommerce is all about acquiring. On the other hand, brick-and-mortar retail is about shopping. Brick-and-mortar success requires creating experiences that strike emotional chords with consumers. An example Stephens pointed to was Nordstrom's new concept store, Nordstrom Local. It is a clothing store without clothes. Instead of filling 140,000 square feet with everything from men's suits to perfume, Nordstrom Local comprises 3,000 square feet of space, offers wine, beer and espresso, and is staffed by stylists who help customers craft wardrobes that can be picked up at the traditional Nordstrom store. Story is another concept store in New York City that offers pop-up opportunities for established brands ranging from American Express to Clairol. The displays are interactive and the mirrors are smart, providing not only a reflection but the latest news, updates on product offerings or other information available from a blue-tooth connection.

      The changing paradigm brings experiences to shoppers. That's why Lululemon offers yoga classes and why you can jog on an indoor track at a Nike Store. What are the lessons for DPHA showrooms? Have interactive displays and determine how you can bring the experience of having a new bath "alive".

      Posted 10/20/2017

      Why Change Is So Difficult

      The reason why change is so difficult is because we want to believe what we want to believe. Facts be damned. That's why many people are so intractable. Regardless of evidence, almost every human will hold to his or her convictions. That's why there is a resounding element of truth to Donald Trump's pre-presidency claim that he could walk down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and shoot someone and his supporters will still support him. In an interesting and eye-opening blog written by Oran Varol on Heleo, Varol writes that trying to persuade someone to change their mind by providing irrefutable evidence won't work because the brain does not follow facts. John Adams knew this to be true. He said, "Facts are stubborn things, but our minds are even more stubborn."

      "We tend to undervalue evidence that contradicts our beliefs and we overvalue evidence that confirms them. We filter out inconvenient truths and arguments on the opposing side. As a result, our opinions solidify, and it becomes increasingly harder to disrupt established patterns of thinking," Varol writes.

      Alternative facts are real to those who believe them because they confirm pre-existing beliefs. That's why confirmation bias is real. We want to belief what we want to believe. And if you need evidence, Google a question that you want an answer to. Chances are you will click until you find a response that you want to find. Confirmation bias helps to explain why couples will argue when one party asks the other their opinion of anything. If the response is not what the asking party wants to hear, an argument is likely to follow.

      Given the significant evidence that you can't use facts to change someone's mind, is there a better alternative? The answer is "yes", according to Varol. He claims that you have to give your brain an out by convincing yourself that your previously held conviction was right given the evidence that you had at the time. If the information you have access to changes, then so should your mind.

      However, too often when someone tries to change someone else, the approach taken is that I am right and you are wrong. Here's why I am right. When someone is being challenged, the immediate response almost always is to challenge back.

      There really is a better and more persuasive way. If you insult or dismiss someone else's opinions and beliefs ("a basket of deplorables"), he or she is likely to dig in because if they don't, they feel they are admitting they are stupid and that's not a claim most people are willing or able to make. Varol explains that if someone disagrees with you it's not necessarily that they are wrong and you are right. It's simply because the other party believes in something that you don't.

      The great challenge is that beliefs are tied to identity. Changing someone's mind requires changing their identity and that's almost impossible. Varol advises to place a healthy separation between yourself and the product of yourself. For example, if you try to convince Detroit autoworkers that global warming is real and therefore they need to produce nonfossile fuel cars to protect penguins in Antarctica, the chance of getting buy-in is slim to none. However, if you frame the argument that renewal energy solutions will provide job security for their grandchildren, then you may convince someone that your belief is in their best interest.

      Another reason why changing someone's mind is so difficult is that "birds of a feather flock together". We friend people on Facebook who have the same beliefs that we do. We live in neighborhoods where you are more similar to others next door than you are different. Varol advises to make friends with people who will challenge you and disagree. Having contrarians to challenge you can be especially helpful running a business. Admittedly though, it's not easy and certainly not comfortable. We have been preaching looking through someone else's lens to better understand what they really want. The same thing applies to challenging your status quo.

      Varol's advice is to strongly believe in your path, but be willing to change if the facts show a better way. Ask yourself what evidence would you need to receive in order to change one of your most strongly held beliefs. If the answer is nothing can change your mind, then responding to change will be next to impossible.

      Posted 09/29/2017

      Pick A Selling Style that Is Best Suited for You and Your Team

      There are three different major selling styles: Describing, storytelling and listening.

      Describing is the default option that most sales professionals use and, in case you are not aware of the fact, everyone in the showroom is involved in the sales process. Even though describing is most common, it typically is the least effective technique to build trust and establish credibility. It involves relating features, benefits and cost.

      A more effective sales approach is telling stories about the benefits and feelings that your prior customers enjoyed by relying on your showroom to create their new bath or kitchen. Testimonials told by your clients are an extremely powerful tool to establish trust and credibility. Also, relate before and after case histories that illustrate how you solved a particularly taxing problem or overcame obstacles that surprised and delighted your clients. "Imagine" is a powerful word that is a great way to begin a story. Ask your clients to imagine the feeling they might get after a particularly stressful day in the office when they get a few moments to wash away their concerns in their brand new bathroom. The reason why "imagine" is such a powerful way to start a story is because it enables customers to visualize their future.

      Listening is one of the least understood and underused sales techniques. What do you believe is more effective, trying to sell someone something or creating something that people want? The only way to create something that a customer wants is to understand their needs, desires, dreams, challenges, conflicts, doubts and budgets. That information is obtained by asking the right questions and effectively and actively listening to their responses.

      While features and benefits describe available options, the best sales approaches make emotional connections and they can be obtained through effective story telling and active listening.

      Posted 09/22/2017

      How to Better Communicate Brand Value

      Harley Davidson's brand is one of the most valued and recognized in the world. Why else would many of its customers tattoo the company's logo on their bodies? The reasons they do so has little or nothing to do with horsepower, handle bar configuration or the time it takes to go from 0 to 60 miles an hour. Harley Davidson's brand appeal was brilliantly summarized by Sam Hill and Glenn Rifkin in their book Radical Marketing. They wrote that Harley Davidson represents "A lifestyle, a work of art and an emotional connection to a widespread and unique community." If you ever speak to a Harley owner and ask them why they chose the brand, most likely their response will include the feeling they get when they ride their bike.

      Feelings are more important than the number of finishes or handle configurations. Value demonstrated is more powerful than value explained, because demonstrating how a new bath or kitchen will make your customer feel reflects the customer's dreams, solves their problems and makes them feel like they have come to the right place. There's no doubt that customers need to know how their new power shower will function and the special features and benefits that aroma, chroma, steam and music therapies provide. More importantly however, is how the improved functionality will change their lives for the better.

      Communicate the value you can bring to a project by relating the number of baths that you have designed and the profile of your typical customer. Almost nobody buys even a pair of socks before checking on Google to see which pair may be best suited for their individual needs. What is preventing you from writing product reviews on your web site for prospects and customers to read and evaluate? Similarly, your web site and social media pages should be filled with satisfied customer testimonials. Do you ask your customers to send you pictures and videos of their new kitchens and baths that you designed for them? Do you take before and after pictures and videos of your projects and then post them on your website? If the answer is no, why not? Showing is certaiunly better than telling. Publish white papers, buying guides and budget calculators on your web site that showcase your skills and expertise. Did you know that DPHA has numerous buying guides for different product categories that you can add to your web site? They're free if you are a member. Take the advice of Marcus Sheridan when he spoke at the 2013 DPHA Annual Conference and answer the questions your customers ask most often, starting with how much does a new bath cost. Celebrate your relationships with different customer types, such as builders, individual homeowners, multi-family owners and managers and others.

      Posted 09/15/2017

      Implementing the Luxury Strategy in Decorative Plumbing by Phil Hotarek (Lutz Bath & Kitchen), an Education Committee Member

      With the ever-changing advances in technology and globalization, implementation of marketing strategies has become increasingly effective in relation to growth. This can be applied to both the manufacturer and the showroom. Your marketing strategy begins with branding and whether it is a product or a service, the same principles apply.

      Manufacturers are responsible for the product and showrooms provide the service. Ideally in a perfect world, the branding of a product should be parallel with the quality of service that the showroom delivers. Internet exposure, price competition and volume have been wedges in what should be a perfectly balanced relationship. For example, a luxury brand being sold in a showroom primarily known for discounts and low prices sacrifices product integrity. There are three strategies identified in the book, The Luxury Strategy - luxury, premium, and fashion.

  • Luxury - Highest value and pricing power. Country of origin, manufacturer process, exclusivity and limited availability are all factors. A luxury product and service appeal to prestigious clientele that are enthusiastic about the product and prefer to be educated rather than informed.
  • Premium - Quality-Price ratio. Pay more for higher quality product and service. While this may seem similar to a luxury strategy, the premium outlook remains comparative to the consumer.
  • Fashion - The hot and trendy approach. Timelessness is a non-factor, because this branding approach is all about marketing the season's hottest trends.

      Taking all these strategies into consideration, it is interesting to see what companies have done in other industries as well as our own. Luxury brand names such as Mercedes Benz and Tesla have expanded by developing premium models that still deliver a high quality product at a more modest price. We also see more standard brand names develop luxury lines, even though seemingly more difficult to penetrate the luxury market with a standard brand as a parent company. Decorative plumbing has seen the likes of these strategies through several companies recently.

      Industry Practices
      As an industry, showrooms and manufacturers must collectively aim to remain consistent through parallel branding strategies. Equal responsibility is shared - by showrooms who intentionally select lines that are parallel with their identity, and by manufacturers who should do the same by upholding product integrity through parallel level of service practiced by the showroom. Essentially, both the showroom and manufacturer should want to collectively reach the same type of consumer.

      The Luxury Strategy discusses what they identify as "anti laws," essentially counter-intuitive to what might be used in traditional marketing techniques. Traditional practices such as: advertisements, flyers and promos are effective with premium and fashion strategies, but luxury branding requires a different approach. Here are some anti-laws that caught my attention in relation to our beloved DPH industry.

  • Forget about positioning, luxury is not comparative
    What makes your product or service unique? Uniqueness is the essence of your identity and should be the one element that makes your brand unrivaled from your competition. In decorative plumbing, that could have a myriad of possibilities. I know showrooms that have adopted some very creative service practices from on-site consultations and deliveries to designer presentations. The takeaway is to discover what is unique about your brand and deliver it consistently.

  • Keep non-enthusiasts out
    Believe it or not, there are consumers who share our passion for plumbing. These are customers who approach their bath and kitchen design as an investment, not a purchase. In return, we must educate them rather than inform. Bargain hunters may showroom, visiting your boutique for information then troll the Internet for the lowest price. No problem - in a free market they have the liberty to do so. Showrooms can protect themselves though by focusing on education to attract high-end consumers seeking this level of service. Do not cater your product or business to those not enthusiastic about plumbing; instead develop a brand that serves those who are.

  • The role of advertising is not to sell
    If you do decide to create an advertising campaign, do not send the message of "selling". Advertising in the luxury market should be more about increasing brand awareness. Your uniqueness should be the consistent message and with the right approach, the customer will yearn for what you have to offer.

  • Luxury sets the price, price does not set luxury
    Remember, bath and kitchen is an investment. You cannot put a price on comfort in these integral parts of a home. Quality of life is greatly increased when the bath and kitchen feels right, and that is what luxury is about ... how a person feels. In decorative plumbing, we are providing the product and the design for a person's most intimate and social space in their home.

  • Do not sell openly on the internet
    This topic is as controversial as it is daunting. As a plumber, I have witnessed first hand the debilitating effect Internet sales have had on plumbing. Misinformation, missing parts, poor interpretation of specifications, lack of plumbing knowledge...the list goes on. I have personally installed plumbing products purchased online knowing full well I will be back soon to repair or replace them. High-end consumers know that luxury products cannot be purchased online. Even Amazon has failed, and will continue to do so, to penetrate the luxury market. The reason is because the high-end consumer prefers to pay a premium for confidence in their investment. Manufacturers that allow their products to be sold online have experienced the hardships of rebuilding a luxury brand. On the showroom front, we briefly dealt with the difficulty of having to compete but have since risen above the challenge. To uphold product integrity, luxury brands do not sell openly on the Internet even beyond decorative plumbing.

      Posted 09/08/2017

      What Message Do You Send?

      Bathroom design has climbed numerous notches in the past decade. Today, successful design focuses on creating a personal oasis that provides an escape from the outside world. It is a space that your clients call their own, devoid of texts and tweets, and a place where they can literally wash away the stresses of the day.

      The baths you create for your clients provide them with a refuge and a place to relax. Many clients are inspired by their travels. Does your sales team ask prospects where they like to relax, what is their favorite spot to vacation and what hotels have they stayed at that made an impression? If your clients stay at hotels, resorts and spas that spark their imaginations, you can use their curiosity to explain that you can help them create a similar place of wellness and relaxation in their home. Many of the baths that you design feature jetted, soaking, air or combination tubs, sculptural freestanding baths that serve functional and aesthetic roles, steam showers, multispray showers with music, aroma and color therapies, etc. The list goes on and on.

      You know that space is always a challenge when designing a new bathroom. Powder rooms are particularly challenging. However, it is the bath that is renovated most often because it is the bathroom that friends and family use the most. Regardless of the space your clients have for a bath renovation, your message should explain that good design can make even the smallest of powder rooms look and feel relaxing and inviting. Good design creates a feeling that offers the most amount of enjoyment and fun in the smallest amount of space. Good design is not available from transactional online purchases. Good design is a distinctive competency that provides your showroom with competitive advantages.

      Designing a master bath gives you the opportunity to improve the quality of your clients' lives while simultaneously permitting them to make a unique design statement. There are health and wellness benefits to promote alongside practical considerations. New baths should be easy to use, provide practical value and make your clients feel like a million bucks every time they cross the threshold.

      The trend toward outfitting bathrooms with beautiful furniture reflects the changing dynamic of master baths. The master bathroom has become a room that is a refuge from the frenetic pace of daily life. The bath is a haven where your clients can make unique design statements and enjoy spa-like experiences while remaining in their homes. The bath is a place where individual family members can steal a few minutes all to themselves to relax and rejuvenate.

      Bathrooms are now viewed and used as another living space, offering another place for your clients to relax. Bathrooms can include sofas, comfy chairs, benches and other pieces that extend the living area into the bath. Wood tones add warmth and serve to contrast white ceramic and acrylic surfaces of tubs, basins and water closets. With this transformation, the standard white vanity has given way to elegant and expertly crafted furniture pieces that create the look and feel of stress-free luxury.

      Clients that don't want to fill their bath with built-in cabinets and countertops can opt for freestanding étagères, cabinets, armoires, wall-hung vanities, seating areas and storage pieces. And DPHA has a number of members that manufacture these stunning pieces that help set your showroom apart.

      Function is another critical factor. A beautiful bathroom is an organized bathroom. Your clients' days are hectic. They don't have time to search for their favorite tube of lipstick or wait for their curling iron to heat up. That's why bath furniture manufacturers offer multiple storage solutions and convenience features that include interior adjustable shelving, pull-out trays, interior lighting, hairdryer/curling iron holders, interior electric receptacles, USB port charging stations and drawer dividers.

      In larger baths, there are opportunities to create separate spaces with different vanity types, styles, and heights for individual grooming stations. In these circumstances, you can distinguish two spaces by installing mirrors, sconces and other types of lighting. A common practice to help separate space in the bath is to use wall mirrors, armoires, étagères, ceiling-hung mirrors or a wall of mirrors.

      Are you using your design expertise to explain that what you do improves the lives of your clients or are you merely focusing on the number of finishes?

      Posted 09/08/2017

      Avoid Hiring the Tallest Pygmy

      Finding qualified, passionate and committed team member just may be the hardest challenge for showroom owners and managers. Let's face it, there are not a lot of people banging down the doors to work in our showrooms, but that does not mean you can't attract and recruit great team members. A key is knowing how to hire effectively. That means never settling for anyone other than a truly qualified and interested candidate. Ed Kelly advised DPHA members many years ago to "never hire the tallest pygmy."

      Asking the right questions that reveal insightful information about the candidate will enable you to make better hiring decisions. Here are several staples to help you.

      1. What in your career are you most proud of and what role did you play?
      Their response will tell you if a candidate can lead, contribute and follow. The response will also provide insights into the candidate's definition of success. Listen for how he or she describes the project, what inspired them, the challenges they overcame, the reasons behind the success and why that success is a highlight of their career or life. If he or she only talks about themselves and does not mention others who may have contributed, that tells you something.

      2. Identify changes you see in our industry and tell me about companies you believe are adapting well to our current market conditions?
      The answer will reflect if the candidate has an understanding of the new buying paradigm. The second part will reflect if the candidate has an understanding of the competition and marketplace.

      3. What is the last thing that you saw, read or heard that was remarkable?
      This response speaks to the candidate's curiosity. If the response is a popular television show or movie, that's okay as long as the description is interesting and the candidate can articulate the story. For example, a good response could be that they just finished The Unwinding by George Packard that traces the decline of American values through the lens of different individuals and institutions that easily explain the rise of 21st century American Populism.

      A bad answer is I don't read.

      4. Describe a current fad that you don't want to be a part of.
      It does not matter what trend they identify as long as your candidates can explain the reasons why they don't want to be a part of it. Bad answers are ones that lack specifics. I don't want to be part of the virtual reality trend because I have a hard time with regular reality. Most likely that is not someone who would work well in your showroom.

      5. What do you do for fun?
      This points to life-balance. The only bad answer is nothing.

      Posted 09/01/2017

      The Keys to Building Great Teams

      Google dedicated millions of dollars and countless hours of internal team members and external consultants to determine how to build great teams. It's Project Aristotle evaluated 180 Google teams, conducted more than 200 interviews and analyzed 250 different team attributes. Despite these efforts, the study came up empty. There were no clear patterns that Google could point to that answered the question, how do you consistently create great teams?

      Google then headed back to the drawing board, focusing on "group norms", traditions, behavioral standards and unwritten rules that dictate how teams operate. According to an article in The New York Times, "Norms can be unspoken or openly acknowledged, but their influence is profound."

      Armed with this new perspective, Google researchers looked at unspoken customs among its highest performing teams and found five key characteristics of the best performers. They were:

  • Dependability: Highest performing teams meet deadlines and expectations.

  • Structure and clarity: High-performing teams have clear goals and well-defined roles.

  • Meaning: The work performed is personally significant to each group member.

  • Impact: Members believe their work is purposeful and contributes to the greater good.

  • Psychological safety: Group members feel comfortable taking risks, voicing their opinions and asking judgment-free questions. There is a comfort level - that team members can be themselves and are willing to step outside of safety zones.

      There is no scientific algorithm that guarantees outstanding performance. However, focusing on the five norms will definitely increase the possibility of a dream outcome.

      Posted 08/25/2017

      Managing Customers' Expectations, by Traci D'Antoni (D'Antoni Sales Group)

      Everyone has had that customer - the one who isn't happy about the price, the lead-time, the installation or the quality of the product. How can you avoid these issues in the future?

      Give realistic lead times - generally, lead times do not include transit times so build those into your lead time estimates. If there is going to be a delay, advise the customer as soon as possible so they can adjust their construction time line.

      Explain the differences between product quality and function. A solid brass faucet may look the same as a zinc or plastic one, but the durability and function are quite different. Also be sure to mention any warranties that cover the product and what they do and do not cover.

      Be aware of the customer's budget, but don't undersell. If a customer wants a specific brand or style, ask a few extra questions to determine what is actually driving that desire. As the experienced professional, you should be able to guide them to a product that best meets their needs, even if it is not exactly what they asked for.

      If there is an issue with a product, be proactive with a solution. Most of the time, the customer is not really upset with you or the product but with the whole process. It has been my experience over the years that when a customer has a meltdown it is because there have been a number of issues on the job. If you let them know about the issue and already have a couple of solutions to suggest, it will make the customer appreciate that you really do care about their project and you have a professional approach to their situation.

      Managing expectations is a part of every sales person's job. If you are successful at expectation management, your customers will almost certainly talk about your professionalism. If you don't do a great job managing expectations though, they may still rave about their products, but not about the person who sold them those products.

      Posted 08/18/2017

      A Showroom's Competitive Advantage

      50 percent of customers are interested in purchasing custom products and 48% of those customers are willing to wait for a product that they can call "all their own", found a 2016 Deloitte consumer survey. Those findings certainly spell good news for DPHA member showrooms. The ability to produce unique products whether they are split finishes, unique combinations of handles and spouts on faucets, custom system showers or individualized pieces of cabinet and door hardware provide showrooms with competitive advantages that can't be replicated by online etailers or order takers down the street.

      The customization of decorative plumbing and hardware products enables showrooms to deliver compelling customer experiences and are in keeping with retail trends in other industries, especially fashion. This week, Frilly started providing women with customizable, made-to-order clothing in bohemian, preppy, minimalist and edgy styles. The technology platform enables customers to select fabric, sleeve and bodice options. The company expects to introduce a made-to-measure service within a year.

      Nike started customizing sneakers in 2012 with the launch of NikeID. Adidas was not far behind with the opening of its Speedfactory, a robotic facility that allows customers to participate in the creation process. Nor is Amazon going to be left behind in the ability to provide customization opportunities. Last April, Amazon was awarded a patent for an on-demand apparel manufacturing process that will enable customers to receive custom dresses, shirts and other apparel in five days.

      Men's clothier Indochino plans to open 150 new showrooms in the next three years, primarily in high-end malls, to offer custom-made suits that are delivered within three weeks. Its go-to-market strategy is that its custom suits offer a better product choice at that same price as an off-the-rack offering.

      Indochino is not alone. Ministry of Supply uses 3D robotic knitting machines to produce custom blazers within an hour and half. Even though the Deloitte study found that most customers said they have the patience to wait for a one-of-a-kind product, patience is not expected to last for a long time, especially when Amazon starts in the customization arena.

      As 3D printing becomes more cost-effective and used, customization of all products, including decorative plumbing and hardware, is expected to skyrocket. What can you do to take advantage today and in the future of your ability to deliver custom products to your customers? Brainstorm with your team to identify the manufacturers you currently specify to identify opportunities and develop a consumer education and marketing effort to promote your customization capabilities.

      Posted 08/18/2017

      The Power of Being Nice

      Two professors from the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business found that speaking positively of fellow team members gives more meaning to one's work and provides a greater sense of purpose. They also claim that there are numerous opportunities to highlight your team's contributions and talent that often are not taken advantage of.

      When you bring on a new team member, you can make him or her feel like a million bucks by highlighting what makes the new hire interesting and telling other members of your staff the talents they bring to the organization. One company asks candidates during the interview process what their favorite foods are, what their hometown is, what are their likes and dislikes and an inspirational quote that they like. Then on the first day of work, the company hangs a picture of the new hire in its gallery of other team members, relating the information gleaned from the interview process. This helps jump start a new hire's transition into the organization's social fabric, the professors write.

      Sharing information is critical to a showroom's success. To help team members open up, relate stories of each person's strengths and contributions they bring to the showroom. If you are putting together a team to go after a large project, start the initial meeting by explaining why you picked each team member for the project, their unique talents and their background and interests. This helps foster a sense of purpose and serves as a power motivational tool.

      If you have team members that are introverted or are put down you can build their confidence and sense of workplace satisfaction by pointing out the value they bring to your operation.

      Highlighting experience, strengths and successes of team members when introducing them to new clients is another way to motivate and provide a sense of professional satisfaction. Share details that you believe make the person interesting and someone that others would want to know and have work on their project.

      How you introduce and respond to your team members can create more meaning in their work and highlight reasons that demonstrate they are involved in a dynamic profession that helps customers make their dreams realities while improving the quality of their lives.

      Posted 08/11/2017

      Stress Relief

      It's difficult to work with others who don't appear to be in control and are always frazzled, but there are ways that you can positively interact with the most stressed out members of your team.

      Some people may appear stressed out because they never take a break from the showroom. They are always connected. It's difficult for them to go home and leave work behind. Empathize with your stressed team member and compliment them. Praising the quality of their work improves their self-image. For example, you may tell your team member that they did an outstanding job on the project you just pitched and let them know they came across as calm and collected.

      Another way to assist them is to offer to help, which sends the message that they are truly not alone. However, put limits on what you offer so your fellow team member knows it is not a carte blanche invitation to be used at any time.

      Finally, assist stressed out coworkers by helping them break up their workload into more manageable tasks. Breaking a task down into several steps makes the end goal seem more achievable to everyone.

      Posted 08/11/2017

      Making Great First and Memorable Impressions

      It's only natural for first-time visitors in your showroom to be a little reserved. It's the showroom's responsibility and mission to make visitors feel comfortable, to earn their trust and engage in a meaningful conversation that leaves visitors wanting to come back.

      Start earning that trust by making visitors feel good about themselves. Your goal is to elevate the confidence, pride and esteem of everyone who enters your showroom. The conversation should not be about the showroom, how great a designer you might be or how satisfied your customers are. Your first impression conversation should be all about your customer. Be interested in what they want, what their goals are, what makes them the happiest and what brings them their greatest joy. As Dale Carnegie said, any person's favorite topic is themselves. Let your visitors be themselves and talk about whatever they would like to say. What can you do to make your visitors feel like they are the most important person in your space?

      If you have common interests with your visitors, don't knowingly or unwittingly show them up. For example, if your visitor says I really enjoy wine and have started a small collection, don't let the person know that you have been collecting for years and have amassed a collection of hundreds of bottles. Instead, ask what is their favorite wine and inquire if they would they be interested in coming back to the showroom for a wine tasting with local experts?

      Don't forget to make eye contact. There's nothing that says you are unimportant than looking around to see whom else might be in the showroom. When you look directly into the eyes of a first-time visitor, you are conveying the message that he or she is at the center of your universe.

      Susan Scott, author of Fierce Conversations, claims, "While no single conversation is guaranteed to transform a company, a relationship, a life, any single conversation can. Speak and listen as if this is the most important conversation you will ever have with this person. It could be. Participate as if it matters. It does."

      Posted 08/04/2017

      Can You Teach Old Dogs New Tricks?

      Our world is changing so rapidly that you may not believe you have the capacity to keep pace. Wouldn't we all be more productive if we could assess applications that are best suited for our businesses and careers more quickly? Everyone knows someone who is technologically illiterate, but does that mean they can't learn or it's too complicated to even try?

      The age old question "can you teach an old dog new tricks" comes to mind, and if you asked Dr. Barbara Oakley that question her response would be a resounding "yes". Dr. Oakley teaches Leaning How to Learn, an online course that has been taken by nearly 2 million people worldwide to help them tackle difficult subjects and stop procrastinating.

      In a recent article in the New York Times, Dr. Oakley offered four tips to improve your learning capabilities.

    1) Dr. Oakley says people think in two different ways. One is where you concentrate on the material you want to learn and the second is diffuse. Diffuse is the process the brain uses to absorb the information you focus on. Diffuse is the place where connections between information and unexpected insights occur.

    2) To help yourself focus and diffuse information, Dr. Oakley suggests setting a timer for 25 minutes of focused work. When the timer goes off, take a break. Give yourself a reward such as listening to music, taking a walk or grabbing a latte. The goal is to think about something else, which enables your brain to process the information from the task you just focused on. Setting a timer also helps avoid procrastinating. Thinking about doing something you dislike activates the pain center in the brain, Dr. Oakley said. Setting a timer "helps the mind slip into focus and work without thinking about the work."

    3) Practice: When you repeat a task or practice that you are trying to learn, you acquire a procedural fluency, Dr. Oakley states. She compares the process to learning how to back up a car. When you first try, it's difficult, but after you have backed up a car several dozen times, it almost becomes second nature and your brain thinks about other things when you do it. The more you practice the easier it is to lean more complex information.

    4) Be intellectually honest. No one knows you better than yourself and the best way you learn new things. Some people grasp new concepts right awa, while others take the tortoise route. Those who take more time are likely to notice more details. Dr. Oakley says that knowing the difference between tortoise and hare learning styles is a first step in learning how to approach unfamiliar material.

      Posted 08/04/2017

      Brick and Mortar's Savior: Humanity

      As technology continues to advance, it will allow consumers to shop in a "wholly immersive way," writes DPHA Conference keynote speaker Doug Stephens in his spell-binding book ReEngineering Retail: The Future of Selling in a Post Digital World. Virtual reality will take us wherever we want to go, Stephens surmises. Virtual augmentation will create lifelike stores wherever we happen to be at the moment. Will technology eliminate shopping as we know it? The answer is a resounding "no". Stephens argues that "As long as humans shop for reasons beyond the mere acquisition of things, physical retail spaces will remain relevant. In fact, as we become increasingly tethered to technology, they will become even more valuable, more cherished, as our hunger for visceral and emotionally connected experiences intensify."

      Moments of discovery, surprise and delight are additional reasons why brick-and-mortar will continue to be destinations of shopping choice. Technological advancements have not expanded the world around us. Instead, they contracted our vision and perspective. As Stephens points out, Facebook does not increase our circle of friends, it contracts who we network with by limiting our interactions to only those who are like us and avoiding those who are not like us. The same can be said of Netflix. It does not expand our film watching horizons, it actually contracts them by recommending offerings that are similar to the ones previously viewed. Recommendations based on past experiences and patterns saps buying of the possibility of accidental discovery.

      "The joy of shopping lies in the delicate balance of relevance and randomness," Stephens writes. Humans crave the surprise and delight of encountering products and stores we had no idea we would cherish, products that we did not know existed or experiences that come out of nowhere to surprise and enhance us, Stephens says.

      Another reason for brick-and-mortar survival is the human need for human interaction. We like crowds. Need proof? Watch the lines of people outside department stores on Black Friday or outside an Apple store before the launch of a new product.

      Shopping is also physiological. "Our brains love shopping. In fact, when it's good, retail is essentially a legalized form of crack. No joke. Our neurological response to a great shopping experience is virtually identical to the one produced by crack cocaine - because they're both reliable producers of a chemical called dopamine," writes Stephens. You don't get a jolt of dopamine buying on Amazon or any online etailers.

      Physical stores have a distinct competitive advantage over online shopping by having the ability to deliver custom experiences. Decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms can deliver compelling customer experiences through working displays, demonstrations and the ability to surprise and delight by introducing products and applications that your customers could never have encountered regardless of how much time they spent on Houzz or any other website.

      Want to learn the secrets to making your showroom deliver jolts of dopamine to your customers? Plan to hear Doug Stephens at the DPHA Annual Conference and Product Showcase, October 12-15, at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort, Chandler, AZ.

      Click here to reserve for the Conference.

      Posted 07/28/2017

      What Business Are You Really In?

      In the 1960s, Harvard University marketing professor Theodore Levitt wrote that most companies focused almost exclusively on producing goods and services that they don't try to understand what customers really want. In other words, companies had their sights set on making a quarter-inch drill when customers only wanted a ¼ inch hole. Levitt's point to decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms is to move from the obsession with different products to what your showroom customers truly want and sometimes, they don't know what they want.

      Levitt pointed out that one reason railroads failed was that they believed they were in the railroad business when in fact they were in the transportation business. If railroads had understood the job they performed for their customers was getting them from point A to point B, they might have evolved into manufacturers of cars, planes or even drones.

      When a customer comes to your showroom, what do they really want from you? It's not simply to select a tub, shower system, vanity, cabinet hardware, faucets, mirrors and lighting. What do your customers really need? Peace of mind? A place that they can call their own? An oasis they can use to wash away the stresses of the day? A statement of their personal style? The opportunity to avoid undue stress and save time?

      Brainstorm with your team, representatives, manufacturers, trade allies, designers and other stakeholders to determine not only what customers say they want from your showroom, but to also deliver on needs they don't even know they have.

      Posted 07/28/2017

      What We Can Learn From Sephora To Enhance Our Customer Experience

      Let's face it. Traditional brick and mortar stores are having their lunch eaten. Shopping centers are reinventing themselves to put more emphasis on dining, movies and entertainment as opposed to relying on Macy's, Bloomingdales, Sears or others as anchors. Sephora also recognizes that the mall may not hold the attraction it once did despite the fact that it has approximately 400 of its sprawling cosmetic emporiums in malls around the country. Sephora's success has been well documented. Consumers are met with rows and rows and shelves and shelves or products when they cross the store's threshold, not dissimilar to most DPH showrooms. Sephora sales consultants offer advice and will even perform a full makeover at special stations, writes Elizabeth Segran in Fast Company.

      Sephora is not about to rest on its successful experience with sprawling stores in shopping malls. In July, it opened its first boutique on tony Newbury Street in Boston, name Sephora Studio. The new concept store is much smaller than its shopping center counterparts.

      The experimental store in Boston is Sephora's response to changing consumer habits. Sophia believes that many of its existing and potential customers don't want to schlep to a suburban shopping mall. They want to buy closer to home quickly. That's why Sephora picked Newbury Street, because it is a shopping street destination in Beantown, not unlike Fifth Avenue in New York or Rodeo Drive in LA.

      Sephora understood that it could not merchandise the Studio in a similar fashion to a shopping center store. It's strategy was to be extremely product selective. Most of the product is makeup whereas at shopping center locations you will find perfume, skin and hair care products, tools and brushes and bath and body products. The Studio features makeup stations to connect in-store beauty advisors with clients, build relationships and deliver a compelling customer experience.

      Sephora commented that the Studio locations are not designed to replace the mall stores, but rather to complement them. The company's long-term goal is to establish as many as 80 Studios throughout North America.

      Lessons for decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms:

  • Have a plan to respond to the new shopping paradigm. Time for most DPH customers is a precious asset. Tout your ability to save time and ease stress based on your expertise designing new baths and specifying products for them.
  • Less can be more. If you search for farmhouse sinks on Houzz, there are 77,000 options. One key to Sephora Studio's strategy is that it does not display all of its products, but the sales professionals are well versed in merchandise offerings and can make recommendations for products not on display that they will ship freight free to customers.
  • What has worked in the past most likely is not as applicable to the present or future. What can you and your team do to provide your customers with a more delightful in-person experience? If you would like to receive innovative ideas for improving your in-store experience, attend the upcoming DPHA Conference, October 12-15.

      Posted 07/21/2017

      Contented Cows Give Better Milk

      One of the biggest challenges for DPHA members is attracting and retaining top talent. That's why DPHA has invited Richard Hadden to present his signature workshop, Contented Cows Give Better Milk, at the 2017 DPHA Annual Conference and Product Showcase, Sheraton Wild Horse Pass and Resort, in Chandler, AZ.

      Hadden believes DPHA members could learn a lot from a message echoed by generations of dairy farmers: "Contented cows give better milk." This workshop is not a management tome. Instead, it is testimony to the power of treating people the right way. Hadden will present:

  • Case studies and new examples from on-site research in a number of real organizations, as well as inspiring examples of companies that know how to do it right, and a few that didn't.
  • Fad-free prescriptive advice informed by Hadden's combined four-plus decades of training and consulting with thousands of managers and employees, conducting employee engagement surveys, and translating the attendant learning to management audiences in a form they can appreciate and use.

      Direct from the horse's, actually the cow's mouth, this workshop will teach DPHA members the bottom-line benefits of having a focused, engaged, and capably led workforce.

      Click here to reserve for the Conference.

      Posted 07/21/2017

      Learn the Five Elements of Remarkable Customer Service

      Plan to attend the 2017 2017 DPHA Annual Conference and Product Showcase, October 12-14, 2017 at the Sheraton Grand at Wildhorse Pass Resort in Chandler, AZ and learn The 5 Elements of a Remarkable Customer Experience as presented by Doug Stephens.

      Brands struggle to meet and exceed the expectations of today's sophisticated customer. Although it's widely recognized brands best positioned to thrive in the future will compete on customer experience, there's a misconception about what "customer experience" really means.

      Join author and internationally renowned consumer futurist, Doug Stephens, for an amazing tour of the future, where every aspect of the retail experience as we know it, will be radically transformed. Stephens will present what constitutes a truly remarkable customer experience and how DPHA members can create one-to-one intelligent journeys to deliver connected shopping experiences to secure their place in the hearts and minds of tomorrow's showroom customer.

      True customer experience design means digging below the surface within each interaction to understand the underlying customer need. It means engineering the exact combination of people, place, product and process to deliver delight in every moment, whether online or in store.

      Doug Stephens is one of the world's foremost retail industry futurists. His intellectual work and thinking have influenced many of the world's best-known retailers, agencies and brands including Walmart, Google, Home Depot, Disney, BMW, Coca Cola and Intel. Doug is also listed as one of the retail industry's top global influencers by Vend.com.

      Prior to founding Retail Prophet, Doug spent more than 20 years in the retail industry, holding senior international roles including the leadership of one of New York City's most historic retail chains.

      He is the author of two groundbreaking books, The Retail Revival: Re-Imagining Business for the New Age of Consumerism and Reengineering Retail: The Future of Selling in a Post-Digital World.

      Learn more about the 2017 DPHA Annual Conference and Product Showcase.

      Posted 07/14/2017

      How 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 07/14/2017

      People 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 07/07/2017

      Close 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 06/30/2017

      The 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 06/30/2017

      An 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.

  • Never say, "I don't know." Always say, "Let me find out."
  • Never show frustration publicly. Always be a duck.
  • Never accept okay as a result. Always make excellence the standard.
  • Never place blame elsewhere. Always make it right.

      Telling a customer that you don't have an answer to the question they have asked destroys confidence and trust. DiJulius says that if you don't know something, acknowledge you don't have the information that was requested, but volunteer to find the answer the customer wants.

      People disappoint. It can be extraordinarily frustrating if a supplier fails to meet a production schedule or their quality is not acceptable. Pointing the finger of blame at the manufacturer or supplier to explain the reason for the error though is not productive. The point is - don't let your customers see you perspire or lose your cool. In the above reference to a duck, DiJulius points out that a duck gracefully glides on the surface of the water while furiously paddling underneath, which creates the impression that what they are doing is easy.

      If you call a customer to ask about the progress of their project or if they are satisfied with their tile and they say that it's just okay, you most likely have a problem. After all, you are looking for customers to have an enthusiastic reaction. If a customer doesn't believe that something you have sold them is out of this world, find out why.

      We've all had problems with suppliers who let us down. If you look through your customer's lens, you will be reminded that your customer did not buy their kitchen from XYZ cabinet manufacturer. They purchased their kitchen from your showroom and if there is a problem, they expect you to fix it. Take ownership of problems and make them right.

      Posted 06/23/2017

      The 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 06/23/2017

      Customer 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 06/16/2017

      Just 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 06/16/2017

      I 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 06/09/2017

      The 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 06/09/2017

      How 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.


      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.


      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 06/09/2017

      A 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 06/02/2017

      You 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 06/02/2017

      The 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 05/26/2017

      Mother 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 05/26/2017

      Proving 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 05/26/2017

      Protect 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.

  • Encrypt your data using Signal or WhatsApp to send text messages. Encryption is a fancy computer-geek term for scrambling data. Facebook Messenger and Google Allo provide options to encrypt your messages.

  • Use FileVault or BitLocker to protect computer hard drives. Both Apple and Windows offer an automatic encryption option.

  • Improve passwords from being easily stolen by using password managers such as LastPass, 1Password or KeePass. You should keep a written record of all your passwords and store the record at your home or at another venue away from the office. When setting passwords, your best bet is to scramble letters, punctuation marks and numbers.

  • Use two-factor authentication to protect your email, social media and other accounts. This requires anyone who is using a new device to access your email to have a code in order to gain access to your Inbox.

  • Use a browser plug-in that encrypts your connections to websites such as HTTPS Everywhere. Also make sure that your Wi-Fi network is secure.

  • Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to shield browsing information and hide your location. Three VPN providers are Freedome, TunnelBear and Private Internet Access.

  • Don't rely on Incognito to hide your identity. Instead, consider using Tor which enables private web activity, but keep in mind that the program is relatively slow and chunky.

  • Consider using alternative search engines other than Google. DuckDuckGo may be a better choice for sensitive searches.

  • Cover your webcam to prevent someone who hacks your computer from seeing you through your computer's camera.

      Posted 05/19/2017

      Are 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.

    1) What am I doing? Every team member wants to know the role they play in your showroom, why it is important and how they make a difference. If you fail to provide your team members with the answers to those questions, your team members will tend to lose focus and interest. Great managers constantly reinforce the reasons why team members come to the showroom.

    2) Why am I here? Simon Sinek in his seminal work, Start With Why, brilliantly points out that most businesses can describe what they do and how they provide products and services, but few answer the question why businesses do what they do. The "why" for many showrooms is to make a positive difference in their clients' lives. You are not simply creating new baths and kitchens, you are making dreams come true, improving family cohesiveness and improving lifestyles. When you explain the "why" to your team members, they understand the underlying motivation for the jobs they perform.

    3) What's the deadline? Inc. claims that the leading cause of stress in the workplace is confusion over due dates on projects. When you set a deadline or milestone, you are establishing priorities for your team.

      Posted 05/19/2017

      Brand 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 05/12/2017

      The 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 05/12/2017

      Enjoyment 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 05/05/2017

      Are 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:

  • General cognitive ability: Google asks candidates how they solve problems and challenges they might be asked to solve in their position at the company. For a decorative showroom, ask what approach you would take when your client calls and says the plumber says the product does not work. Ask questions about real life challenges that your team members face every day.

  • Leadership: Google does not have a hierarchy nor do they want team members who are impressed by titles. They look for team members who can lead at times, but don't have to be the leader all of the time. They want leaders who also are comfortable being followers.

  • Fit within the culture: Google looks for people who enjoy having fun (who doesn't, after all), a certain amount of intellectual humility (it's hard to learn this if your can't admit you might be wrong), comfort with ambiguity and evidence that the candidate has taken some risks or performed some courageous acts in their life.

      Using these criteria will help you overcome the confirmation bias and attract and retain candidates that are the best fit with your showroom.

      Posted 05/05/2017

      Making 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 04/28/2017

      How 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:

  • Engaging: Connect sight, sound, smell, touch and taste that strike an emotional chord with your customers.

  • Unique: The method, language and customs used are unusual, surprising or proprietary thereby giving customers the impression that they not only have entered a different type of showroom but they are actually in a different world.

  • Personalized: Customers believe that the experience they received was crafted exclusively for their needs. Showrooms can take advantage of customization opportunities to personalize the experience in unique and meaningful ways.

  • Surprising: Customers are surprised and delighted by the interaction with the showroom.

  • Repeatable: Experiences are consistent and so well practiced that they appear to be spontaneous while leaving nothing to chance, but offer the team enough leeway to let their personalities shine through.

    Stephens points out that when Steve Jobs talked about design, he was not referring to how things looked and felt. Instead he was referring to how things really work. The opportunity for decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms is to deconstruct their customer journeys and then develop a strategy that completely differentiates the experiences you offer from the competition. It's about understanding all of the jobs your perform for your customers.

    Posted 04/28/2017

    Stop 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 04/21/2017

    DPHA 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 dantonisales@gmail.com and I'll add them to next month's article.

    Posted 04/21/2017

    Leverage 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 04/21/2017

    Ten 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 04/14/2017

    Mitigating 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 04/14/2017

    Do 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 04/07/2017

    The 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 04/07/2017

    What 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:

  • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. When you start your own company, you have to get used to learning how to do things that you don't know how to do. You also need to learn how to take risks and be okay with not knowing what the next stage is going to bring.

  • One CEO said that your opportunity is set up like a graph. On one axis, it's what you do and the other axis, who you tell. "If I think about some of the career mistakes I made at my last company, it was really not doing enough telling about my accomplishments."

  • Look at your outbox and see who you are emailing. Usually your emailing is related to who is supporting you. If you're not emailing people, they probably are not supporting you.

  • Someone once told me that when people are arguing, they usually argue about the what and the why. For example, if there is a team that wants to make a website blue and another team that wants to make it green, they may argue forever about which one is better, but they are never going to agree on the color if they don't agree on the goal.

  • There was a period of time when I didn't have control over things and I felt badly about the things that were happening. I was talking to one of our investors and she said, "when you stop acting like a jerk, you'll stop feeling like a jerk." Basically, when you are ready to take full responsibility of all things that are going on, you're going to stop feeling like you are in a position to feel like a jerk all the time. It stuck with me, because it was basically saying control the things that you can control.

      What's the best business advice you have received? Please share your thoughts with us on the DPHA Facebook page or with our LinkedIn group.

      Posted 03/31/2017

      Who 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 03/31/2017

      Where 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:

  • Pay attention to the little extras and quality of service that you receive from the places where you are a repeat customer. What brings you back? What qualities can you take back to your showroom?
  • Make sure that each engagement with a repeat customer deepens the relationship and makes you more important to them and them more important to you.
  • What value-added services and extras can you provide to those who are your best customers?
  • What do you do that promotes emotional attachments with your customers? How can you make those actions scale?

      Posted 03/24/2017

      Is 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 03/24/2017

      The 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 03/17/2017

      The 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 03/17/2017

      Improve Your Productivity

      Want to get more done in less time? Who doesn't. Start with eliminating distractions that eat into productive time.

  • Don't look at your email in the morning until you have completed one task on your to-do list.
  • Create a "to-don't" list. Things that you should not do during the day because they are either unproductive or a waste of your time.
  • Block your news feeds or other RRS feeds from interrupting your work day. Look at those at night or during non-showroom hours.
  • Give your phone a workday vacation or allocate a specific time of day that you will look at your phone and respond to emails and text messages. How many of your team members bring their phones to staff meetings and check messages when their attention should be focused on the meeting content? When you stop compulsively checking your phone for messages, you can focus your attention on serving your clients and improving your business.

      Posted 03/17/2017

      Three 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 03/10/2017

      What 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 03/10/2017

      Just 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 03/03/2017

      What 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 03/03/2017

      How 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 -

  • "I just need a minute of your time."
  • "I just thought about a great alternative."
  • "I just had an idea."

      If you preface a thought with the words, "I believe/think/feel that" you are couching your message with an unnecessary qualifier and subsequently diminishing the importance of the thought. For instance, which statement is more powerful?

  • I just feel that you should consider the steam unit for the master bath to create your own in-home spa.
  • The steam unit for the master bath will create your own in-home spa.

      Finally, avoid asking permission to make a request by prefacing a statement with the words, "If it's OK" or "would you mind." When you do so, your customer may say or think, "no it's not OK" or "yes I do mind". A more confident approach is to make a request by saying, "When you have a moment, let me show you this extraordinary shower system."

      Posted 02/24/2017

      What 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.

  • Macy's will expand its private label and exclusive brand offerings from fashion houses that include Tommy Hilfiger, Rachel Roy, Hugo Boss and Kipling and which currently represent 20% of apparel sales.
  • Macy's private label brands such as Bar III represent another 20% of sales.
  • The company will separate sale items from full priced items. Sale priced items will be displayed in a separate clearance section to avoid compromising the margins of regularly priced merchandise.
  • The company wants to move away from excessive discounting that has caused Coach and Michael Kors to pull their handbags out of Macy's.
  • Macy's plans to reinvest in higher-quality, more expensive products and reduce its footprint in product categories that are underperforming.
  • Macy's plans to reformat stores in high net-worth demographics and partner with top-tier shopping center owners that could result in a hybrid department store that includes entertainment, dining and shopping experiences all within the store.

    What are the lessons for decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms? Customers expect more. They want to feel good about their in-store experience. If you have sale merchandise, create a separate space in your showroom so it does not compromise full-price offerings. Less could be more. Evaluate the performance of each of your lines and product categories. Determine which ones are most profitable and emphasize those while reducing your footprint with products and categories that are underperforming.

    Walk your showroom through your customer's lens. What do you see? What changes can you make to the physical environment that would improve the customer experience?

    Posted 02/24/2017

    How 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 02/17/2017

    How 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:

  • Take accountability for your success and performance.

  • Raise the bar to exceed your customer's expectations.

  • Eliminate approaches that waste customer's time.

  • Read books, blogs and articles to improve your knowledge of the industry.

  • Embrace change. Don't believe that you can improve your performance by doing the same things that you always have done.

  • Become the master of your destiny. Your success starts with you.

  • The most successful sales professionals understand that their success hinges on not selling products or services, but providing solutions to their client's problems and transforming from sales professional to trusted advisor.

    Please share your thoughts or your own suggestions on the DPHA Facebook page or with our LinkedIn group.

      Posted 02/17/2017

      Training 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 02/10/2017

      What 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 02/10/2017

      Avoid 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 02/10/2017

      Improve 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 02/03/2017

      What'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 02/03/2017

      Turning 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 01/27/2017

      Building 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 01/27/2017

      Standing 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 01/20/2017

      Who 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 01/20/2017

      The 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.

    1) Be positive. The Mayo Clinic reports that positive thinking reduces stress and can improve your health. Consider adopting a daily positive mantra that you start each day with, such as, "Today, I am going to be at my best."

    2) Be proactive instead of reactive. Don't look at emails or social media the very first thing when you wake up or arrive at the office. Instead, pick one task that you want to accomplish and focus on that goal since that is being proactive, while responding to emails and social media posts are reactive.

    3) Visualize success. Professional golfers and other athletes use visualization to their advantage. Hockey great Wayne Gretsky said, "A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be." Visualize how you want your day to go, focusing on specific achievements with a positive mindset.

    4) Read more. Reading exercises your brain, makes you a better leader and expands your worldview and knowledge base, even if you only read a couple of pages each day in a book, blog or magazine. Famed marketing guru Seth Godin rightfully points out that every time you finish a book, you feel smarter.

    5) Be accountable. Have someone, such as a mentor, hold you accountable for reaching goals.

    6) Write something every day. Write a blog that answers the questions your customers ask every day. Write down 10 ideas that you would like to try, from really small ones (like walking an additional block with your pet) to large ones (such as growing your business 20%).

    7) Make a daily to-do list that is realistic. Don't place too many goals or tasks on the list. Your daily to-do list needs to be manageable and achievable.

    8) Take frequent breaks throughout the day to recharge your batteries.

    9) Break up your day. Divide your day into chunks and then specify the tasks that you will undertake at specific times.

    10) Theme your workdays and weeks. Winfield writes that Jack Dorsey ran both Twitter and Square simultaneously without getting overwhelmed by specifying different tasks for different days of the week. On Monday he focused on management. Tuesday was for products. Wednesday was dedicated to marketing and growth. Thursday he concentrated on developers and partnerships, and on Fridays the theme was company culture and recruiting. Saturday he took off and he spent Sunday reflecting and developing strategy. It may not be realistic for you to assign full days to a specific task, but you may be able to dedicate chunks of time during the day to focus on specific issues.

      Posted 01/13/2017

      Selling 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 01/13/2017

      Time 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 01/13/2017

      Keys 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 01/06/2017

      Emotional 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 01/06/2017

      Tips 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.
  • Does this apply to me?
  • How will I benefit from this?
  • How much time, energy and other resources am I going to have to invest in this?
  • Can I use this information right away?
  • Is this going to be supported?

      Begin your introduction by stating the objectives of the training and how it applies to the learners. An example might be, "After our training today, I believe you will feel more comfortable describing the features and benefits of the Widget 2000 and that you will be better prepared to answer questions someone may ask." If there are additional benefits for the sales person, such as the product is "easier to order, there are fewer line items, it qualifies for a rewards program, etc." include them here.

      Next, ask, "Who here is familiar with our previous version, the Widget 1000?" Now you have a conversation going with the learners and you can gauge their current knowledge and interest. Additionally, this gives you a chance to catch your breath and relax. Many times your audience will ask questions that help you emphasize certain points of your presentation or things that you were not aware were actually a concern. Most importantly, you have established that valuable connection with the group.

      So far, pretty simple. And in fact, you have already addressed three of the five key questions - Does this apply to me, how will I benefit from this and can I use this information right away?

      Next, introduce yourself. Who are you and what are your qualifications for presenting the information? That's right, establish the connection with the learners before you actually tell them who you are. Usually, the people you are talking to are more interested in how this information will benefit them than who is presenting it. This truly sets the tone that the training is for their benefit and not yours.

      Now, answer the remaining two key questions - "How much time, energy and other resources am I going to have to invest in this, and is this going to be supported?" Have you built up the inventories so the salespeople can't exceed the demand? When will they have displays, literature, samples? Once you have addressed the five key questions listed above, you can then talk about the features, functions and benefits of the product.

      Here are a few other fine-tuning tips for the introduction of your presentation.
  • Be inclusive in your language. Use "we", "us", and "our" early and often. It helps break down the we/they feeling between the instructor and the learners.
  • Don't start the training by saying, "I want to thank you all for being here today." This makes it sound like the training is for your benefit. Besides, many times the training you are giving is mandatory. The learners had no choice but to attend.
  • Humor is a good tension reliever and can be valuable, but be careful about starting with a joke. If the joke or story does not relate to the topic or enhance the learning objectives, it sends the message that I have to get your interest with a joke because the rest of my presentation is boring.
  • Abe Lincoln said, "If I have eight hours to chop wood, I spend six hours sharpening my axe." Spend the majority of your practice for your presentation by nailing the introduction. You know the product pretty well, but it doesn't do any good if you don't get your audience's attention. Establish a connection and feel comfortable doing it.

      Posted 12/16/2016

      What 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 12/16/2016

      Attention 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 12/16/2016

      The 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 12/09/2016

      How 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 12/09/2016

      How 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?