Discover the Supreme Power of Sales
Success in the framing industry involves an element you can’t see, touch or mount on a wal–a good sales representative, Here reps for several framing distributors share their secrets,
Everyone in the framing industry knows a sales representative’s job is to increase product sales. But that shouldn’t be his/her No. 1 priority. A sales rep’s first priority should be to build relationships with existing and new clients, one at a time.
“A good salesperson doesn’t think in terms of, `how can I increase my company’s business $25,000, $50,000 or $100,000 next year,” said Murray Raphel, monthly columnist for Art Business News and a leading marketing expert.”A good salesperson asks, `how can I establish strong relationships between the customers and this business? Because if I establish stronger relationships, they’ll do more business.'”
Framing distributors are aware that competition for their frame shop clientele is fierce and that many companies offer quality products. More often than not, the decision to buy moulding from a particular company is an emotional decision based on the personality and the existing relationship between the frame shop and their sales representative. And learning about the intricacies of the relationships and methods involved in those relationships can provide shop owners with several techniques to improve their sales skills.
“Business is a matter of relationships,” agreed Ron Berich, vice president of sales and marketing at Arquati and Proframe Mouldings. “It’s important our sales people work not only for Arquati but also on behalf of the frame shops themselves. No one gains if it’s one-sided. Our representatives have to work for both concerns.”
Establishing stronger relationships involves one key element–trust–and building it is not cheap. It involves an investment of time, above-par service and the commitment on the part of the sales reps to making the frame shops more profitable. Dedication to the success of each individual retailer’s business pays off handsomely in improved profits for the rep’s company and a strong loyalty base. A frame shop’s dedication to its customers is equally as important.
“Twenty percent of a company’s customers will leave every year no matter how good they are,” said Raphel. “The reasons they leave could be anything from the customer moving to switching to the competition. The question is, `how do I keep doing my business?’ We go back to the beginning, which is to establish relationships. It is a never ending process.”
A fundamental aspect to building relationships is providing reliability. Prospective clients feel that the more time a sales rep has invested in the relationship with them, the less likely a rep will abandon them when they have a concern. Customers believe that if a rep is not persistent when they want their business, the rep may not be around when they do have it.
“A customer needs to know you are going to be there on a continuous basis,” said Koren Kirby, vice president and sales representative for Presto Frame and Moulding. “I know when I first started going out and selling in the area, there were customers I went to who said, `Look, I’ve never seen you before and I don’t know who you are. I’m not going to buy from you the first, second or third time.’ But then, on the fourth visit, they’d write a huge order. They wanted to make sure I was going to keep coming back.”
“Customers reason that they could write an order and never see you again. People need to know that you’re going to be available to them,” continued Kirby.
“I’m sure you’ve heard the expression about `making the close,’ as the most important aspect in a salesperson’s job,” said Raphael. “I’ve always been unhappy with that phrase because to me, that implies shutting the door and walking away. To me, when a sale is made, it is the beginning of the next sale.”
Knowing Your Customer
Knowledge of the customer is another fundamental aspect to building a strong relationship. This helps personalize service to each customer.
Some companies provide their sales forces with computer programs to provide individualized analysis based on a store’s sales record. “We can suggest to a [frame shop owner] certain mouldings they could stock because we see what their track record is and what sells best for them,” said Scottie Sandstrom, senior sales representative, CPF of Larson-Juhl. “We can also highlight products that have a terrific success overall in their region or across the country which they are not currently selling but could be successful for them.”
Figuring out a frame shop’s needs involves a lot of one-on-one time and listening on the part of the good sales rep. “The first thing I do is give the customer the opportunity to tell me what their concerns are,” said Cynthia Stokes, vice president of sales for Max Moulding. “Then I address each of their concerns individually. If I don’t know the answer to a question, I find it out and get back to them immediately. I am very honest and genuine in my approach and I take customers very seriously.”
At Victor Moulding, its company philosophy reflects its commitment to servicing the frame shops and listening to their needs. “From the top on down, it’s whatever it takes to serve a customer,” said David Ganguet, national sales manager. “There are many times when I come into the office and find the president of the company waiting on a customer because they just happened to make eye contact and they struck up a conversation. She asks them, `What are we doing right and what could we do better for you?’ We feel that if you take care of people, the money will come.”
“A good sales rep needs to build a strong relationship with a customer, not just to build trust, but so the rep has knowledge of what the customer needs,” said Kirby. “The customer knows that the rep would not steer the customer into something that isn’t saleable for them.”
Belief in the Product
Presto’s Kirby touched on another critical element in the relationship between the rep and the frame shop. “I have to have a good, quality product I believe in or I would never be able to sell it.”
Genuine passion and excitement for the product and the company can be infectious, but can only be passed on to the shop owner if the rep believes in the quality of their products. “The main thing as a manufacturer is to give our reps ammunition,” said Stokes. “We come out with flesh and competitive products on a quarterly basis.”
“What you don’t want is to have a customer buy things that aren’t going to sell for them,” said Stokes. “You might have a large one-time sale, but in the future, it’s over. I’d much rather sell you something I know is going to work for you in smaller quantities and keep your business over the long term … because it means we are doing something right.”
Going the Extra Mile
That `something right’ also includes going the extra mile for the customer whenever needed and providing little extras for the along the way.
“If somebody orders glass, our delivery drivers take the extra step and put it away in the customer’s bin for them,” said Ganguet of Victor Moulding. “That’s a heavy product nobody likes to move. We offer services that are probably costing us an extra call per day but we know we are building an alliance with that customer that will be hard to break.”
“The most important function in any business is customer service,” said Stokes. “Sometimes that means bailing them out of emergency situations. If somebody needs something `red label’ or if they know they’ve goofed then you have to be flexible and give a little bit.”
“I was at our factory in Ashland, Wis., at a time when a customer in Minneapolis needed a product right away. I drove the four hours there to get it to them within the day,” said Sandstrom of Larson-Juhl. “There have been times during the holidays when a customer wouldn’t have a delivery day so I would bring the product to them that next day after the holiday and that gesture was appreciated.”
Besides proving reliability, individualized attention and an openness to listening to a customer’s concerns, a good sales rep gives advice and suggestions to frame shops on more than just their company’s line of mouldings. The good sales rep knows that if they can provide resources to make a business more profitable, the reps may earn greater loyalty from those customers.
“We provide service for the customer by taking extra time with them and giving them ideas on how to merchandise not only their frame wall and their store window, but their whole store to make it look inviting and dynamic,” said Sandstrom.
“Sales representatives have oftentimes been in the business a lot longer than some of the newer retailers who have opened up shops,” said John Redmond, program director of the Professional Picture Framers Association. “First time retailers have so many issues to deal with and a rep may be the only person in the industry with whom they have face-to-face contact. If they can give advice on setting up displays for moulding samples, how to advertise, attract new customers, even how to set up their shop, that can be invaluable.”
“A high percentage of first time retailers in any industry fail within the first five years,” said Redmond. “If a sales rep takes an active role in providing assistance, particularly to the first time retailer, then it can help them succeed and, in turn, increase their customer base and engender loyalty to the rep and their company products.”
Victor Moulding has organized their company in a unique way to provide direct assistance to their sub-distributors. “We assist them any way we can with our services,” said Ganguet. “Contacts, leads, whatever we get in their region, we direct to them so they get the maximum earning potential in their market.”
“We offer our sub-distributors information such as computer data, historical sales data which we have acquired with 75 years of experience in the business and a national perspective. Most of them don’t have the resources to acquire this information on their own because most of them are small business people. It’s almost like a cooperative sales effort.”
“Our product becomes more attractive because we are helping them make money instead of just focusing on turning product. Being out for their best interests automatically translates into something that will be in our best interest,” said Ganguet.
And Don’t Forget to Follow Through
Perhaps one of the most fundamental aspects of building trust in a relationship is that a company’s sales representative provides follow through. “We live by service,” said Pat Boland, national sales manager at La Marche Moulding. “The first arm of any business is the sales rep and they have to have the ability to follow up on sales calls until the customer is happy.”
“If you do not follow through with a customer, you go nowhere but backwards,” said Sandstrom, who has been with Larson-Juhl for 23 years. “At the end of the day, I feel good if I have served the customer because I followed through and did what I said I would do. I am in the industry because I like to be able to serve and get that sense of accomplishment through having done right by the customer.”
What can the good rep do for your business? He or she can determine whether or not your mouldings make it to the walls of your customers and into the possession of the consumer. A good rep builds relationship and loyalty through integrity, devotion to service to the customer, and genuine passion for their product and company. These are good, old fashioned principles that can’t be faked, bought or sold.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Pfingsten Publishing, LLC
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group