Darlington On Showrooms: A Day In The Life Of A Showroom Consultant
Let's have some fun with this article. I'm going to try and create an average day in the life of a showroom consultant. (Well, I may throw in a few extras just to spice it up.) Smile if any of this sounds familiar.
I work for a fairly large plumbing wholesaler. They have six showrooms and have dabbled in the showroom business for the past 20 years. Three years ago they decided to really get serious about this very nice part of the business. They rebuilt my 1200-sq.-ft. showroom and it's the nicest one in my marketplace.
I've worked for them for six years - so I have a pretty good knowledge of products and clients. I am the “manager” and a sales consultant. Finally, two years ago management let me hire Patty to help work the showroom. Patty's coming along good, and I know if I could only find the time to train her that she'd be a lot more help - and wouldn't make so many mistakes. Maybe this year I'll find time to work with her.
I never really knew what my monthly or yearly sales figures and gross profit margin were until last year when management finally started breaking out showroom sales. The company implemented a policy that if a showroom sales consultant does the quote, he or she will get credit for it when it turns into an order. NOT! The outside plumbing salespeople still “steal” several orders a month. I do all the work and they get all the credit for it. What's fair about that? Especially since management finally came up with an incentive program that Hank Darlington covered in one of his articles in SUPPLY HOUSE TIMES. Patty and I get a monthly base salary (actually hourly) plus a percentage of the gross profit dollars based on monthly sales and gross profit margin figures. So when Patty and I don't get credit for the sale, it takes money out of our pockets.
The first few years I wasn't sure this was where I wanted to work. Management didn't pay any attention to the showroom. It was dingy and tired! They wouldn't spend money to advertise or promote it. Worst of all, the employees on the wholesale team didn't like the showroom, so they weren't friendly or helpful to me. Finally this is changing. Now they seem to realize what a good business the showroom is.
I shouldn't tell you this, but maybe it will help other showroom employees become more appreciated. When I was hired, I made $25,215 the first year. The second year wasn't much better. Hey, I was the Lone Ranger in the showroom. I worked a lot of overtime hours - and didn't even submit these hours! I'm a proud person and I wanted to see the showroom succeed. Well, SUPPLY HOUSE TIMES does a Showroom Survey every three years, and last year I saw the average compensation for showroom managers and employees has grown very nicely. I pointed this out to my management - and this year if all goes as planned, I should make $40,000…or even a little more.
Let me tell you just a little about our showroom - then I'll tell you about an average day. Our gross profit on showroom sales has grown to 33%. That's not high enough, but it's a lot better than the 24% five years ago. We do sell the homeowner. (What a deal that was, getting the plumbers to go along with it, but that's another story.) About half our sales are direct to the homeowner and about half to the plumbers and building contractors.
When we remodeled the showroom three years ago we diversified a lot of our product. Up until then we only sold and displayed the traditional wholesaler products. These were the same things that every wholesaler and the “big boxes” sold. I knew if we wanted to grow margin and offer the clients something different that we'd have to add some nontraditional wholesaler products. We did just that and it's been fantastic. Along with this, our sales with the core suppliers have gone up, not down.
Our showroom entrance is the same as the trades counter. Not really good, but it works. There are no “reserved” showroom parking spaces, and most of the time plumber trucks are right at the door. I continue asking the management to make the showroom more customer friendly, but so far the plumber is still “king.”
Just one more thing that really “bugs” me: Our clients have to use the same bathrooms that the counter salespeople and plumbers use. We did dress them up a bit, but you can't believe how dirty they are most of the time. Talk about bad impressions for the homeowner.
For my average day in the life of a showroom sales consultant, I've picked last Thursday. It was pretty typical, but a few extra things did occur.
Our showroom hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. I know we should be open on Saturdays or at least one evening, because a lot of our clients complain that both husband and wife work and it's hard for them to get in during the week. But honestly, I'm not wild about working Saturdays, so I haven't pushed it. That's bad, huh?
Anyway, last Thursday I arrived about 7:45 a.m. I like to get the lights turned on, get the heat turned up and get the coffee started before any clients might come in. And, I learned from Hank Darlington's articles that I should walk the showroom everyday to be sure it's clean and shipshape. Hank also suggests that the coffee we serve clients should be a special blend, and served in china cups, not plastic foam. I want to do this, but haven't gotten that done yet.
At 8:15 a.m. Patty called and said her six-year-old son was sick and she had to take him to the doctor. She didn't think she'd be in at all. Great! I had a busy day planned and it was already up in smoke!
We're redoing one of our display areas and Durke, our handyman, was due in at 8. I called him and was told he had an emergency and would try to be in by 2 or 3. Hey, you have to be flexible. We wanted Durke to work at night, but he wanted a lot more for that, so we're putting up with the dust and noise daily.
I had an appointment at 10 a.m. and still had a little work to do on the quote. Of course, with Patty not coming in that meant I had to field all the phone calls and walk-in customers. It wasn't the first time and I managed.
I checked my e-mail, replied to several and fanned through the last two days of call-back messages. I was working on the 10 a.m. quote when Joe, a faucet rep, came in. Of course it was unannounced! I had several things to go over with him, but didn't have time. I asked him if he'd do some stock checks and work on two old RGAs - again!
The meeting with the 10 a.m. client went really well and I got a $10,000 deposit on a $20,000 job. Of course, then I needed the rough plumbing and tubs ASAP. Since the branch does all the ordering on traditional items and I do all the “specialty” products, I would have to stay late again to do the purchase orders for this new order.
The phones rang off the hook and we had about eight different people come in, so it was a really hectic day. Too many times I either had to excuse myself from a client or let the phone ring until the answering machine picked up. Both situations are bad. Boy, how I wish management would give us a receptionist. He or she could handle the phones, help with paperwork, etc. Maybe someday - if we can keep growing sales!
I did find a little bit of time to work on the price books. We've fallen behind keeping new price sheets up-to-date - and I know that costs us money.
The wholesale business is computerized and management is pretty proud of the system. But let me tell you, it isn't very showroom friendly. We have to do our quotes by hand, and then enter orders, purchase orders, etc., into the computer. The IT people are working on it, but the showroom never seems to be a priority.
I've got about 10 RGA items laying around my desk, and so does Patty. It sure doesn't look good, but finding the time is tough. Maybe we'll do an RGA “party” some evening next week.
Two more reps came in. One had an appointment, the other didn't. Why don't they give us the courtesy of a phone call? I also had several deliveries to set up with the warehouse.
I know how important it is to follow up on my quotes. The old “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” statement sure applies to quote follow-ups. But with everything else that happens each day, neither Patty nor I does very well in this area.
Oh, I almost forgot. In the heat of battle I got a call from one of our biggest plumbing contractors. He was at a job site trying to finish a job. The house was to be finalized the next day and we had delivered the wrong trim for the master shower. What was I going to do about it?? Several phone calls and an hour later I had the situation resolved.
About 4:30 I noticed a few key light bulbs burned out - so I put that on my list for after 5:00 p.m.
Since I'm the chief cook and bottle washer I cleaned the kitchen, carried out the trash, washed the coffee cups, changed the light bulbs, read and answered my e-mail, faxes and call backs. The last thing I did was try to organize my list of things to do for the next morning so that when I arrived I could hit the floor running. I turned out the lights, took a deep breath and braced myself for the next day!
Is it hectic? Yes! Do I love the showroom business? Yes! Can we do better? Of course!
Thanks for reading! If you relate to any of this, smile!