Most showroom sales consultants are hard working, bright and dedicated, but maybe not as well organized as they might be.

When I do a consulting job for a showroom client, I try to spend 60 +/- minutes with each sales consultant. I learn more about the business and how it’s run in these short visits than almost anything else I do. I have the highest regard for consultants - because their job descriptions are huge and the expectations are tremendously high.

Following is a description of what a “typical” day in the life of a showroom consultant might be. (I realize there is no “typical” day because each day presents different challenges.)

Keep in mind that when I first started my own business I was a sales consultant (and a whole lot more), so I’ve walked in those moccasins. When our business was sold, we had 18 sales consultants working in three showrooms. As the “boss” it was my job to keep these folks motivated, excited, professional and the very best that they could be. A big job, because no two people are alike. (Different strokes for different folks certainly applied to this challenge.)

As a broad, general statement (I’ll probably get in trouble again), most showroom sales consultants are hard working, well meaning, bright, intelligent, willing, loyal and dedicated. That’s the good news. The bad news is that most are not as well organized as they might be. Most are not the best time managers. Most are so busy day in and day out that they get caught in ruts and become creatures of habit. Most aren’t terribly self-motivated. Many of these negatives aren’t all the consultant’s fault. Most don’t have very good direction or coaching from their boss. For wholesaler showrooms, more often than not, the consultants’ supervisor is a branch manager who really doesn’t know or understand the showroom side of the business. They are so busy running the wholesale operation that the showroom doesn’t get the attention it should. And in wholesale it’s a numbers game. Big volume (sales) is important. Showrooms don’t deliver the big numbers. Even though a well run showroom should (I underline should) be realizing a 35-40% gross profit margin - and that’s approaching twice the margin of the wholesale side in many cases. Consequently, lower sales numbers too often equate to lower compensation, which equates to “you get what you pay for.” My philosophy on compensation is: “pay more - and expect more.” Back to the subject at hand!

See if this doesn’t sound a bit like a typical day in the life of a showroom sales consultant. (I’m using a woman in this example):

    8:00 a.m. - Arrive at work almost on time most of the time - put the coat and purse away.

    8:05 a.m. - Put makeup on, say good morning to other team members and get a cup of coffee.

    8:15 a.m. - Sit at desk, boot up the computer and start thinking about all that has to get done today. There are several items from yesterday still hanging out there to be resolved. Some you promised to finish yesterday, but flat ran out of time. Recently you’ve thought of doing a “Tomorrow To Do List” before you go home every evening. But so far this hasn’t happened.

    8:30 a.m. - You check e-mails and voice messages. There are four or five things you need to add to the “To Do List.” Two messages were from clients that are upset that you haven’t done something that you promised to do. This makes you feel bad, but if the clients knew how busy you were they might be more understanding.

    8:50 a.m. - You check your appointment book and see that you have three appointments today: two clients working on very large remodel jobs and another client building a six-bath home. You also know you have promised to have two quotes completed and in your clients' hands by the end of the day.

    9:05 a.m. - You begin working on the quotes and are making headway when…

    9:35 a.m. - In comes a rep you like and need to see - but as always he hasn’t made an appointment and you really can’t spare the time. But you do! That kills 30 more minutes (15 minutes of good work talk, and 15 minutes of chit-chat)!

    10:05 a.m. - Back to your first quote - and you see an end in sight, when…

    10:30 a.m. - In walks your first appointment. The client is doing a big master bath remodel. She knows what she wants and you’re able to specify everything in an hour and a half. You feel good…and you only had three phone interruptions while working with her. You’re the only one working the showroom floor today, so when three different walk-ins came through the door, you weren’t able to meet and greet them the way you should - but hey, you’re only one person and you’re doing the best you can.

    Noon - Now you’re starved! You got a late start this morning, so breakfast was a muffin and a hot cup of coffee at Starbucks. You rush lunch so you can get back to those quotes still sitting on your desk.

    12:50 - Hurray, you’ve finished one quote, added a note to it and e-mailed it to the client. You pull out the second “must get done” quote and are just about to start it when…

    1:00 p.m. - Right on time, in comes your second appointment. This is the big new house with six bathrooms and more. You like the client, but from the first meeting you knew she wasn’t going to be a good decision maker. Getting things specified is going to be a challenge - but you get started.

    1:45 p.m. - You’re told that there’s a plumber on the phone and he’s really upset. You take the call. He’s at a jobsite completing an installation of the finish plumbing so that the house can go through its final inspection tomorrow. The two master bath lav faucets are missing and what are you going to do about it?

    2:10 p.m. - After leaving your client alone for 25 minutes, you’ve got the plumber settled down and the warehouse is making a rush delivery on the two missing faucets. You wonder why they weren’t delivered with the rest of the order. You tell Mrs. Big House that you’ll need to make another appointment to finish with her. She’s tired and her head’s spinning so she’s glad to take a break.

    4:15 p.m. - Your third appointment comes in five minutes late, but you’re still able to put a big smile on your face. She’s doing a remodel on the kid’s bath, powder room and the kitchen all at the same time. You find out they’ve moved out for the remodel process. Smart folks! This goes well and you get the whole job specified, but it’s…

    5:10 p.m. - and your husband and kids will be wanting dinner and you still have to go to the grocery store. No time to complete that second “must do” quote or check e-mails or voicemails. You’re out of there. Another busy, and fairly productive day, but the “To Do” list has grown longer and you’re further behind. Your stress level has inched up another notch and the knot in your stomach has gotten even bigger. But, you love your work and the people you work for, so you’ll be back tomorrow and really try and catch up once and for all.

So there ends “A Day In The Life Of A Showroom Sales Consultant.” Does any of that sound familiar? I bet it does! AND, in addition to this you’re supposed to:

  • Keep the showroom neat and clean.
  • Keep the displays up-to-date and complete.
  • Keep all prices current.
  • Spend time with the reps calling on you.
  • Keep RGA’s moving in a timely manner.
  • Be well trained on all products, the computer, company policies and procedures.
  • Meet and greet all customers coming through the door.
  • Market the showroom to all potential clients.
  • Be active in trade associations.
  • Plan and work on special events.
  • And so much more.

    It has not been my intention to paint a bleak or negative picture. All jobs have their problems and challenges. My intention has been to paint a realistic picture of what many (maybe most) consultants face each and every day.

    It doesn’t have to be this way…at least every day doesn’t have to be this way. There are a number of things that the consultant, their supervisor and their company can do to help make this whole frustrating situation better. We don’t have room to go into a lot of detail - but here are some bullet point ideas that I know for a fact will help:

  • All reps must make an appointment and have an agenda if they want to sit and talk.
  • Do a prioritized “To Do” list each and every evening before you go home.
  • Come in early - or stay late - as needed.
  • Ask the boss for an occasional “time out”: A short (no more than 2- to 3-hour) period of time where you are off the floor and take no phone calls.
  • For every $800,000 in annual sales, hire a sales assistant. This person would do a lot of the easy, but time-consuming things that will improve customer service and free up the sales consultant to sell more.
  • Read a book or listen to a tape on time management and organization. Put lessons into action.
  • The wholesale boss must be more involved with the showroom. Learn that end of the business. Listen to what the needs and wants are of the sales consultant.
  • Start moving showroom sales consultants’ compensation upward. Implement the following HR rule: hire the best, train the best, motivate the best, communicate the best, compensate the best - and you’ll enhance your chances of being the best!

    In a future article, I’ll spend more time on the ideas that should help make that “typical” day more productive, more fun and more rewarding. Good selling!