Make sure you do the basics well!

The reception area of Banner Plumbing Supply’s Buffalo Grove, IL, showroom includes a comfortable waiting area for customers. (Photo by Pat Lenius)

I love sports and always have. I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania and was fortunate enough to play three sports in high school. There were only about 280 students in the entire school, so “making” a team was pretty easy - they needed guys to fill the positions! We were only okay in football, but pretty darn good in basketball and baseball. What I remember most about playing these sports was that each and every coach I ever had insisted that we started with the basics and learned to do these very well before we moved on to the fancier stuff. In football it was learning to block and tackle. In basketball it was becoming proficient at passing and dribbling. In baseball it was catching, throwing and hitting. We practiced these things until we were better than the other teams - and we never stopped practicing them!

So what does this have to do with showrooms? You have to become good at the basics before you can expect to be as successful as you want to be. Building out a good-looking showroom takes a lot of forethought, work and money, but putting together a list of basics - BEST PRACTICES - regarding how your showroom will operate is fundamental to your ultimate success.

I’d like to review what I consider to be the basics of running a successful showroom business.  Grade yourself on each of these. Maybe use a 1 (low) to 10 (high) rating scale. You may find that a few won’t apply to your operation. Consider asking your whole showroom team to do the rating, independently. Compare your results and identify every point that was a six or less.  Then put together a plan to improve every point so it is a seven or higher. Prioritize the “to do” list.  Attack the areas that need the most attention one at a time. You’ll be amazed at how much better your showroom will operate. Keep this list and repeat the exercise at least once a year.

I have helped a number of plumbing wholesalers put together their own customized list of Best Practices, and the improvement in operating their showrooms has been dramatic.

Economy Plumbing Supply, Indianapolis, IN, takes pride in its attractive exterior. (Photo by Pat Lenius)

Best Practices Checklist

  • Location, Location, Location!

    ___ Is the showroom accessible?

    ___ Is it easy to drive to?

    ___ Is it located close to other high-end building product suppliers and/or retailers?

    ___ Is it located close to high-end neighborhoods?

  • The Building And Landscaping

    ___ Is the “drive-up” attractive?

    ___ Is it a good-looking building?

    ___ Is the landscaping well done and well-maintained?

    ___ Is there sufficient showroom parking?

    ___ Are there designated showroom parking spaces?

    ___ Is the parking close to the showroom entrance?

    ___ Is the parking area and entrance well lit?

    ___ Is there good visibility from the street?

    ___ Is there good lighted signage (at the street and/or on the building)?

    ___ If there are front window displays, are they well done?

    ___ Are the windows clean - all the time?

  • The Waterhouse Bath & Kitchen Studio in Perrysburg, OH, operated by Maumee Supply, features an ADA-compliant restroom. (Photo by Pat Lenius)

  • The Front Entrance

    ___ Is the showroom entrance well marked?

    ___ Is there a roof or awning over the front entrance?

    ___ Is the area clean and attractive all the time?

    ___ Is there a cigarette/trash receptacle at the front door?

    ___ Are the hours of operation the only signage on the front door?

    ___ Is the signage on the front door professionally done?

    ___ Are your hours truly customer friendly, including Saturdays and an evening or two?

  • The Clients’ First Impression

    ___ Does the very first step in the front door make a great impression?

    ___ Is there a receptionist or sign-in area close to the front door?

    ___ Are the work areas for the sales consultants conveniently located?

    ___ Are the work areas for the sales associates clean and neat all the time?

    ___ Do sales consultants dress professionally all the time?

    ___ Does the showroom have a customer friendly flow?

    ___ Is the showroom ADA compliant?

    ___ Is the showroom the correct size for your demographics?

  • Interior Décor And Displays

    ___ Does the showroom have great lighting everywhere?

    ___ Is the flooring material good-looking and customer and consultant friendly (comfortable)?

    ___ Are like products grouped together?

    ___ Do you use YOUR display boxes and boards?

    ___ Do you show YOUR model numbers and YOUR prices?

    ___ If yes, are the model numbers and price tags professionally done?

    ___ Are there working displays?

    ___ Are all displays clean and well maintained all the time?

    ___ Do you show and sell a nice diversity of products?

    ___ Have ALL the manufacturer tags been removed from ALL display products?

    ___ Are all display products current and up-to-date?

    ___ Are all displays well accessorized?

    ___ Do you show and sell accessory products?

    ___ Are the colors and buildouts attractive and current?

    ___ Are there any “holes” (missing product)?

  • The showroom at Brock McVey’s Louisville headquarters includes working displays such as this tub. (Photo by Pat Lenius)

  • Ease Of Shopping, Customer Amenities

    ___ Do you use flat screen monitors for client information and education?

    ___ Have you developed a CD or presentation to inform customers “Welcome to our business. This is what you can expect when working  with us.”?

    ___ Do you offer refreshments?

    ___ Are they “high-end” in keeping with your image?

    ___ Are refreshments served in a professional manner?

    ___ Are the public restrooms well done and clean all of the time?

    ___ Is there a “kids” area?

  • Making The Sale

    ___ Is there a “closing area”?

    ___ Are ALL quotes completed and delivered within 48 hours?

    ___  Is there a “formal” quote follow-up system that is used all the time?

    ___ Do you accept all major credit cards?

    ___ Are RGAs handled in a timely and efficient manner?

    ___ Do you tag your sold product with a room location?

    ___ Is your computer system customer and employee friendly?

    ___ Is your telephone system customer and employee friendly?

    ___ Is your phone answered in a courteous and professional manner all the time?

  • Questions For Showroom Management

    ___      Do you have an annual showroom budget?

    ___      Do you generate monthly showroom P & L statements? (And are they used as a management tool)?

    ___      Is the showroom treated as a profit center?

    ___      Do you have an annual showroom marketing plan?

    ___      Do you budget at least 3% of sales revenues for marketing the showroom?

    ___      Do you have a written, formal training program?

    ___      Do you teach selling skills?

    ___      Do you have written job descriptions for ALL showroom employees?

    ___      Do you do at least an annual job performance evaluation with each showroom employee?

    ___      Do you have a written 3-5 year business plan for the showroom?

    This is a pretty generic list of “Best Practices.” Depending on your main client focus, your demographics, your competition and a number of other issues, your list may vary. However, for a starter list of basics, it’s a pretty good guideline to help you make your showroom the very best it can be. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to e-mail or call me.

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