Let’s have some fun and play a little game. I’m going to be your typical customer and come shopping at your showroom.

I’m going to ask many of the questions and make many of the observations that your customers have and make. We’re going to go through a complete shopping experience - from beginning to end. Your job will be to grade yourself and your business on your answers and observations to my questions. If you are totally honest in your answers you will be able to develop a “to do” list for items/areas that you might want to improve.

Let’s face it - it’s a brutal market out there. There’s less business to spread around, and for some darned reason there’s more competition. It doesn’t seem fair, but it is what it is. And your challenge is to be the very best decorative plumbing and hardware showroom in your marketplace.

Our background

First, let me tell you a little bit about us (your typical client). We’re both 62 years old (boomers ), happily married and have three children (all out of the house and in college) and two grandchildren (with another on the way).

My wife and I have been fairly successful at our jobs  We plan on retiring in the next couple of years. We own our home and plan to stay in it for the foreseeable future. We’ve invested well, and in spite of the problems on Wall Street are pretty comfortable. Our house is 25 years old and with the kids out of the house and retirement looming, we plan on doing a couple of major remodel jobs.

Our first project is going to be a really nice master bath. We’re going to tear down some walls and make it a first-class retreat from the busy world we live in. We’ve done some initial homework on the Internet and a fair amount of browsing in home design magazines. We’ve set our sights on a whirlpool tub for two, an extra-large

shower with steamer and lots of showerheads. The following are some of the many questions we’ll have and observations we’ll be making through the process of working with you.

Hey folks, this is hypothetical and my job is to touch on as many points as possible so don’t feel like I’m being overly picky. This is what your clients are looking for and expecting to happen.

Here come the questions

The very first thing we’ll do is check out your website

and those of your competitors. So, is your site the very best in your marketplace? We’ve even gotten into social media and will be looking for you here. Do you have a presence and how strong is it?

Next, we’ll map directions to your showroom (if these aren’t provided on your website). How easy is it to find and get to? Is it in a customer-friendly location? What’s our initial impression of your physical building going to be? Is it in keeping with the higher-end products you promote and sell? What’s the landscaping look like? Is there convenient parking for showroom customers? Is the front entrance marked? Do you have front window displays? Are they done well? Are the windows clean? Is the front door full of decals and formal announcements, or does it only show days and hours of operation (professionally done)? Is there a nice-looking receptacle for cigarettes and trash? Is the front entrance and walk-up clean and appealing?

We are like most of the clients coming into your showroom for the first time. When we walk through the front door we will look to the right, then the left, then down the middle and in 30 seconds (yes, half a minute) we will make our first impression of your space. This isn’t really fair, but it is what it is. Does it have a nice, open feeling? Does it appear to be laid out well? Is the lighting well-done and comfortable?

Then, we’d like to take a minute or two to “adjust” to the environment. But then we’ll be looking for someone to greet us. Do you meet and greet everyone coming into your showroom within the first two minutes? Do you introduce yourself and get their names? Do you start the qualifying experience in a timely manner? For example, who are they, why are they there, what’s their time frame, have they been in your showroom before, and have they been shopping anywhere else? And all the other important questions you have to ask to make a determination whether it will be worth your time and their time.

As part of the initial meeting and greeting do you offer a refreshment? Do you serve it in quality cups, glasses, bottles and with a napkin? As you are learning about their project (in our case a really nice, high-end master bath), do you brag about yourself and mention your experience, qualifications and background? Do you tell them why your company is the very best in your marketplace at helping people select and buy great products for beautiful master baths?

Once you have established a nice rapport with my wife and I(and you better be able to do this fairly quickly), and you have a good feel for what our project is, it’s time to start looking at products. Do you have a nice “takeoff form” that lists everything that we might want in our new master bath? Do you use this as we walk around the showroom and start to select product? It could be on an iPad. Since we’re “boomers,” we’re not the most techie clients you’ll work with, but we like being able to use all of our senses as we explore your showroom. One thing that has impressed us in other higherend showrooms is a fl at-screen TV with various educational videos playing. Do you have this in your showroom? Do you have a short video telling your company’s story? How about videos that tell the story of various products and manufacturers that you represent? These also can be shown on your website.

Now that you’re showing us various products, are you doing a good job explaining (“selling”) the various features and benefits of these products? I can’t stress enough how very important this is. This adds value to your presentation and will make the price more palatable.

During a four-hour (+/-) walk-through doing the selection, one of us will probably need to use your public restroom. Is it well-done and in keeping with the image you want to project? Is it clean?

Return business

My wife and I are not great shoppers – we prefer to try and limit the number of places we have to go to select products for our home. So my question is do you sell the tile, granite, lighting and bathroom furniture we will be needing for our project? (i.e. do you offer onestop shopping or will we have to go to several other places?) And if we do, we very well might give the business to the showroom that is the most customer-friendly in this regard.

That reminds me, we have come to your store on Saturday. This was the most convenient day for us since we both work. The other showrooms in this marketplace weren’t open on Saturdays. So, considering this, are your days and hours of operation as customerfriendly as they should be?

We all know that the past few years have been pretty tough from an economic point of view, but have you worked hard to keep your showroom fresh and up-to-date? Or, have you let it slip because of budgetary constraints? A little paint, moving some products around and replacing old with new goes a long way toward keeping your showroom looking and feeling current.

We’ve completed the selection process, we’re very comfortable with you, your company and your products. You’ve done a great job answering all of our questions and selling the many value points you have to offer. Certainly price is very important, but we expect you to make a “fair” profit on the sale so we won’t be inclined to “beat up on you.” We know we might be able to save some money by buying on the Internet or “shopping” your bid to your competitors, but because of our personal time constraints and the fact that we are comfortable with you, we trust you to extend a fair and competitive price to us. So, is your pricing fair to both your clients and your company?

Now that we have placed the orders with 100% down, because you’ve explained that 80% of the products are “special order,” our main concern will be that you do what you say you are going to do. Will you deliver on time? Will it be complete and accurate? Will you inspect the product before delivering? Will you be available and responsive to questions and problems? Then, we wonder if you’ll surprise us with a nice personalized thank you?

And, a very bigand, if you do a great job on this project, you will be the only place we’ll go to for our kitchen and powder room remodels,andwe’ll be sure to tell everyone we know what a great job you’ve done. Let’s face it, referrals are your No. 1 source of new opportunities.

So, in this brief “case study,” I’ve asked you about 50 important questions. Go back and answer them honestly. Make a list of the things that you can do better. Most of them cost very little or nothing. Then go and fix them. Make your client’s shopping experience the very best you possibly can. It’ll bring them back and earn you those valuable referrals that will help keep you in business.

Good selling!