Rare air
Photo courtesy of iStock

Well, darn it! I was on point to do an interview with a superstar showroom sales consultant, but was told her management pulled the plug on it. 

This would have been my first column on an individual and I think it would have made a great read. I know the gal I was going to interview was disappointed, but I also understand and respect her management’s decision. If I had a superstar selling an average of $300,000 a month I probably wouldn’t want to share with the world who it was and how she accomplished these incredible numbers.

However, I learned enough to put together a phantom story. There will be no names, faces or places mentioned, but I think I can fill in some blanks.

My superstar is a young lady in her mid-30s. She graduated from college and had some interior design interest and experience. Her first job was going to work for a fairly large plumbing wholesaler that had a branch in a very high-end geographic community. Big houses were the norm.

She went through the normal training of learning the computer system, gained lots of product knowledge and then even more on-the-job training. Over the past 13 years she has developed some great relationships with plumbers, builders and designers. She knows her products and their price points. She’s very personable and professional. She works hard — more than the customary 40 hours a week. Most importantly, she does what she says she will do. 

Her company and its main fixture line provided some excellent sales skills training, but she didn’t stop there. She read books and attended workshops on the subject. She developed her outstanding sales skills pretty much on her own. I would encourage you to do the same thing. Your extra effort will pay some nice dividends. 


Bringing home the bucks

I know quite a few sales stars that average $150,000 per month and even a few that touch on the $200,000 per month area. But my superstar averages $300,000 and at a very respectable gross profit margin. I can hardly get my head around this. I know how much hard work goes into producing this much. 

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect this saleswoman has one or two full-time assistants working with her and helping with the clerical work. I know if she worked for me I would have her selling, doing the meeting and greeting, and product selection with clients. I would try to free her up of as much of the busy work as possible.

A few months ago I wrote an article on Pirch, a relatively new business that is following an all-new business plan approach on how to sell high-end decorative plumbing and hardware, appliances and outdoor kitchen products. In addition to the nicest built-out showrooms I have ever seen, Pirch uses a sales-team approach to working with clients. The experienced, proven sales consultants meet and greet the clients, do the qualifying and help the clients select their products. This information is then turned over to an experienced team of backup people to put the quote together. 

This group also does the majority of the interfacing with the customer after the order is written. This frees up the sales consultants to sell! Wow! What a unique idea — keep salespeople selling and have folks that are good at dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s doing the time-consuming paperwork.

When I interviewed the owner/president of Pirch he related that the company’s goal was to have every sales person averaging $150,000-plus per month in sales and making a comparable compensation — yes, $150,000-plus a year. Compare these numbers to the average we find when Supply House Times does its showroom survey where the average sales and compensation is in the $40,000 to $50,000 range (sales per month and annual compensation). The name of the game is productivity!

When I asked my unnamed superstar if she made more than $150,000 per year in compensation for her $300,000 per month in sales, she said, “Yes!” I wholeheartedly agree with this strategy. I would be very happy to compensate BIG for BIG productivity (in sales and margin).


Finding that next superstar

Remember my credo for good human-resource management? Hire the best, train the best, communicate the best, motivate the best and compensate the best. This will make your company … the best. Did you read the last one of the five I listed? Compensate the best! When you do this you should expect to attract and keep the best people and achieve the best productivity.

So my superstar works a lot with homeowners in the selection of product, but the bulk of her sales are to tradespeople (plumbers, builders and designers). Her showroom has a wide range of products on display: decorative plumbing, appliances, lighting, bath furniture and more. Her company represents many of the well-known manufacturers and also offers some products branded just for them (giving her an exclusive on these products). Her company has a respectable website and does more marketing of the showroom than the average wholesaler. Since the company caters strongly to the tradespeople, and the bulk of referrals to homeowners come from them, the marketing includes several events a year in the showroom.

The company has outside salespeople that call on plumbers and builders with the idea of driving business into the showroom. It also has figured out how to make sure that virtually the entire showroom-generated business gets credited to the showroom. There’s still many of you out there that let showroom quotes be ordered at the counter or through the wholesale side.  This skews the numbers and isn’t fair to the folks in the showroom that did all the work putting the quote together.

My superstar is married, wants to have children and is trying to get a better balance of work/personal in her life. I heartily endorse this. Life is too short to be consumed only by work. At the same time, in order to be very good at your job, it requires dedication and hard work. 

Finding the balance is the key. For too many folks out there, it’s just a job. They work because they have to. They put in 40 hours a week, but there’s no passion in it. If you have to work, why not make a commitment to be the very best you can be? This takes a lot of self-motivation and self-commitment, but the rewards are well worth it.

The star of my story experiences work days a lot like yours. Clients come in (in her case, most are by appointment), the phone rings off the hook, emails pour in, clients want to know where their product is and present the everyday problems of “This isn’t what I thought it would be,” or “I took it out of the box and it was scratched.” Fortunately, my star has some backup folks to defer to, but she walks in the same shoes you do. Although maybe she can afford a more expensive pair!

My superstar has worked hard at networking from day one! The more folks she can get passing out referrals and pointing new clients to her, the more opportunities she will have to tell her story and strut her stuff. Speaking of strutting, she has learned how to sell the many value points about herself and her company. She’s learned how to “brag” without being obnoxious.  She makes sure folks know that she is very good at what she does and that her company and products are the best.  You can — and should — be doing the same thing.

She has learned how to qualify her clients very quickly and very well. She knows that time is money and that she won’t be able to achieve that $300,000 per month in sales unless she spends her time where the money is.

My hero also has a passion for what she does. She loves selling the high-end products to high-end clients. She loves the creative side of the business and being able to help her customers turn dreams into reality. At the end of another nine- or 10-hour day, she can sit back with her husband, enjoy a glass of wine and feel very satisfied. She scored big for her company and her clients, and she has the satisfaction of knowing she truly is a superstar in this great industry of ours.

I hope by sharing this much that I may have motivated you to become that next superstar. Good selling!