Trust Makes Sales Happen, Again and Again

Business man blindfolded with a money sign in one hand and a question mark in the other

Have you ever gotten the short end of the stick? The shaft? The old heave-ho? I have, and it sucked.

Six years ago, we decided that we would put a pool in our backyard. The kids were getting to the age where they wanted to have friends over and were getting invited to other kids’ houses to play. We thought that having a pool in our backyard would make our house the “go to” place as they got older. As a father of girls, I felt it appropriate and prudent to try to keep them here most of the time as their teen years approached.

The company we went with to put in the pool was more of a one-man band. I’ll spare you the story but suffice to say that the gentleman was much better at designing pools than project management. His understanding of physics and hydrodynamics left something to be greatly desired, and the pool began to deteriorate about 18 months later.

Ever since, we’ve searched for someone to fix the thing. Sure, we spent a nauseating amount of money putting in the water pit but, keeping in mind why we bought the thing in the first place, we were committed and had to get it taken care of. Translated to shopping parlance, it took us three years to finally pull the trigger and hire someone to fix the bane of our backyard bamboozle. THREE years!

In those three years, we interviewed countless contractors, each with fewer pluses than minuses. Some spent weeks investigating the pool, looking over every pebble and pump, to ensure that the quote offered would be spot on. Some would come back again and again, bringing subcontractors and foremen to talk about the project, only to never submit a bid. We had a builder walk into our backyard, talk about the surf for 20 minutes as he surveyed the situation and throw us a number with an outstretched “we gotta deal?” hand to shake. 

We were so desperate to have our pool in working order that we called some of these guys, only to have them vanish from our lives. What were we thinking? 

Finally, my wife said a guy who was referred by a friend of a neighbor who hired a designer to do their backyard knew a guy … That’s three generations deep. Tulio met us six months ago and he stuck with us, answered our questions, gave us a price that was by no means the cheapest and, after several back-and-forth dealings, I’m proud to say that our backyard is on the road to recovery. We finally found someone whom we liked and trusted. 

As I sat in our final meeting with Tulio to sign the contracts and give him a deposit, I thought about what it’s like to shop for furniture. I know there is no perfect sofa for your living room or perfect dining room set worthy of your Christmas dinner. But there are many that would work, right? So why the search? Why do consumers travel from store to store and website to website looking for what they believe to be the piece they’ve always hoped for?

My retailer friends, this search really doesn’t have that much to do with the furniture because, as consumers, we don’t know what we’re doing. Your shoppers don’t attend markets or speak to manufacturers’ representatives, let alone know what a mortis and tenon or a dovetail is. They don’t need to know. We need to know. Of course, our floors should be merchandised well and have a story to tell, but they also need to be staffed with people who can make an impression and build a relationship. Without that relationship and bond, the sale will merely be a transaction occurring for reasons that may have nothing to do with the merchandise purchased.

If you can find a measurement that tracks sales made versus sales transacted, you’d have a stat to live by. You could use it to coach lower-ranking salespeople to improve their performance in curating repeat sales and building their personal book of business, to become customers’ “guy” or “gal” in the furniture business.

You do have that measurement. It’s called sales made by repeat and referral. Do you know what your score is?  

About the Author

Jonathan Schulman
Jonathan Schulman is president of the International Home Furnishings Representatives Association and lives in California. He was a partner in two Ashley HomeStores in Southern California and has been a rep since 2010. He can be reached at j.schulman@ihfraboard.org.