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Asking showroom people how they handle pricing can lead to some interesting conversations. Many showroom professionals use a flat discount-off-list habit that has been common for ages. For some reason, we think consumers know that 25 percent off list is the “right” price. But why?
Maybe it’s time to consider giving consumers a fair price.
In a true luxury setting — which showrooms are — there should be a flat price. The best luxury brands never offer more than a 10 percent discount. While a flat-pricing policy may or may not work for you, I think it’s time to discuss the issue because showrooms are leaving money on the table every day.
Just look at what is happening in the retail space. AC Moore, a 141-location fixture in the craft store market, is going out of business. More than 60 Bed Bath and Beyond stores will shutter this year, and I expect more to follow. AC Moore used its marketing dollars to promote a constant state of discount. Every advertisement included a 40-percent-off coupon. Same with Bed Bath and Beyond. Consumers — especially millennials — aren’t coupon clippers.
I personally never looked beyond the cover of the ad that hit my mailbox as it went directly to the trash. But I did have direct experience with those coupon discounts — and not a good one.
I went into an AC Moore store to buy something by chance and asked the cashier for a 40-percent-off coupon to use on my purchase. After all, I had seen them on practically every flyer they sent out and I was sure there were at least a few just lying around the store.
But instead of being accommodating, the employee’s answer was, “I’m sorry, we don’t give them out — you have to bring them in.” That response immediately turned their marketing into a negative for me — and made me feel as if I was being ripped off.
After my one bad experience, my transactions in that category began going to Amazon instead.
Decorative showroom professionals need to consider some key points when it comes to pricing:
Are you talking about a discount off list?
Or are you just saying, “The price is $XXX”?
Worse yet, are you asking consumers, “Who are you working with?”
That tells them right upfront they are being ripped off. I struggle with the idea of openly discussing this because everyone will ask for the “real price.”
If you ask, most people will say they just want to be treated fairly. Unfortunately, the word “fair” is very underused in showroom pricing conversations. Right from the start, salespeople should communicate a promise to their customers — to treat them fairly — and should ask customers to speak up if they ever feel they aren’t being treated properly.
Salespeople also should continue to check in during the sales process with phrases such as, “Do you think it would be fair to consider adding the accessories into the quote?” or “Would it be fair to ask what your timeline would be to finish this project?”
Asking questions similar to these help customers relax and feel comfortable that you are heading down the path toward the sale. Creating that feeling often accelerates the close. And if customers are happy with the promises you’re making on service and value, conversations about price tend to happen much less frequently.
Remember, no one comes into your showroom by accident. Much like my visit to AC Moore, people need something when they visit a retail store. They aren’t visiting your decorative showroom to see the latest light or toilet. They have a plan and a project in mind that includes the products you sell. It is up to you to build an environment of trust that makes them feel comfortable telling you what they want to achieve — and how you can help.
Mapping the Customer Journey
Even though I’ve focused on discussing pricing models in this column, I also want to emphasize the importance of having a plan in place to introduce every customer to your showroom in the right way.
The first step of this plan should begin the moment they enter your door. It starts with properly greeting customers, offering them a beverage and giving them a tour. And it should all be so rehearsed that it feels entirely natural for you and your team. The best companies map out a customer journey and train their people on it. Think of Disney.
Part of your process should be to make sure deceptive pricing goes away. From car dealerships to orthodontics, you can tell which industries have made consumers feel ripped off. They are the ones for which consumers have turned to new online sources to avoid the trouble.
From Carvana to Invisalign, the business models will continue to evolve to a net price model. The more we make it painful for our customers to do their projects with us, the faster online sources will grow. We have to work hard to get customers in the showroom. And when we get them, we have to treat them right
So how do showrooms effectively get traffic? Not by sending out coupons or promotions for freebies, that’s for sure — it only attracts the bottom feeders. The most effective marketing begins on your website. What customers see on your website should accurately reflect what they’ll see in your showroom.
It must be optimized, have lifestyle photos as well as photos of people interacting in the showroom. It should give customers the opportunity to book an appointment at their convenience. It should contain clear statements on why they should visit you, and what your differentiators are. It should not include mentions of discounts and percentages off.
If you do include an appointment option on your site, make it simple with just a few necessary fields such as name, email, phone and maybe when they would like to come in. This is not the place to ask about goals for their project or try to engage in discussion points that people don’t want to be bothered filling out. Save that for your in-person meeting.
I understand some customers are very price-sensitive, but they typically will be buying from etailers such as Amazon or Wayfair and not your showroom. If they want a $30 bath faucet, don’t be afraid to move them along politely.
In every market, there are plenty of consumers who want something better. They entertain in their homes. They appreciate that the products we offer are investments. And they recognize their need for you as their trusted advisor to steer them in the right direction at a fair price and exceptional value.
Experiment with this. Try improving your margins by adding some extra profit on accessories and add-on products instead of going the discount route of offering 25 percent off. It’s time to stop the madness of low-profit showroom items. You’ve made a significant investment in your showroom, and if your salespeople are content with selling those 20 percent GP items, it may be time to rethink the direction you’ve been going. Happy selling!