Subscribe to our newsletters & stay updated
I thought this time I would share some recent observations from my limited travels and excessive Zoom meetings. It seems there are a few themes of concern in showrooms; we should all be discussing them together.
While news agencies report about massive numbers of unemployed workers, almost every showroom location I speak with is looking for help. Whether it be in sales, warehousing, delivery or management, the collective response from owners is that most applicants are looking for too much money based on the experience they have. Or those who fit the income requirements are not the rock-star employees you want on your team.
It is a frustrating feeling to overpay, in your opinion, for someone who will not produce instant results. Balancing payroll with risk is always a challenge.
Costco, Target and others are paying $16 an hour across the board. Costco says its average pay is more than $24 an hour. Out of curiosity, have you ever been “wowed” by a Costco or Target employee? When you look at what they do functionally compared to showroom team members, is there any comparison? With that thought in mind, shouldn’t we be paying showroom employees more?
Don’t get me wrong; some showrooms do a fantastic job at fair compensation that motivates and promotes the profession. Unfortunately, there are two big issues here: some top-talent showroom people being grossly underpaid, and some mediocre, replaceable showroom staff demanding more pay who don’t deserve it.
Worse yet, they are never told they are mediocre and are not given the direction, measurement and communication to fix the mediocrity. Let’s take a look at both.
Top Vs. Average Talen
Top talent in the showroom business is expensive. Many owners cringe at the thought of paying those super salespeople the salaries they command. Tom Brady certainly proved how talent could change a team, and I assure you that when done properly, investing in key team members is always worth it. If you aren’t paying your top performers what they want (within reason), expect them to be cherry-picked. It’s just that simple.
For the record, I am not a Tom Brady fan, but you really can’t deny the accomplishments.
As for the average salesperson — the one focused on spiffs and commodity selling — there are options. Most aren’t being told what the benchmarks are for their location, what the gross profit percent and the amount should be, and what the overhead looks like. Once sales consultants realize that they aren’t profitable, the hope is they will think about every action they take to improve their value.
If not, plenty of great bartenders, hotel workers and other retail staff are out there who are smart, qualified and hungry to work. This rotten, COVID-19-filled world gives business owners a great gift — the ability to upgrade staff.
Now I have written at length before about this and suggest you keep using my advice on LinkedIn and Indeed.com to flush those rock stars out. The ones to hire are not looking for new work necessarily; they are sitting at a company tolerating a career, maybe even performing, but most likely behind a seasoned veteran and being held back.
I used to be a big advocate of using Indeed.com and wrote in previous columns how you should search monthly not only for talent on the site but which of your own employees are looking to leave you — which could be a good thing or a bad thing.
Lately, it seems that the better candidates are all waiting for you to find them on LinkedIn — at least in the sales and management categories. It is easy to see who cares about their personal brand and can share even the simplest of success stories to get your attention. Remember, this is a two-way street. I ran into several business connections with no LinkedIn profile or a profile in dire need of updating.
The Digital Divide
Today, it is not millennials you are looking for in the workforce, but Gen Z because they have spent more time on social networks and digital platforms than any previous generation. They value interpersonal experiences even more and expect them to count.
Companies or leaders who do not provide at least adequate digital profiles are simply not relevant to them. And don’t expect them to be interested in your company and want to work in what would appear to be an archaic industry.
Gen Z candidates are unique. Their attention spans are shorter than any generation before them — and not because they are dumb. They are unbelievably smart and learned to process information and data more efficiently than any previous generation. With so many choices available to them, Gen Z refuses to waste time. Working for a company with bad Google reviews and a lousy web presence keeps them away.
To engage them, you must sell them on the concept of opportunity.
Although there is an endless rallying cry to get more people to enter the trades and join the showroom sales profession, and while manufacturers have stepped it up in terms of marketing and social presence, the digital divide will continue to keep Gen Z workers away from our channel.
Enough of the people rant for one month — let’s move to the lead-time rant.
The other challenge I hear constantly regards the lead-time issues continuing to plague the showroom business. Those who have inventory are winning and winning big right now. I hope you are all smart enough to raise your prices along the way — and creative in your sourcing approaches. You need to do everything possible to look as if you have products to sell.
I don’t see the issue going away soon and expect lead times to extend on many import products across the board.
Vendors, you are not alone, but you need to communicate better. Having rough-in valves and not having trim for 25 weeks doesn’t create the happiest builder or homeowner. You aren’t going to win friends that way.
I would love to see vendors publishing “what is in stock” lists for the decorative markets. Then showrooms can work from the lists and possibly move some of that dead stock laying around.
And showrooms, you should be doing the same. Share socially what you have in stock and promote what you are good at right now. I’ve heard stories of 52-week lead times on some vitreous china out there. If you have some in stock, especially dead stock, wouldn’t it be great to move it along? Just a thought.
Also, showrooms should be satisfying customers by all means necessary — including buying product from competitors, retailers, Amazon or wherever you can get your mitts on product. Be creative and solve your customers’ needs. They will pay for it.