Using Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn are all common ways to start great conversations online, but you should never count out email.
In one email thread that lit a fire among mattress industry experts, Roger Cunningham, owner of The Bed Store in Knoxville, Tennessee, asked: “Do RSA’s have a role/responsibility in bringing in “new” customers? If so, what are some of the ‘proven’ methods of engaging that responsibility?”
He went on to explain that it seemed to him that the common thought among RSA’s is that it’s the company’s responsibility to get potential customers through the door through advertising and marketing dollars.
“I have always believed that marketing and advertising dollars’ primary role was to build and support the brand,” Cunningham says. “I have long contended that two-thirds of a company’s sales should be generated off of referrals.”
Roger Pickett, president of Murmain Mattress, said that he has two or three salespeople that work their own system of referrals, but the rest wait for customers to come in.
Mark Quinn offered an answer based on experience.
“When I was young and calling on retail stores, I would always ask the top RSA on big selling floors what it was that made them No. 1,” Quinn says. “It was almost always their ability to connect to people, and how they followed up after the sale. Remembering names, personal phone calls prior to a big event to get people in, etc. My old boss, Brian Tracy-national sales trainer, used to make a joke….’Salespeople that don’t use referrals have very skinny children.’”
He adds that these days, a referral is in many ways easier to get than it was back then, and says there are four things you can do to get more referrals today.
- You are not a transactional business, you are a relationship business built on the back of great consumer experiences that end up in transactions. The best way to deliver that incredible experience has a lot to do with the connection you are able to make when they are in the store. Do they feel like you are there to serve them or sell to them?
- Social media training with your salesforce can help you set guard rails around what they should and should not say and do. This training would include them signing a social media policy so everyone is all on the same page.
That encouragement would also come with a bank of assets that they could pull from to share inside of their circles. For example, how important it is to be fitted for a mattress instead of relying 100% on the star ratings of strangers.
- Work on your selling process so that a referral is built into the end of any transaction. Many times the RSA says, “do you know of anyone that needs a new mattress or piece of furniture?” Changing that question into something more specific can make a big difference in the outcome.
How about: “Do you know of anyone that you go to church with, live close to, or work with that might have an interest in a bed that is this comfortable?” Let that consumer really start to see the faces of people that live in their neighborhood.
- Incentivize the referral or celebrate it when your people have success. Pay them a higher commission rate if they set appointments as you prepare for a scheduled event. The RSA is the guide and the consumer is the hero.
Cunningham agreed with Quinn, adding, “I am in total agreement that we, as retailers need to use our advertising and marketing budgets in a way that builds trust in both the experience potential customers can expect from us and education and awareness of the value of “the right mattress” in the equation of a good night’s sleep and a better life.”
Mark Kinsley also jumped in and said that he thinks creating a mentality that RSAs have a role and responsibility to bring in new customers starts with culture and culture starts at the top—culture is what you create or what you tolerate.
“A friend of mine gave me a great piece of advice that creates an atmosphere of 1. personal responsibility 2. Accountability,” Kinsley explains. “He called it standards and goals. The leadership team creates the minimum standards and each salesperson sets their goals in relation. For example, the standard is to get five referrals each week. The salesperson can set her goal at eight. Another might set his goal at six. Either way, they’ve decided to try and exceed the standard and in the process have taken ownership of that goal. From a technical perspective, I think leadership needs to put processes and tools in place to help salespeople succeed.”
As you think about getting more referrals in your store, consider this: One of the greatest salespeople of all time, Joe Girad—who is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the seller of the most cars in a year—sent a simple card to every single person he’d ever interacted with—whether they bought from him or not.
That card basically said the same thing: “I like you!” And he eventually sent about 13,000 cards per month.