Hardware Retailing

FEB 2018

Hardware Retailing magazine is the pre-eminent how-to management magazine for small business owners and managers in the home improvement retailing industry.

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February 2018 | HARDWARE RETAILING 49 The training takes new hires through each step of a sale, from presentations and sales calls to finding new clients and how to manage their travel times and routes to different customers throughout a day. "We teach each step of the sales cycle, from the moment you walk in the door to when you close the sale. We teach them how to interact with clients, from the owner to the guy in the backroom stocking inventory. We're willing to invest in these employees and build them into what we want and need them to be," Arnold says. Training also consists of role-playing and mentorship programs, allowing trainees to grow comfortable with potential business interactions and experiencing the workday with a more experienced colleague. "These first interactions can be intimidating. Your employees want to make an impression, but they don't know where to start," Arnold says. "If you want to get value from your people on the road, there has to be a plan." While Florence Hardware's training methods were developed in-house, Arnold suggests any retailer take advantage of distributor or association relationships to build training programs for salespeople. Trainers can tweak these programs with specific methods or inspirations to mold a sales team for their particular markets. All In on Infrastructure Another aspect of managing an outside sales team is support throughout the company. Koopman Lumber has built an infrastructure that backs up its team, with one inside salesperson for every two that works outside to offer support. Another example of a way Koopman Lumber's outside sales team is supported is through the in-house engineering department, which specs and rates products for specific tasks, like building in a hurricane zone. These backup structures keep an outside sales force informed while freeing them to care for their clients, Brookhouse says. "Our sales guys just need to pick up a phone and get an adviser to get that information for a client. It really helps streamline information for both salespeople and clients," Brookhouse says. Equipment is another area of support where Koopman Lumber has invested. The company has three mobile showrooms that can accompany a salesperson to a job site for a client to peruse. It also has a mobile point-of-sale system that allows salespeople access to the full inventory when on the road. Most POS providers now have mobile options among their packages, Brookhouse says, but it's not the equipment that is necessarily difficult to put together. Building a secure and fast network that can allow access from remote devices and outside portals is the key. Even with all the tools and training that can be used to expand an outside sales role, both Brookhouse and Arnold put attitude and culture as the true linchpins of a successful team. Empathy and the ability to buy in on serving a customer's needs are the true calling cards of success. "If you have people who are genuine, who understand that they're there not to sell the newest, most expensive item but to help their client be successful, you're on the right track," Brookhouse says. "If you get people that grasp that concept, the results speak for themselves." " If you have people who are genuine, who understand that they're there not to sell the newest, most expensive item but to help their client be successful, you're on the right track. " —Tony Brookhouse, Koopman Lumber

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