By Wong, Jennifer
Art Business News , Vol. 27, No. 11
Success in the framing industry involves an element you can't see, touch or mount on a wal--a good sales representative, Here reps for several framing distributors share their secrets,
Everyone in the framing industry knows a sales representative's job is to increase product sales. But that shouldn't be his/her No. 1 priority. A sales rep's first priority should be to build relationships with existing and new clients, one at a time.
"A good salesperson doesn't think in terms of, `how can I increase my company's business $25,000, $50,000 or $100,000 next year," said Murray Raphel, monthly columnist for Art Business News and a leading marketing expert."A good salesperson asks, `how can I establish strong relationships between the customers and this business? Because if I establish stronger relationships, they'll do more business.'"
Framing distributors are aware that competition for their frame shop clientele is fierce and that many companies offer quality products. More often than not, the decision to buy moulding from a particular company is an emotional decision based on the personality and the existing relationship between the frame shop and their sales representative. And learning about the intricacies of the relationships and methods involved in those relationships can provide shop owners with several techniques to improve their sales skills.
"Business is a matter of relationships," agreed Ron Berich, vice president of sales and marketing at Arquati and Proframe Mouldings. "It's important our sales people work not only for Arquati but also on behalf of the frame shops themselves. No one gains if it's one-sided. Our representatives have to work for both concerns."
Establishing stronger relationships involves one key element--trust--and building it is not cheap. It involves an investment of time, above-par service and the commitment on the part of the sales reps to making the frame shops more profitable. Dedication to the success of each individual retailer's business pays off handsomely in improved profits for the rep's company and a strong loyalty base. A frame shop's dedication to its customers is equally as important.
"Twenty percent of a company's customers will leave every year no matter how good they are," said Raphel. "The reasons they leave could be anything from the customer moving to switching to the competition. The question is, `how do I keep doing my business?' We go back to the beginning, which is to establish relationships. It is a never ending process."
A fundamental aspect to building relationships is providing reliability. Prospective clients feel that the more time a sales rep has invested in the relationship with them, the less likely a rep will abandon them when they have a concern. Customers believe that if a rep is not persistent when they want their business, the rep may not be around when they do have it.
"A customer needs to know you are going to be there on a continuous basis," said Koren Kirby, vice president and sales representative for Presto Frame and Moulding. "I know when I first started going out and selling in the area, there were customers I went to who said, `Look, I've never seen you before and I don't know who you are. I'm not going to buy from you the first, second or third time.' But then, on the fourth visit, they'd write a huge order. They wanted to make sure I was going to keep coming back."
"Customers reason that they could write an order and never see you again. People need to know that you're going to be available to them," continued Kirby.
"I'm sure you've heard the expression about `making the close,' as the most important aspect in a salesperson's job," said Raphael. "I've always been unhappy with that phrase because to me, that implies shutting the door and walking away. To me, when a sale is made, it is the beginning of the next sale."
Knowing Your Customer
Knowledge of the customer is another fundamental aspect to building a strong relationship. …