Over the weekend Laura and I went shopping for some new furniture. It was interesting to note the responses of various sales people at the different stores we visited. We developed a kind of game to see which might be working on commission by the level of “leechdom” they exhibited. I’ll rank these from 1 to 5, with 1 meaning that they probably receive little or no commission on sales, and 5 being the highest.
Exhibit A – A new furniture store that has recently opened in a location that has previously played host to two now-defunct furniture stores. We had our doubts. Some retail locations are just jinxed. The sales person greeted us, then disappeared. We never got her name. In fact, the tell-tale line of “just ask for me if you have any questions” was never uttered. However, she did make herself available when we did have questions. Level of leechdom – 1.
Exhibit B – A traditional furniture store, and one from which we have purchased several times. We were greeted at the door and given a name and the standard “ask for me” line. We were shadowed as we browsed, but not obtrusively. The sales person was available to answer any questions we had. We got her card as well as a written record of the pieces in which we showed interest. Level of leechdom – 3.
Exhibit C – A “design showroom” which features one particular well-known brand of furniture. When we walked in the door we saw that a design seminar was taking place in the middle of the store. We were invited to sit in by the salesperson who greeted us, but we declined. We got a name, card, and the standard line. Furthermore, the salesperson kept saying that she would be glad to assist us in designing our own personal living space, and would even be available for in-home consultations. She insisted on getting our home phone number and other contact info. We just wanted a new sofa and love seat, not a new lifestyle. Level of leechdom – 5.
Exhibit D – A national brand furniture store featuring inexpensive furniture. We were greeted by a salesperson with very poor command of the English language. We got the name and line and an obvious eagerness to sell us something. The guy then disappeared. While we were browsing, he greeted at least three other groups in like fashion. To him, it was a numbers game. Don’t worry about sticking with one customer, but try to rack up as many as possible just in case one turns out to be a sale. We never spoke with him again after the initial encounter. Level of leechdom – 4.
Of these four, the salesperson at Exhibit B was actually the most helpful and most pleasant to be around. A and B were probably comparable, and had we found something we liked at store A, I think we would have gotten a similar response. C came off as too pushy, and D was just clueless.
The capitalist in me understands the concept of commissions. You are paid in proportion to the amount of sales you generate. I see firsthand how this works in the larger projects with which I deal. Someone who lands a bug deal with a school district should be rewarded for their work. However, I have to wonder about its effectiveness in retail. It may serve as a motivation for your sales force, but it certainly doesn’t improve the sales-customer interaction.
I would prefer that salespeople be paid a reasonable amount. If there is to be any reward system, it should be a bonus based on an overall sales amount, rather than based on individual interactions.
But, I guess that when you get right down to it, it does come down to making that individual sale. Perhaps those that have to work on some commission system could just be a little less obvious about it.