Industry: Retail
Gallery Furniture of Houston, Texas, is a national leader in sales among independent furniture retailers. Gallery Furniture prides itself on its ability to deliver furniture the same day a customer purchases, often within hours of payment. This “today”philosophy reaches into all aspects of the company—from the customer shopping experience to deep-rooted community service commitments.

The Challenge
As the housing market flourished over the last thirty years, Gallery Furniture enjoyed years of profitable sales and growth. But with the burst of the housing bubble in late 2007, the furniture retailer took a hard hit.

“When the housing business fell through the roof, we saw a huge decrease in our customer base,” says Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, owner of Gallery Furniture. “In order to grow during the recession, we had to innovate or else we were going to evaporate.”

It was that need to innovate and take a larger share of the dwindling furniture market that caused McIngvale to go looking for a model to change behavior within his 150-person company.

“I could do as much blubbering, cajoling, screaming, and hollering as I wanted to try to get my team to change behavior, but I knew it wouldn’t get us where we needed to go,” says McIngvale. “I was looking for a process that would get my people to want to change their behavior and act in ways that give the customers what they’re looking for.”

The Training
A voracious reader, McIngvale skimmed a review of Influencer in the newspaper and was interested enough to pick up the book. After reading it, he thought, “These guys really get it.” It wasn’t long before he asked the experts at VitalSmarts to train his leadership team in Influencer Training. The group of 20 leaders spent the entire session focused on the challenges facing their business and implementing the Influencer principles into their goals.

After his management team was trained, McIngvale ensured that everyone in his company—from the furniture loaders to the truck drivers to the sales team—also got trained. Over the next year, 150 employees went through Influencer Training, and McIngvale occasionally invited outside vendors and key customers to attend sessions.

“We now use Influencer Training and the other VitalSmarts training courses as the main management tool for the whole business,” McIngvale reflects.

The Solution
Using the organizational change model from Influencer Training, McIngvale and his leadership team instituted six different initiatives to innovate the way they do business, including: revamping their sales approach, reducing delivery reworks, improving safety and employee wellness, and reducing inventory. One of the challenges McIngvale addressed was changing a 30-year-old sales process from one of fielding walk-in customer traffic to prospecting with customers who were not ready to buy. McIngvale saw this as a critical innovation, since the recession reduced walkin traffic and 60 percent of those who did walk in left without purchasing. That 60 percent was clearly low-hanging fruit they could not afford to lose.

To change decades of behavior, McIngvale identified two vital behaviors the sales teamneeded to adopt. First, they needed to not change their demeanor from “Can I help you?” to “I’m disappointed you’re not going to buy” when a customer was not ready to purchase. The second behavior was becoming prospectors rather than salespeople the moment a customer wanted to leave and getting the customer’s contact information so they could follow up.

To ensure his sales team adopted these vital behaviors, McIngvale instituted a change plan that involved targeting six different sources of influence. Examples of four of those sources include:

Personal Motivation: McIngvale’s customer relationship management plan was met with resistance and cynicism. In order to motivate the team, he used vicarious and personal experience demonstrating the value of the new behaviors. He recruited a few influential salespeople to spearhead the process and, once they started seeing success, he shared the stories with the rest of the team.

“We told stories about guys who had sold $40,000 worth of furniture to a customer who originally left but came back because of personal follow-up,” McIngvale reports. “As the team members saw success, they were willing to try it out. When they began seeing similar results, momentum grew and behavior started to change.”

Personal Ability: McIngvale knew he needed to teach his sales team the skills to become prospectors. He led three short meetings a day and a 90-minute meeting each Thursday to coach the team on how to tactfully and professionally get contact information from prospects. The team also received coaching on how to use iPads  to send follow-up emails to customers.

Social Motivation: McIngvale relied heavily on peer pressure to change behavior. When a salesperson closed a sale from a return customer, leaders sent verbal shoutouts over their radios congratulating the salesperson. Every salesperson heard the shoutout on his or her individual radio and offered similar congratulations.

Structural Ability: McIngvale says giving every salesperson an iPad was key to their success. It allowed the salesperson to get contact information on the spot from a customer and follow up by email minutes after the customer left. When making a sale, they also could process personal identification and credit cards without leaving the customer. The customers felt more secure, and the salespeople had the tools to provide the kind of service that truly delighted their customers.

Changing the behavior of their sales team made a bottom-line impact. McIngvale says that in October 2011, they did $250,000 in plus sales with customers who were contacted via the new prospecting behavior. He also attributes the new process to creating lifelong customers who were impressed by the quality of service they received.

But McIngvale’s success doesn’t stop there. All six of his influencer initiatives have contributed to tremendous results for Gallery Furniture. For example, similar plans to identify vital behaviors and target six sources of influence have helped the company reduce delivery reworks from 20 to 30 a day down to 1 or 2 a day—saving the company $1,000,000 a year.

Additionally, the safety and wellness change plan has resulted in a serious reduction of workplace accidents. According to McIngvale, Gallery Furniture hasn’t had a serious accident resulting in time lost on the job in four months. Prior, the company averaged two accidents per month. McIngvale has also lost 40 pounds along with most of the guys on his delivery team—leading to healthier, happier, and safer employees.  McIngvale is thrilled with the results his Influencer plans have had on his business and, ultimately, on the customer.

“What the Influencer process has done for us is, number one, it’s made for happier employees and happier customers,” McIngvale reflects. “Number two, it’s helped us stay relevant in a very challenging economic environment. It’s taught us how to do more with less. And ultimately, it’s helped us delight more customers, which enables us to sell more furniture and stay in business.”

Results At a Glance:

• Estimated increase of $250,000 in sales per month after changing 30 years of sales behavior

Reduced expenses by $1,000,000 annually by cutting delivery reworks from 20 to 30 a day down to 1 or 2 a day

Significant reduction in on-thejob accidents

Healthier and more satisfied workforce

Improved customer experience

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