Is Your Shop Running Backwards?
Rising To The Occasion

Is Your Shop Running Backwards?

That may seem like a weird question but your answer will have a HUGE impact on every sale, from servicing the customer who pops in for a quick bouquet to selling the most lavish wedding!

Most of the 5,000 shops I have visited over the past 20 years have been running their sales backward, meaning that they let sales drive design. That approach, dear readers, is almost a guarantee that you’re working harder and earning less than you deserve. The correct approach, which I will explore below, is to have design drive sales. In other words: sell what you have!

In my webinars and workshops, I draw parallels between the restaurant business and the floral industry to demonstrate the “right” way to sell. Think about what the two industries have in common: perishable product, impatient customers, and a handcrafted, customized presentation. But that’s where the similarities end because, when it comes to the sales process, restaurants do a fabulous job selling what they have in the kitchen. When was the last time your server said, “Don’t bother with that menu, we’ll make whatever you want!” Nope, doesn’t happen. They sell what they have available—and they push what they need to move out before the ingredients expire.

Picture this scenario. I’m in a restaurant and the waiter asks the backwards question, “What would like us to make?” I respond, “I’m really in the mood for a unicorn burger!” What would happen? After some probable chuckling, the server would have to say, “Sorry we can’t do that. Can I offer you something else?” And I would be disappointed. However, if the server started the conversation with, “Today we have this phenomenal Kobe beef burger topped with bleu cheese,” I would probably jump at it and end up a happy customer. Are you starting to catch my drift on this?

Rethink the Big Question

I make regular test calls to shops across Canada and almost without fail I am asked, “And what kind of flowers would you like in the arrangement?” To illustrate the nonsensical nature of this approach, I respond, “Lilly of the Valley, please!” You can imagine the sales person’s flummoxed tone after hearing that!

“What flowers would you like?” is a dangerous question. Most customers—males in particular—will have no clue how to answer, but what if one says, “My wife really loves purple irises.” Guess how many purple irises are in the cooler. Exactly none! Now you have to call your wholesaler and pay a premium for that one bunch of flowers and potentially a delivery fee. It doesn’t stop there. You have to take the time to process and hydrate the flowers and you will probably only use a few stems to fill that order, leaving the other blossoms to languish in the cooler. Furthermore, you run the risk of holding up your other deliveries as you wait on those irises the next morning. You get it? You’re causing too much work. Instead, sell what you have. Let what’s in your cooler drive sales. Tell your customers what looks great or ask them about a favourite colour, not flower.

Sell Smarter

Think about what restaurants do. Servers know about specials and out-of-stock items before they engage customers. Florists need to follow suit. I was taught a long time ago to keep an eye on what’s in the cooler and what’s going on in the design room over the course of the day. That way, without checking, I could easily tell a customer, “We’re featuring garden flowers in bright spring colours” or “Many of our designs today include garden flowers such as roses, lilies, and snapdragons.” Three was the magic number when it came to naming flowers: three flowers gave customers enough of a sample to satisfy their curiosity without offering a laundry list of every blossom and foliage.

Don’t sell backwards anymore. Let design drive sales and you’ll have easier orders, fewer complaints, and bigger profits. I promise.

Tim Huckabee on Facebook
Tim Huckabee
Tim Huckabee AIFSE was born, raised and educated in Connecticut and moved to New York City in 1993 to start working at a high-end flower shop called Surroundings, where he learned every aspect of the flower business such as handling telephone sales and customer service issues and dealing with walk-in customers. In his frequent conversations with florists, he realized there was a dire lack of sales and service education in the industry. That motivated him, in 1997, to launch FloralStrategies, a company that trains florists in sales, customer service, and how to get the most out of their POS system. He visits 250 shops annually, hosts a monthly webinar series, speaks at floral conventions, and writes a monthly column for the Society of American Florists.
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