The Power of Props

One of your favorite childhood activities can be a successful selling tool in your showroom.

Let’s take a trip back in time — for some of us, that means going way back. Think of those beautiful days you spent in elementary school when times were simpler. One of the great joys from those early school days was Show & Tell. While a good story was always lovely to hear, when there was an excellent visual associated with the story, it became memorable.

While this may seem like a simple trick for keeping a classroom’s attention, it also works with your customers. Using a sales prop is a powerful way to grab attention or break a state of mind…but every prop must have a purpose.

We are already decades into the digital Information Age, yet the use of technology continues to be increasing in selling situations. Video signs and augmented reality are great ways to engage your customers, but there is added value when you use a physical prop during the presentation. How? By anchoring aspects of your selling story in the client’s memory.

The Purpose of Props

Props are great tools for emphasizing your key points, but they can also be used to break a mental state that the customer is in. Props provide visual or tactile evidence that supports your sales presentation, simplifies complex details, and aids those customers who learn kinesthetically.

Even the most demonstrative salespeople can lose a client’s attention; using props is a way to reel them back into the presentation and get them involved in the process. Introducing props must be part of an overall strategy that includes timing. Keep this in mind: If their attention fades or there is an important detail you’re about to share, hand the client the prop and share the information.

A simple way to reboot attention is to hand the client something. What do you give? It depends. You could hand them one of your in-house marketing assets that is in sync with the conversation you’re having, or you could break the presentation and draw their attention to an item on display that is not what they are looking for.

Let’s say they came in for lighting. While showing them products based on their request, you ask: “By the way, what is your opinion about this wall art?” You are effectively using the wall art on display as a prop to refocus the client back to the sales conversation at hand.

Props can also be used to shore up the image and reputation of the showroom that we want the customer to recall. We all want to ride the “buy local” train, so when a company supports local activities, let it be known. Display your sponsorship and community awards, sell tickets to the high school events, have a bake sale on your property, or invite veterans to give out poppies. All of these are the use of props that support a message – and there are plenty more – the only limitations are the ones you set.     

Useful Physical Props

Several types of props can be used to effectively engage a client, or have them pause at a strategic location on the sales floor. When merchandising, consider the use and placement of props that will benefit the client/expert encounter without being conventional. Think strategically so you can have them appear at just the right point in the sales conversation. Practicing your presentation with the prop in position and close at-hand will almost assure they will be used, and the process will become more comfortable with time.

Props can vary from a tablet and kiosk to wall signs, finish samples, and – a favorite of mine –
material samples. There is power in a sales presentation that demonstrates the material thickness or construction quality that goes typically unseen by the customer. This also gives the showroom a leg up on their digital competitors, which can’t use tactile props no matter how hard they try. When selecting props, always consider the message you want to communicate or reinforce.

While using props can affect your presentation, adding in over-the-top props for the sake of it will backfire. If the prop is serving no other purpose than to distract, you are at risk of pushing your customer away. The props being used must be congruent to the presentation.

Props in Play

Putting a prop in play is a way to reduce the time it takes to explain certain aspects of a product while it focuses the customer’s attention on the feature being spoken about. The act of handing the client a prop helps the client recall what was being said while incorporating all three ways that people absorb information: visually, kinesthetically, and auditorily. It is our job as sales professionals to learn which type of learner our clients are and adjust our presentation and prop use for them.

Consider every item on display a prop. Therefore, every prop on the showroom floor must be clean and in good working order; we don’t want any glitches when handing off the prop to the client. If the prop is a tablet or kiosk, demonstrate how to use it and then hand it off to the client to operate. This tactic can also be used with a pad and pencil. When the client is trying to explain the layout of a room, hand them a sharp pencil and a clean sheet of paper and tell them to draw it out for you. This takes the client’s mind out of the showroom and puts it back in the space they are working on. This activity also provides the client with a feeling of control — and that is a desirable outcome. You will get information that is better suited for helping the customer when they feel in control of the conversation. With their hand (but at your direction), ask them to draw the items in the positions they want them in. Every time the client takes on more ownership of the product, it strengthens the position of both salesperson and showroom as the expert.

Signs, Signs, You Gotta Have Some Signs

The well-known lyrics from the “Five Man Electrical Band” reminds us that signs are needed everywhere, but don’t block out the scenery! Once known as the silent salesperson, signage becomes a prop when it is integrated as part of a visual strategy.

The content of signs can be focused into three main categories: Informational, Brand, and Persuasive. Informational signs can speak of store policy or describe the 36 steps that goes into a finishing process — both of these are informational, but provide very different messages. When defining the various messages, the thought is conveyed in the words used, then silently the fonts, imagery, and of course, the colors.

Often signage is used as an attention-grabber, directing clients’ eyes to certain products or to emphasize information. The goal is the same for a large wall sign as it is for a tabletop piece: Communicate a clear, simple message to the customer at a glance.

Many showrooms offer delivery services. Use an image of your wrapped delivery truck as the background for a delivery service sign. Choose a forward-leaning font in the headline that silently indicates your delivery is fast. List the information below in a smaller, regular font that is easy to read. Simple bullets make it easy to communicate.

Profitable Props

One of the best ways to impact a showroom’s sales performance is to increase the overall sales per square foot. This number is directly related to the efficiency of the merchandising as well as the product mix. The quick formula for this metric is the total dollars in net revenue divided by the square footage of the sales area. Do not include warehouse, office, or cash wrap space; measure only the areas of the showroom that display products that create revenue (i.e. $1,000,000 / 2,000 sq. ft. = $500.00 per sq. ft.).

For props to be profitable, they must be saleable. They must match the theme of your showroom or amplify a lifestyle vignette. The trick is to have the proper number of props waiting in the wings to replace what gets sold. Think of it this way: Profitable props become the focal point that highlights the featured item. They may be a product or accessory you get from a vendor, or you can be adventurous by including vintage items to accent a display or one-off artisan pieces from the local community. These unique props can also fall under the heading of “scarcity,” which is a hot button with many clients. Either way, profitable props will differentiate the showroom’s appearance while adding revenue to the top line and increasing margins on the bottom line.

Take Me With You

The last prop we can use to make an impression is the one they take home. Hopefully, that prop is a receipt, but if not, they must leave with something in their hands. In the past, sending the customer home with any branded material meant a vendor’s catalog or spec sheet. These days, the internet has made that information instantly available.

A good take-away prop should be memorable, and it must be showroom-branded. In the best case, the prop is designed to stay in the client’s possession through their buying journey and as long as possible after the sale. These props can vary widely from a simple brochure to a customized multi-page magazine that emphasizes the showroom’s expert status. The thought behind any take-away prop is to design it with value for the client for longevity and not as a throw-away promotional piece.

As always, Happy Selling!

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