From A Rep's Perspective

Mike Root

Hi, I'm Mike Root , president of Furniture Sales of Mid-America (www.furnituresales.biz), a furniture wholesale company representing multiple factories serving retailers in the Midwest and Rocky Mountain states. I was honored with the IHFRA Distinguished Service Award, am on the board of directors of the International Home Furnishings Representative's Assn. and previously served six years on the executive committee. In that experience I am fortunate to meet many reps and understand their challenges, concerns as well as successes. It is from that frame of reference I write this blog.

I see incredible opportunities for our industry to make a difference in people's lives. It is my intention to share with you positive stories and observations from around the country as they relate to the home furnishings industry. True, this is a blog for furniture representatives. But the reality is that we are all representing the home furnishings industry. Therefore, I will write to and for reps, but hopefully the message will resonate with all throughout the industry.

My perspective is one of a lifelong furniture guy with past experience in retail, rental and wholesale. I also have the good fortune of being part of a three generation agency, working with my father, Emmet Root, who is still active as a rep after more than 60 years and my son, Jay, who is helping brick-and-mortar and Internet retailers sell furniture online.

More information can be found on my blog at www.MikeRoot.com. To contact me by email mike@furnituresales.biz.

  • How do you want to be remembered?

    A 2014 song, by a group called Magic is on my mind these days. The opening verses go like this: “How do you want to be remembered? As a sinner or a saint, as a hero or a villain Think about the steps you take How do you want to be remembered? When they're standing at your grave On your tombstone, what is written? Think about the steps you take” One of the tricks self-help gurus tell their audiences is to imagine what you would like your obituary to read. The idea being that if you can envision what ... Read More
  • Going through my contact list

    Wouldn’t it be great if every time the job status of someone on your contact list updated, your contact list automatically updated. Some could argue that’s what social media platforms are all about. Once a person changes a job they change their status on Linked In, and the whole world knows. But for that to be effective, two things must happen. First, the person must actually go in and change their status. If they wait a year, what good does that do you in trying to keep in touch? And second, the salesperson who can use the information ... Read More
  • 3 choices to combat the summer doldrums

    From most indications, summer business has been slow. Retail has been spotty at best, and very few promotions are capturing the attention of the general public to entice them to come in to a store. And yet, we read that housing is doing well, which should bode well for furniture in the near future. So the options seem to be simple: 1) Keep hitting your head against the wall with little or no results, or 2) Do like everyone else does, and take the summer off. As unpleasant as the first option sounds, most people would recommend this course of ... Read More
  • Your value proposition

    As furniture sales reps, we are exposed to a number of different retailing strategies in the stores we service. Some are high volume, promotionally driven operators who depend on a steady stream of customers and lots of activity. On the other end of the spectrum is a high-touch, high-margin, lower-volume operator. The vast majority of furniture purveyors fall somewhere in between. And we have to craft our marketing message for our products to best fit the right retail format. As I write this post on my 20th Southwest jet of the year, I realize some similarities between success in the ... Read More
  • The final secret ingredient

    This journey of sharing best practices for a sale representative started back in March at about the time some of my newer sales associates were trying to figure out how to jumpstart their career in furniture. We thought other reps might be able to learn from some of the ideas shared within our operation. This process took us from mindset of running your sales business like it was a real business, through continuing education, market preparation, product meetings and many topics in between. This is the 10th and final installment. In many ways all the previous blogs build up to ... Read More
  • Oh, what a night

    With a record crowd of almost 1,000 people, the Furniture Industry Awards Gala celebrated our great industry and the independent sales rep’s part in it. With hundreds of reps in attendance as well as manufacturers and major retailers on Monday night of market, it was wonderful opportunity for IHFRA (International Home Furnishings Representatives Assn.) shine a light on the great value sales reps fill in the distribution network. Irv Blumkin from Nebraska Furniture Mart was recognized as the Retailer of the Year, and he spoke about how helpful reps have been to his company over the years. It ... Read More
  • Strategy 9: The presentation of product meeting

    In my many years of working for various factories, I have seen the good the bad and the ugly of sales presentations. Since market starts this week, this column should be as helpful to the factory as it is to the rep. The good factories make sure their sales associates have all the tools they need to help a retailer make an informed decision. This includes a good picture, correct pricing, dimensions and fabric swatch if applicable. If the product mixes with other products from a certain factory, then those items that mix together should be identified. Going into market ... Read More
  • Strategy 8: Preparation for your meeting with a buyer

    Your goal as a professional sales associate, should you choose to accept it, is to secure a meeting with a buyer and present your product as the best option among all others a buyer has to choose from. That is a tall task in this hyper-competitive market. It requires a good product that matches what the end consumer is looking for, good communication of benefits, and an understanding of the retailer’s needs. In order for those all to match up it requires effort on the part of the sales professional to apply basic sales skills used in any industry ... Read More
  • How not to make a good impression with the buyer

    Prospecting for new customers is tough. They don’t know you, and you have no idea how they work. There are all kinds of hurdles sales professionals have to jump before getting that first sale. Many times it comes down to persistence and a deep understanding of how you can help the retailer make more sales. A successful sales person looks at it from the point of view of the buyer and not from the self-interested side of trying to sell whatever he or she can. Recently I saw an e-mail exchange between a buyer and a prospecting sales rep ... Read More
  • Strategy 6: Show me the money ...

    In 1996 “Jerry Maguire” burst onto the movie scene starring Tom Cruise in the lead role as sports agent and Cuba Gooding, Jr. as his client. A shouted phone call exchange between these two lead characters is memorable even to this day, with Gooding’s character repeatedly saying “Show Me the Money”! Recently one of my new associates and I had a similar discussion. Only this is the furniture business and the money is not quite the same as the star athletes. My associate is new traveling on the road and has some concerns, rightly so, about making enough money ... Read More
  • Strategy 5: What's in your bag?

    There’s a very old sales joke about two sales reps attending one of their fellow sales rep’s funeral. While discussing their friend, one rep says to the other “Wasn’t that terrible about Joe?” The other rep says “what did he have?” His friend answers “North and South Dakota”. Yes, I have North and South Dakota as well as a few other more populous states. In those states along with several other “Flyover” states, there are many opportunities to pick up furniture lines. There are not enough retailers and definitely not enough reps to give service for every ... Read More
  • Strategy 4: Market Preparation

    Markets are a fascinating attribute of the furniture industry. If a retail buyer truly wanted to go to a market every month, he could. We are less than 70 days into the new year, and already there have been a number major trade shows that home furnishings retailers have attended: Consumer Electronics Show, Las Vegas Market, FMG (Buying group) trade show, Tupelo Furniture Market, Guadalajara Furniture Show, Brand Source / TRIB show (Buying Group) and High Point Pre-market, not to mention several smaller ones. That’s one trade show every 10 days, and the list does not include any overseas travel ... Read More