Jul 1, 2016
Let me tell you a little story.
Once upon a time there were two bridal shops. Shop number one had an energetic staff that consistently sold a steady number of bridal gowns. There was no chart tracking how many dresses were sold or who sold them; no one earned a gold star as top seller. Meanwhile, at store number two, there was the spirit of healthy competition. Every sale was marked on a prominent chart and celebrated by the whole staff.
So which store was most successful? Well that depends on who you ask. Most retailers judge “success” by whether or not they’re turning a profit. But even if the numbers are there, in the absence of a roadmap – sales goals that can be posted, tracked and measured – they may have a difficult time realizing that success.
In other words, if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you’ve arrived?
Indeed too many independent retailers don’t set specific sales goals for their staffs. Too often when asked what their sales goals are, they answer: “Sell as much as possible” or “Make as much money as possible.” When wrapped up in the day-to-day operations of the store, they may assume that setting short-term and long-term sales goals will be too time-consuming for too small a payoff. The opposite is probably true.
“In any industry that you are selling something, goals are essential,” says Dave Mattson, CEO/president of Sandler Training, an Owings Mills, Md.-based sales-training company.
“Those goals can be daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly,” Mattson says. “I think if the goals are too far out – and for the bridal industry I think quarterly is too far out – then they are ineffective. There should be short-term, measurable goals.”
Another plus for goal setting: you have the power to devise whatever tracking system works for your business without having to answer to a corporate hierarchy. It’s your store; you can set goals to fit your market. The end game is making the most of the bridal and formalwear shoppers who are drawn to your salon. Sales goals are just another tool to motivate and educate consultants and nurture their abilities to deliver branded service.
Effective Sales Goals
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One common formula for setting sales goals is to be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.
Specific goals are well defined; they tell employees exactly what you expect from them and when. Measurable goals are just that: they can be measured. That way employees can easily gauge progress toward completing those goals.
Attainable goals are realistic; you aren’t setting the bar too high or too low. Goals also must be relevant to your business’s goals, and sales staff needs to know how they fit into the overall strategy. Timely means goals are set so there is ample time to achieve them, but not so much time that employees lose interest or other activities take precedence. Once employees learn what their individual goals are and where they fit into the big picture, they are more likely to remain connected to their work.
Obviously, having a year-end goal for your salon makes sense but you can also sprinkle different objectives throughout the year. It’s also productive to set goals for lines beyond the bridal gowns themselves. For example, setting goals to increase purchases of veils or accessories can be both a motivator and reminder that you should be selling these items to every bride who comes into your store.
To set sales goals, in theory you can just divide the annual revenue you’d like to achieve by four and set a quarterly goal, or by 12 for a monthly one, or by 52 and get a weekly goal. But in bridal retail reality, it’s rarely that simple. There typically are wide fluctuations in the number of brides shopping in your store on a daily or weekly basis.
For that reason, business experts suggest it might be better to look at your target total revenue, divide that by the number of gowns needed to sell annually to hit that mark (using an average price point per gown), and then divide that number by members of your sales staff. This will give you a rough idea of how many gowns each employee needs to sell annually to hit your target.
However, there are several things that can impact this calculation. For starters, what about the accessories and other items brides sometimes purchase with their gowns? Did you calculate this number into your average price point, or will you track these items separately?
Also, while bridal gown sales are the core of most bridal retail, you also have to also consider all of the other profit centers from maids to accessories to other special occasion niches like pageant, prom, quinceañera, and other formal events. These items can also be tracked separately and subject to different goals.
Another point to keep in mind: Rarely does a retail store have a staff of equally skilled salespeople. Each consultant has different strengths, talents, work styles and energy levels. Reality dictates that every consultant – whether full-time or part-time – probably shouldn’t have the same sales goals.
Also, goals can be fluid; don’t have qualms about adjusting them along the way if things aren’t going well.
“All you are doing is telling your staff, ‘We’re doing well but I think you can do even better’,” Mattson says.
Emphasize that they are contributing to the store’s overall success and everyone will reap the rewards.
If things aren’t going so well, it may be an option to lower the expectations a tad during the next sales period while accelerating your efforts to bring additional prospects into the store. You can’t create a greater demand for bridal attire but you can work to attract more brides to your store.
The length of the time for which goals are set obviously will depend on the business. It’s not unheard of to have both short-term and long-term goals, which can be adjusted for various factors like time of year, predicted amount of appointments, and other events that put extra demands on staff. One option is to have a set of long-term goals but also have sales goals within the overall scheme for a shorter period.
Goals Provide Benefits For Your Salon And Staff
In sales, there can be a tendency to coast or stay in your comfort zone, and sales staff is rarely as productive as when there are challenges. It’s easy for salespeople to fall into a pattern of slacking off because there is no sense of urgency to make that sale today. If July tends to be a slow time in terms of appointments and gown sales, set ambitious goals for a specific week or two-week period. This can provide an extra incentive for staff to look for ways to draw more shoppers into the store; the challenge can have a ripple effect.
Salespeople want to succeed, and they work to enhance their skills so they can close more sales, which can encourage others to do the same. Staff also can be motivated to work together to reach store sales goals. As the old saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats.
Having sales goals forces you to look at the overall picture. You have to look at the numbers for past years and project numbers for this year. Although bridal retail has become less seasonal, there are periods when traffic is higher and appointment books are full. Naturally, there will be more sales during this time so the sales goals should be higher. Set a reasonable goal, but something staff does have to work for to achieve.
Successful goal setting doesn’t read: set it and forget it. As the owner/manager/goal-setter, you have to keep a watchful eye on how everyone across the board is performing.
“Provide help along the way - having sales goals that you track on daily basis also offers the opportunity to mentor, coach or problem solve,” Mattson says.
If a sales consultant is falling short, rather than letting a problem continue, a manager or other coach can step in with advice or information or even join an appointment or two to decipher what might be happening that derails the closing.
Acknowledgment when goals are met is also a critical part of the process. Mattson suggests posting sales as they happen. Off the sales floor, have a sales goal chart where each salesperson can check off a goal as it is reached.
“Now we have individual accountability and that’s key especially for an owner working really hard not to micromanage,” he says. ”It doesn’t hurt to keep a constant eye on how sales are going and mark any landmarks along the way with at least a verbal commendation.”
He adds, “People do want to know where they stand. They get discouraged if they don’t know if they are doing a good job or not. We’ve always been taught to keep score. People are stroke-deprived. Owners and bosses don’t always do a good job of recognition when we’re hitting our goals. That recognition is far more important than an extra $50 incentive for most people.”
And finally don’t forget to recognize your staff’s achievements in the presence of the rest of the staff. This boosts morale and encourages excitement, which can be motivating. And once the wheels of positivity start churning, the sky is the limit.
Goal-Setting Makes Sense
Sarah Chancey, founder and creative mentor behind Chancey Charm, a leading luxury wedding planning, coordination and design studio, sounds off on the importance of goal setting for bridal businesses:
“So many wedding businesses focus on how to have a great consultation or appointment rather than how to have a sales program that leads to more business. Instead of focusing on each prospective client individually, think in terms of overall goals: What do you want to accomplish this year?
I can’t stress enough how important it is to set both professional and personal goals, so that you can celebrate successes rather than being stuck in a continual mindset of needing or wanting more. Your personal/professional goals could include the number of consultations you secure, number of bookings, personal income, professional development, etc.
The next step is determining your action plan on how you will get there. Is it a thoughtful advertising and marketing plan that includes networking, vendor partnerships, attending trade shows, learning at conferences? Make a list of action items that you can realistically take to reach your sales goals.
As the wedding industry can be seasonal for many, measuring results quarterly might not be as effective, which is why a yearly sales review usually provides a better look into your business. If you’re a new business that hasn’t had many sales, start by measuring lead conversion: how many bookings/how many qualified leads. For more established businesses, use a formula for measurement that will push you to set new goals each year and increase pricing and sales while maintaining quality.
My husband begged me for years to better track and keep up with our conversion rate and personal goals, but it took me hitting a wall in my business to finally make this a priority. We had plenty of leads but not enough sales as a team, and it was clear that something was broken.
The harsh reality finally hit me that it wasn’t our lead stream but our sales funnel that was leaking. So I hopped on a call with my business coach, Ivy Hall, founder of Initials Inc., looking for the golden fix, and instead she immediately asked me about my numbers and our goals. Embarrassed, I admitted that I didn’t know them, and made it a priority to get them from my team that week. I also committed to knowing their goals and tracking them through monthly accountability calls with their mentor.
Even the first month of that program saw tremendous sales. It gave our team something to work toward, be proud of and celebrate together. It gave us boundaries and fulfillment, where there was once an exhausting, insatiable desire with no end in sight. Establishing goals motivates and helps us take a breath and celebrate where we are in the year. It creates a happier team that is solidified by honest conversations, conversations I am sad to say I never made a priority in my first years of business.”
Shannon Hurd, Managing Editor, oversees the editorial content and direction of VOWS and its platforms. She writes on Social Media and the intersection of bridal business and life. Shannon's recent blog posts are below.
How to hook a repeat customer in three easy steps.
Peter Grimes, Publisher and founder of VOWS Magazine. His comments are presented in each issue's Publisher's Note, and often address industry issues and pertinent news of the day. He can be reached at 949 388 4848 or via email
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