Levolor Home Fashions
Levolor Home Fashions is a division of Newell Rubbermaid and a market leader in the window treatment industry. The division has grown and expanded since my time within the organization but still is primarily focused on hard window treatments, such as mini-blinds and vertical blinds, with a strong presence in the home improvement sector as well as the department store sector.
Product Knowledge Training
JC Penney Training Manual – Above & Beyond
Product Knowledge training was a crucial and major responsibility in my role as a National Sales Rep. The window treatment industry is extremely competitive and very demanding in terms of the technical knowledge and requirements of the sales associates in the stores. The manufacturers assist the stores by working with their associates to constantly keep them up to date on existing and new products, as well as helping with basic salesmanship.
These trainings take shape in as simple a form as taking 10 minutes during a store visit to work with an associate or as complex as multi-vendor training sessions with associates from several stores coming together for intense, day-long, or multi-day trainings. Some of the most intense of these trainings were the group trainings for the JC Penney associates. Seeing that much of our training consisted of talking to and demonstrating products to the associates, but with little hard copy information, I developed a training manual with a fun “Levolor University” theme. While we had implemented this and other themes in our trainings, there were no formal materials to use.
The associates greatly appreciated having a simple but detailed packet of information to walk away with rather than trying to scribble down note after note. Word quickly spread about this training manual and I received calls and compliments from my manager as well as the other district managers, and then was greatly surprised when I was awarded a Talon Award from Levolor’s National Sales Manager and President.
JC Penney had two major “window covering events” a year. These were their major sales in May and November. JC Penney also held numerous product knowledge trainings, one or two a year and often prior to their big sales. These were great opportunities to not only educate on new and existing lines but also build on the relationships with the associates. A one-day training was filled with a mountain of technical information and it was hard to say how much information sunk in.
Knowing that repetition and exposure adds to memory, I developed this training manual as a way to allow the associates to have a quick reference of key information, and also to free their attention during the training from endless note-taking, so their attention could be focused on the visual benefit of live product samples.
More Product Knowledge Training
Product knowledge in window treatments is never-ending. With so many different materials, products, and brands, then multiply by “X” number of companies, it isn’t surprising that training is a rep’s number one priority. Every trip into the account is an opportunity to train someone on new products, or features, or just a refresher on the product lines.
Along with on-the-spot training, every account plans for group training sessions. These might span a few hours or a few days. The most intense sessions put the reps on a training circuit, traveling from regional locations day after day for a week. With several stores participating at each location, a tremendous amount of information is presented.
Levolor University was an intense multi-day training session that we developed to educate groups on our entire product line. This diploma was a way of congratulating participants and giving them something to put up in their area or show their customers to demonstrate their special knowledge of our product lines.
Levolor Olympics was a one-day training program and smaller than the university training. However, a large amount of information was covered. To help keep it lively and fun, and to help reduce the number of breaks that were taken, games were developed that got the participants involved physically and immediately tested their comprehension.
The training was valuable and essential, but people don’t always react positively to the idea of sitting at a table all day as someone talks about products. To get people excited even before the training day, I developed flyers like these to put a fun spin on the whole event.
Given the large quantity of products and technical knowledge required of the sales associates, it wasn’t unusual for associates to gravitate to one vendor or another. Especially when product quality was similar between brands, associates would often direct customers based on the respective sales rep. Clearly, being a rep who had established strong connections at the store level and who was considered reliable, one who would help the store however possible, was critical for successful sales.
At the national level, not much existed and each rep typically did whatever they could come up with to help build and strengthen their relationship with store associates. Often that was done by making their lives easier or recognizing them in a special way. What follows are a few of the tools I developed to do just that.
Home Depot Readymade Signage
Along with custom products, Home Depot carried LHF’s readymade metal blinds. This sign was created as a way to call out product benefits to their customers. Rather than a simple handwritten sign, this was laser printed for a more professional image and for easier reading.
Montgomery Ward Grand Manor Program
A private label program was created for Montgomery Ward, called Grand Manor. These were limited selection variations of other LHF products, with modified warranties. In order to assist the stores, I created this warranty sheet as a cheat sheet reminder of the special warranties.
One of my Sears stores did some out-of-the-ordinary things to grab customers’ attention during a special sale and asked if I’d like to help. This special discount certificate I created for them to raffle off earned points with the associates and their customers.
Montgomery Ward Sales Award
When a sales ranking came out for all Montgomery Ward stores and one of my stores was ranked in the top 50, I created this award certificate to recognize them. It made a big impact on the associates in that store and my other Ward stores… on my next visit it was framed and hanging by their cash register and I heard comments from other Ward stores since this store’s associates couldn’t help but brag about it to them!
Similar to the certificate for Sears, I created this generic certificate to give out to any stores that were really driving sales for LHF. Because it was generic and a little harder to track than one certificate given to one specific store, it featured an artificial watermark (not visible here) as an added security feature.