How to sell 50% more bridal gowns

admin wrote this on Jul 27 |

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In this post, I’ll show how my former bridal shop increased the average bridal gown closing ratio from 27% to 40% representing a 50% improvement. Before reading on, you may want to read my other blog post on how compute bridal gown closing ratio for your store.

First, a little background. My former bridal shop is in metro Atlanta, GA, a market that has nearly 6 million people and over 40 bridal and formal wear shops. In our first 8 years of business, our Atlanta bridal shop grew at 25% year over year and we’re always looking for ways to continue our upward trajectory and prevent a plateau in sales.

This past year one of the things we focused on was improving our closing ratio. In conversations with other wedding shop owners, we learned that the most successful stores were selling gowns at an unbelievable rate. Some of these stores touted that they had consultants with a 90% close rate! That number blew us away and we wondered “How can we help our consultants become this successful?”.

Here’s how we improved
WARNING: This idea may not be right for your store. It’s an idea that took a ton of time to implement and requires buy in from your entire staff. The bottom line is that it achieved results for us and I wanted to share with the BridalLive community.

Over the years, we invested a lot of time and money in bridal sales training from with only marginal success. The quality and quantity of material is amazing, but even though our consultants ‘knew’ the material very well, they weren’t improving like we had hoped.

It was obvious that we needed to do more to help our staff put the material into practice. So we instituted a training program that did 3 things: created a standard score card, improved accountability and provided huge incentives for execution.

The Score Card
First, we distilled our mountain of training materials down to their most essential elements. We then created a Training Score Card to use as a measure of how well we were following the training materials. Each category was given a point value. As you can see in the score card, the point value was determined based on it’s significance to the overall sale. Each week, our training meetings focused on one area of the score card (i.e. asking for the sale). Once we had developed this measurement tool (score card), it was time put it into action.

Improving Accountability
We needed a way to score each consultant during their appointments. Since it’s physically impossible to shadow every consultant during every appointment, we decided to give out voice recorders for the consultants to use during their appointments.

Every week, we chose 1 random appointment from each consultant and ‘scored’ it against the Score Card. This uncertainty helped to increase the likelihood that the sales staff was using the training materials in every appointment.

We knew that recording our consultants would seem a bit “big brother-ish” so we made the program voluntary, but put large incentives in place to encourage participation. Each point on the score card was worth $4. This meant that a consultant who scored perfect could earn an extra $120/week. That’s almost $500/month just for executing.

In retrospect, we probably went a little over the top with the incentive. However, we knew that over the long term, we would recoup the cost many times over.

The Results
Overall, the training program was a huge success for everyone involved. We all learned a lot and became better at helping brides find their dream gown. Take a look at the chart below to see how our closing ratio improved throughout the year. We started the program in June. You’ll see from graph that January – May our average closing rate was 27%. Then over the next 11 months we averaged 40%.

We haven’t reached that 90% mark, but we were able to increase our closing rate 50%. One step at a time, as they say.