Shaun likes to have as many employees manning the showroom as possible. Depending on how busy it is, six or more salesmen could be on the show floor at once. It's part of that strategy to make customers feel comfortable, while legitimizing O'Connor's as a top-notch retailer. A literature rack is also conveniently placed in the center of the showroom.
"A customer never comes in to just browse," Shaun says. "They are looking to buy something. When they tell you they're just browsing, what they really want is a little time to look around. That's why our salesmen will keep an eye on each customer, occasionally checking to see if any questions can be answered."
Thanks to the way equipment is efficiently displayed, questions are often answered for several customers at once. Models are merchandised left-to-right by "level." Lower-priced, entry-level homeowner units are parked to the left, mid-level homeowner units are in the center of the showroom and commercial equipment's toward the right. Salesmen lurk around their area of expertise. Sometimes, when walking a customer through a couple different models, other customers will huddle around and listen in. It's not unusual for O'Connor's to close several sales off the same presentation.
Don't promise what you can't deliver
Service is the cornerstone of the O'Connor's culture, not to mention its sales message. Nonetheless, the dealership is cautious about how it pushes its technical service. You don't want a customer thinking that the machine you're trying to sell them will inevitably fall apart.
"This is an especially touchy subject with our female customers, who we seem to be getting more of," Shaun says. "We simply remind customers that we have trained parts and service personnel who can help them with any maintenance or repairs down the road; no different than a car dealership."
Similarly, O'Connor's Lawn & Garden doesn't put a great deal of emphasis on perks such as "service while you wait" or free loaners. Shaun says he's had commercial cutters come to him because they felt let down by another dealer who couldn't deliver on his promises. A lot of times, it's not even the dealer's fault because a given situation is out of his control.
"What do you do if you've been telling your commercial customers that you'll service their machines while they wait, and one morning four of them stop in at once?" Shaun asks. "What do you do if you promise a cutter that you'll have a free loaner for him if you can't fix his machine while he waits, but all four of your loaners are already out in the field?
"It takes only that one time, even when you're bending over backwards to try and make things right, where a customer feels like you broke your promise so they decide to take their business elsewhere," Shaun continues. "You have to be 100% honest all the time."
You certainly can't fault him for adopting that line of thinking. O'Connor's Lawn & Garden has been voted Oklahoma's top customer service provider three years in a row. Now they've been named as Oklahoma's best lawn and garden store. That's an honor not even Home Depot has won.
Taking The Edge Off
Founded in 1948 as a pest control company, O'Connor's Lawn & Garden branched into retail during the 1960s. The focus was on lawn and garden supplies such as chemicals, lawn ornaments, water fountains and garden flags. The company also began dabbling in outdoor power equipment at this time. Now under the leadership of the third generation of O'Connors, power equipment is the focus of the business. Still, pest control and garden supplies continue to chip in.
Although it's a very small percentage of total sales, pest control brings in some additional revenue at a pretty good margin. Lawn and garden supplies play a larger role. This segment occupies about a fifth of the showroom and generates a fifth of total dealership sales. Garden supplies also help "take the edge off," as Shaun O'Connor likes to put it.
"Our garden supply sales have dropped off in recent years," Shaun points out. "This is where the box stores actually have stung a bit. It's still a viable business for us, though. Plus, it takes the edge off of being an equipment-focused store. It really helps with our female customer base, which is growing all the time. Children like to look around, as well. It makes for more of a family shopping environment, while also helping our bottom line."