Member Profile: Andy Burns, CLC, LC
Andy Burns, CLC, LC, is partner at
Triple C Lighting & Controls, and is an
active member of ALA. He serves on
the Board of Governors, and in 2015,
was named one of the association’s
Pillars of the Industry. With family ties
to the industry and experience in a
variety of roles, Burns has worn many
hats throughout his career. Recently,
he provided some insight on his
experiences and how professional
education has positively affected his
career and business.
Lighting is in your family –
how did you get your start in
the business and when did you
develop a passion for lighting?
My mother Penny started work in a lighting showroom when she was 19
years old. I started building light fixtures and sweeping the warehouse when
I was in junior high. In 1988, while I was attending college, I began helping my
mom out part time. I think it was after I got to visit a major manufacturer – GE
Lighting at their Nela Park training facility in 1990 – that I was able to see a
whole new world of lighting and bulbs, which got me excited about making
it my career, especially when friends of mine graduating from college were
finding it difficult to find jobs.
What challenges have you experienced in your business/career
and how have you overcome them?
Age was my first obstacle, at 19 years old in the lighting industry I felt like I was
part of a select few second-generation kids who were trying out the lighting
business as a job with their parent. It took three to five years, attending six to
ten lighting markets, to really feel like I was accepted or respected as a lighting
salesperson from both our long-time customers and my peers.
How has ALA’s educational programming influenced your
I took a break from working on my business degree in college to work full
time for Penny Lighting Sales, and it was then that I set out to earn my CLC
designation from ALA. I wanted to represent and present my manufacturers,
as well as train our showroom people, with confidence and knowledge.
I had to invest in myself to become as knowledgeable as possible for my
then respective role as a lighting representative. I strongly believe the CLC
designation opened doors and generated sales, as after that, the design
community started working with our company on a regular basis for their
residential and commercial projects (primarily decorative).
Do you feel continuing education is critical for a successful career?
If you want to be a successful showroom associate or representative, ALA and
its education programs are more essential today than when my career began,
due to the technical world we live in. You are competing against the country,
and as a showroom you are a destination store – the people walking in are not
there to browse, they have a purpose. As a rep, I feel my role and responsibility
is as much that of an educator about my products, services and company as a
salesperson’s role is.
What advice would you have for someone looking to advance
his or her career in the lighting industry?
I love seeing the younger generation of people in our industry. I believe if you
invest in yourself to get educated and trained, whether self-taught, through
textbook, or online – all of which are formats the ALA programs are fulfilling –
you will enjoy your career so much more. These are stepping stones in life
that can enhance your career, as well as create more demand and earnings
potential. I also believe the showrooms should help support and invest in their
teams’ education, as it directly relates to higher margins, increased sales for
the company, and personal gratification of being a part of creating a beautiful
space people are proud to live and work in.
Using Greetings to Ensure Successful Sales in Your Showroom
The way a customer is greeted in a retail setting can make or break a sale.
Today’s consumers are faced with a wide variety of options when purchasing
products, so it is increasingly important to make them feel welcome, cared for
Why Greetings Matter
According to recent consumer research by the ALA BiNational Advertising
and PR Program, only 20 percent of respondents reported they strongly agree
showrooms have exceptional customer service. Greetings are the customer’s
first impression, they are critical in setting the stage for the interaction and
Lighting showrooms are destination stores. Most people that visit are there
for a reason and have sought out the showroom with a specific project in
mind. “We are not selling commodity items or impulse buys,” says Tyson Neal,
associate vice president at Legend Lighting. “Our customers need to know us
and trust us to see the value in buying at a showroom rather than from a box
store or online. A well-honed and practiced system for greeting customers is
fundamental to running a successful showroom because it allows you to start
Consider the Question
Common greetings used in showrooms, such as “How may I help you?” or
“What brings you in today?” are setting salespeople up to be shut down
with an instinctive reply of “I’m just looking.” This puts the customer on the
defensive and closes the line of communication. Different approaches, such as
asking if the customer has visited the store before, or talking about the weather
opens the line of communication and starts a conversation.
“I always give my staff something to offer customers,” said Jodie Orange,
president of Living Lighting Toronto. “Whether it be tips on how to navigate
the showroom or sale details, there is always a piece of information the staff
has to share when they approach customers.” Other items, like free copies of
Lighting magazine can also encourage visitors to stay a while, and the free
information or item sets a positive tone.
Invite Customers to Stay
Offering customers a glass of water or coffee is a great way to make them feel
welcome. If a customer would like something to drink, give it to them in a glass
or mug. Not only does this make them feel special, it encourages them to stay
to finish the beverage. It also opens another opportunity for communication
when they return the glass.
Create a Deliberate Design
The layout of a store can have a big impact on the customer’s first impression.
According to Orange, store design can be used to naturally guide customers
through the showroom to sales staff. This allows the customer a minute to take
in the products and feel more relaxed before salespeople approach them.
These are just a few points to consider when greeting a customer. Check out
the next issue of Lightrays for more helpful retail tips. Until then, happy selling!