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I recently observed an experienced sales person make a presentation to a couple looking to buy several rooms of carpeting. I’ll call him Joe. He did many things correctly. He rose to greet the customers. He offered his name and asked theirs. He was both dressed and groomed professionally. So far, so good. Then Joe made a too often repeated mistake – he began to “educate” the customer.

At the recently held Surfaces show in Las Vegas, neither Shaw nor Mohawk had a significant presence on the showroom floor. No big news there, as they have not participated for several years. While their collective market share is significant, I came away with the impression of both how large and varied our industry is beyond “the big two”.

As I return again from Surfaces, I have a renewed optimism that our industry is regaining some lost momentum. While attendance figures are not yet announced, traffic in both the showroom and educational events seemed to me to be significant. One observation stands out in my mind.

When I speak to salespeople, I often ask them how ready they are to make a sale right now. I almost always get an answer to the effect of, “I was born ready!” Then I will ask them for a clean business card (not a wrinkled one that has been in their wallet for too long). Too often I am told that they are: in the car, on my desk, in my purse or that they ran out. I will then ask them to write something down. You will be amazed how many will ask to borrow my pen! I’ll ask, “You weren’t expecting to write today?” They may have been born ready, but they sure haven’t stayed that way!

Take a good, objective look at your firm’s sales staff. Now, take that same objective look at the majority of customers that walk thru your doorway. Do they look very similar? They should.

Many flooring dealers that I visit with state that “advertising just doesn’t seem to work very well for us. We run ads occasionally, but usually don’t see immediate results.” In most cases, the problem that I see is not the message itself, but rather the messenger. They forget that the products that we are offering have a very low percentage (3-5%) of the population actively in the market at any given time.

I admit it. I am a serial list maker. At the beginning of each day, I typically find myself making a “to-do-list” of what I both want and need to get accomplished that day. There is nothing unusual about this. My guess is that many of you do the same.

I was recently asked by a young sales professional for some advice regarding her handling the move into management at one of her company’s satellite stores. My advice to her was to remember that her first day on the job would be her most important day on the job.

Remember that first impressions count. Whether you intend to or not, you are going to build your brand as a leader early on. Getting off on the right foot is critical. The biggest mistake that you can make initially is to adopt the attitude that “there’s a new sheriff in town and things are going to change!”

We have again reached the time of year when distractions become more commonplace. If one is not disciplined, it’s easy to spend all day at the workplace, yet accomplish very little. Even though December is not traditionally a booming month for flooring sales, important tasks still remain to be accomplished. In my experience, one of the most important year end tasks is taking the opportunity to sincerely connect with your best customers.

Close your eyes, relax, breathe deep – and spend some money. Retailers have long known that less-stressed shoppers are likely to browse longer, but there’s also evidence that they’ll also be more receptive to higher prices. A recent study in the “Journal of Marketing Research” found that relaxed shoppers were willing to pay up to 15% more for goods than less relaxed ones.