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The flooring industry is blessed with a promotional advantage that I believe is being underutilized. According to a study by Perception Research Services International, which was published by the AARP, seventy-two percent of consumers 50-64 years old say “made in the USA” labeling significantly influences their purchases. And eighty-one percent of people 50 thru 64 years old buy American because they believe that it helps the economy.

Like many industries, the flooring manufacturers appear to currently be in a cycle of both catching up and keeping up with today’s costs. While none of us like to see increased pricing from manufacturers, rational dealers understand that they really do need to have financially solvent suppliers who can afford to both honor outstanding claims and continue to produce innovative products for the future. Simply put, a dead vendor does no one any good.

I was asked recently to name the most important trait that successful retail businesses exhibit. The answer to me is obvious – they manage first impressions at every point of contact with their customers. While there are several key points of contact during a typical interaction with a potential flooring customer, there is none more important than answering your business’ telephone.

One of the mixed blessings of living through your 50’s and into your 60’s is having “senior citizen” status as one of your titles, even if you neither need nor desire it. Approaching such an age, I have learned that senior status is a marketplace phenomenon. Personally, I have been eligible for an AARP Card for nearly a decade, even though I have no more desire to retire today than I did then. It seems as if every trip to the mailbox finds another offer eager to give me the discounts to which I am entitled.

It never ceases to amaze me how intent some sales staff seems to be to minimize the size of a potential commission. Or worse yet, how they will unknowingly jeopardize an entire sale, just by committing the salesman’s mortal sin of TALKING TOO MUCH!

For example, when selling quality installation services, be careful not to “de-mystify” the process too much. When the installers’ efforts are made to sound too easy, you will find it more difficult to build value into your pricing.

This past week I had the privilege of hosting the WFCA’s Industry Hall of Fame induction ceremony that honored three people; the late Sonna Calendrino, Sandy, and Paul Pumphrey for their distinguished contributions to the flooring industry. On paper, these three are actually quite different.

Sonna was largely known for the work that she performed in training our industry in the art of presentation and salesmanship. Whether it was through the media, or in person, her message was always one of improving yourself through service to others.

From an early age, many of us can remember a parent, teacher or coach reminding us that, “if you don’t practice, you’ll never be very good!” Sound familiar? My question is, at exactly what age did we begin to believe that this is no longer true?

This past week I had the opportunity to participate in the presentation of honors to the winners in Floor Covering News 2012 Award of Excellence competition. These awards, which are jointly sponsored by the WFCA, are presented to flooring manufacturers in a variety of categories ranging from design to sustainability. What is unique about these awards is that they are voted on by the manufacturer’s customers. The voting is done over an extended period of time, and by several mediums, so every dealer has the opportunity to be heard.

Have you ever been excited to finally get to make an anticipated purchase only to be met by a sales clerk who didn’t exactly share your enthusiasm? You know the type. They are the ones who mark off the days on the wall calendar behind their desk. We all have experienced this joyous soul!

You had the vision. You had the funding. You’d hired a babysitter. You had high hopes that this was going to be a special day – if only you had found a sales professional to make it special for you. Do you remember how disappointing this was? I hope so!

Much has been written and said regarding the so-called disadvantages that the local merchant faces in our new economy. On-line shopping, big box retailers, category killers – all common terms barely existing in our business lexicon not that many years ago. While it is true that these forms of retailing have minimized some familiar merchandising tactics, they have also brought new areas of opportunity for the independent retailer to focus upon and prosper from. We just have to look more closely for where these opportunities exist.