A common tendency among salespeople is to do too much talking and not enough listening. Successful salespeople realize it is only when they are focused on what the customer is both explaining and requesting that they are learning the information necessary to suggest solutions which will benefit all concerned. Too often weak salespeople rush to judgment and offer both products and solutions before the customer has had the opportunity to fully explain her wishes and requests thoroughly.
My bet is that when you are the customer, more than once you’ve been tempted to say “If you’ll just shut up and listen for a moment, I’ll tell you what I want.”
When sales personnel are being trained, remember to emphasize that the first few minutes of a presentation are the most critical. Teach them to resist the temptation of showing product too quickly. It is essential that a sales presentation be done in a proper sequence for the presenter to be accepted by the customer as a professional.
Your doctor wouldn’t prescribe a medication before you told her what the symptoms were or where it hurt. Why then would we make a diagnosis of the customer’s flooring needs before we have a full understanding of the customer’s vision? Always remember that you must “know before you show!”
Hartville, Ohio is home to America’s largest independent home center at 305,000 sq. ft. In the middle of Hartville Hardware sits a 1,850 sq. ft. “American House” – which was featured in the March 2013 issue of Home Channel News magazine – that is constructed entirely of “Made in the USA” products. Every product, from the foundation up to the shingles, was domestically produced. Howard Miller, president of Hartville Hardware, and a member of the Do-It Best co-op, has seen a definite increase in customers who are placing an added value on products that are “Made in the USA”. His firm acknowledges this trend and is using it as a vast selling tool in their store.
After reading this article, my initial reaction was to be ashamed of the flooring retail community for missing the mark through the majority of its advertising and marketing campaigns. This is a trend that we should have been championing for years. I can’t imagine that there is any segment of the home improvement industry that has a larger percentage of its offerings that are made domestically – and always have been. It would seemingly be no challenge to furnish and install all flooring in a home with 100% USA sourced product. While it’s not practical to construct an entire home in your store, we could all creatively present displays featuring beautiful products while highlighting their source of origin.
Potential customers have indicated their interest and concern in “Made in the USA” products. It would not be difficult or costly to address their interests. Use this as another great opportunity to show what truly great value today’s flooring products represent.
One of the greatest opportunities, and challenges, that a sales manager has is that he or she possesses the power of influence over what is selling well on the showroom floor. What is amazing to me is that most managers do not seem to realize this. They too often forget who their primary customer is.
Many seem to feel that items such as pricing, display placement, product sourcing, etc will guarantee a product’s success. Do all of these things correctly and the customer will want to buy. While these are important elements, they are forgetting the most crucial one: in a flooring store, customers aren’t going to want to buy any product unless a salesperson really wants to sell it.
I have always felt that as a manager, my primary customers were my own staff members. My job is to sell them on the virtues of a given product line or service that we offer. You must make believers out of them before anything special will occur sales wise.
Do not try to sell them on the idea that all products in the store are created equal. It is imperative that you have a targeted number of offerings you wish to promote. You must be especially passionate when stating why this product is a great opportunity for the customer. This is critical. Today’s educated buyer will see a self-centered motive every time.
Put the focus on emotional trigger points, such as easier maintenance that requires less of her time, a healthier home setting for her family, etc. Help them understand how to convey to the customer that this product is not only a great buy – it’s a great buy for you! Without true belief, and a passionate conviction that above all else the prospect wins in a sale, it becomes very difficult to be convincing. Believe it!
As a leader in your organization, I am sure that many days it seems as if problem solving is your primary task. When employees are faced with questions they don’t know the answer to, they come to you hoping you will either solve the problem for them or tell them how to solve it themselves. Some days it may seem as if the title on your office door must read “Chief Problem Solver”. If this sounds too familiar, it is likely because you chose this title for yourself.
Each of us who are parents can relate to a child coming to us with homework questions. While the temptation often exists to take the fast and easy way by just giving the answer, we all know that in the big picture this is the wrong approach. In order for the student’s knowledge to grow, they must first learn how to arrive at the correct answer themselves.
Think of staff members as adult students. When they have questions, take the time to explain the process of determining solutions. It’s the only way that they will develop the skills necessary to make your job easier long term.
Whenever I observe store owners and managers who can’t seem to make it through a meal or a round of golf, let alone a vacation, without constant interruption from staff members, I’m tempted to ask them how much they are enjoying the title which they put on their door right now.
They say that having knowledge is power. I believe that for business managers, a greater power is having a knowledgeable staff. The real test is not how productive they are when you are present, but rather how productive they are capable of being when you choose not to be.
When selling flooring at a full service specialty store, your offerings are often compared to a box store that wishes to place the primary emphasis on the product itself, rather than presenting it as an element of an installed floor. This type of outlet prefers to sell product first, and services only as required, as product is usually what they do best.
As a specialty retailer, your best option is to take the opposite approach and build the value into offering a superior service experience. When describing installation, 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.
Examine how other industries build value into their offerings. When a quality restaurant is “selling” their chef’s abilities, they will brag about his training, sensibilities, creativeness, uniqueness, etc. They would never say, “That dish has only four ingredients and the seasonings come pre-packaged. You could likely do it yourself”. That is exactly what we are telling our customers when we say, “the planks simply click together” or “this vinyl doesn’t even require adhesive”.
Remember that our customers desire a beautiful kitchen floor in their home, just as the restaurant’s customer wants a well-prepared meal served on a plate. Sell honestly, but don’t give away the recipe!
While there are clearly two schools of thought as to whether flooring retailers should allow samples to be checked out by a potential customer, the reality is that most stores still allow their samples to leave their showrooms unattended. As a consequence, the samples in many showrooms that I observe have something less than a crisp appearance.
We all agree that a majority of our sales are generated by a limited number of popular colors and styles. These best selling samples are in demand, and as a result, often begin to look somewhat shabby. Worse yet, the best colors are too often missing from your displays. Do you have a system to regularly check for complete color offerings, replacing missing or worn items? If not, you should. Remember that it is seldom the slow selling, ugly colors that you are missing.
Another item that many stores overlook is regular maintenance of the samples when they are returned to the showroom. All too often, carpet samples are returned with ample evidence that the family pet was allowed to select which one they preferred. Then this sample is returned to the display in as-returned condition. It’s a good idea to have a small hand vacuum handy to refresh samples returned from a customer’s home.
These steps only take a few minutes to execute, but can return big dividends. After all, doesn’t your next customer deserve to see these products presented just as impressively as your first customer viewing them did? Keep your best sellers looking like your best sellers. Your wallet will thank you!
There is a famous saying that states, “Sometimes you must lose a few battles in order to win the war”. I find that this attitude may apply when working with today’s customers as well. Let me explain.
Potential customers have more information available to them than ever before. Access to this knowledge makes some feel… let’s just say, confident in their newfound sense of wisdom. We know that occasionally what they believe to be so is not necessarily reality.
When a customer makes a statement, or holds an opinion that you know to be incorrect, ask yourself: does this really matter to the integrity of the sale? If the answer is yes, then you obviously must tactfully explain your reasoning.
However, if the answer is no, let it pass! You do not have to be right all of the time. Our job is to make sure that the customer is well served with both her product purchase and the experiences connected to it, not to come off as a self-anointed expert.
As the customer, we all want to feel as if we are in control of the purchasing process. Constantly correcting a customer may or may not get them to change their opinions of either you or your proposal. Unfortunately, however, it may get them to change where they thought they would feel most comfortable making their purchase. Don’t let this happen to you!
Even if you are an experienced executive, it’s likely very difficult for you to advise other people where they need to improve. Many bosses delay criticism until an employee’s scheduled employee review. That’s seldom effective. Neither is stockpiling problems, waiting for the “right moment” to bring them up. By doing so, chances are the employee will simply be overwhelmed.
Criticism is best given real time or immediately after the fact. Don’t wait for the problem to fester. But remember, unless this is the “last straw” for this employee, there should be a liberal usage of positive remarks if you want your negative observation to be understood in the proper context. I like to refer to this as “catching them doing something approximately correct”.
The very best time to provide constructive criticism is whenever somebody is making positive progress but still has room for improvement. This allows you to begin your remarks saying something to the effect of: “Overall I saw a lot of good things that show me you have been listening and learning. I appreciate that. There was one area though that I think could use particular improvement. Consider doing…”
By following this formula you are being pleasant, yet firm. You are remaining positive. But most importantly, while being somewhat non-specific with your overall appraisal, you are being very specific regarding the behavior that needs improvement. Give this coaching method a try. You and your staff members will both be better for your having done so.
Great dealers all spend time mastering the art of making a positive first impression when a customer enters their showrooms. While these steps are critical, they are only part of the customer service process. Let’s examine some opportunities to make favorable final impressions long after she said “Sold!”
There will have been several impressions made before the installer actually arrives at the jobsite. If goods were custom ordered, was the customer kept aware of the expected delivery dates? Did the store proactively call to schedule the installation, or was this task left to the customer? Was the installation scheduled at a time that was most convenient to her, or the installer? Did we promise a reasonable arrival, or did we act like the cable company by not validating the worth of her time? These are all interactions that will affect the installer’s day before he ever arrives to perform the work.
Just as I advise for sales professionals, the installer should always be respectful of a customer’s time. In a day when everyone has a phone in their pocket, there is no excuse for arriving late without prior notice. A good habit to get into is calling the customer a few minutes prior to the promised arrival time to advise her that he will arrive on schedule so she won’t feel compelled to look out the window wondering if he remembered her. He should identify what type of vehicle that he will arrive in so that she is comfortable from a security standpoint. This is a courtesy that she will appreciate. It will also make him stand apart from other service providers. She will now likely greet him at the door with a smile, and he will be well on his way to establishing a good working relationship for the day.
While these may seem like small steps to take, they will produce a tremendous gain in confidence by the customer. When you learn to properly manage the first impressions of an installation experience, you will see your satisfaction ratings begin to climb and your level of frustration begin to fall.
Many feel that to be an effective speaker, or salesperson, that you must use big words in order to make a big impression. I disagree. I believe that the most powerful words we can choose are only one or two syllables long. It is the little nuances in the words and phrases we choose to use every day that can have a big effect on how we are perceived by potential customers. Please allow me to offer examples to illustrate my point.
When you wish to offer a suggestion, or opinion, start with the term “I believe” rather than “I think”. Saying “belief” sends a message of confidence, whereas stating that you “think” leaves room for questioning and doubt. Compare your reaction to “I think that you will like this product” with “I believe that you will enjoy the many benefits this product offers”.
While both statements essentially say the same thing, the second shows conviction on your part and suggests an emotional response from the customer. These are both powerful motivators, yet the phrase is only four words longer.
Another example are the words “hope” and “trust”. For instance, while making a post-installation follow-up call to a customer, when you say, “I hope everything is as you wish”, the inference is that this is usually the result – but not always. However, when you state, “I trust everything is as you envisioned”, you are sending a message of confidence. Same sentiment, but with a very different tone.
Pay close attention to the phrases which have become a part of your sales presentation vocabulary. Then take measures to replace words that may suggest uncertainty with those that suggest confidence. I believe that these simple changes will initiate a positive change in your performance.