Retail education: Quality takes time

May 20, 2013

By Kelly Kramer

Volume 26/Number 26; May 13/20, 2013

Often in an effort to generate dollars immediately, we forget that selling bottom line and cutting corners to win a bid are harmful to our future.

Having gone through the last five years of a downturn economy put many of you in survival mode. That often means lowering margins and believing you had to lower the quality of your work to match that lower margin. Meanwhile those of us who had a 10 to 40-plus year track record of great quality installations, great service and fair prices simply continued our quality practices.

Sure the economic downturn meant some lean times, but the big payoff for holding fast is about to be huge. First of all, many of the disreputable companies were put out of business in those down times. So for us “Selling Clean” companies, it just keeps getting better.

Moral compass

If you’re in that category of companies that lowered business ethics to stay afloat during the down time, well, congratulations, I guess. The old sayings, “You gotta do what you gotta do,” or “The ends justifies the means,” come to mind. But let’s just say you fell off course and it’s time to get back on the right track. Maybe I’ll get religious on you and say, “It’s time to be a reborn ‘Selling Clean’ trusted advisor again.”

In any case, selling clean again will get you back on the path to getting lifetime, trusting referrals and we all know great installations and great service will cut your advertising budget in half.

That being said, I’ll refer back to what I learned while earning my college degree in advertising. When times are slow, don’t waist much time advertising. The time to spend advertising dollars is when the market is getting hot. As an avid fisherman, I equate this to when the fish are not biting—it doesn’t matter what bait you use. But when they are biting, you can throw any and every bait you got at them.

Recently, while at a home show booth, one of the people I work with, Tom, talked with a person who installs tile showers. We had a Schluter display in the booth that caught his attention. He said, “I’ve been installing Schluter systems for years because of the quality it offers. But I’m just realizing the real benefits from this.” Then he said the smartest thing: “No call backs and lots of referrals.”

Here’s the funny thing for me: Even though my store is an authorized Schluter dealer and I’m a product knowledge trainer, I really had not sold much of it myself because I did not understand it well enough. Till that point I had simply handed off all my buyers who would have needed Schluter to Tom who knows the product well. But after that remark from the installer I decided to go to a Schluter class.

So I just took the two-and-a-half-day class at Schluter’s West Coast distribution center outside of Reno, Nev. I took my own advice about continuing education to help be the most knowledgeable pro I can. I’ll be writing about that adventure in a future column because it made me feel like I knew so little about tile installations and water/vapor tight showers and floors.

Until then, though, do yourself a favor, go online and type in the key words “Schluter YouTube.” If you don’t know what all the buzz is about, you will begin to understand after you see the installation videos it has posted.

In short, in all categories of flooring, get back to quality. Quality does take time, but the payoff is huge. Thanks for reading.

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