Last year I wrote an article called “Good Store, Bad Store,” the premise of which was 5% of professional flooring stores did all the same things right, while 95% of the stores did all the same things wrong. The column attracted much attention with many readers admitting that unfortunately they fit the criteria of bad stores.
When times were good, even bad stores made it, but now more than ever you should ask yourself why people should buy at your tore rather than the competition. The article pointed out things like merchandising, pricing, store atmosphere, cleanliness, knowledgeable staff, attitudes, understanding what customers really want and all the other variables that make up a professional retailer.
One of the other variables was how smart they were with their advertising and promotion. Things have changed drastically over the last two years. Traditional advertising venues have lost their effectiveness. The electronic revolution has overtaken us. You have to adapt to the new retail paradigm.
One thing hasn’t changed. More than anything, people buy from people they like. Even more important, people buy from friends. This is why social media has gained so much importance. Even the big guys have caught on. Look at how many TV ads encourage you to join their Facebook page. You must have a page on the important social media sites.
There are rules, and one is you can’t sell on these pages. However, you can tell what you do for a living in your profile. You can post messages that you love what you do, that you have to get up early because your store is running a sale or who came into your store yesterday. Almost any young person can give you tips on how to conduct yourself. The goal is to make as many friends as possible.
Networking is also critical. You and your staff must join as many effective networking groups as possible and learn how to work a room. The idea is to make friends with builders, contractors, real estate brokers and property managers before they ever get a chance to go to another store.
All of these activities require social skills, and they are more critical than ever. Attitude isn’t everything; it’s the only thing. If you don’t really like people, get out of the business. To me it’s a joy to get up, meet new people and start the conversation. This is what will separate you from the com- petition. Your store should be fun to go to. Selling is the entertainment business.
In most stores, if customers are greeted at all the conversation starts with something about flooring. This is absurd. She comes in on the defensive and the only thing that will break down these defenses is doing what every professional salesperson knows how to do. Never speak about product until she does.
She should be greeted with a warm welcome and, as I have written many times, every sales- person should have a “schtick.” Mine would be to ask how they are and the answer is usually “fine,” “OK” or “alright.” To which my answer is, “Well, I guess I’m doing better than you, because I’m doing fantastic!” The secret found in most of my columns, books, CDs and DVDs is that you always talk about their interests, never yours.
I have designed a program for your store, distributorship, club or association that explains all of this and how stores are doing despite the depression. Don’t just sit there and die a slow retail death. Fight back. I would love to hear from you.