by Warren Tyler
Just when we thought we were at the bottom, the economy looks worse. First, the good things: A majority of consumers have money. The savings rate of the average American has increased drastically. Because there has been such a great lag in home interiors sales, there is, as everyone has opined, a huge pent-up demand. So plenty of savings and pent-up demand—sounds terrific.
Wait, there is more. American corporations have socked away huge profits from downsizing, increased productivity and tax strategies. Literally trillions of dollars are sitting on the sidelines ready to be pumped into the economy. This, to the naïve observer, sounds like the makings of a boom, but there is more to this than meets the eye.
Businesses also see the very low rate of consumer confidence. If they were to ramp up production in this country, the big question is, “Who would buy it?” For instance, I presently live in Virginia, a low tax, fiscally conservative state resulting in a 6% unemployment rate and a budget surplus. However, citizens of Virginia read and listen to the same national news as everyone else and are just as terrified to spend as people in states with much higher unemployment. The uncertainty kills incentives. This poor economy is going to last a long time.
If your business has survived, you are doing well. You must have learned some things along the way. Some businesses have actually thrived. You need to become a better marketer and salesperson to convince consumers now is exactly the right time to make these purchases when prices are at their lowest.
Again, I stress that society in general has changed drastically and you have to change with it. Your message has to be heard on America’s new billboards—web- sites, social media and blogs.
It is critical to get you and your salespeople out of the store to attend networking functions and learn how to work them. Join retail associations, chambers of commerce and especially service clubs. When you do, I promise you will never meet your competition at these events.
Do little things: Bring coffee and doughnuts to real estate offices and make sure every agent has your card. Have a goal to give out at least five cards a day to people you meet—waitresses, clerks, teachers and stop by building sites and remodels. Start conversations in your daily life, at service stations, super- markets, clothing stores. My wife skulks around the Lowe’s and Home Depot flooring departments and steals their customers while her son is at soccer practice. They lie; you can steal.
Contact previous customers with cares and concerns about their flooring like never before. Inquire about their life. Keep in contact with ongoing installs and send gifts, thank you cards and whatever it takes to show appreciation. Ask, “Who do you know that might be interested in new flooring?”
Remember also consumers have changed drastically as well. They are more defensive and more vulnerable to the outlandish price claims by the big stores. They are also more skeptical, asking: “Can you beat Lowe’s’ prices?” Value has trumped fashion and you have to know this.
Find out what the price at other stores really is and recognize that unless she likes you, any explanation of why their $97 install really costs hundreds will not be believed. The game now is to make a personal, intimate connection with your customers. To do this you have to love people. The new sell is “no-sell.” It requires patience, understanding and human skills.
Do just a part of this and you might do more business than ever.