Salesmanship: Don’t underestimate retail expertise

Home Columns Salesmanship: Don’t underestimate retail expertise

by Warren Tyler

As a sales and service educator for the past 27 years, an unfortunate circumstance is that only the best stores hire me to educate their people when, in a perfect world, the businesses that really need an education would be my biggest clients. These are the ones that believe they know all of what they need to know.

It is always a pleasure when I first arrive at a dealer’s store for a day or two of retail education. The first thing that strikes me is the beautiful layout of the showroom and, almost immediately, how friendly and up front the staff is.

On a recent trip to Alabama, Ted Gregerson, owner of an Abbey store as well as a Floors to Go operation reinforced everything I knew about elite retailers. At both locations every single staff member went out of their way to give me a warm, friendly greeting. These were, without exception, educated and talented people.

Retail visits are living proof of an article I wrote titled, “Good Store, Bad Store,” which motivated several dealers to write and admit they recognized themselves as a bad store. Hopefully it was a tipping point in their lives. The points mentioned were just a few of the hundreds that separate the champs from the chumps.

The good stores are clean, well laid out, and staffed by warm, friendly employees. The owners have a great rapport with the staff and it is easy for customers to perceive this is a professional organization. Most elite business have people who write close to or over a million dollars a year—even in these horrific times.

Aside from Gregerson’s stores, there are hundreds in my thoughts. Garvey’s in Pennsylvania, Weisbacher’s in Ohio, Pearce Floors in Montana, are just three that come immediately to mind.

A fact that jumps out at me is 90% of my clients are either Abbey, Carpet One or Flooring America stores proving my point members of retail groups are the most professional in the country. Remember some groups have their own training programs, but wanting to learn as much as possible they still hire me.

On the other hand, some people denigrate retail groups to the point of viciousness. Installers are the last ones to ask about the quality of flooring products, just as suppliers are the least informed about retail. These are generalities, but in any event, why do industry people find it necessary to denigrate our best, most profitable retailers?

I belong to many professional discussion groups and people from the other side of the fence stress their retail expertise. When addressing issues they demonstrate their absolute ignorance about what the retail groups actually do and express the same opinions as less successful dealers. From one who deals with this every day, it has become so bad it’s frankly humorous.

Unfortunately, the industry, which always ranked a small step above roofers and used car dealers (sorry) is quickly challenging these for the bottom spot. Doesn’t everyone go onto the Internet and view the hundreds of thousands of horror stories about the big boxes?

Why are we making high pile carpets with soft denier yarns that have little chance of performing well with appearance retention and sticking on guarantees that tell customers what they are buying is invincible? We tell consumers you don’t walk on your fingers. Once upon a time people knew carpeting is, after all, just fabric and treated it as such.

The fact is, professional stores with their highly trained and intelligent salespeople can actually sell carpeting with low pile, high density, heavy denier yarns and never need warranties to make the sale. These are the businesses we should be supporting to raise the image of the flooring industry.

Warren Tyler has 52 years of retail flooring experience. He is one of the industry’s most sought after speakers, and his training materials are among the most requested. Call him at 804.384.7588 or email

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