Volume 28/Number 3; July 21/28, 2014
By Amanda Haskin
When helping someone find the right flooring, the first thing a salesperson must do is learn about that customer’s lifestyle. Sometimes a customer can get so fixed on an idea she doesn’t realize how impractical it may be. For example, a couple may have their hearts set on a Brazilian cherry wood floor, but if they also have a 100-pound Great Dane with sharp claws and a lot of energy, that may not be the ideal choice.
Considerations include babies, children, pets, older adults, everyday foot traffic, frequent parties and more. Most of the time, matching a floor to a lifestyle is common sense, but sometimes it’s not quite so obvious. “You don’t want a gymnasium-smooth maple floor with a house full of women,” said Jeff Macco, CEO of Macco’s Floor Covering Center in Green Bay, Wis. “I’ve got it at my house. Everybody wears high-heeled shoes, and now I have all these pockmarks in my floor.”
A good salesperson will ask questions, create a clear picture of the customer’s everyday lifestyle, explain why certain choices may not be appropriate and offer satisfactory alternatives.
“You have to be 100% consumer-centric,” said Adam Joss, vice president of The Vertical Connection Carpet One in Columbia, Md. “If you’re not completely focused on their best interests, then you’re doing yourself a disservice. We make every effort to understand our clients’ goals and objectives and lead them in the right direction. There are a lot of people out there who, because of commissions or other motivations, will try to sell something that’s important to the salesperson. That’s a mistake. It can’t be about the salesperson; it has to be about the customer.”
Among the suitable options for customers are materials such as cork and laminate which are softer than traditional hardwoods and easier to clean and maintain. Or, if she wants traditional hardwood, maybe the addition of washable area rugs is the way to go. In kitchens, where people are most likely to make the most messes, an easy-to-clean ceramic tile or LVT may be the best bet.
“Ceramic tiles are becoming a big thing, but for older people it’s too hard,” Macco noted. “In Florida, for example, where ceramic was all the rage, now we’re introducing LVT, which is softer but still looks like tile.”
Other considerations must also be made for older populations. Carpet is, of course, the softest, but you have to be concerned if they’re using walkers or wheelchairs. “You must also be considering transitions into adjacent rooms, because transition pieces are tripping hazards,” Joss said. “In terms of harder surfaces, like for a kitchen, I like cork for older and aging adults.”
As for dogs, the biggest concern is scratch marks. “If you have dogs, you are going to want a hand-scraped wood with a ton of character to it, so when that dog goes across the floor and makes scratches, they won’t show up,” Macco said. Other dog-friendly alternatives are laminate because of its durability, and Stainmaster PetProtect carpet, which is designed specifically for pets.
Everyday foot traffic must also be taken into account. Harris Cohen, president of Country Carpet in Syosset, N.Y., noted that “a wilton carpet won’t wear well on steps, but if you have only one or two people in the house, it’s probably not such a bad thing. But if you have five or six people, you might want to consider a nice print or nylon loop product—something that’ll hold up better.”
Cohen also extends the idea of lifestyle to one’s personality. “The floor reflects the person and the personality of the house,” he said. “If you’re working with a woman who’s a little more reserved, you go with a more reserved pattern and color. If you’re working with a woman who wears more colors and has a more vibrant personality, then you take out the bigger colors and patterns. Are they throwing parties? What kind of parties are they throwing? Lifestyle is personality.”
The key is having a highly knowledgeable, considerate and patient sales team. Remember all aspects of the customer’s life, from extrinsic factors to personality type. Put yourself in customers’ shoes. Take note of how hard they tread.