Al’s Column: A woman’s way is the only way

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June 8/15, 2015; Volume 30/Number 1

By Phil Pond

Today, household decisions concerning everything from décor to the floor increasingly fall upon women. In fact, females make the vast majority of purchasing decisions regarding interiors. Yet most shopping experiences provided by the flooring retail sector are focused on a male customer’s attitudes, needs and mindsets. Why? And how can you make the most of a woman’s touch in the retail sector?

There is a huge disconnect between female consumers and the flooring industry. Maybe if I tackle the issue from a different angle we can start making the shift, and flooring retailers (with particular regard to carpet sales) can look forward to a future in which flooring is once again seen as a key element of an interior makeover. More often than not, what is left of a customer’s redesign budget is spent on flooring instead of the main portion.

Let’s talk about selling and salespeople—there are some female salespeople in the flooring industry, some with manufacturers and some in retail. But there is a powerful case to be made in favor of attracting more women to sales positions.

There are a small number of men selling flooring that do an excellent job. However, the truth is there really are just a few. In general, men selling in this industry love to get to the nuts and bolts of the matter pretty quickly. They like to talk about brands, carpet weights, construction types, price per square foot and where the carpet is going. I accept the importance of such knowledge and detail, but the issue lies with when to mention it during the sales process.

A female salesperson will focus on becoming her customer’s trusted advisor long before she feels any need to show off her technical knowledge of flooring. She understands that the customer wants to talk about her overall décor, wants an opinion about what might fit from a color, look and feeling perspective. She will sit with her customer and look through wallpaper books and interior design magazines while referring to flooring that might fit in with the scheme. A woman knows how the female customer thinks and feels, and realizes she is there to provide support and opinions, not necessarily solutions.

The female salesperson will naturally show a genuine passion for the customer’s overall interior project, whereas men are mostly passionate about the floor and making a sale. Your first reaction to this is most likely, “A man can do all of that!” While I agree with your “can” or even a “could,” the fact is that most don’t.

Merchandising, pricing, showroom layouts and product offerings simply aren’t evolving to meet the shopping experience the female customer desires. In fact, it’s increasingly not even meeting those of the male consumer. My recommendation, based on experience from across the country, is that if you want to secure the future of your flooring business, think about employing female sales associates and let them take care of the job in a way that might be considered indirect but will lift sales, customer satisfaction, recommendations and profits.

There is no reason why men cannot learn to sell in this style, as well, and to respect the customer for who she is and provide the shopping experience she wants. But they need to learn how to do this from a woman, which means also hiring female sales managers and trainers.

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