Survey says: Upselling with maintenance supplies

Home Columns Survey says: Upselling with maintenance supplies

October 26/November 2; Volume 30/Number 10

By David Romano

I recently had a conversation with a longtime client about an often forgotten best practice for flooring dealers. This particular dealer’s policy for new hires is that they must complete eight weeks of training before being allowed to sell on the showroom floor. We recruited a retail sales associate for his store in Arizona and I asked how the new hire was performing.

His response sounded something like this: “Let me tell you about this guy; you won’t believe what he did within his first couple of days.” This is when I held my breath because our recruiting policy is that if the person hired gets fired we have to provide a replacement at no cost. “This guy is so awesome that he went up to a customer who just purchased a laminate floor from another sales associate and sold her a cleaning kit,” he continued. “He knew nothing about flooring but he certainly knew how to sell cleaning supplies.”

This is when I exhaled and a little smirk formed on my face. My client attributed this practice to the sales associate’s previous experience at Bed, Bath and Beyond, but I attribute it to good old common sense.

I was puzzled as to why he was so surprised by something that should be expected of flooring sales associates, especially because he was fully aware of the effect on his bottom line. He admitted he knew the benefits and was honest enough to say that getting his veteran sales associates to adopt this philosophy was quite a challenge, which caused him to throw in the towel.

The concept of selling cleaning supplies is very straightforward. Regardless of the type of flooring purchased, every transaction should include a six-month supply of maintenance or cleaning products. Each sale may seem small at the time, but when you add the dollar amounts for all transactions the cumulative effect can be quite substantial.

According to a survey conducted by Benchmarkinc in which several hundred floor covering business owners participated over a three-year period ending 2013, independent flooring stores that have their sales associates sell maintenance supplies with every transaction experience:

  • Net income that is 25% higher
  • Gross profit that is 2.3 points higher
  • An average transaction that is $407 greater
  • Owners earn just over $27,000 more per year

In retail, there are three basic techniques related to closing: indirect, direct and assumptive. Let’s focus on the assumptive closing style. We must assume that your customer is going to clean her floors and is in need of the right products for the job. For example, automatically adding the manufacturer-recommended products to the order without asking for permission is an assumptive close.

To be very clear, an assumptive close does not include deception. In order to pull this off without upsetting customers, the cleaning or maintenance supplies should be a line item on the quote and fully explained to the customer at time of closing. The sales associate should go over the warranty information highlighting that if the flooring purchased is damaged due to improper cleaning the customer is at risk of voiding the warranty. If after the explanation the customer objects to purchasing the cleaning or maintenance supplies, the sales associate must remove that line from the quote.

As experts, your sales associates should direct the customer to the right supplies for maintaining her new floors.

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