Jan 18/25; Volume 30/Number 15
By Nadia Ramlakhan
From carefree and friendly shoppers to the ones who never seem to be satisfied, retailers and salespeople come across various kinds of consumers in their stores on a daily basis. And when it comes to selling, dealers know there is no single, one-size-fits-all method to closing a sale. There are, however, best practices for handling different types of prospects. Because each customer and her project is unique, retailers should tailor each situation to properly take into account what fits her specific needs and preferences. FCNews spoke to dealers about the most common types of consumers they encounter and tips on how to sell to each one.
- ‘I’m just looking’
When a customer says she is “just looking,” retailers should not be intimidated or feel rejected. In fact, with so much information easily and readily available on the Internet, the modern consumer is rarely “just looking.”
“Some people really are just looking but overall there is less and less of that,” said Scott Patrick, Carpet Specialists Carpet One, Ishpeming, Mich. “Today, the ‘looking’ is done online. If you compare our store traffic now vs. 10 years ago, although our business is up, our store traffic is actually down. But the people in our store are more serious buyers.”
Patrick explained “just looking” can mean one of two things, and the customer’s body language will reveal its true meaning. If the customer says she is “just looking,” turns and starts to walk away, he suggests stopping her, introducing yourself and letting her know where you can be found.
“I would say, ‘OK. My name is Scott. I’ll be right here and if you have any questions I’d be happy to answer them.’ Her body language will tell us either way; if she means it you’ll lose eye contact. But if she says it in a manner that is not so firm, we say, ‘That’s great, I’m glad you’re here today. How about I show you some new stuff we just brought in?’ or something similar to get her engaged.”
- Deal digger
This customer is looking for high quality at a discounted price. At Carpet Specialists, items in stock are always on sale because Patrick buys them in bulk. “It’s a volume buying game,” he explained. “We buy it cheaper so we can sell it cheaper and maintain our margins.” The in-stock hard surface products are always on display while in-stock carpet is kept in an attached warehouse.
“We all want the best deal, especially after coming out of a recession,” said Wendy Werner, Carpet Town, Milwaukee, Wis. “Stores like Kohl’s have ruined the retail market because items are always 30% off plus an extra percentage discount. But Kohl’s marks everything up before they mark it down—it’s the perception of a sale. We can’t do it.”
Werner recommends moving the conversation away from sales toward the customer’s needs. Find out what her budget is and educate her on different products. “It becomes a qualifying situation,” she continued. “Ask about her project and explain why one product is the right fit for her vs. another.”
- Comparison shopper
Oftentimes a customer will shop around before committing to one store, but if she is basing her decision solely on numbers, shift her focus from price to value. Explain to her she is getting more for what she is paying: high-quality products, exceptional customer service, service after installation, warranties, etc. And if she mentions the big boxes, let her know she is comparing apples to oranges.
“I don’t believe you get very far by putting down your competitors,” Werner said. “Tell the customer about the benefits of buying from you and point out all the good things you offer. Talk about the importance of a quality installation, long-lasting products and your dedication to customer service. We have a lot to offer as independent retailers but we can’t beat big box prices with quality products. If it is still all about price, then you might not be our customer.”
- Internet ‘expert’
Most consumers who are ready to buy flooring have already done their research online. This can prove beneficial or detrimental, depending on how the situation is handled in-store. The best way to approach well-informed customers is to first acknowledge their expertise. “No. 1 is you don’t want to dismiss them,” Patrick said. “They believe the Internet more than they believe us so as soon as you dismiss them it creates immediate distrust.”
Patrick said the consumer often has correct information, so he aims to delve into their theories together. “I say, ‘Wow, that’s new for me; let’s look into it.’ I bring them over to my desk or we have a computer in the middle of the store available to customers. We either qualify that it is true or not true based upon our own research with them sitting right next to us.”
- Ms. Misinformed
Some customers enter the store looking for a specific product that their lifestyles later reveal is all wrong for them. “You have to educate them but the only way to do that is to find out where the product is going,” Patrick said. “If you sell the best product in the world for the wrong application, it is still the wrong product.”
Patrick said he recently encountered a customer who wanted to install laminate in her bathroom. “That would be the worst mistake ever because laminate can’t handle moisture.” While laminate is more suited for high-traffic areas in homes with active families including pets and children, the customer decided to install ceramic tile instead after listening to Patrick’s reasoning and justifications. “I gave her the pros and cons of LVT and ceramic options,” he continued. “Then it was a matter of visuals, how long it would last and budget.”