April 10/17, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 22
By Jim Augustus Armstrong
(Second of three parts)
In the first installment (FCNews, March 27/April 3) you learned how Earl Swalm, a Canadian floor dealer, took control of his business and grew it by 50% in one year, while at the same time cutting his work hours to less than 35 per week.
In this part I’m going to cover the most important sales and marketing strategies Swalm used to achieve this impressive growth.
Mine your database for gold. Most flooring dealers ignore the only people on Earth who have proven they will give them money in exchange for flooring: their past customers. Instead, they opt to spend a king’s ransom on print or online advertising, chasing cold prospects who don’t know them, like them or trust them. If this describes you, don’t feel bad. A lot of the training in our industry focuses on cold advertising, which misleads a lot of dealers into thinking this is the best way to grow their business. There’s nothing wrong with cold advertising; in fact, I teach dealers effective print and online strategies for reaching strangers. However, it simply cannot deliver results that are comparable with marketing to past customers. I’ve seen dealers go from nearly closing their doors to opening their second store by marketing to past customers on a monthly basis.
This is what Swalm does. He uses a monthly newsletter that is full of fun, informative, entertaining content, so customers actually look forward to reading it even if they don’t need flooring right then. Swalm’s strategy creates total top-of-mind awareness, so when a customer needs flooring, or when she has the opportunity to refer someone in her sphere of influence, she thinks of him.
Email magic. Email marketing to your past customers can also be effective, as long as you don’t spam them with endless pitches to buy stuff. Swalm uses email content, which is similar to his printed newsletter: fun, engaging content that people will enjoy and forward to their friends.
Create a culture of referrals. This starts with the basics such as showing up on time, dressing professionally, returning calls on time, etc. It also means treating customers like royalty by impressing them with great service. Try offering beverages to prospects, wearing shoe covers while in their home, giving them free spotter or cleaning kits, etc. You should also ask for referrals. When you provide great service you’ve earned the right to ask.
Equip your team for success. Swalm uses a step-by-step selling system that impresses customers, positions his sales team as trusted advisors, differentiates his store from the competition, enables him to command premium prices and helps his team close more sales. He implements this system by having regular training sessions with his sales team.
Like Swalm, you should have a written, step-by-step sales process you can provide to your team. Make sure you train them on how to use it and hold them accountable.
By doing these things, Swalm is growing his business by attracting more repeat and referral customers. Some benefits of doing this include: dramatically improved sales closing rate, less time wasted on price shoppers, higher margins and increased referrals.
In part three I’ll cover the strategies Swalm used to cut his work hours in half.