Lessons learned: Start at the bottom

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April 30/May 7, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 23

By Tom Jennings

One of the best guides to personal selling success of our time is the late Zig Ziglar’s book “See You at the Top.” I am sure that many of you have read this classic at least once. While its pages have begun to yellow a bit, it remains a must-read for anyone desiring to move from salesperson to sales professional. There can be no argument that when the topic is personal success, we should always keep our eyes cast upward.

Where the measure of a business is concerned, however, I believe that to be ultimately successful, one must always be looking downward to the lowest rung on the corporate ladder. This is particularly true of a service-related business such as ours. I am constantly preaching the gospel that before you can be a good customer-service provider, you must first be an aware customer-service receiver. As you spend your paycheck, pay attention to who your main point of customer contact is and how he or she makes you feel.

Whether you are making a purchase, large or small, it is seldom an executive that leaves a lasting impression. The person most responsible for your attitude regarding your purchase will likely be someone on the bottom end of the salary, training and respect scale.

Great advertising, locations and even pricing aren’t usually the final determinant. It ultimately matters not how fresh the food at a market is if it is not presented well and the checkout staff is indifferent. You can brag all you want about the engineering of my car—but it all cancels out if it is returned from service dirtier than when it arrived. I am not impressed when a computer-generated voice informs me that to improve customer service, my call “may be monitored.” Here’s a novel thought—why not screen and train operators before you let them answer the phones?

When you look closely, you will find that in nearly every instance, your most lasting feelings regarding your purchase will come from those least trained in building customer relationships. In the flooring business, these persons are likely to be the estimator and the installer.

When discussing an estimator’s abilities, results are almost always determined by the accuracy of a job-site assessment. When discussing an installer’s abilities, focus is nearly always placed on his hand skills. While accuracy and hand skills are necessary, ask yourself when was the last time you invested in building his people skills. If the answer is “I don’t know” or “we’ve never done that”—let the red flags go up and the alarm sound. Can you realistically expect them to perform in a manner in which they have not been taught? If you are not making a consistent training investment in all areas of your staff, can you logically expect a positive return? The realistic answer is no.

You may not be paying close attention, but you can be sure your customer is. Always remember the saying, “Good enough seldom is.” This is an area of great opportunity to differentiate your firm from the majority of the flooring retail industry.

Any fool can get lucky on a one-time customer order. It takes a team of professionals to keep the reorders coming in. The best way to build your businesses’ long-term reputation is to start at the back end of the customer’s experience and work forward. Focus on what the customer sees. When you consistently do the seemingly small things well, large rewards can be yours.

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a retail sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.

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