Dec. 9/16, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 12
By Tom Jennings
Much has been written about why people buy flooring from large stores instead of from local vendors who may often have a greater knowledge of both the product and the environment it is to be installed in. I believe one reason is that many dealers mistakenly feel what they “have to say” will trump whatever the fancy store down the street may have to offer. What they often fail to remember is most of the impressions a potential customer possesses come in the form of non-verbal communication. Allow me to offer some subtle changes you may want to consider so you don’t fall into this trap.
We can all agree that we do our best work when we are relaxed and comfortable in our surroundings. In sports, this would be referred to as the home-field advantage. In order to accomplish this, many stores are designed to make the owner or staff comfortable. They seem to see the business as an extension of their own lifestyles. This can be a big mistake.
Remember, the goal is to make the customer relaxed in your surroundings. The reason the close rate is so much greater in the customer’s home is that they are more relaxed. Most sales staff will tell you they are not as comfortable in a customer’s home as they are in their showrooms. This is only natural, as very few of us are as at ease in someone else’s environment as we are in our own. This is very important to remember since the customer is a guest in our environment when she enters our store. Just because you like classic country or vintage rock music doesn’t mean she does. The fact you don’t mind pet hair on your slacks doesn’t mean she won’t. And just because you don’t notice the odor of what’s being cooked for lunch in the break room doesn’t mean she will enjoy it.
This is an area where we can take a lesson from the large retailers that sell fashion. They do a good job of controlling the ambiance of their environments to make them as enjoyable as possible. You nearly always find soothing background music that is more felt than heard. The sales areas are kept clean. And yes, they even control the aromas that are present. The lighting is dramatic. They want you to feel welcome before a word is said. Do your customers get this feeling when they walk into your store for the first time?
An equally important area to focus on is how we personally present ourselves to customers. We all wish to be treated like the professionals we consider ourselves to be. We all want to make that “extra” sale the top producers in any field seem to enjoy.
In recent times, the trend in clothing has been more casual. Unfortunately, in the name of comfort, too many sales associates’ dress and grooming habits have become almost sloppy. Most of the flooring salespeople’s appearances I witness couldn’t be called professional. Sound familiar? Remember, you will always get the respect you command.
These suggestions are neither expensive nor difficult to execute. The only real investment on your part will be an increased focus on serving the customer as she wishes to be served. Always ask yourself when making any business decision, “Is this going to benefit me or the customer most?” If the answer is me, it’s not going to advance you. If the answer is the customer, then you’re on the right track.
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.