35th Anniversary: 35 selling tips

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Selling is an art; mastering it can be a challenge. There are methods successful sellers use to grab the sale and even boost the ticket—from qualifying a lead to bundling a flooring purchase with the appropriate accessories needed. Here are 35 effective sales tips from top flooring professionals.

Stephanie Bunting
The Vertical Connection Carpet One, Columbia, Md.

sales tips

  1. “Be creative. Don’t shortchange your client by showing them the same thing everyone else does just because it’s the trend. Get to know your client and make them feel special with an original design.
  2. “Be generous with your knowledge and ideas. Give to the client even though they haven’t committed to you. This is how you gain trust and build your relationship. Be compassionate. Put yourself in their shoes. What would you do if it was your home? Is it the right product? Is it a good value for their family?
  3. “Be persistent. Although the sale is top of mind for you, it isn’t always the most important task on the client’s mind. It’s your job to keep the project important and relevant to her while she is handling work, errands, kids and everything that is happening in her life.”

Jeane Salter
Independent Carpet One, Westland, Mich.

  1. “You have to know how to relate to the client and have a lot of compassion for the situations. I’m always putting myself in their shoes. It can be very overwhelming, so I try to put them at ease. I talk and laugh with them and explain the different options. I make sure they are having a good time—nobody wants to spend money. I have both repeat customers and referrals. I go above and beyond, and I’ll do what needs to be done.”

Josh Pettit
Frazier Carpet One, Knoxville, Tenn.

sales tips

  1. “Listening is a salesman’s best tool. If you want to guide your customer into telling you what she really needs, you have to listen. [If there is a complaint] you have to figure out what is frustrating her and why it bothers her. It’s important to let her be heard and let her vent. The sooner you let them know they are being heard it helps.”
  2. “Working smart is following tried-and-true systems that your business is already built on—not trying to reinvent the wheel. It’s also following up with customers. You’ve been given leads. Following up with those opportunities is going to close more sales. If you show that you actually care about what you’re doing, it translates into how you are going to interact with your customers, it translates into the marketplace at large and it’s going to continue to produce results for you.”
  3. “If you are working in a commissioned environment as an RSA, you have to take ownership. You’re the one who is responsible for your own success, your own failure and your own increase as far as raises and promotions are concerned. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Treat the showroom the way you would want others to treat the showroom.”
  4. “Make sure your fundamentals are up to date. If there is a product that hasn’t entered your view as of yet, research it and get back to the customer. Always be learning and call your reps but you don’t have to know everything about everything. Don’t put yourself under that kind of pressure.”
  5. “Ask the customer questions about the question they’re asking you. You have to define what the customer is asking and what they have seen. People don’t know the terminology that we deal with every day. Press into your customers but don’t belittle them in that process. They are trying to learn, too. Don’t say, ‘I never heard of that. We don’t have it.’ Half the time, you’re standing right next to it.”
  6. “If you’re not standing up with a clip board, a pad and paper, calculator or business card ready to walk up to the person who is walking through the door within five seconds of them walking across the threshold, they will start to get overwhelmed and lost. They need direction. They need someone approaching them with confidence—not with their hands in their pockets and their head down, but a ‘Hey, welcome to Frazier’s. I’m Josh! How can I help you today?’ Calm, collected, confident. Just that is enough to bring down the customer’s defense walls. No matter who you’re competing against, that’s going to set you apart.”

Tom Jennings
vice president of professional development, WFCA

  1. “If you want to be believed, you must first be a believer yourself. Always remember that we buy based on emotion. Is there ever a shadow of doubt that these product-pitch people believe they are selling the very best solution to the problem at hand? They are enthusiastic to a fault. Contrast this to the indifference that is so prevalent among most clerks you encounter today. When we are positive with our message, sales always increase.”
  2. “Is educating the customer an important factor in sales presentation? Absolutely. However, education is only a vehicle to help the customer make a decision. Too many salespeople see the ‘education of the customer’ as their primary goal. It is not. Your job is to sell. Never forget to create a compelling reason for the customer to buy now. You’ll never hear a professional salesperson say, ‘Call me when you get a minute.’ It is always, ‘Call now!’ Their voice inflections and facial expressions help create an urgent tone. I’m living proof that you do not have to be an ‘in-your-face, hard-closer’ type to ask for the order. Develop your own technique. Just don’t forget to ask for the sale.”
  3. “Most salespeople sell products and services that are nearly identical, or perceived as such, to those sold by the competition. So, how do you differentiate yourself? The answer is simple—it’s you. While products may be similar in the customer’s judgement, you cannot be. While your product may be hard to differentiate, you are not. You must stand apart. It’s critical that you be yourself to be perceived as genuine. You need to develop your own style that is comfortable for you as well as your target customer. What you do want to emulate, however, are some of the techniques proven to get people off of their couches and reaching for their wallets. As they say on late-night television: ‘Act now.’”

Dawn Schmitt
sales consultant, Floor to Ceiling Carpet One, South Fargo, N.D.

sales tips

  1. “Surround yourself with good people who can offer a different perspective. Today we face many challenges with price increases, delivery delays and labor shortages. Sometimes you will need that different perspective to better diffuse a conflict or to provide a more creative way to get your client what they want. Sales is often thought of as a competitive individual sport but never underestimate the power that can be harnessed from a carefully chosen team of coworkers, suppliers and sub-contractors.”

Steve Lyon
Foulk’s Flooring America, Meadville, Pa.

  1. “I feel that having the facts about products in my head helps me sell confidently. Without the confidence, I feel it is very hard to relate to the customers. They have to trust what you are saying. Understanding what the customers are looking for and keeping their budget in mind goes a long way to being able to close a sale and feel good about it at the end of the day. It is very satisfying to go home at night and know I’ve done a good job for the customer.”

Brian Offenberger
founder, NJL Sales Training, Scottsdale, Ariz.

sales tips

  1. “Never talk politics, even if you’re 100% aligned with your prospect. In many organizations and within households, there are multiple decision-makers who may have different views. It’s OK to be real and to reveal a part of who you are but I advise you to tread lightly around politics and religion.”

Lupe Brookhart
Sterling Carpet and Flooring. Anaheim, Calif.

sales tips

  1. “The second a customer walks in she is greeted by the first person she sees, whether it be the owner, a warehouse worker, me or, most likely, all of us. Customers get the same greeting to make them feel like part of our family. This immediately helps brings their guard down and build the trust needed for a great relationship. I believe an ESA’s value comes from their leadership. Leadership comes in many forms, and I use the ‘lead-by-example’ variety. I also believe an RSA leads by example by helping with the simple tasks, too.”

Eliot Burdett
co-Founder of Ignite Sales Recruiting, Ontario, Canada

sales tips

  1. “A good salesperson can change the course of a business, while an ‘order taker’ chooses the path of least resistance. The order-taker waits for contact from the buyer and the buyer dictates the sale. The order taker is controlled by the customer. A [salesperson] is focused on the customers’ needs and develops a relationship. The customer is engaged in the sales process and the rep influences the buy. Low-hanging fruit is not perceived as the main course but rather sales ‘gravy.’ The salesperson is constantly prospecting.”

Erin Wyatt
sales manager, Paradise Carpet One Floor & Home, Lawrence, Kan.

sales tips

  1. “One of my favorite qualifying questions when I am working with a new client is to ask them, ‘What feel do you want the room to have?’ It always leads to a great discussion where I learn details that helps me show the best products for their project.”
  2. “Always be upfront and honest with the clients. I am not afraid to tell customers what they don’t want to hear. I am respectful and offer solutions. If they want a product that is not the best option for their application or won’t give them the look/performance they are looking for, I am not afraid to tell them. I have found [that] clients appreciate the honesty, and it builds trust. This makes it easier if an issue arises during installation. Hopefully, I have already discussed potential issues and they are better prepared.”

Jerry Levinson
owner, Carpets of Arizona, Chandler, Ariz.

sales tips

  1. “Explain to the customer that you are not going to be the low-price leader, but you want to earn her business by showing her that she’ll get better service from you. Basically, you want her to consider the disadvantages of not using your company. At our store, we give our clients the ‘Top 10 Reasons’ why they should do business with us. If you offer your customer reasons why you are different from other companies, she will most likely hire you to install her carpet rather than the competitors who offer less.”
  2. “When you lower your prices, you also lower your chance to close the sale. By decreasing your prices, you have validated your client’s belief that there is no difference between you and the competition down the street. Instead of falling into this trap, I recommend setting your client’s expectations up front.”
  3. “[A way] to sway a potential client is to provide a copy of your liability insurance with each estimate. It’s something we all have but only produce when asked. If you give it to your client up front, she’s also going to ask your competitors and they will be unprepared. They’ll have to scramble to provide that information”

Nathan Branson
store manager, Gales Carpet One Floor & Home, Riverton, Wyo.

sales tips

  1. “I think my No. 1 tip for sales professionals is to set realistic expectations for both customers and yourself. Sales professionals also have to manage the expectations of the homeowners in regard to what they want and need, not just make assumptions that the customer understands flooring. I am a huge advocate for communication and believe that one simple phone call can save a lot of anger and aggravation further down the line.”

Pami Bhullar
vice president of business development, The Dixie Group

  1. “When the customer walks into your store, her actions might suggest she’s just ‘browsing.’ But what she’s really saying is, ‘Hey, I really do want to know more.’ If she didn’t want to see your product or hear your story, she probably wouldn’t be there in the first place. Make sure the preliminary encounter with the customer is positive and memorable for all the right reasons. The ideal greeting will present the salesperson as an educator and a professional.”
  2. “Follow up is to make your customers become your ambassadors. Follow up can be done through emails, text messages and/or ‘thank you’ cards. Each communication may create an opportunity to ask for reviews and/or referrals. Most customers are willing to give you a referral and/or review if you did a great job creating a memorable and pleasant experience from start to finish.”
  3. “Excellence in sales is achieved by practicing three simple steps: repeat, improve and perfect. These steps allow you to customize them to adapt to your way of selling: 1) Build a rapport with the consumer. Create a technique to use the customer’s name in your sales presentation. 2) Understanding the customer’s needs/wants. Devise a list of questions that will help you determine the right product for the job. 3) Ask for commitment. Without using a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ format, ask the customer to agree to the purchase. 4) Keep your word on all you have promised, and touch base with the customer to ensure all has been delivered as outlined.”

Jimmy Poulos
president of Flooring 101

sales tips

  1. “One of the best tools that helps [the customer] decide to spend is credit. It’s not about the price; it’s about a monthly payment. That’s very important—24 months, same as cash; 12 months, same as cash, etc. Deferring payments for a year also works.”
  2. “One of the responsibilities for the salesperson after a job is finished is to call the customer and ask for a referral. Nothing is better than customer testimonials.”
  3. “The customer upsells herself. We just tell her, ‘Look, this is going to cost you $9,000. For $1,500 more, you can get a much better product.’ She is making the decision. You’re not upselling anything. You just have to present the options to her.”

Patrick Copell
sales professional, Florcraft Carpet One, Anchorage, Alaska

sales tips

  1. Always stay green, moldable [and] trainable. Sometimes with success we get stuck thinking we know the best way but there are always new things to learn when you look out for them that will take you to another level.”
  2. “Be interested in your clients and their projects. Sure, they come to you for knowledge and professionalism but first they want to know you care. Be inquisitive and excited with them on this remodeling adventure.”
  3. “Be present for your clients. No matter how busy you are, make those clients feel like they are the only people you are working with. Few will be impressed by a distracted salesperson.”
  4. “Listen, listen, listen to your clients. It doesn’t matter if you know what they are going to say or ask. It doesn’t matter if they are complaining about something that isn’t [directly] your fault. Actively listen to them, repeat back to confirm you understand and then respond. Clients love to be listened to.”
  5. “Be honest. If you don’t know the answer, tell them you don’t know and that you are going to find that answer. If they ask what you think about their selections and you think it’s a disaster, tell them (be gentle, of course). They are relying on you at this point if they ask for your opinion.”

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FCNews 35th Anniversary Issue

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