Lessons learned from turning down business

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In today’s soft retail environment, watching a customer walk into your showroom may seem like a remedy to what ails you, a potential lifeline for a flooring dealer. On the other hand, it can also be a potential headache not worth the trouble. But lessons learned by many flooring retailers includes the idea that turning down business is sometimes the smart move.

Here are some tips from retail professionals on when rejecting business might be the right call:

RED FLAGS

When he was younger, Adam Joss wanted every order. But as he lived and learned, the owner of The Vertical Connection Carpet One in Columbia, Md., realized that all orders are not created equal. “Some just aren’t worth the effort,” Joss said. “I learned to identify red flags early during the sales process. I suspect many readers can relate to this. It may be a prospect that is demanding or someone who wants to modify the language on our boiler plate contract, just to name two. I learned to kindly refer prospects like these away to a company better suited to help them. I learned that proceeding with orders when red flags are present can create all sorts of problems.”

Trusting your instincts is an intangible that works well in these situations, according to John Bretzloff, owner of Barefoot Flooring, Castle Hayne, N.C. “It is rare, but at times there are instances when something doesn’t feel right, and we decide we are not a fit for a particular project,” he said.

lessons learnedJUST SAY NO

It’s never easy to say no, but seasoned flooring retailers have found that “no” is sometimes the right answer. In some cases, they find it gratifying to turn down business when it’s the right thing to do. Just do it with dignity.

“There’s nothing wrong with turning down business that doesn’t align with your company goals, expertise or other reasons,” said Carlton Billingsley, owner of Floors and More, Benton, Ark. “I have personally turned down clients’ request of doing work that we either were not familiar with the product/conditions or we didn’t have additional mechanics to complete their project in a timely manner. If handled with positive communication most customers understand and appreciate the honesty and will give you another opportunity when they have one.”

Bretzloff agreed, adding: “If we anticipate there will be problems that are unnecessary—perhaps difficulty in collecting on a job after completion—we will bow out gracefully. We need all the business we can get, but we also do not need any more headaches or stress.”

ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION

The biggest lesson John Taylor of Taylor Carpet One Floor & Home, Fort Myers, Fla., learned over the years is that sometimes it’s OK not to get the job. As he conveyed, “I have always been one who wants to get as many jobs as possible and do as much work as we can handle. Truth is, though, some jobs are not meant for us, and although it is hard to know every time if a job is right or not, most of the time my gut feeling is typically right. I know of jobs that we turned down where the dealer who got it ended up either losing or getting in a situation where they were unable to make the consumer happy.”

It was a lesson learned from his father, a flooring retailer, that equipped Quality Carpet’s Bob Gaither to handle potential sticky situations. “I still remember about 35 years ago when my dad said that sometimes you make more money by not doing a job,” Gaither recalled. “Over the last 35 years or so I have come to fully appreciate his advice. When I am speaking with a potential customer and they continue to make unreasonable requests or demands regarding price, warranty performance or installation dates—even after honestly explaining how things work—I thank them for coming in but flat out tell them we cannot do their project.”

lessons learnedTHE CUSTOMER ISN’T ALWAYS RIGHT 

While flooring retailers try to provide the best customer service, there are times when they’re better off firing the customer. “If we have a customer that continually has items they try to add on to a job that was bid—or the scope changes and the customer won’t do change orders—it’s time to re-evaluate whether it’s worth continuing doing business with them,” said Penny Carnino, COO of Tulsa, Okla.-based Grigsby’s Carpet, Tile & Hardwood.

The Vertical Connection’s Joss noted that difficult clients “may not pay the balance or they may consume all of your energy, keeping you from more productive efforts.”

Quality Carpet’s Gaither added that while most customers are nice to deal with, he estimates there are “3% to 5% that are near impossible to make happy and will do or say almost anything to get undue discounts or credits.”

PROTECT YOUR REPUTATION

Walking away from a project could cost your business tens of thousands of dollars. But dealers agree that a big paycheck isn’t worth tarnishing your store’s reputation over a deal gone bad. “I have had to eat jobs just to protect my good name,” Quality Carpet’s Gaither said, who did not regret the move.

When conflicts arise between customer and flooring retailer, as they inevitably will, Taylor’s suggestion is to “let them go elsewhere rather than get into a situation where they are difficult to make happy.”

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March 11/18, 2024

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