When I’m doing training for retail flooring chains or talks at floor covering association dinners, I always include a section on “what needs to be said” to prospective buyers. These are things that most retail sales people are afraid, or too timid, to say. But these are things that need to be said for the benefit of both the retail outlet and the buyer as well.
Invariably at the end of these talks, I’m approached by the store owners and service managers. They all say the same thing: thank you for making my job a whole lot easier and more stress free—because I have just explained to them and their sales staff the importance of being upfront with prospective buyers.
It is critical to explain things like: they will see seams in their new carpet, how late the installer might get to their home, what your sample policy is, and how much deposit is needed to start an order, along with when you expect to get the balance (C.O.D.). We need to give our buyers some credit for understanding how business works. Give them explanations on subjects that many sales people consider a negative while trying to make a sale.
All of these things, if brought up at the proper time, will save your company many headaches and make the buyer feel they have been dealing with an upfront and honest company and trusted sales advisor. But because most sales clerks never want to bring up a negative, they need to learn how to make those seemingly negatives into a positive. So I’m going to tell you what I do during my showroom presentation and in-home measures, estimates and in-home contract signing.
Relax and Enjoy
When I first meet with a new prospective buyer, my goal is to first find common ground and make them comfortable with me and my store. So that means never ever starting out the conversation with “may I help you?” Never ever start a conversation with a yes or no question. Because a no answer is a bad way start out with a person in an already-uncomfortable situation.
Instead, I always find a fun statement to relax the situation. All you have to do is be aware of what I call “painfully obvious tip offs.” Here’s some examples. When a young family with a few children comes in: “Nice looking family, I never had kids myself, but I’m told they’re expensive.” When two or three women come in together: “Is this the design committee?” When a customer is wearing a sports logo (this one is too easy): “Well, you think the Bronco’s can pull off back-to-back Super Bowl wins?”
With couples, on our store sign out front, I put, “Your husband called and said to get any flooring you want.” Often the man of the couple will break the ice for me and say, “I never said that!” Then I reply, “I’m just trying to give us guys a reason to disguise a flooring purchase as an anniversary present.” All of these fun openers are made to start a conversation that has nothing to do with sales. Once you have found common ground and a light conversation, the rest is simply finding out how you can now best help them.
Steering the Sale
Never forget that part of getting a buyer to relax and find common ground with you is as important to help you relax with them. The best sales are made when trusted sales advisors are enjoying the entire experience. It allows you to explain what some think of as negatives. Every sales presentation should start with an exploratory “customer interview.” Never show product or sale items first. First ask questions that will help you guide them to the products that best fit their need. A buyer will trust you if they feel you understand their situation and want to do what is in their best interest. When you have achieved this, you can explain the reasons behind “what needs to be said.”
Samples and Estimates
The first explanation to give early-on is how you avoid letting samples out as well as how your policy on in-home estimates works. Here’s my explanation. “What we do here is to narrow-down a handful of sample choices that might work.” Then, “I bring them out to your home and do a no-charge (never use the word “free”) measure and estimate while you look at the samples.” Next, “That way you can see them in your lighting and I can give you the cost differences between the different qualities.” Finally, “If you’re comfortable with the final cost, we take half down and the rest when you’re happy that the job is done correctly.” When all this is said early-on, most will ask me later, “When can you come out to measure?” There’s a hard close for you!
If you’re wise during the in-store presentation, you’ll give out ballpark guestimates. For example: a customer tells me they think they have about a thousand square feet of carpet needed. I say “Well, let’s give you a worst case scenario: with 1,000 feet, we add an average of 7% waste factor, 13 steps and furniture … So if we take this carpet at $3.50/foot installed with the best pad and tax, you should come out very close to $4,200.”
Now when you get to the home and give a final exact total that is less, you have a no-brainer closed sale. If your buyer invited you to their home at $4,200 and you come in at $3,900, you simply make them feel good that, for one time in their life, the real number came in less. End result: no samples were let out, the customer stopped shopping because they set an appointment to see flooring they could afford, and they know it’s time to put half down without you having to ask for it.
This one’s for the service manager’s benefit. While you’re doing the measure, show the homeowner where the seams are in their old carpet. Many have never noticed them before. So when the new carpet gets installed, they expect to find the seams. If you simply explain why new seams show more, your buyer will be glad you explained it to them upfront.
In closing, say what needs to be said logically, at the right time, and everybody profits.