Just last week, I had a couple come into my store that had purchased flooring from me about a year ago. Any trusted sales advisor will tell you that this is their favorite kind of shopper, because they already trust you and have had a great experience with your installation crew.

So we started the conversation by letting them tell me how well they like the carpet and how I appreciated the two friends they had sent in during this last year. On this trip they were looking for tile for their front entry and laundry room. I did my customary customer interview, which was quicker this time around because I already knew a great deal about them from their first trip in.

One of the main things I remembered from that time was that this couple disagreed on everything. If he said something, or anything for that matter, without thought, she disagreed and walked the other direction. So basically she was so used to not even listening, and he was used to not being heard. Knowing this I decided to have some fun and test out a theory of mine. I wanted to see if she disagreed with what he said or if she just disagreed because he said it.

Early in the conversation he said he liked this certain tile because it looked more like stone and had a nice light variation of color. Again she automatically disagreed and went in the other direction to continue to looking. Then after about two minutes had passed, I grabbed the same tile sample he had pointed out before and presented it to his wife. I said, “Here’s one you might look at that would have more of that natural stone-look that goes well in your home, and it’s a little lighter in color for that darker laundry room.”

Instantly she said, “Oh yes, I really like that.” He then said, “That’s what I just told you and you didn’t like it then.” Then she said something that I thought would end a marriage: “Well, Kelly is a professional and I trust his opinion.” Surprisingly he did not get upset.

Then, I related a story about how my wife and I have the same type of situations happen, how when we were building our new home we had a lot of choices to make. For example, my wife and I were talking to our landscaper and I stated how I wanted the dry riverbed to look. Without saying a word to me, she turned to the landscaper and asked, “What do you think?” I jumped back in and asked, “Why are you looking at him?” Well the answer was the same: “He’s the professional.” At this point he did the right thing and agreed with me, but with a more professional-sounding reasoning.

Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong

A good negotiator/arbitrator knows that both parties need to feel justified in the final outcome of a decision. So as the arbitrator you need to remember that you have to completely know the situation before you throw in your two cents.

That takes us back to the customer interview. When you have two people that disagree on everything, you can only help them if you know what’s important in this decision. That means you’ve learned the five W’s before you start to advise:

  1. Who is this decision most important to?
  2. What is the real reason they need to make this purchase?
  3. Why do they disagree on their opinions?
  4. When do they have to have the flooring installed?
  5. Where did they get the information that helped form their current opinions?

When you have gathered this information, you now have the right to look like a knowledgeable advisor. Now you can make both parties feel like you understand their side. At this point you know who this decision is most important to and who seems to have a better eye for color and design. You probably have also learned if one of them want to spend less than the other. I hate to make general assumptions, but men tend to want to spend less than their wives. So keep that in mind as you push toward a product that can make them both happy.

A good negotiator/arbitrator knows that both parties need to feel justified in the final outcome of a decision... you have to completely know the situation before you throw in your two cents.

A New Package

One of the best ways to help couples that are at odds is to find what is most important to each of them. Is it money, color, design, or even just that the carpet needs to be installed in less than two weeks for their daughter’s graduation party? So during my interview and presentation, I listen to their likes and dislikes, and I try to pick up on their individual catch phrases.

For example, I had a couple where the wife did not like anything that had a gold tint to it; she wanted something that felt soft, and she really wanted the carpet installed before the big family gathering. While he was not so opinionated about color, he wanted to keep the cost under $4,500 and wanted the high-traffic areas to hold up well. But both were at odds at the choices the other had made.

So I took them away from both of their choices and presented them with a new and different package. I pulled dressy commercial carpet samples to use in his office, down the hall and steps. And I pulled a thicker textured fleck for the bedrooms and den. Mentioning that both carpets looked more taupe (the ultimate natural), not too goldish. And this combination could be installed before the party and should keep them under $4,400. By not making either of them the winner or loser from my suggestion, I let them find a new choice together. And they both got what was really important to them.

Sales people (clerks) hate to work with couples that disagree. True trusted sales advisors find it a rewarding challenge to help find a good choice that makes both people happy. It is a great feeling to know you’ve earned the trust it takes to be the wise arbitrator. Do a good customer interview and you’ve earned that right.