Warren Tyler is dead at 80. Our industry has lost a tremendous leader. I checked his timeline on Facebook recently and that’s how I learned of his death. He died of cancer and other complications from an earlier heart attack.
My first direct association with Warren happened when I was a sales manager at Bob’s Carpet Mart. I made a call to Warren to discuss a selling dilemma that I was not sure how to handle. He returned my call. One of my salespeople found me in the warehouse and with a degree of astonishment said, “Warren Tyler is on the phone for you.” I think my salesperson was astounded that the “great one” found me significant enough to return a call. Five salespeople gathered at my desk to hear our conversation. To them, Warren was the king of salesmanship and they were reading every article he printed.
We stayed in touch, and years later I told him I wanted to write my own selling book. He encouraged me to do it. About a month later, I sent my first chapter to him. Back then I was not adept at emails and attachments and so I faxed it to him without asking. Later he said he came home and there were pages all over the floor. He liked the chapter, but of course he had valid criticisms and great suggestions. One thing I remember clearly about that conversation was when he told me, “Very few people will take the time to read something like this.” Unfortunately, I knew instantly what he said was true. Salespeople are often great procrastinators when it comes to learning new things even though they know they should.
As a columnist with Floor Trends, people sometimes ask where and how I get my selling knowledge and article ideas. My stock answer: “Although I have read many books on selling and have sold it seems almost everything, without a doubt I have to say Warren Tyler is most responsible for what I know about selling today.” I will miss our conversations.
I bought his book “The New Art of Selling Retail” and I read it five times. I then bought the audiotape of the same book and listened to it regularly reinforcing my knowledge. That is how successful selling began for me. Sure, I had taken the Dale Carnegie courses years ago, but I could never wrap my mind around, “Attention, Interest, Conviction, Desire and Closing.” Back then, that was all there was. Then I found Warren Tyler’s stuff. Finally, something I could relate to. My sales took off.
I only got to hear him speak at a convention once. It was at the Atlanta Merchandise Market and there were at least a 1,000 people attending. He began his speech by stating, “Professionals have a passion to be as good as they can be. Professionals reach for that exquisite failure that teaches and motivates them to a higher level. For professionals, playing it safe means you will never experience the failures which will make you successful.”
He continued, “Relatively few people are willing to make the commitment to hard work, education and the practice needed to become a professional. Someone once said, ‘Mankind wallows in a sea of mediocrity.’ This presents you with the opportunity to soar above the rest. There is nothing wrong with achieving more than others. It is the achievers in this world that open the doors for other people. Ladies and gentlemen, as professionals, this is why you are here today.
“Ninety-five percent of all mediocre salespeople do all the same things wrong. The five percent considered professional do all the same things right. These salespeople have an insatiable thirst for knowledge. They need to know everything there is about their profession, industry, company, products, and customers. Amateurs just don’t care.
“Professionals use their knowledge only when needed or asked. Amateurs try to impress people with their knowledge, use jargon, and spend their time making statements rather than listening. Amateurs have a compulsion to tell customers everything they know, never thinking of whether the customer needs or wants to hear it. They use the two-dollar word when a two-bit word will do. People resent you if they don’t understand your words. On the other hand, a PhD won’t mind if he understands every word you say.
“Good salespeople know that any sale will be difficult unless they become friends with their customer. Top salespeople know this process as warming-up, and that rapport is the most critical phase of selling. Professionals operate with integrity and they know the simple truth is always more effective. Their goal is to become a trusted advisor so customers will feel secure enough to accept the information needed to make a comfortable decision.”
A true entrepreneur, Warren studied at the University of New Hampshire. He started his own installation and cleaning business at age 22. He opened his first retail store shortly thereafter, beginning a varied and innovative retail career. Upon the sale of his six-store flooring business in 1985, he used his experience aiding other owners in all aspects of retail.
During a career spanning more than 55 years, Warren is widely recognized as one of the nation's leading sales educators and has written extensively for trade and consumer audiences. He spent seven years on the board of the Retail Floor Covering Institute. The World Floor Covering Association presented him the honor of “The Best of The Best” in 2000 as the best-attended and highest-rated speaker. Fifty major appearances a year solidify his sought-after speaker status.
His writing extended to the mainstream press as well as newsletters, books, DVDs, CDs, and special projects. Included among his titles are Five Guideposts to Success, Real Customer Service, The Art of Selling Retail, Unleashing Your Selling Potential!, The Amazing Power of Leadership and Warren Tyler on Retail. His last collaborative book is Yes! No! Maybe So!, which explores the effects of gender and color on shopping habits. He wrote for Floor Trends starting on June 1, 2006 until his last article May 10, 2017.
Warren is survived by his wife, Tara, and their five children and four children from earlier marriages. They were his other passion. I leave you with one last note. Warren once said to me, “Selling is the art of being liked, therefore trusted, while fulfilling their emotional needs. Nothing more, nothing less.” Our Industry has lost a true advocate and legend. Rest in peace, my friend.