Good communication is the key to a successful relationship whether it is at home or in a retail setting.

The presence of children will greatly influence a purchase decision.

Many say that John Gray's book "Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus" started a revolution. While this may be true, there are still many ways men and women can learn to communicate effectively. One way is to speak the other's language.

This certainly holds true for retail sales. If you speak your customer's language you establish an instant connection with that person. And considering that more than 90 percent of home furnishings purchases are made by women, your sales strategy would benefit from building a rapport with her as soon as she walks in the door.

Research conducted by Mannington Mills shows that you should greet her when she comes in, let her know you are available when she's ready, and then just fade into the background. Following her around the store will only send her out the door - and over to one of your competitors.

Women as Customers

The research focused on what the female consumer wants - what she likes, dislikes, and expects - from flooring salespeople. One of the themes was that women often feel that male salespeople do not take the time to listen. They describe them with words like "pushy," "aggressive," and "high pressure," and said that, far from being helpful, male salespeople were condescending, impolite, and poor listeners.

Women are responsible for 90 percent of all home furnishing purchases. Many believe male sales people don’t take the time to listen.

When these women were asked what they would like from a flooring salesperson, they said, "someone who takes me seriously and respects me as an intelligent person." They also expressed frustration with salespeople who automatically assumed that, as the female, she would not be responsible for the financial aspect of the purchase. The Mannington study found that women today act as the "chief purchasing officers" of their households. Whether or not they earn the money, they usually are in control of it.

You are probably already aware that women tend to take longer to make a decision than men, but do you know what to do about it? Take some of that time to talk about products in terms of people, feelings, and relationships. Avoid suggesting products to her while she is in "decision mode"; she will take even well-intended suggestions as sales pressure.

Women are also much more inclined to react to perceived slights, challenges, and criticisms than men are. Those participating in the study put a high value on how much they "liked" the salesperson.

Sell the Way She Wants to Buy

Bridging the communications gap is the best way to gain a sale and a customer. Women are more likely than men to return to you for future purchases, and to tell their friends about a good shopping experience. But be forewarned: they are even more likely to tell them about a bad experience.

So now that you know you need to speak her language, how do you do it? First, listen without interrupting to gain insight into what's important to her. Is she looking for a new floor because her kids and pets have ruined the one she has now? Is she looking to upgrade to something more desirable because she and her husband are empty-nesters?

The answers should give you clues into what her life is like, and encourage further discussion. How old are her children? Does she like dogs or cats? Does she have any hobbies? Not only will these kinds of questions help you develop a relationship with her, they will also signal to you what kind of product she'll likely be interested in.

You can then take that information and link it to product attributes. It helps you move away from facts and technical data, but still promote a product. Empty nesters might be looking to get that wood floor they've always wanted. Young families might like a resilient floor that will stand up to lots of traffic, resist dirt, and be easy to clean.

As she's talking, make sure to use positive body language. Remember to smile, nod, and establish eye contact. All of these things are signs that you are listening to her, respect her, and care about what she is saying.

After the Sale

Once you've established the connection and made the sale, how do you use that relationship to bring more customers to your store? Three words: Keep in Touch. From the first visit to the installation and beyond, let her know she's important. Call to confirm delivery and installation. Call after installation to find out if she's satisfied. Send a note of thanks for her business. Call three months or six months later to make sure she's still happy with her choice.

Each of these things is a simple gesture of goodwill and good business, and by learning to speak her language you can gain a customer for life.