Who are these people walking into your showroom? If you can gather a bit of information about your customers you can make a suggestion tailored to their unique needs and lifestyle. A huge part of this is demographics. Are they "Traditionalists" or part of  "GenX?"

Who says sequels are the exclusive domain of Hollywood? Last year National Floor Trends published my original “What If…” article, and since “what ifs” are plentiful in our world of floor coverings, I decided to pen a sequel to this saga. To do so, I tapped into the Color Marketing Group International’s research to look at the various generations who make up your potential customer base. It’s helpful to know something about each generation’s characteristics. Why?  Because each generation holds a different perspective so you can begin to tailor your product selections, color choices, and sales approach to suit their unique buying styles.

Generational traits are highly generalized, of course. But the profiles defined are accurate enough to give us some important clues and selling “hot points” for the customers walking into your store. So let’s have some fun with our fictional customers and their “What if” scenarios.

SCENARIO #1 – Joe and Rita are in the market for new carpet.  Both are retired and Joe has even shared his World War II stories with you over a second cup of coffee. Rita walks with a cane and has already told you whatever carpet they choose will need to stand up to the wear and tear of her six grandchildren.

SOLUTION:  Joe and Rita are in the “Traditionals” generation. Since they like to be appreciated for a job well-done, I hope you took the time to listen and were effusive in thanking Joe for his service to our country. That would go a long way in establishing trust and rapport. Next, you would do well to choose a nationally known branded carpet for this couple. Remember, they are willing to spend more if they understand why the product is worth more, and showing a brand is an excellent foundation for that premise.

“Traditionals” want to be educated, not sold. So now is your time to shine. Explain the value of the brand and the warranty as well as the technology used to make the carpet. They are retired so they probably have the time and want to understand exactly what they are buying. And don’t overwhelm them with too many colors; three or four should suffice.  Traditionals gravitate toward soft, neutral tones that will work well with their treasured existing furnishings. Since Rita is walking with a cane, a well-made, dense, low profile carpet would be the safest and best choice for this couple.

SCENARIO #2 – Linda parks her 2007 BMW directly in front of your store window.  She is dressed in a chic yet sensible business ensemble and matching high heels.  When you approach her, she insists she just wants to look around on her own.

SOLUTION: You have read this buyer correctly. She is a busy and successful professional who will be making an in-depth study of flooring products before making a decision. Give her lots of space to browse around. But you can create a “hook” by gently steering her to some of your newest and more unique arrivals. She will likely start asking YOU questions about the products. She is a Baby Boomer. The buying trait you want to appeal to most is her willingness to pay more for an artistic, “I’ve-never-seen-anything-like-this-before” product. You can stop her in her tracks with the right product. Use color and high-end style to appeal to this customer. So many of the new chameleon colors-especially in carpet palettes- add character to a home and help create the signature style that Linda craves. Exotic woods, natural stones with distinctive deco insets, colorful glass tile applications-these are the materials to present to her. The sale is in the balance and will hinge on your ability to get creative!

SCENARIO #3 – Tiffany, Marissa and Jaime are roommates who just purchased a 12-year-old urban loft that they want to redecorate.  They’re asking for something “environmentally friendly.”

SOLUTION: You probably weren’t surprised when they verbalized their “Green” priorities. It fits with the Generation X profile. These young ladies are fun, informal, and delighted to finally own a home. As a smart retailer, you’ve already done something to tout the “Green” products on your floor. These GenX women will be drawn to those products. And now you have a very attentive audience to the story behind these materials.  For instance, hardwood floors that are FSC-approved (Forest Stewardship Council) would be a good place to start. Any FSC-approved products are from forests that plant three trees for every one harvested. Also, know the story behind the sustainable carpet products you offer. If you can marry sustainable materials AND unique technology in a single carpet, it’s a good bet that Tiffany, Marissa and Jaime have found a winner they can all agree on.  Don’t forget that Gen X loves color, so let them go crazy with the awesome choices manufacturers are providing today.

SCENARIO #4 – Jadie and Justin look more like kids going to the prom than newlyweds moving into a  new mid-rise condominium next month.  But they have been married three whole months and are now avidly searching for flooring options (while talking on their cell phones, of course). They’re young, eager, and close to making a buying decision, so you would do well to take them seriously.  They’ve researched flooring on-line, so they know a little about every type of product. They know they want it to be sustainable, and Justin wants something with state-of-the-art engineering.

SOLUTION: Ask to see an actual floor plan of their new condo. This way you could really create a workable flooring design plan for these young “Millenials.” If it’s an open floor plan-living room, dining area, kitchen all open to one another-there needs to be a visual continuity from room to room. Multiple flooring types will only serve to cut up the space and make it seem even smaller. And the condo would have a “patchwork” look to it, which would be a design nightmare. “Millenials” like uncluttered, open spaces so you would do well to recommend only one floor covering for the entire space. Soften the look with area rugs where needed. This will evoke a feeling of spaciousness and keep the integrity of the home’s openness.  

I’ll bet you have figured it out by now-that understanding something about each Generational is an incredible tool when selling flooring. You wouldn’t think of embarking on a major trip without an itinerary and directions, would you?  The chart on page 26 is a road map that gives you “directions” of how to best understand and help your customers.  The destination (the sale) is always important, but the route you take on the journey (your sales approach) is just as important.  Follow the map-- it will turn the “what ifs” into sales.