As much as it’s been talked about, many flooring retailers really don’t understand or know their customer. The problem, of course, is that the majority in this industry are still men; most owners of flooring retail stores are also men. The ranks of retail salespeople are growing with women, but men still outnumber women.
But the flooring customer generally is a woman. The fact is, women purchase more than 90% of all home furnishings. Women purchase most of everything. Men and women don’t think the same way, don’t communicate the same way, and don’t buy for the same reasons.
The optimal selling process for a woman is different than of a man. A man shops with focus while on a mission. He wants a transaction to take place. He wants to get in, make the transaction and get out. After shopping in a store with my wife for a few minutes, I usually say, “Let’s get it and go!”
When a woman goes shopping all of her senses are on alert. It starts in the parking lot. Is the store clean, uncluttered, well lighted and safe? How is the product presented? Are the store’s restrooms clean and inviting? Are the aisles wide and easy to navigate? Does the signage make the store easy to shop? Is the salesperson a well-dressed professional? Do the salesperson’s socks match? How congruent is the salesperson’s presentation? Does the salesperson have product knowledge?
Unlike men, when a woman buys, she’s interested in building relationships. Every place women go they make connections - no connection, no sale. To your female customer, it is as much about how she feels about you or service personality and attitude as it is about the facts. It’s about the chemistry. If the chemistry doesn’t work, she moves on. With a female shopper you may have to meet with her many times. Women go through a deliberate and thoughtful decision process before they buy.Though I speak, teach and train about selling to your customer, I became poignantly aware of the reality again when interviewing Todd and Renné Wenner of Lima Carpet Corporation for this month’s column. Lima Carpet Corp. was named 2010 Regional & National Dealer of the Year by Mohawk. Lima Carpet Corp. won the Regional Dealer of the Year award in 2009 as well. I decided I needed to find out why, in these tough economic times, they were flourishing. In fact, they indicated their sales for 2010 were the best they have been in five years.
Lima Carpet was started by Gordon Whelpton in 1967, out of his garage in Lima, N.Y. In the mid-1970s, he opened his first storefront showroom. To accommodate his thriving business he later moved to the neighboring community of Avon in the town plaza. The name of the business thereafter expanded to Lima Carpet of Avon.
In 1997, Gordon retired and sold his business to his son-in-law and daughter, Todd and Renné Wenner. The second generation has continued the fine tradition of quality that the public has come to expect from Lima Carpet.
Todd, an outstanding installer and vice president of Lima Carpet, spends most of his time installing floors. I interviewed Renné, Lima Carpet president, to discover the company’s secrets of success. It became clear why they have continued to be successful after the departure of her father. She and her sales team understand and get personal with their customers. Their entire sales team is women, and two of the store’s installers are also women. “Our customers love it when our women installers are vacuuming and cleaning up after the job,” says Renné.
“We spend most of our time building relationships and getting personal with our customers,” she explains. “The customer has to feel that the relationship is more important to us than making the sale. So we ask more questions and listen carefully to her answers. We always find out personal things about them and we stay in contact and follow-up. We ask them questions like, ‘How’s your mom?’ or ‘Is Joey still playing soccer?’ We build relationships with our customers and they know we care.”
She and her team then use Facebook to stay in touch. “Everyone of our customers know when we are having a sale. They get notified through Facebook. It has helped that I have been to seminars on how to use social media. I even watch what’s going on in the life of my customers on their Facebook pages.” She commented that she goes to seminars and training and listens and takes notes. She reviews those notes often to see what she and her team could do better.
“We are careful whom we hire to represent our company. We try to hire people smarter than us. We take pains to hire happy, friendly and fun-loving people. I want salespeople who love their customers. If they have good personalities and are likeable, I can teach them the rest.” Her salespeople are not on commission, so everyone in the store may get involved in one sale. They help each other.
They are constantly updating the showroom and keeping up with the trends. “We have to keep changing things or we are going to be left behind.” That statement sounds like what my wife says when she wants to change things around in our home. That’s another way men and women think differently.
The Lima Carpet team also builds relationships in its community. Renné is a member of the Rochester Women’s Business Network. She, her team, and family donate many hours of community service, like taking meals to shut-ins.
I asked Renné, “What else did you do to make 2010 a good year?” Her response: “We didn’t cut back on our advertising. Mohawk did the Rhino Challenge; we did the Thoroughbred Horse Challenge. Since we are in a rural community, many of our customers have horses. It was a natural.” Go to their website and watch Todd and Renné’s son, Levi, doing the challenge (www.limacarpet.com). They are going to do the same challenge this year in a local restaurant.
Women build relationships. Men seek transactions. Take a lesson from Lima Carpet: Women want connections and want to get personal. How good are you doing at that?