I've always believed you need to see what customers drive up in, because it can often give you clues on which direction to take them. It’s not to see if they drive an expensive or low-end car, because that will make you assume something and often in the wrong direction.

A person in a rich looking car may just need builder grade for a rental home, while a couple in an old beater might mean they are frugal but want something nice for the inside of their home.

So don’t ever judge this book by its cover. The customer interview will take care of that.

Many times I’ve told the story of a customer of mine back when I was selling for a store in Southern California. A very well to-do looking man walked in by surprise because I didn’t see his car in the parking lot. As I found out later when I followed him home to do the measure, his Rolls Royce was parked around the corner.

But in the beginning, just a short time into my interview, I learned he needed some carpet for a house that his mother-in-law was going to to be stay at for just a few months a year. As I continued with the interview, I further surmised he was not really thrilled about having to house her for any length of time at all.

So, I gathered more information about the house and his situation. As it turns out it was a guesthouse out by the pool. You might guess that a guesthouse by the pool means you have a very wealthy customer on your hands. Fortunately for me I had enough information to show him a fix for his problem.

When I complete my customer interviews I always give my buyer a recap of the situation. This is so I’m sure I have a full grasp of the situation before I start with demonstrations on the product type I think best fits the circumstance. Plus, I get a few nods of the head so I know the buyer knows I get it.

Here’s how my recap for this gentleman went. “Let’s make sure I’ve got this correct. You have a guesthouse that has a pool next to it and your mother-in-law visits for a few months a year? You’re doing the entry, steps, hall, two bedrooms, closets and living room in carpet?”

Then the head nod came in and I was set to give my recommendation. “Here’s what you might consider. I understand you have a very high-end home (a mansion on the coast qualifies, I would guess). But from what you’ve told me (my favorite line after I listened), I think I’d put in a nice carpet but one that does not cost too much.”

At this point I had his attention and a surprising smile. So I said, “If we go to a short tight pile loop berber, we can give you that beach house appeal. This style keeps the cost down and is still a tough performer. Plus the olefin fiber won’t bleach from any pool water.”

Like I always say, when I hit the nail on the head: Bingo. So here’s a case where I found ‘The One Thing,’ which was this poor, rich world-famous heart surgeon (as it turned out) hated his mother-in-law and just didn’t feel he needed to spend big bucks to further impress her.

Bt the way, this was his forth store he had shopped, but no one else got to his real need. After I finished the order at a poolside table, he gave a sigh of relief and said, “Thank You, Kelly, you’re the first person to not try to take advantage of me because of my obvious surroundings.”

Quite frankly this was a modest dollar sale, but I did it the right way and found the one thing no other sales advisor (clerks I should say) could find.

Now the best part about ethical, clean selling: Over the next several years I did flooring and wall tile in “The Big House”—the place he lived in. But unlike the economical choice for the mother-in-law’s place, he wanted the good stuff for his own palace.

By the way, his circle of friends got the word as well. So you can probably guess what happened?


If you dig deep enough before showing products, you will find the right direction to fit that one thing.

You might also be surprised to learn that only a small percentage of buyers purchase on price alone. Sure, price does matter, but when you can show your customers you understand their situations and can then explain and demonstrate why a given product fits and fixes their problem they are most often willing to spend what it takes to do the job correctly.

When I’m training I always get salespeople who tell me their customers always price shop them and how do they get past that. I explain to them more in-depth about the customer interview (found in my book) and how that puts you on a different level than every other sales clerk.

Again, price does matter, so during the course of getting to the real need, you need to explain how the product you are proposing is a good value for the category of flooring they need to be in.

A value to me is a good price for the correct choice. It’s not selling junk cheap. That’s what we have the big box and the big shop at home “buy one get three free” operations for. By the way I’m sure you know these operations sell a great deal of junk—and some better quality—but with their “selling dirt” tactics, it’s not cheap.

Learning a buyer’s situation, wants and means are everything in being that person’s Trusted Sales Advisor. Your job is to find that one thing, their hot button to fix the problem. Your investigation might find out that it’s color or design, it’s a moving fast situation, it’s longevity of product life, it’s a quick fix and, yes, it might just be price. But find out what that one thing is and you’ll help your buyers because they bought from you.

Thanks for reading.