During my career in floor covering, I’ve spent about 80% of my time selling to residential remodel buyers.
I guess you could say it’s what I do best and what I enjoy the most. Even though the average job might only be between $2,000 to $5,000, I still enjoy working with homeowners the most. The hard part is that it takes a lot of orders and a great deal of time and effort to write a $100,000 of sales per month.
But what I always remind myself is that many of the small deals have led to a ton of residential retail referrals over the years. So I’ve become lazy and do less work prospecting for new residential buyers. In short, my cold calling, advertising and other forms of prospecting are down to a minimum because I put in the work in the many preceding years.
Often, though, I write orders that are in the Main Street arena because I sold the small business owner the flooring for his home or a contractor finds me because I have an actual storefront. So, while I can’t brag about working hard for those orders, it does remind me that I can’t be lazy about prospecting/marketing for the smaller commercial jobs in my area.
There are simply too many opportunities out there and it diversifies my business. If you’ve been through the last seven years in this bad economy, you understand why you need some diversity in your business.
Look at those flooring dealers that catered mainly to new builder residential and commercial. They might as well have closed back then and reopen again today. Meanwhile, companies like mine managed to keep our heads above water because we worked with homeowners, landlords, property managers, realtors and small business owners. All categories that have less fluctuation—or less boom and bust. So again this reminds me why I need to start building a better bank of Main Street customers.
I’ve always written about how retail flooring advisors, by the nature of our business, often have a great deal of time on our hands. We don’t work with 50 new customers a day; we work—on a good day—with about four to five. This “down time” is the perfect opportunity to work your Main Street clients.
Here’s a few ways to use that time productively.
About once a week, drive around to your local strip malls, business complex clusters, and medical/dentist complexes. Most often, you’ll see either remodel construction or a for sale or for lease sign.
On remodels, simply walk in and ask if they have a reliable flooring company yet. What surprises me is how many new companies moving into a building get started on construction and haven’t even lined up a few of the needed contractors. That’s often the same with private owner/homebuilders. They have their loan and just get contractors in the order they need them.
In either situation, many companies and homebuilders are looking for a lead to that next reliable contractor. That’s why I advise to go once a week. Get there at the beginning of the project and improve your odds on being the lead they needed. Then, on signs in the window that state for sale or lease, call the realtor or property management company.
Getting in good with these groups might just put you back in the lazy category. When you finally get the confidence of realtors and leasing agents, you not only get rid of your cold calling, you make their lives easier as well. Getting a bank of realtors behind you can bring you a residential remodel for the sale of the home or remodel from the new homeowner. It also gets you calls for every type of Main Street job as well.
Drive buys are highly effective because they create a tremendous amount of interest and they put a face and personality in front of people who want to find someone they can trust and rely on.
Join Leads Groups
The easiest group to join is your local chamber of commerce. It has leads groups for all kinds of local small business owners. What better target could you have than that?
The idea is simple: Members of the group know other small business owners and they trade (refer) them back and forth. Joining your local builder’s association works the same way.
These types of groups usually have a monthly dinner meeting where a guest speaker talks and the rest is you meeting builders/remodelers and letting them hear how wonderful you are. They normally have a local builder or remodeler magazine that offers low cost, very efficient advertising space. If you place an ad in these publications be very specific in the type and realm of work and products you provide.
Revisit Old Clients
You or your store should have files on past customers. In my case, I keep a daily sheet of my past sales with names, dates, what was done and phone numbers. This way, I can call a previous Main Street buyer and say, for example: “Hey, Jim. This is Kelly the carpet man. Just checking to make sure things are still good with the flooring we installed in May. And the real reason I called is because I’m in sales just like you. So, I’d appreciate you passing my name to anyone you know who needs flooring for a new store.”
A great deal of times, I’ll get, “I’m glad you called, a friend of mine is opening a new shop and I was just looking for your number.”
Businesspeople love to help other businesspeople. Give them that chance. Take a look at the photo with this column. It’s my pets’ veterinary hospital, where we just recently installed the flooring. You can bet my doctor friend (Doctor K) will give me a great deal of future business. In fact, she’s the fourth vet clinic we’ve done in five years. I guess they must know each other.
One last tip: Get away from your computer and put in some good, old-fashioned, face-to-face time and shake a few hands while you’re at it.
Thanks for reading.
Based in Loveland, Colo., Kelly Kramer is an author, inventor and owner of Kelly’s Carpet Wagon. He is a 27-year veteran of the flooring industry, with 25 of those years as a retail sales advisor. To contact him with questions or to book him for public speaking engagements, call or email: