This issue marks 20 years since I started writing for the flooring industry trade journals back in 1995. It’s a milestone I never intended to have happen. But like any other consistent, worthwhile thing you work at in life, time passes quickly and you find yourself blessed with your accomplishments.
Floors To Go sales advisor Tom S
Floors To Go sales advisor Tom S. quotes low-, medium- and high-quality carpet ranges to give his prospective buyer early ballpark price expectations, which helps him better understand why each product costs what it does.
I’m reminded of a time many years ago when I asked a friend, fellow industry columnist and someone I greatly respect, “What do you get out of writing your columns?” Which was a subtle way of asking him what he got out of it financially, because I wanted to see if I was on the right track in my writing career.

Without hesitation he replied, “They let me write a nationally read column.”

Those words have stuck with me to this date. They remind me how we should cherish the things in life that give us pride and satisfaction. So every year since that day at New Year’s I no longer set down a list of resolutions; instead I make a list of my loved ones, friends and accomplishments. Then I list the ways I can improve upon them.

So first, I’d like to thank my readers for allowing me to “speak” to you for the past 20 years. But most of all to start out 2015, I want to wish for you the same joy and satisfaction I have found in my family, friends and the accomplishments of life. To me those are really all that is important in life.

Part of my list is always to help myself improve on my skills as a Trusted Sales Adviser (the name of this column). As always, when I find ways that help me, I write them down for you.

Over these years of writing about selling, I’ve come to the conclusion that a good ethical sale is simply doing what is in the best behalf of my buyers. But getting to the point of them trusting me, appreciating helpful knowledge and simply wanting to buy from me is a formula that will set you far apart from your competition. In my training manuals I write in great depth about “the customer interview,” because that’s where all the customer confidence, knowledge, appreciation and the want to buy from you gets its foundation.

In order to learn how to best help your buyers, you simply need to ask the appropriate questions that determine the outcome of the products they purchase. Showing items before you’ve asked what their true wants, needs and means are show that you are there only to make a sale and not do what is in the buyer’s best behalf. It would be like a realtor showing a new client a multi-million dollar home before knowing and understanding their true wants, needs and means.

As such, there is one question I want you to ask first when you meet a new potential buyer: “Tell me what you are trying to achieve.” The answer to this question will not give you all the answers, they will tell you what direction to start the rest of the customer interview.

The following three areas are the steps to get your buyer into a comfortable, confident purchase:

•Functionality. I’m a huge believer in product demonstrations. When I bang my key on a laminate plank to show how scratch and dent resistant it is, when I pull a tuft out of a carpet sample to explain twist importance and when I take a water-resistant product out of a bucket of water, it’s to show that it will fix a problem my buyer has had in the past.

I know what those problems are because I asked, “What problems have you had in the past?” The other two questions that are important to ask in the functionality portion are “What type of use does the flooring get?” and “How long do you want this flooring to look good?”

•Product demonstrations. Your help on demonstrating how a product works will show your customers why it will fix their situations. It also will explain why the product you recommend costs what it does. When you can say these words to a buyer, “From what you’ve told me,” you’ve now earned the right to advise on the proper product and its cost.

For example: “From what you told me about your high traffic areas this carpet will give you the 13 years you need it to look good until your kids move away.” Or, “From what you told me you could easily spend less because you only need this floor for about four years.”

Believe me when I say a trusted sales adviser telling a couple they can spend less is like a breath of fresh air—and an easy sale for that matter.

•Cost expectations. Even though you might already know what quality of product your customers need for their given situation it doesn’t mean you know what they are expecting to pay. Most often they don’t know because flooring is a product that most people are ignorant about.

That is why early on it is important to throw out ballpark numbers. For example, at my store I explain to a customer a low end carpet, pad and labor package will run about $2.25 per square foot, while a middle range package is about $3.50-plus, and at the luxury end it will be $4.50 or more.

Then, if they know the approximate footage of their space, you can plug those numbers in. Now your demonstrations on how low-, medium- and high-end will perform make them understand why it costs what it does.

This is when you will see them focus in on products that are in their comfort zone. They will then, with your trusted help, have to decide if they need to spend more or even can spend less.

In either case you’ve done your job and they are ready to buy what’s right for them, from you.

Here’s wishing everyone a happy and prosperous New Year, and thanks for 20 years of 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: 

(970) 622 0077