Throughout my career as a retail sales advisor, manufacturer representative, and educational writer for the flooring industry, I’ve worked hard not to use negatives about my competition to influence a purchase in my direction.

My philosophy is to show my potential buyers how my company and the products we represent can better fit their wants, needs and means. As always that conversation is based from the chapter in my training manual titled “The Customer Interview.”

This interview is for me to learn the five Ws (who, what, why, when and where) about my new client. In short, what is the real reason they need new flooring. Here’s a hint, it’s only low price if you present only low price.

For example, often a customer will come in—or call—with a product she has been shown from your competition. She simply wants to know what your best price is on that product. This is basic human nature and what a buyer considers her due diligence.

We all do this for large ticket items. So you have to get over the feeling that all your buyers in this situation are cheap. What you should assume at this time is they are ignorant—uneducated—or poorly educated at best.

First, if they have been to your competition, do you think the salesperson gave them the kind of proper interview you can? Did that salesperson know what product would help that buyer most? Was the salesperson just selling the item his store asked him to promote?

Chances are the sales clerk simply assumed price was the only issue. So that person carefully disguised the low price problem and then proceeded as trained to upgrade on other elements of the sale where mega profits can be made. In essence, you have a shopper who thinks she found the right product and is wise to get the best price she can. And why would she not keep shopping? The other sales clerk gave her no reason to think she has been helped, or any feeling of education, trust or loyalty.

Often I see slick sales cheats try a tactic they think is brilliant. They take the product the customer asked about and burn the price, often to below cost. They feel this shows the unsuspecting buyer everything in their store is well below the competition’s price.

Then they explain why that particular product is poorly made and why the product they are about to show is far better and at a “great price.” The over used term bait-and-switch applies here. A former industry “writer and thief” explains these methods in great and proud detail. In fact his writings on how to cheat for high profits is one of the key reasons I write about ethical selling for Floor Trends. We all have our own given opinion on what is or is not ethical, but for anyone who truly cares about their customers and strives to be a true, professional sales advisor it should be pretty obvious which is the correct way to sell.

In the situation of a shopper looking for the best price, here’s my version on how to handle it.

When that potential buyer approaches you with a product she has already seen, never, never, never give her a price on it. A race to the bottom is just an act to join the people already there.

Personally, I figure this product is not the right one for this shopper because I didn’t find it for them. Nobody does the kind of fact-finding interview I do. So I start all over, as if she was a buyer who had not done any shopping yet. The five Ws are asked and answered.

At a certain point I know her real wants, needs and means and I start directing her to a practical, realistic product choice for her given situation. By then doing product demonstrations that fit her situation and giving as much detailed, technical information as she cares to hear, I convince her she found the “Trusted Sales Advisor” who she wants to give her business to.

Don’t get me wrong about price not being important. It is. But what most selling outfits believe is that price is the only thing. They prey on the ignorance of that part of the buying public that thinks the words “sale” and “free” are where their brilliant and savvy shopping starts and ends.

Let’s face it, a certain segment of shoppers are meant to be taken. Those are the people who make it no further than the big boxes, mass merchants and other low-cost operations. But those buyers who need to keep shopping beyond the false sales are the ones who need to find a real advisor.

This is where you have the chance to educate and eliminate their ignorance. When a buyer understands why a product will perform to her needs and why it’s worth the asking price, you now have a “well advised value.” Now price will fall where it needs to. Junk is made to sell cheap, while quality needs an explanation and proper placement.

Ethical Competition

As stated earlier, speaking poorly about the competition should never be a retailer or manufacturer’s presentation to win a buyer. I believe there is a place for every type of seller and buyer. There is a place for junk to be sold cheap; there is a place for quality to be sold at a fair price, and a place for luxury items to be sold for massive profits.

When I explain my competition to my future buyers, I explain all three of these theories. Then I let them decide which one of the three I am. At this point, I’ve eliminated two of the three categories. Hopefully they think I’m the “quality at a fair price” guy who they want to give their trust to. Being better means your only real competition is yourself.

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: (970) 622-0077;