In all my years of observing selling, I’ve deducted there are three types of methods. One is the “Turn ’em and Burn ’em” hard sell; two is the “Comfortable Old Shoe” soft sell,” and three is the “Always do What is in the Buyer’s Best Interest to Earn the Business.”

I’ll bet you can guess which method I teach and use in my own store.

Turn ’em and Burn ’em

The operations that use this method use high-dollar, mass advertising campaigns to create high volume foot traffic. They rely on ignorance from that certain group of customers who still believe in the word “free,” or the B.O.G.O. (or whole house), or “the sale ends today” tactic.

Not only are their buyers ignorant but most of their sales clerks are poorly educated as well. The training they get is the old school hard sell in which you teach the buyer nothing. Then simply keep closing until the customer says yes or just leaves.

These operations turn and burn sales clerks as well. In fact, I once unknowingly applied for a sales position at one. The boss of the chain gave me about a five-minute interview and said, “I don’t normally do this, but I have a good feeling about you and would like to offer you the position.”

In my ignorance I took the bait, got a big head about my capabilities and joined a store that desperately needed warm bodies on the floor.

After talking to the other warm bodies, I learned they all had that same interview. So much for being special.

It’s unfortunate, but this type of operation works if the selling method is followed to the tee. You can spot these operations simply by watching TV. If you see a company’s ad on every day, if it claims each sale is “The Biggest of the Year,” or its prices are always 10% lower than the competition, they are a turn and burn operation.

In college we were taught that for advertising to work, it has to be persistent and consistent. The idea is people don’t buy high-ticket items because there is a sale; they wait until they need the item, then look for a sale. So if you turn ’em and burn ’em you have paid big bucks to be in position when the buyer is ready. Ignorant buyers feel their luck has changed. Go figure, “The biggest sale of the year, right when I need it.”

Comfortable Old Shoe

This is the method I wish we all could use. This is the mom and pop who have had the friendship and loyalty of the community for 30-plus years. Business could be done with a handshake. They never used high pressure; they just wanted to make a fair living, not get ultra rich and start a chain.

Unfortunately, this is a vanishing breed. Walmart and Home Depot showed the world how to put mom and pops out of business.

When these big boxes came to town, all friendships and buying loyalty went out the window. The lure of the almighty low prices won the war of ignorance. If mom and pop wanted a paycheck they had to work stocking shelves in the flooring department at the big box.

While mom and pops didn’t always have the best prices, they had one of the greatest traits a trusted sales advisor could ever have: They wanted to do what was in their friends’ and loyal buyers’ best interest.

Those of us who still like this philosophy can incorporate these values in our own modern day version.

Buyer’s Best Interest

As you probably already guessed the third method is what I use and train. When I first wrote “Selling Clean In Retail Flooring,” I wanted to prove turn ’em and burn ’em was not the only successful way to sell flooring.

I wanted to show you could keep some of the comfortable old shoe and incorporate methods of educating future buyers to a point they trusted you with their high-ticket purchase. Basically, to be a sales advisor—not just a friend.

With today’s high volume, low price mentality, you have to show more than just friendship to gain loyalty—you need a level of education about your products that allows you to prove to your buyer what a value is when she buys the right product at the right price; that you understand her situation well enough to put her in the best product for her given situation. To get to this position is a matter of using my method of “The Customer Interview.”

Without reprinting the entire chapter, the idea is you have to earn the right to advise. To do that, you have to ask questions that let you truly understand her wants, needs and means.

The real need is center point of the interview. She needs to move in or out, she needs to remodel, she needs high- or low-traffic products, or needs it done quickly.

After establishing what the real need is, you can narrow the focus of the wants and means. A want is what ideally we all would like to have. We want a big house, an expensive car and smart kids. These are dictated by our means. Personally, I can’t afford a Rolls Royce nor do I want one. But since my wife and I don’t have children our means allow us to have a nice home.

How could you advise me on a purchase if you did not find that out? With a proper interview, you can. Then you have earned an advisor’s right to use my favorite line, “From what you have told me, here is my advice.” Now, when you feed back their situation (need) and tailor it to her particular wants and means, you’ll have found the perfect combination to earn her business.

Maybe mom and pop can make a comeback after all. Thanks for reading.