Your competition is either very good or very poor at what they do. You may never know the few that are very good, but I believe that most of my store’s competition is very poor. Mostly because of the confidence I have in myself that I know more, have better people skills and have methods of extracting my buyers’ true wants, needs and means. When you understand the phrase “competition starts at home,” you’ll start to get the overall picture.

Because of my position of being an educational columnist, hired trainer for flooring companies, and author of product knowledge and sales training manuals, I get a ton of questions on how to handle various situations of competition. Quite frankly the majority of those questions are on how to beat competition on low prices. The rest are usually on how to beat disreputable (cheating) companies and the big box stores.

All of these questions are very relevant, unless you have a mindset that you know more than the other guys. Most importantly you must simply want to put your buyer in the best position when the final purchase is made. Those two things will eliminate more than half of what you’re up against. The other half takes some straightforward logic and a new mindset about why you are the best person and place to make that purchase at. So let’s look at a few of the most competitive situations we run into in working retail sales.

The Non-Stop Shopper

How often do you get a phone shopper that is asking you to give them a price on a flooring product they have already seen? How often do you get a customer that walks into your showroom with a competitor’s sample in hand? When I run into these two situations, my first thought is this person has not met a Trusted Sales Advisor. They have shopped before you with a sales clerk. If they had met a real Advisor, they would not still be shopping.

So when they show up with the competitor’s carpet sample in hand, why would you ever try to give them “your best price” on that exact product? It’s the same with the phone call. My first thought is because I’m about to re-interview them about their real-life situation, cost capabilities and desires, they most likely have the wrong product in their hand. That may sound like I have a big head about my capabilities, but I’m almost always right.

So when you get that phone call or the sample that walks into your showroom floor, never ever give them a price on that same product. If you “burn a price” all you have done is give yourself a chance at the race to the bottom. Plus you now have to live with the consequences. That means that you could be selling a product that will not perform correctly in that buyer’s given situation. It could also mean they don’t understand you might have a better “bang for the buck” product to help them with. But how would you know? You didn’t interview them.

In both cases you need to start over as if they had not been shopping before you at all. Example: A shopper walks in with a sample in hand and asks “What’s your best price on this carpet?” I say, “Let me see it.” Then I run my hands through the nap and say, “This is a pretty nice quality (if it really is). What areas of the home are you using it in? What kind of use do you get in those rooms?”

Those two questions are usually enough to get you into a conversation and give you a chance to prove to them they have finally met a Trusted Advisor. Because you’re about to interview her, give her information she has not heard yet, demonstrate how you can fix her problems and most importantly make her feel like she can stop shopping. Let’s face it; it’s human nature to shop for the best price. But this natural instinct is there because a shopper doesn’t trust the last sales clerk they talked to. The only thing they know is to make sure they did their due diligence and get the best price. You have two choices with this type of shopper. Give a quick “low ball” price and watch her continue to the next clerk down the road. Or take the time needed to develop a relationship, do the work and make her understand the satisfaction of making a well advised purchase.

Big Box Competition

Truth be told, many of the answers to the above situations are the same when dealing with your big box competitors. You can pretty much figure that your buyer has even more to relearn if they have been to a big box before they came to you.

The shopper believes that any and everything sold at a big box store is priced lower than your store could ever compete with. You know that’s not true. I know that my prices are better, because I don’t have to private label to hold a higher price. I know I’m giving my buyer a better and more knowledgeable experience than a big box clerk ever could. And I know this buyer is still shopping because they’re not convinced about where to leave their money at.

My store is located between HD and Lowe’s. This is one of the reasons they call me “Lucky.” I’m lucky because so many people do not buy at the first place they shop. So when they leave one big box to go to the next, they have to pass by my store. Showing them why my prices are good is easy. But showing them why they can stop shopping is an art.

When they say “the competition starts at home,” you’d better learn how to make competition your home. Cultivate the attitude that your competition is always in second place and you’ll end the need to be a “race to the bottom” seller. Thanks for reading.