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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Banish the Hard Sell - Focus on Value, Not Price!

Carpets originally uploaded by bdoubleu.
The flooring industry - as do many industries - struggles with selling VALUE. A frequent approach is to go right for the jugular and immediately push a low-priced product. Barely has a customer set foot through the door that she hears "Have we got a great deal for you! Let me show you. You can't get it for less anywhere else!"

Sound familiar? Doesn't it make you feel all warm and fuzzy? You start relaxing because you know that someone has YOUR best interests at heart, right? There's no way you'll wind up with a lemon, right?

WRONG! You know that the dreaded HARD SELL is upon you. You steel yourself for an antagonistic and hostile transaction. You get tense, suspicious, and prepare yourself to run out the door at the earliest opportunity. And, you count your fingers before leaving the store - just in case someone got away with something while you were watching...

Imagine if it were different... You are greeted respectfully and courteously, made to feel at home... You are asked about your project, your dreams, your ideas. A serious attempt is made to understand you and figure out how to bring you meaning and value via product recommendations. Wouldn't that be fantastic?

Many of the flooring trade shows and conventions attempt to address that very issue and Surfaces was no exception [e.g., Why Amazing Shopping Experiences Matter]. Given that the hard sell tops the list in creating a really negative shopping experience [think used car sales], flooring stores able to get away from price, from commodity and from hard sell stand to gain the eternal gratitude of women consumers around the country! And eternal gratitude means repeat purchases and strong referrals -- all of which lead to increased profitability! Ironically, banishing the hard sell to focus on value rather than price remains a really hard sell for most flooring retail sales associates.

Warren Tyler - another Surfaces presenter - offered the following advice in his presentation titled Selling Value - Not Price:

Successful retailing is about uniqueness. What is it about your flooring retail store [and brand] that is truly different from the competition? What is it that you offer consumers that enables you to sell at a higher profit margin? If you have nothing unique, then you can only sell based on price - not an easy game to win! [See The Water Droplet Girls with a most appropriate quote by Patrick Hanlon, author of Primal Branding: Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company, and Your Future.]

Never forget that flooring represents a fashion solution to create a beautiful home for the consumer. If you can help her put together a beautiful home, you are offering her value. If you can offer her value, then price is a non-issue.

If you cannot, then price will be the main issue. And, if she shops price, she neither likes you nor trusts you. [Say goodbye, then, to repeat purchases and referrals!]

Surround yourself with sales associates whose passion for home furnishings and creating a beautiful home is contagious! And keep their knowledge fresh by exposing them to ideas! Either through the home furnishings trade press, through manufacturer and supplier trainings, by visiting creative homes, via the internet even reading design books bookstores or the library. Consider inviting local design schools to send their students in to do projects for credit, or having local designers do the store windows.

[By the way, here are the Color & Fashion Links from the sidebar of Flooring The Consumer: Color Marketing Group, Iconoculture, Living In The Box, Michelle Lamb: Connecting the Dots, Sensational Color, spheretrending.com, The Cool Hunter - News, The London Trend Report, The Runway Scoop, trendwatching.com , World Trend Events from trendwatching.com in case you need some ideas.]

Always change the vignettes, and the windows! The windows are the soul of the store [read about Linda Fargo's windows in Engaging the Consumer... Via Store Windows]; they are there to entice the consumer. This is a FASHION business, and unfortunately, the most common floor covering window decoration is the back of a carpet rack. Yuck! What message does that send your consumer? [One flooring store by me has had a "Grand Opening" sign for the past 2 years. The lighted Rudolph stays in the window all year round; luckily the lights aren't turned on until November.]

Remove fluorescent lighting. It's ugly. Not only does the product look ugly, but the consumer does, too! Use incandescent lighting instead.

Tyler bemoans the excessive choice of beige as a carpet color. "Beige does not a WOW factor create! How can anyone sell a home without a WOW factor? Never sell a plain room. You will lose your consumer and all of her friends."

Selling a WOW factor requires a sense of design. It requires passion for the consumer and what you can help her create. The benefits are enormous:
- it discourages comparison shopping
- it separates you from your competition
- it inhibits price shopping

More importantly:
- it generates many more referrals [new customers who refer even more customers]
- it inspires customer loyalty [and a relationship filled with a multitude of transactions]
- it puts your salesperson in control
- it establishes your store as a decorating source
- it leads to higher sales and greater profits and commissions.

Remember that product and price are the least important items in a store IF you can develop a relationship with your consumer and understand better what she is trying to achieve. Then, help her achieve that vision and you will be offering her absolutely priceless value!

[For the history behind -or under- Don Bailey Carpets, pictured above, see He bared it all to cover floors in the 5/15/2004 issue of The Miami Herald by Nicholas Spangler. It's a good story.]

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