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Retail education: Winning with alternatives

Part 1 of 2

By Kelly Kramer

About 15 years ago, while living in Southern California, I specialized in selling flooring to apartment complexes and property management companies. During a presentation to a manager of 550 units, I asked, “What problems have you had in the past with your floors?”

After a long explanation it came down to, “The floors get beaten up very quickly and we have to replace them too often.” The apartment-beige plush got beaten up—not worn out—in high traffic areas and stains were not treated by renters. Also, the laundry room vinyl wore out in front of the washing machine and dryer, but there was no problem with bleach or chemical discoloration. In both cases, the cost of a quick replacement was the big problem.

Then an idea hit me: What if we put a commercial carpet and thin commercial pad in the laundry room? “Your problem is that most carpet will show bleach and that the vinyl gets trashed quickly. Commercial, or olefin, carpet will not bleach. It will wear much longer than apartment grade vinyl and by using a thin pad under it can be replaced at half the cost of vinyl.” Now she was intrigued and wanted more information.

I went to my product rep for a commercial carpet sample and asked the maintenance manager to get me some bleach. After my successful test demonstration, I continued: “Your laundry rooms are about 6-feet by 9-feet. If we do two at a time, I can use a 12 x 9 sheet for both, produce no waste, and really lower your cost. Then, as the years go by, the problem of having to replace that room between every renter will quickly be reduced. Plus, your tenants will clean more often because they can vacuum instead of mop.” With a committed decision by my new, informed, money-saving, manager friend to try it out, I had landed a huge account. I stumbled upon a winning alternative.

Then we turned to the problem with the main carpet. “The way I see it, your carpets never wear out. They ‘ugly out’ in high traffic areas and stain everywhere else. When you think about it, apartment grade, plush, light beige carpet with a cheap pad is a great formula for planned obsolescence. You have an upscale quality complex here, so why not switch to a dressier, short-pile, commercial Berber?”

At the time I used Endless Naturals/Wonders as my stock items and reminded her that a re-used, commercial pad would produce more savings. Berber is looked at as an upgrade for some reason—real estate ads often mention Berber carpets, if they have it. Since the problem was staining more than wearing out, this type of carpet would last longer in both cases. Again, she wanted to try it out.

Bingo again. I was two for two with logical alternatives.

Soon after we put in the first commercial Berber, I got a call from the complex manager. She said the first potential renter who looked at it was impressed with the classy change from all the other “rental beige” places that they had looked at. The best part was that the complex was owned by a corporation with three other large complexes within a 50 mile radius. My manager friend was credited for a mega, money-saving idea. Does the phrase friend-for-life apply here?

This boost to my income came from one simple question: What problems have you had with your flooring in the past? The customer interview will always lead you to some great, alternative, logical choices and reasons to buy from you. In part two, I’ll give more examples.

Thanks for reading.