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Get out of the store

by Warren Tyler

By now most retailers realize the long slog is over. The old, “press on regardless” philosophy still holds. If you have been reading this column as well as Floor Covering News’ “Retailer’s How-to Handbook,” you will see we are doing everything we can to help retailers not only survive, but to prosper.

My last few columns have been dedicated to separating yourself from the competition by becoming a contrarian retailer—unique display, products, sales techniques, merchandising and advertising methods. Many times my advice is not to sit around the store to die a slow agonizing retail death. Getting out and meeting your customers is where the business is. Meeting realtors in the morning at their office with coffee and donuts, joining as many networking groups as possible—womens’ groups, local chambers of commerce, BNI (one of the best) as well as joining local social and service clubs and just doing the simple things like David Elyachar’s, aka Big Bob’s, great idea of having a goal to give out 10 business cards each and every day.

Cultivating relationships with business people in related industries such as remodelers, decorators, builders, property managers and all types of business facilities especially senior living properties and nursing homes are incredible sources for new business. Critical to success is having a plan when you do meet new people.

They are in business to make money just as you are and much of the conversation should be about their businesses and how your business can help them. When you target a promising prospect, arrange a tour of your store or even a friendly lunch. Every building has a floor and most people are connected to several floors in their life. It is important to familiarize yourself with their business.

The beauty of networking is your competition isn’t there. My wife, Tara, among other retailers, states she is the only flooring store represented in her dozen or so groups.

Your people should be out networking and cultivating business as well. When they are in the store, they should be calling previous customers and working on their “tickler files.”

What are these? Only something that salespeople can’t live without. They are described along with staffing, advertising, merchandising display, showroom layout, hiring, educating and every other phase of retailing in my book, “Warren Tyler on Retail,” offered in this issue. Call me.

For customers who do come in the store, make sure your salespeople are competent enough to start and keep a friendly conversation. No speaking about product until she asks. If they can’t comfortably get by such immediate objections as, “I’m just looking,” “I would rather look around alone,” “Oh, don’t bother with me, I just wanted to see what you had,” or the other million-and-one customer excuses not to talk to salespeople, you don’t need them on the floor.

So-called salespeople with personality bypasses cost you plenty. Their excuses such as, “I just wanted them to feel comfortable,” “I don’t want to push them,” and other inane excuses not to interact with customers just demonstrate their utter lack of professional skills.

Educating your people in the most critical element of sales, human skills, ensures you will not lose the customers who do come in. These interpersonal skills will be invaluable when attending networking functions as well.

The last thing I want to do is to become a shill for my educational products, but they can double your sales production. If you call me direct, I will give you an additional discount. I don’t need to sell them, but you need to purchase them for your employees—and your experienced employees need them more than your new people.