by Warren Tyler
As a retailer, I focused on getting to know the leaders in flooring to learn as much as possible about the industry. Markets are the best venue for doing this. Most industry executives show up for these events. At one time there were several shows twice a year. Today there is but one giant market, Surfaces, which is not to be missed. In addition, there are dozens of regional markets, meetings and conventions that are important to attend.
One of the benefits of my exposure was whenever I entered a showroom or market space, I was afforded more attention from suppliers than my size as a retailer would indicate leading to better pricing, benefits and more especially, unfettered advertising money.
The trade journalists also got to know who I was—I even won an award writing for one. If they wanted to know business conditions in New England, they called me. As a result I was quoted, had articles written about me and photos published. Dealers intimated I must have a big ego. Without an ego, no one goes anywhere.
One of the industry leaders was Al Wahnon, former publisher of this journal. Many people don’t know this, but before FCNews, he was the top man at Floor Covering Weekly. Under his leadership the newspaper was voted the best trade journal in any industry in America. An altercation with the publisher led Al to leave and form Floor Covering News. A chance passing in the halls of the Atlanta Mart led him to ask me if I wanted to write a column and a whole new career was started.
The timing was perfect—I had just sold my business. What an opportunity for a brash, pushy and incredibly opinionated man to have his own soapbox. More importantly, having met many mentors through the old Retail Floorcovering Institute (RFI), it became a mission to spread this knowledge throughout the industry. RFI was the industry’s only mentoring organization and a great loss to retailers when it ended. As far as I know, it was the only place a dealer could learn how to become successful other than from a successful relative.
Much of the information is in my book, “Warren Tyler on Retail!” The names of industry greats, many of whom are gone, race through my head, Jack Beckwith, Teddy Einstein, Stan Lipp, Vic Vitaro, Frank Mayfield and Jim Voors among many others.
Randy Pakula from Allied, who spoke without prompts, became my prime motivation for speaking. My column gave me the exposure that catapulted me into this new career. After just a few columns, people started pointing me out at markets: “Isn’t that the guy who writes for Floor Covering News?” I was an instant celebrity which led to many speaking invitations. The early years were also filled with consulting offers but invites to speak and do seminars left little time. I was on the road almost 50 weeks a year and loved it.
Sales education was an obsession. Nothing frustrated me more than the nonsense coming from other so-called sales educators. The FAB system from Xerox was the worst. Personality typing was just as useless as were many of the other theories out there.
The traditional sales techniques of greeting, qualifying, presentation, overcoming objections and closing in their various forms made more sense, but not as effective as the human skills which are the bedrock of successful sales. Selling is the “art of being liked.” Simply put, people buy from those they like.
My book, “The Art of Selling Retail,” sold over 25,000 copies, so salespeople believed. Unfortunately, I have never heard of anyone else teaching these skills. Also, unfortunately, I am forced to move on from this column, so thank you all for a most gratifying 26-plus years.