January 21/28, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 17
By Ken Ryan
What do you get when five of the highest-level executives in the flooring industry are asked to dispense selling tips for their retail flooring customers? You get some of the smartest pieces of advice, words of wisdom and common-sense tips that every dealer and his or her RSAs should heed.
In their words, here are five tips for retailers from top manufacturing executives.
Don Maier, president and CEO, Armstrong Flooring
Most people are familiar with the four P’s of marketing, so I’d like to offer an updated version for 2019—the five P’s for flooring dealers.
Product. It’s important to have a ready inventory of products that are in demand today, such as LVT and rigid core flooring, and to showcase innovations that differentiate products. Clearly speak to the key benefits that drive value for your customers, whether it’s the floor’s striking, on-trend designs or its superior durability and performance. Don’t go right to the lowest price option. Price alone never sells a product—you do.
Place. This applies both to physical stores and a dealer’s online presence. You want to merchandise stores to draw attention to in-demand products and those that create an opportunity to upsell. At the same time, developing a robust online digital presence is critical to engaging customers throughout their purchase journey.
Promotion. This should advance beyond traditional campaigns to include market development initiatives. Are there untapped customer segments you can pursue—from Main Street businesses to property managers to builders? Make it a point to call on prospects that can expand beyond your established customers. Because of their looks, durability, waterproof nature and easy maintenance, multilayer and LVT products offer a perfect solution for small businesses and property managers and give the independent retailer a new opportunity for sales.
Professional development. Ensure your RSAs receive ongoing education so they’re confident in selling new categories, especially those that are driving sales. Working with certified installers is also important to providing the best experience for customers. Follow up after the sale to ensure customer satisfaction and encourage repeat business, too. Word of mouth and great online reviews are still the most powerful selling tools.
Partnerships. Finally, be sure to leverage the value of your partnerships. We’re fortunate to partner with an exceptional network of distributors. Our distributors have expertise in their regional markets and can collaborate with dealers on the other factors mentioned above—effective merchandising, developing promotions and employee training.
Bob Shaw, CEO, Engineered Floors
Eliminate your claims. Our PureColor carpet virtually eliminates claims related to side match, which remains one of the leading causes of carpet claims in the industry. You only get one opportunity to make a first impression.
Keep it simple. Too often a retail showroom can become overwhelming for a customer with complex and inconsistent merchandising, displays and marketing stories.
Have good installers. These are the people who can make the biggest impression on your customers. They remember the ones who are courteous, professional and good at what they do.
Know your product. It’s a lot easier to sell something you know about.
Don’t forget about carpet. It comes down to comfort and color. There is nothing more comfortable than a luxurious carpet.
Russell Grizzle, president and CEO, Mannington Mills
Pay attention to the changing demographic. Today’s up-and-coming consumers shop differently than before. They rely on the Internet and other interactive experiences to guide their selection. Make sure your website offers a positive experience.
Focus on the emotional side of the purchase. Buying decisions are made based on more than just price. The customer wants a beautiful space in which to live or work. Do all you can to help her find her aesthetic preference first. Human behavior shows that we buy emotionally and then we justify those purchases rationally.
Offer the customer a variety of choices. Based on her needs, there will be a variety of appropriate product solutions in residential hard surface. The style, performance and price will all factor into the decision so make sure to let her know she has choices in different product categories such as sheet vinyl, LVT, laminate and hardwood. Keep in mind, however, that we see a trend toward simplifying the purchasing process once a customer chooses a category.
Exceptional service will set you apart from your competitors. Before, during and after the sale—from online presence to professional sales staff and installers to follow up calls—service is what will set you apart. Especially during the disruption of installation, be on time and do it fast to make it as easy as possible for the customer.
Engage in your community. As a local business leader, involvement in community events will increase visibility among your potential customer base and foster goodwill. An added benefit: It’s not just good for business—you will feel good by doing good.
Tim Baucom, executive vice president, residential business, Shaw Industries
Choose a partner who puts you first. Work with a partner who can help you gain a competitive advantage in your local market. Take the time to thoroughly and deeply evaluate which tools and resources elevate your business and which manufacturing partner puts you and your goals first.
Be adaptable and agile. Continued success hinges on two critical factors: adaptability and agility. The complexity and ever-evolving nature of the flooring industry pushes retailers to anticipate market changes as they make decisions based on what the economy has in store for the future—growing while possible and preparing for economic changes when necessary.
Collaborate with consumer-centric manufacturers. By collaborating with consumer-centric manufacturers, you can take steps to streamline the journey your consumers embark on when making a flooring decision. From an engaging web presence to clean and simple displays in store, the more cohesive and polished the presentation, the more confidence the consumer has in you as well as in her ability to make the best decision for her home.
Product knowledge and effective communication are key. In an ever-evolving and highly technical industry, it is critical for retailers to thoroughly understand and properly communicate product offerings to the consumer. With innovation comes the need for education, and a commitment to education on both a manufacturer level and a retailer level is key for continued success and positioning retailers as trusted, valuable and honest partners. Look to your manufacturing partners to provide transparent and thorough product information.
Cultivate relationships. In the digital age, technology can make us more efficient and it can often save money. However, a personal relationship has the ability to transform a business. Relationships are one of our most valuable assets, so it’s important to invest time in cultivating them. Consumers who feel valued will not only be return consumers but will tell others about their experiences at your retail location. By cultivating relationships with consumers and your own people, you will inevitably drive your business forward.
Tom Lape, president, Mohawk Residential
It’s all about your digital lead generation and digital strategy. Commit to becoming a local leader in digital advertising.
Speed kills. How fast are you responding to customer inquiries and leads? How fast do you respond with a quote proposal? Follow up on your quotes quickly.
Sell to your strengths and your advantage. Sell the product mix that allows you to better compete against the big boxes and category killers. Drive your margin productivity by selling to your advantage.
It’s all about the team. Keep your sales and installation teams highly motivated to win in the market. Review your incentive compensation plans to ensure they’re competitive today, not two years ago.
What’s new for 2019? Energize your showroom floor with new product or merchandising to showcase the latest designs and styling to your consumers.