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Installments: Elevating your skills in flash-coving vinyl

October 14/21, 2019: Volume 35/Issue 8

By Mike Pigeon

 

As with all trades and trade skills, there are different levels of expertise and capabilities that everyone can achieve. When it comes to resilient flooring installations that require an integral cove, this is where it usually separates the good, the bad and the ugly. (Especially when you add in the seamless floor factor and every seam needs to be welded, both vertical and horizontal.)

As we all know, on the commercial side of the trade health care and medical facilities are booming. It really does not seem to matter what part of the country I’m in, the resilient flooring and flash-cove or self-coving sector is in great demand. However, no matter where I go there seems to be a shortage of installers at this skill level.

When it comes to heat-welded floor installations, whether experienced or not, there are a few sides to the story. Some will tell you they only do it periodically and it’s not worth the investment for training and tools to be fully invested. Some will tell you they invested in the training and tools and wish they had more installations to make it worth it. Others will tell you they turned their complete focus toward this sector and have never looked back. This is usually depending on the marketplace and location and the type of work that is booming in that area. The one common thing they will all tell you is this is a specialty part of the floor covering trade that takes a special hand, eye and skill that not everyone will be able to embrace.

First, education. There is training out there if you can get your hands on it. If you are working out of a union shop, there are the apprenticeships that have very thorough training programs and also require in-field time with journeymen. If you’re in the non-union sector, it is usually a case of getting pulled in under the wing of someone willing to share their skills. This is a very long and slow process as the best way to learn is hands-on training.

Second, required tools. When it comes to heat-welded seamless flooring in combination with flash-coving material, different tools are needed. There will be a small investment with these tools when it comes to cove cap cutters, scribes, gouging tools and also welding tips and skiving tools.

Last is mindset. The self-coving or flash-coving sector of the trade will separate the average from the above average, not only in terms of training but also in mindset. When a well-tuned, highly efficient installer on a flash-cove job is putting down large amounts of yardage and lineal footage of coved material, it is because he has spent the blood, sweat and tears to master the mindset required. No matter what, when you commit to this skill, you’re all in or all out. That includes taking into consideration that most bids want to pay for a Ford Pinto but get a Lamborghini-quality job. When you are paid hourly, speed does not matter as much, but when you are a self-employed contractor, speed improves profits.

When all is said and done and you are at the quality level that is the hardest to achieve, you will always be in demand. The work rarely diminishes, and you will be a highly requested installer.

Bottom line: make the commitment, find the marketplace and take your skills to the next level. You will never be out of demand.

 

Mike Pigeon is a technical installation specialist for Roppe Holding Co. He has 20 years experience an installer and an additional 10 years as a commercial project manager. Pigeon, who is a certified installation manager (CIM), currently serves on the CIM steering committee.

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Marketing Mastery: Great marketing cures a lot of ills

October 14/21, 2019: Volume 35/Issue 8

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(Second of two parts)


In part one of this series (FCNews, Sept. 16/23), I made the point that, hopefully, industry-wide solutions to the installer shortage are coming, but that might take a while. In the short term you’ve got to solve it for yourself, which generally means either hiring installers away from other retailers, or recruiting and training them yourself. Either way, if you don’t have enough customers and your margins are low, you’ll have trouble affording it.

That’s where good marketing comes in. Let’s look at some practical strategies you can implement to attract plenty of quality customers and command margins of 40%-50% or more.

Build a strong foundation. The first thing you need to have in place is a strong selling system. Studies show that on average three out of 10 walk-ins wind up buying. If you’re investing time, energy and money to get customers to walk in—but your sales process is so weak that 70% of them don’t buy—you’re simply throwing your money away. So, before you even begin investing in marketing you need to put a strong selling system in place. Your selling system should equip your team to take control of the sales process, create differentiation, position them as trusted advisors, command high margins and close more sales.

Implement a referral-generating system. Referrals are less price-resistant, easier to close and more fun to work with than cold prospects who simply saw an advertisement. We all know this, yet most dealers don’t have a system in place to generate ongoing referrals. Your referral system should do two things: First, train your team on how to ask for and get immediate referrals from your completed installations. Second, your system should generate ongoing referrals from customers between purchases. You do this by creating a culture of referrals.

Dance with the one who brought you. Your business exists because of the patronage of your past customers. Stop ignoring them. Communicate with them at least monthly. I’m going to keep hammering this until the industry gets the message.

Wow ’em from the get-go. Everyone goes online looking for flooring, and everyone reads reviews. That’s why it’s important to make sure you’ve got dozens of 4- and 5-star reviews, with new ones being added each month.

Profit from other people’s herds.Over the years you’ve been in business you’ve rounded up a herd of past customers who provide you with repeat and referred business. Other businesses have too. Build referral relationships with these businesses. Top prospects include realtors, remodelers and designers.

The strategies I’ve presented have something in common: they all help increase your repeat and referred business, close more sales and position your store as the obvious choice. When you shift from being, say, 30% repeat/referral-driven, to being 70% repeat/referral-driven, your closed sales will automatically increase and it will be far easier to command high margins. And this will help you solve the installation crisis for your own business more effectively and less expensively than many other kinds of advertising.

Jim Augustus Armstrong is the founder and president of Flooring Success Systems, a company that provides floor dealers with marketing services and coaching to help them attract quality customers, close more sales, get higher margins and work the hours they choose. Visit FlooringSuccessSystems.com for more information.

 

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Lisbiz Strategies: How to stand apart from the pack

October 14/21, 2019: Volume 35/Issue 8

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Do you ever wonder how stores that are so much alike can stay in business? (I’m talking about home centers in particular.) Think about it; they have the same problems you have: distinguishing themselves from the competition. Not only are they the same size, but they carry very similar products as their competitors.

I bring this up because businesses are always struggling with developing a competitive advantage. How does it work? Do they get better deals on their products, do they sell substandard materials? It’s doubtful they get real deals on their products. If they’re buying tons, I’m sure they get price breaks. My hunch is they buy different products. If they sold substandard materials, they would be out of business. From my experience, I believe they know their customers.

Building a competitive advantage starts with distinguishing your perfect customer. It doesn’t start with you saying, “I have to sell more than them, or they’re taking my customers.” The Dollar Store gets every customer who wants to save money; it has nothing to do with not having enough money. They don’t advertise “Come in because you’re poor.” It’s a “price-only” offer. If you want to save money, you go to the Dollar Store. Sometimes you find an item that’s a name brand, and you feel like you’ve really won.

If the cheapest price is what your customer is after, you can’t stop them from looking and comparing. The question is, why would you want the customer seeking the lowest price? The lowest price customer won't keep you in business.

Here are some ways to determine your “best” customer and how to keep them close:

Determine your perfect customer. Look through your invoices of sold customers and pull out the ones who have purchased big-ticket items. Have they bought similar products? How did they pay for their large purchases? Check their invoices and see if there are other similar factors. Compare everything from what they bought to where they live. Put together your pro- file of the perfect customer.

Don’t be reactive, be proactive. If you’re going to compete, you will have to do something different. Note: This is not the same as doing things “differently.” Let’s say your competitor offers a one-year warranty on their installation. Your competitive strategy is to offer a five-year warranty. That’s doing the “thing differently.” If you were to say you were doing an inspection after the first year to make sure the flooring is performing properly and repairing any problems or make a recommendation, then you're different.

Train your employees to be the best, not better. Being the best would mean doing something entirely different. Welcoming your customers into your store with a cup of coffee, provide elegant furniture for them to sit on, having your television on and connecting to your website to show products and links to your suppliers. How about bringing up video testimonials and Facebook comments from happy customers. (Don't forget snacks for the dog.)

Manage the customer experience by delivering more than customer service. Customer service is basically determining a customer’s problem and then solving it. This is the basis of everyone’s business; if you can’t do this, you’ll be out of business.

Keep your customers close. Hosting events in your store, involving customers in your charity events and holding in-house focus groups will bring you closer to your customers. Find new ways to spend time with them.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Lessons learned: In flooring, it really does pay to be green

October 14/21, 2019: Volume 35/Issue 8

By Tom Jennings

 

“I have never been hurt by anything that I didn’t say.” – Calvin Coolidge

While this saying may have proven to be beneficial in the world of politics, I think it is proving to be detrimental to today’s flooring dealer. The success and survival of a retail store depends on a thorough and ongoing awareness of the community it serves. Fine tuning the business and responding to changes in consumer interests and buying habits are more important than ever today. Today’s customer wants to know what products are made of, how they are manufactured and in what ways they will affect their families’ environment.

In spite of this shift in buying habits, I find that most flooring retailers are still conducting “business as usual.” There’s never a shortage of price-driven promotions, in spite of the fact that price alone has never been a proven differentiator over the long haul in this business. It might be effective on items that are bought frequently, but this logic does not apply to purchases made on the average of once per decade. When you focus on price alone, margins become so thin that most dealers find it nearly impossible to promote their businesses in a sustainable manner over time.

That begs the question: Why do so many stores continue to head down this path? I believe that it is due to the fact that they haven’t chosen a specific segment of the market to focus on. As the famous Hall of Fame baseball player Rogers Hornsby once said, “The best way to get on base is to hit it where they ain’t.” I feel a great opportunity exists today for a focused flooring dealer to actively and professionally present the “green story.” Virtually every product we sell has made major strides in recent years toward improving their content in ways that are kinder to our environment. While this topic is very well promoted among the commercial and design community, I see almost no one championing the cause at the retail level. Why the secrecy?

To focus on these products would not require a massive shift in your product offerings; these products exist today. What will be required is a shift in the way these products are presented to the customer. Ask yourself, while many of today’s carpet yarns can be recycled, when was the last time you suggested this feature to a customer? Cork and natural hardwood flooring are sustainable products that are featured in many design publications. Do you know their stories well enough to present in a compelling manner? The majority of carpet cushion is made from recycled or reclaimed materials. Do you tout this as a plus? Many stores currently bale and recycle their carpet cushion. If you do so, are your customers made aware of it? When was the last time you advised your customer you were keeping her best interest in mind?

None of these suggestions would cost significant funds to implement. What will be required is an ongoing commitment by every member of your staff to embrace the concept. It has been proven in virtually every industry that many customers will pay more for environmentally conscious products they believe in. Our industry has no shortage of such products. What is in short supply are great stores staffed with knowledgeable people to properly present them. Why not create your store in this image? Not only will you be doing our environment a favor, but you can also stand out in a crowded marketplace by taking a road less traveled.

 

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a former retailer and sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.

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Al’s Column: Weighing the impact of the ‘Wayfair’ case

October 14/21, 2019: Volume 35/Issue 8

By Roman Basi

 

The recent Supreme Court decision (South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc.) has dramatically impacted online retailers and increased possible successor liability risks in terms of merger and acquisition transactions.

Prior to the Wayfair ruling, the “physical presence” standard set out in Bellas Hess and Quill controlled online retailers’ necessity to pay South Dakota sales tax. The physical presence rule allowed out-of-state retailers who sell their products or services online to avoid the state’s sales and use taxes due to a lack of a brick-and-mortar business in the state. However, under the South Dakota Statute affirmed by the Supreme Court, online retailers are now required to pay South Dakota sales tax if their business has a “substantial nexus" with the state. This is reached when the retailer has sold more than $100,000 in in-state sales or completed 200-plus transactions in the state on an annual basis.

Following the Wayfair decision, over half of the states have developed and are implementing very similar requirements for out-of-state retailers. The Supreme Court found the physical presence standard not only incentivized the avoidance of state sales tax, but cost states an average of $8 billion-$33 billion per year in taxes. The physical presence standard is being phased out due to modern technological advances providing online retailers with the ability to reach virtually any U.S. consumer, and avoidance of states’ sales tax has become a multibillion-dollar issue.

It’s important to understand the sales and use tax liabilities in the context of buying or selling a business involved in online retail. This increasing development of case law has led to more exceptions to the rule of buyer non-liability. The ABA published a memorandum in January 2018 on successor liabilities in an asset transaction that has greatly increased its relevance in light of the Wayfair decision. In the memorandum, there are four exceptions of successor liabilities mentioned: (1) the buyer (successor) assumes the seller's liabilities expressly or impliedly; (2) the transaction in substance constitutes a merger or consolidation of the buyer and seller (de facto merger); (3) the buyer is "a mere continuation" of the seller; and (4) the intent of the transaction is to defraud seller's creditors. The most common of the four exceptions is the de facto merger. This exception is particularly influential if the transaction involves a continuity of management, general business operation and equity ownership, assumption of seller’s ordinary course business liabilities, physical location and seller’s dissolution following the sale.

The question becomes: how do the successor liability standards affect the buyer of a business that has online retail sales? If an online retailer does not follow the varying state-by-state requirements, it could result in a failure of sales and use tax payments or payments of the incorrect amount. This may result in unforeseen liabilities when a creditor comes seeking repayment. The best way to avoid any potential successor liability issues is with vigilant due diligence and strategic pre-transactional planning focused on the above-mentioned risk factors.

A strong M&A team will greatly help limit any potential stress during a transaction that may result in a buyer withdrawing their interest due to successor liability. Due diligence focusing on specific state requirements regarding payment of sales taxes and the elimination of state tax liabilities prior to closing is key.

 

Roman Basi is an attorney and CPA with the firm Basi, Basi & Associates at the Center for Financial, Legal & Tax Planning. He writes frequently on issues facing business owners. For more information, please visit taxplanning.com.

 

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Marketing mastery: Attracting installers in a tight labor market

September 16/23, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 7

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(First of two parts)

On Aug. 23, I attended the Flooring Installation Taskforce meeting held at the CFI convention in San Antonio. This meeting was hosted by the Floor Covering Leadership Council to help further the mission of solving the installer shortage. Robert Varden, vice president of CFI, did a fantastic job presenting the challenges and providing real, actionable solutions to recruit a steady stream of young people to the installation profession. The only thing needed to implement these solutions is funding. Hopefully a few big players or a group of smaller players, or some combination, will recognize that funding these solutions is in their own best interests.

So, in the short term—while we work toward an industry-wide solution—you need to solve the installation problem for yourself. I believe there are really only two viable options to do this. The first option is to recruit installers away from other dealers. In today’s market it’s rare to find an experienced, qualified installer who is unemployed. Therefore, you’ll often be hiring them away from other dealers, which requires you to pay them better than your competition. The second option is to recruit and hire new, inexperienced installers. In this case you’ll need to provide training and—this is critical—a career path. (CFI has training programs to which you can send new installers.) You’ll need to show them how they’ll be making X-number of dollars, and how that amount will go up as they gain experience. You’ll also need to provide health insurance and a retirement plan. In other words, you’ll need to hire them as in-house employees because 18- to 24-year olds are generally not interested in starting their own installation business, buying a van, the tools, etc.

Neither option is possible if you don’t have enough customers, your close ratios are low and your margins are in the toilet. If you’re trying to compete by being cheaper than everyone else, you’ll cause a host of problems for yourself, just a few of which include: inability to recruit quality help of any kind, including installers; inability to grow; difficulty weathering recessions; and massive stress and overwork for yourself.

Yes, there are large companies that sell on cheap price (or at least pretend to), but as an independent retailer you shouldn’t emulate them. First, they have a business plan that supports a cheap-price model, including the ability to buy in massive volume. Second, whenever “cheap price” is your big market advantage, all it takes is for someone to come along offering a cheaper price to eliminate your advantage. Case in point: I was recently consulting with a dealer from Georgia who told me, “No one beats our price.” A while later in our conversation he complained he was surrounded by dealers who owned nothing more than a website and some samples, who were selling out of their truck or garage and undercutting his prices. I pointed out that this is why cheap-price selling is a dead end. I’m now working with him to completely reposition the business away from cheap price and implement marketing to attract the right customers.

The good news is you can attract plenty of quality customers while having high close ratios and selling at high margins. In part two, I’ll cover strategies to make this happen in your business.

 

Jim Augustus Armstrong is the founder and president of Flooring Success Systems, which provides floor dealers with marketing services and coaching to help them attract quality customers, close more sales, earn higher margins and work the hours they choose. Visit FlooringSuccessSystems.com.

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Lessons learned: Never throw good money after bad hires

September 16/23, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 7

By Tom Jennings

 

Much has been written and discussed regarding the costs associated with making a bad hire. We have all experienced them. There are costs incurred before the hire is ever made. Job placement services, if utilized, carry a fee. So, too, does advertising the position available. Overtime expenses may be incurred as existing staff have to cover the duties of those not present. The cumulative hours spent interviewing and reviewing the various candidates are hours not spent productively cultivating both new and existing clients. These costs alone can be substantial–and the new recruit hasn’t even started work yet.

When they do report for duty, the real costs begin. There are costs related to having office personnel simply process the various forms pertaining to employment. Logo wear or uniforms may need to be ordered. There may be business cards to be printed or cell phones to be distributed. There is always the intangible loss of productivity as your existing staff takes time to “show the new person around.” This is the polite term for sizing them up and making sure they properly understand the “pecking order around here.” All this and not one order has been written, nor has one item been shipped.

Next come the costs related to properly training the new kid on the block (or worse, the higher costs of not training them well). No one knows how many dollars and how much goodwill is lost as new staff inevitably lose potential sales due to inexperience. While estimates vary according to position and location, all indicate these costs routinely run into the tens of thousands of dollars per new hire.

There is also no disagreement that some turnover is inevitable. Even the best employees retire, relocate, etc. And, as any business strives to improve, it is often necessary to replace a mediocre performer with a better one. Now, imagine how much better the quality of your business life would be if you could substantially reduce these burdens. Not only would your balance sheet profit, but the general tone and attitude you endure every day would improve as well.

My question is this: Was this recruitment necessary? Might the previous employee still be on staff if the general tone of the operation had been one that built trust and loyalty? Were they treated like an individual or merely as a number?

Loyal employees speak positively of your firm to those they encounter. They take fewer sick days, have fewer accidents and file fewer claims. They are more willing to put in the extra hours to complete a “crisis project” for your customers. And while they must be compensated fairly, their attitude is often affected more by the way they are treated than by the manner in which they are paid.

No, the previous statement is not a misprint. Just as price can be made less relevant in the customer’s eyes by a well-presented sales presentation, the exact pay scale offered can be made less critical in the eyes of a well- trained and respected employee. Whether one is selling or paying for services, price range is important but the exact numbers need not be.

I realize this may seem as if I’m stating the obvious, but you’d be amazed at the number of employees I come in contact with who are not getting the level of appreciation and support they desire. Couldn’t happen at my store, right? Don’t be so sure. Just remember, it typically costs a great deal more to recruit new staff members than it does to keep current ones content.

 

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a former retailer and sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.

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Al’s column: Creating a great brand experience

September 16/23, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 7

By Chris Wallace

 

If you asked most people to tell you their favorite flooring brand, they’d struggle. In fact, they probably wouldn’t have one at all—and with reason. Brand recognition is incredibly low in the flooring industry, research shows.

It isn’t easy to be a brand in the flooring sector. The product goes from the manufacturer that makes it to the retailers that sell it, and somewhere along the way the brand story sometimes gets lost. Need proof? Just think about the last brand that made an impression on you. Chances are it offered more than just a good logo and a clever ad campaign. You probably had a stand-out experience with it.

The customer experience can be difficult to master, especially when you don’t control it. Because flooring purchases generally take place in the retail space, the store selling the product is in control of how customers perceive the brand. Essentially, once the product leaves the warehouse manufacturers have little say in the experience consumers have with the brand.

Salespeople often immediately tell customers about whatever special they’re running without having any real discussion about those customers’ needs or preferences. They’re selling the stock product at stock price to make the best mark-up.

Even though this secures some sales for the brand in the stocking slot, it doesn’t build awareness. As a result, the interaction between sales and the customer ends up being almost entirely about price and not about quality, value or how certain brands can best meet customer needs.

More than that, if the experience leaves customers knowing nothing about the brand they purchased, their impressions are primarily shaped by the rep who made the sale.

All this begs the question: In this complicated multi-player industry, how do flooring brands and retailers work together to make a name for themselves and create a solid customer experience? Following are three steps to make this happen:

1. Shift from product to brand conversations. Instead of talking with your suppliers about whether their products are better than they were last year, come to the table ready to press them for a distinct, clear message that will help you best meet your customers’ needs. Don’t settle for the answer that a product is more durable or more stain resistant, etc. Ask for differentiated brand stories and experiences that go beyond features and benefits.

2. Change the focus of the sale. You aren’t just a customer to your supplier—that line of thinking is limiting. Supplier support shouldn’t end as soon as the customer interaction begins. Ask suppliers to provide the necessary tools for you to drive a great branded in-store experience for the end customer. They can give you customized sales conversation guides, tips on how to make the brand promise part of the product installation promise and peer-to-peer best practice sessions. Telling great brand stories enhances interactions and creates a connection between the customer and the brand. Don’t go it alone—make sure you work with your supplier to set the experience apart.

3. Set expectations for the experience. When manufacturers help you sell to consumers in a way that builds their brand and stays aligned with their messaging, you can together set standards for how to execute the experience. Start with a dialogue by sharing with your suppliers what’s working and what isn’t. The more you can marry your daily reality with manufacturers’ brand visions, the better the customer experience will be.

 

 

Chris Wallace is the president and co-founder of InnerView, a marketing consulting firm that helps companies transfer their brand messages to their customer- facing employees and partners.

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Marketing mastery: The low-hanging fruit is where you find gold

September 2/9, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 6

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(Second of two parts.)

In my books, articles, webinars and seminars, I often feature case studies of dealers who have close ratios of 60%-80% (the national average is only 30%-35%), command margins of 50% or more and stay booked out for weeks or months at a time. Occasionally, someone will say these results are impossible. I don’t blame dealers who feel this way because these results are way outside industry averages. Let’s look at how flooring dealers are achieving results that many think are impossible.

To varying degrees, the dealers I feature have all implemented what I call “Tier 1” marketing. This means marketing strategies directed toward their past customers in order to generate repeat and referred business. It also includes having a strong sales system in place that creates differentiation, enables the dealer to command higher-than-normal margins and close more sales. In other words, Tier 1 is all about going after their warm market, i.e., the low-hanging fruit.

In part one of this series, I pointed out that dealers will often spend thousands of dollars in advertising to attract cold prospects, yet not invest any effort to get repeats and referrals. Does it make sense to invest a fortune chasing strangers yet totally ignore the only people on the planet who have proven they will buy flooring from you? Of course not. But that’s what the vast majority of dealers are doing.

When you put Tier 1 marketing in place, over time you will get a higher percentage of your business through repeat and referred customers, which will, in turn, automatically increase your close ratios. Think about it this way: On Monday you have 10 walk-ins who are all repeat/referred customers. On Tuesday you have 10 walk-ins who are strangers who simply found you online. Which day are you going to close more sales, get full margin and not get jerked around as much on price? Monday, of course.

Tier 1 also produces the “marketing multiplier effect,” meaning it will multiply the ROI of any other advertising you’re doing. For example, let’s say you’re investing $3,000 per month on your website, SEO and Google ads. And let’s say this generates 10 walk-ins per month, and you close three of them on average. This will produce $9,000 in revenue. By having a strong sales system in place (Tier 1), you can do better than industry averages and close four or even five out of 10. By having a referral system in place (Tier 1) you should be able to generate at least one referral from your closed sales. If you market to all 10 walk-ins with a monthly newsletter (Tier 1), you can easily generate another one or two sales over the next year. In this example, Tier 1 has more than doubled the ROI from the original $3,000 advertising investment without spending much more money. Tier 1 will create this marketing multiplier effect for any other advertising you’re doing.

To recap, Tier 1 will increase your percentage of referred/repeat business. That, combined with a strong sales system, will automatically increase your closed-sale batting average and help you command higher margins as well as help even out the seasonal ups and downs. It will also increase the ROI from all the other advertising you’re doing. Tier 1 is also simple and inexpensive compared to many other types of advertising.

 

Jim is the founder and president of Flooring Success Systems, a company that provides floor dealers with digital and offline marketing services, and coaching to equip dealers to make more money, work fewer hours and get their lives back. For information visit FlooringSuccessSystems.com.

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Lisbiz strategies: How to disagree without being a jerk

September 2/9, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 6

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

We’ve all felt like a pushover at some point in our lives. We let someone talk us into something that wasn’t for our own good. In fact, we knew we shouldn’t have done it, but we did it anyway.

Whether you’re interacting with a customer, negotiating with a vendor, managing an employee or making your case to a business partner, you need to learn how to put your foot down without stepping on someone else’s toes. Here are some useful points to remember when it’s time to say no:

Think about what saying “yes” really means. Have you ever quickly said yes and then realized, “Why did I say that?” If you had taken the time to slow down and think about what saying yes meant, you may not have said it. One of the keys is to take time to reply. Instead of quickly agreeing to something, have a canned phrase that will give you time to think.

Here’s an example: Two years ago, I managed to get a self-inflicted head injury two days in a row. After my second trip to the emergency room the doctor asked if I thought I was a clumsy person. You know this is a terrible thing to say to a gym rat, but I realized how stupid I must have looked. Before answering, I took a deep breath and said, “I’ll take it under consideration.”

Practice saying “no.” You might ask yourself, “Do I feel just as good saying ‘no’ as I do when I say ‘yes?’” You might practice with some small nos. Instead of saying yes, give it a no and see how it feels. Instead of agreeing to go to that same-old restaurant, say no and try something else. When you say no to the things that don’t help you, you are, in effect, saying yes to the things that will.

Prioritize accordingly. I’ve heard people say, “I’ll fix it later; it can wait.” Did you ever think, “It’s not that big a deal; I should not worry about it.” Don’t get me wrong: I’m not implying that everything should be a heartache, but some things are worth paying attention to—especially when it involves your commitment to others.

Stop being a people pleaser. It’s all about figuring out the right way to say no for the right situations. Another way is to change the words you use to say no. For instance, you can say “I cannot allow that...” or “I cannot agree to those terms.”

Be firm but compassionate. Self-compassion, a construct drawn from Buddhist psychology, refers to a way of relating to the self—with kindness. It is not to be confused with arrogance or conceit, which usually indicates a lack of self-love. We often confuse our bad acts with being a bad person. Research has consistently shown a positive correlation between self- compassion and psychological well-being. The minute we lose our self-compassion and love for ourselves, the more we begin to question our own worth. Once we do this, we find ourselves in a state of depression and a place that is hard to rebound from.

Scott Fetters, a marketing consultant who works with startups and Fortune 500 companies alike, writes: “People will eventually respect you for disagreeing with them. Saying no is not the equivalent of flipping a giant middle finger. It’s quite the opposite—it shows you have a vision, a plan and an opinion. By clearly articulating your needs, challenges or deadlines (in advance, if possible) you begin to eliminate distractions. In turn, you stop feeling inclined to people please because you have defined a game plan.”

Words of wisdom.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.