Succeeding in Flooring Sales in a Tight Market Requires Expertise
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The economy is tougher, competition is tighter and consumers have a firm grip on their wallets. But when it comes to closing a sale, an attractive price tag is not all that matters. It’s what you know that counts.
A knowledgeable sales representative who can expertly guide a shopper toward a purchase she’ll be pleased with is arguably the most valuable tool in the laminate sales arsenal, says Bill Dearing, president of the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA).
“Professional dealers know to play to their strengths and not compete with other types of retail outlets,” Dearing says. “There are two important elements – personalized service to every visitor and flooring product knowledge that is superior. A good store rep can advise a potential buyer on her choice of flooring depending on lifestyle, fashion, performance and budget.”
Dearing adds, “Management and sales representatives must educate themselves on the attributes and benefits of laminate flooring. They need to appreciate the significance of the NALFA Certification Seal and what it means for the consumer. And, they must know the local market and understand consumer attitudes.”
Part of a salesperson’s education is an understanding of the value of the NALFA certification seal and the unique opportunity it provides to differentiate laminate from the competition. The seal is showing up increasingly on packaging and in store displays. But until the imprint is widely used, sales representatives must be able to convey to the customer that certified products meet rigorous performance standards and are therefore high quality and a good investment.
An educated sales rep makes for an educated consumer.
“A salesperson’s knowledge ranks high among a shopper’s expectations, as does – naturally – price,” says Dan Natkin, Mannington’s Director of Wood and Laminate. “Consumers are looking for fair pricing, the best value for the money spent, but they also want the feeling of having made a proper transaction. A knowledgeable salesperson helps the shopper make an educated buying decision, one they can be confident about.”
Meanwhile, the retail environment is changing.
“There is more competition in the flooring market with the injection of products from the Asian market and the LVT movement,” Dearing says. “The growth of big box stores across North America has driven laminate prices down, and they’ve heavily promoted DIY to the consumer. Dealers have the opportunity to sell better laminate products.”
Other recommendations for retail success:
• Explain the issue of design and quality versus price only. The consumer is most likely not coming in predisposed to a brand. She is coming in with a specific design in mind.
• Focus on a featured brand, preferably a NALFA-certified brand that underscores the truth of the performance issue.
• Never be shaken by a quoted price. There are many ways of redirect. The most simple is asking whether the consumer is planning a DIY project. If so, simply ask how many feet they need and tell them you can have it for them in a given number of hours. If not, suggest a professional in-home measure, preferably at a minimal measurement fee, applied to the order. This way the dealer is playing to their strength.
• Customers want to see how the floor is going to look installed. Interactive store displays are a great way to accomplish this, along with before-and-after photos of previous installations.
• Dealers can separate themselves by providing better customer service and follow-through after the sale.
Dearing says that almost any salesperson can apply simple techniques to interest and close a customer. Knowledge is key. He concludes, “Correct information given in an ethical manner always triumphs.”
The North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) was formed in 1997 by U.S. and Canadian manufacturers and importers of laminate flooring. Since its inception, NALFA has been dedicated to creating voluntary product performance standards for laminate flooring in North America. For more information, visit www.nalfa.com.