The groundwork is done; now get the order

THERE COMES THE TIME to turn the potential customer into a paying client. To get her to place the flooring order, it helps to have a consistent strategy in place that can satisfy everyone.

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“When I do get to the point of asking them to close, they know that they are going to be taken care of throughout the entire process,” says Hillary Beney, sales and design associate, CDL Carpet and Flooring in Calgary, Alta.

“When I work with my clients I am really big on building relationships.” Beney is confident when trying to close a deal with a client because, she says, “I’m timely in getting them the quote and going the extra mile.”

Making the prospects comfortable means educating them by sharing product knowledge (PK), something that Beney is frequently exposed to in her company’s regular “PK sessions” held in-store for staff. “Every time manufacturers bring out a new line, they bring it to the store to talk to us about it,” she says. “The customer needs to know about the warranty, where it is manufactured and the commercial grading of the product.” Having this information for customers helps to close the deal, she adds.

Beney finds that bending over backwards for the customer means answering their calls at any time. “Some customers like to text and you need to be on top of that. I find people kind of expect you to be working 24/7 and that to succeed with them you have to be constantly attentive.”

For Cheryl Doak, owner of Floors in Motion based in Whitby, Ont., the mobile nature of her business means the closing takes place in the customer’s home instead of at a retail outlet.
Serving the Durham region in Ontario, Doak transferred a traditional storefront business into her showroom truck and hasn’t looked back.

“I couldn’t afford to keep someone in the store at all times. And I found that people coming into the store just wanted some moulding or under pad,” says Doak. Floors in Motion relies on Google searches and Facebook to drive calls to the business.

ELIMINATE VARIABLES

Coming to the customers’ homes with the mobile store has sped up the closing process, too. “You put a sample in your house and it looks totally different than in the store,” says Doak. She notes that bringing the sample into the home means that they “go under the same lighting and match up to their existing floors,” something that can’t be done in a store.

“When you are in a store you are always asking, ‘how many people are in the family and what are you going to use this room for?’ You ask all kinds of questions about their environment. But when you’re in their home, you don’t have to. You see what type of people they are and you see their eyes light up when they view the product in its future surroundings.”

At Patti-Lynn Interiors in nearby Stouffville, Ont., owner Patti- Lynn Card says closing is partly about installation timing. “The timing of having the correct crew that is going to work for them, as well as what they need to do in preparation for the install.”

The 30-year-old company has 20 on staff, including its own installation crews, so the timing part of the transaction is more under her control. “Considerations such as what they need to move and what we can move for them to get the job done,” says Card. “I like to see pictures removed from walls because if we’re going to hardwood, for example, then there is going to be vibration. I don’t want anything falling off the wall and breaking.

“You also need a clear path in and out of the house, we have to discuss where we’re going to cut if we’re cutting. And if we are removing carpet or hardwood, they have to understand that there is definitely going to be dust. Flooring is major construction, it is not a little in-and-out operation like delivering furniture.”

COMFORT PROMOTES CONFIDENCE

Beney adds, “having outside people in their home is quite invasive. From the time I measure for the install, I’m trying to make the customer as comfortable as possible — and letting them know we are going to rectify any problem is a huge part of the process.”

For Patti-Lynn Interiors, the closing discussion can happen in the store or in the client’s home. “Sometimes when I’m in the house measuring,” says Card, “I will tell them that ‘this is what is going to take place.’ Usually I go over a typical checklist — and hopefully the customer is listening to you.”

According to Card, before closing you are always trying to get them into the correct product for the job. “You go through the checklist, like kids and pets, and how much they use the room and what it’s being used for. So all of those things come into play before showing them a recommended product.

“Ultimately they are going to make the decision on the product, but you can give them the options of what performs good, better, best.”

One large criterion for product choice is the customer’s commitment to the property. “Sometimes they say ‘we’re not going to be here long,’” says Card. “That’s what every single person tells me! But the decision is to really meet their needs. If it’s long term, you hope they go to the better product — if it’s short term then something that’s just ‘good’ will work.”

Different clients can have wildly different expectations, explains Beney. “The high-priority clients are on a need-to-know basis with every single detail of the product,” she says.

“Then there are some clients who are on a different time frame and they have left everything to the last minute. They say, ‘the ball is in your hands, just get me this in this price range and I need it ASAP.’ Those are kind of the easiest ones because they are just focused on getting it in.”

Unlike Patti-Lynn Interiors, CDL Carpet and Flooring has different contract carpet, hardwood, vinyl and tile installers it relies on. “We have different crews we gel with,” says Beney, “so we like to keep working with them. I like to call the homeowner before the job starts and let them know that they can contact me if there are any issues or questions.”

STAND BEHIND THE WORK

Card says that warranties help to reassure customers during the closing process. “Certainly our installations are warrantied and the products all have manufacturers’ warranties. If the seam isn’t quite right or something comes loose, if this or that gets missed, then we have our guys go out and fix it.”

There is a limit when it comes to warranties, however. “Of course after eight years,” says Card, “and you’re telling me something has come loose? Honestly, in most cases, if there is a problem with installation, it will happen in the first 12 months. So a full year cycle of weather — if the carpet has stretched during a humid summer, for example — it might need an extra kick, especially if it was installed in the cold.”

Surveying the customer’s home before bringing up the closing conversation is essential to a happy, on-going sales relationship. “I like to do a measure first,” says Beney, “then walk through the house with them and go through any little side notes that may pop up during the install that they may not be aware of.

“You always get little things with flooring because when you rip up the old flooring you don’t know what is underneath. You go over the baseboards with them so that there is not an issue when the install takes place.

“These become notes that are part of the paperwork that I give them at the end.” Customers will sometimes want to save money by removing flooring themselves, Beney says, “but we can also provide a quote to remove and dispose of the material.”

The follow-up after closing also ensures that future sales are protected, according to Doak. “We have the availability to check up on the installs. We’re flexible so we can come in and check what’s going on with the customer and talk to the installer. When you are stuck in a store like I used to be, you can’t do or see anything.

“The customer might say they are happy, but when we go to check the job, we might say ‘we are not happy.’ We might want the installer to go back because something needs to be fixed.”

The closing conversation may seem like it ends when the ink is dry on the order, but conscientious flooring professionals know otherwise.

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