Store Front - May 2007

By Lisbeth Calandrino

Retailers are often asking the question, “Where can I find customers?” and “How can I attract more buyers into my store.” If customers are not coming through the doors looking for you, then it is time to hit the streets. 

For many salespeople, as soon as they have to leave the store, real panic sets in. The first thing you will hear them say is, “I am uncomfortable with outside sales. I hate to cold call! Who would I call on?” 

Some people naturally have the gift of gab and can talk with anyone, but for many it is difficult to strike up a conversation with a total stranger. The salesperson wonders, “How do I begin the conversation?”

Last year a friend of mine took a job with a well-known insurance company, which offered a product no one else had. Despite the opportunity to differentiate his company in the marketplace, he quit his insurance job because he was required to call on people he did not know. Well, the reason he did not know them was because he never made it his business to know about them.

Having successful sales numbers is about building your business and, for the most part, has nothing to do with luck. Successful salespeople are forever on alert for new business, and they make their own luck. What I have found over the years is that only bad salespeople make cold calls; good salespeople never make cold calls. To a good salesperson, every prospect is hot! Once you make that mind shift, the whole world becomes a hot customer, and you will have more opportunities than you can ever explore. How can you beat that? 

First, determine what kind of customers you want. Are you after new homebuilders, architects, interior designers, remodelers? Then, make a list of your potential customers and their interests. Where do they go to get business? For example, talk to other subs that provide interiors and ask about how they get their good leads. 

Do not forget to say thank you for referrals even if they fail to turn into business. If someone refers a client to you, and he can tell it matters to you, that person is likely to send more prospects your way. And, if someone gives you business or leads you to business, remember to send a thank you note in the mail, a small gift certificate to Starbucks or your favorite coffee shop, a gas card or a day off for an employee who brings in a referral. 

The best way to say thank you is to find out what kind of leads your target customers need and be on the lookout on their behalf. It is a major step in making you an indispensable partner. So, become known as a person of influence. Make it a point to get to know everyone of importance in your community. The more people you know, the more leads you can find for customers that can give you business. You do not need to get business before you reciprocate; always think, “How can I help others be successful?” When you are known as a “giver” you will eventually get back. Prove that you want others to succeed. 

Build friendships with everyone you meet. Be aware of the delivery boy. His dad might be a very important general contractor, or someone that you would want to get to know. Learn to make friends with your tech or computer support rep. Check your “watering holes,” local coffee shop, gas station, dry cleaner and certainly your insurance broker. Adopt a “business is everywhere” attitude. Every time you go to a restaurant to eat, stay in a hotel, go to a party, get your car washed, go the grocery store, you must think, “This person could be my customer.” 

Be memorable. Establish and build your brand differentiation. Dress up, wear a jacket and tie, have an unusual calling card or collateral package for your customer. Are you looking to leverage the power of the Internet? Check on Craig’s List to find networking opportunities. Start a blog about your flooring business, and ask satisfied customers to contribute to your blog. If any of this is out of your realm of expertise, advertise for a coach or ask a family member for help with an Internet tour.

Learn how to “work up the chain.” Professional networkers are always interested in what is known as the sphere of influence. It is simply who you know. Adopt an attitude of getting to know people and socializing with them. That way you can find out who they know who could get you substantial business. Amateur networkers look for quick hits or direct business and never understand that truly substantial business comes from networking “up the chain” to the real substantial people. It can take time, but ultimately it is likely to be a matter of who you know rather than “what I can do for you now” that will get you the best connections. 

Be willing to do small jobs or repairs. If the big fish you are after already has a supplier, be available to fix others’ mistakes and mishaps and be ready to do a small job on the spur of the moment. I cannot tell you how many retailers snicker when they get a call to install someone else’s flooring at the last minute. See it for what it really is—an opportunity to get before the customer and start a relationship. Do not view it as a “who do they think they are calling me at the last minute” annoyance. Being able to bail someone out of a jam shows that you are flexible, willing to go the extra mile and you realize the importance of job schedules. When the time comes to ask for the sale, or for more business, do not forget to gently remind your customer how you helped them out of a bind. 

Do not be afraid to advertise your capabilities. Be specific. For example, let people know if you are an expert craftsman when it comes to installation skills for porcelain or ceramic. Also, knowing the customer you are courting will help fit your skill to their need.

Understand the importance of business cards. They are a lasting part of your brand image. They need to be professional, corporate looking and feature higher end colors. Remember, as you hit the streets your card and materials you present continue to represent you and your store for a long time to come. 

If you remember nothing else, remember this: every point of contact with someone is an opportunity now or in the future for a sale, so there is really no such thing as a cold call. 

Copyright 2007 Floor Focus

Related Topics:The International Surface Event (TISE)