Picking your battles in the fight for market share

We have a lot of great discussions in the Flooring Dealer & More forum on Facebook. Lately there has been a lot of talk about who has the upper hand in terms of retail channel. Is it the big box stores? Is it the buying groups? Or perhaps it’s the large-volume independent retailers? Maybe the Internet vendors pose the greatest threat to the traditional brick-and-mortar retailer?

When it comes to assessing (and responding to) threats to your business, some say it’s important to “study your competition” in order to get a better understanding of how they operate. For example, have you ever conducted a secret shopper exercise? It’s an excellent way to find out how your competition handles customers, which you can then measure against how your own salespeople perform.

When I was in retail, I learned a lot from secret shopping. First and foremost, I didn’t shop the competition myself. I hired a stay-at-home mom who needed a few extra dollars. I gave her the task of secret shopping up to 20 companies for me. I wanted to find out if other stores offered a unique experience that we should consider implementing in our sales presentation process.

For example:

  • Did the company offer an in-home estimate?
  • Did they recommend or invite you into the showroom?
  • Did they offer a good selection?
  • Did you get a prize in the home?
  • Did they have a unique presentation that stood out?
  • What did you like about the company?
  • What didn’t you like about the company?

By that same token, I also secretly shopped my own company. (Disclosure: My salespeople didn’t know they were being secret shopped.) I created a report for my secret shopper to fill out. I used this information to improve our customer service and closing rates.

At the end of the day, if you want to win the retail game today, you have to come up with ways to dominate your market. In addition to surveying the competitive environment, you need to study the customer to better understand what’s important to her. More specifically, how can you stand out and beat the competition while commanding higher prices? Here are some ideas:

Use photo apps that allow you to show the customer what her flooring will look like in her home. Make recommendations and talk about how beautiful her home will look.

Include necessary items in the quote, giving her one price to do the project correctly the first time. These include subfloor prep, furniture removal, baseboard installation, etc.

  • Keep it simple by making it easy for your customer to make a buying decision.
  • Be careful not to overeducate the customer.
  • Don’t be afraid to offer more expensive products. If they fall in love with the flooring, they will buy.

In today’s competitive environment, it’s critical to pay close attention to the evolving shopping habits of the consumer. Make sure you change and adapt to how consumers buy. You don’t want to end up like Blockbuster.

Now go sell some flooring!

Jerry Levinson, a former retailer, owns Profit Now 4 Flooring Dealers. He provides sales training, processes and systems for flooring dealers to help them grow their business and profits while working fewer hours. He also runs the Flooring Dealers & More group on Facebook.

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