How To Sell Carpet Part 1
I was a successful carpet salesman at a high end store for several years. We sold very high end carpet to an affluent clientele. This was before the recession hit when people were refinancing like crazy and shoveling massive amounts of dollars into home improvement.
I can honestly say that selling carpet was one of the funnest, most laid back jobs that I've ever had. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy it, I also made a lot of money in the process. Most good carpet sales jobs pay a fairly generous commission. If you're getting 10% of the whole job and you sell an entire house full of Fabrica carpet, then you'll be taking home a very nice commission check.
One of my larger jobs had a price tag of $54,000. Yes, that is just for carpet. The house was enormous and the carpet was a very high end custom dyed plush. It was absolutely beautiful and my customer was thrilled with the result. Not so much with the bill, but she loved the carpet. I could have taken a month off with the commission check I received from that one job. There were times when I'd clear $100,000 in carpet sales during a two week commission period.
I'm not telling you this to brag, but to motivate you. If you've never sold carpet before, then there's a lot to learn. You don't just sell a customer on the carpet, you have to sell them on the seaming diagrams, the extra charges (sometimes there are LOTS), and your installers. It may take a month or longer before you even sell anything, so try to stay motivated.
So how do you gain the confidence to get to the level where you can regularly sell $50,000+ carpet jobs? Besides living near a community that can afford such luxuries, there are some fairly simple steps that you can take to become a successful carpet salesman. You don't need to be the best looking, smoothest, or experienced salesperson to make a nice living selling carpet. You just need to TRY harder than the rest of the people on the floor.
Now everyone has their own natural style. My way may not work for you. But by learning about the manner in which I sold carpet, you can take the bits and pieces that may work for you and make them your own.
So how exactly do you show a customer a small square of carpet, get them excited about it, and then say “Ok, now please give me $10,000 for this.” It's not an easy task. In my opinion, selling carpet is one of the most difficult sales that you can attempt. It's not like a car where customers often make impulse buys. Selling carpet is a long, slow, drawn out process. But it's also incredibly gratifying when a month's worth of effort repays you in the form of several large sales and a nice commission check.
First the customer borrows samples. Then they think about it. Then they borrow some more samples. Then they consider their options some more. If you're lucky, they return to the store and place a retainer to be measured. Then the measure guy goes out and hopefully doesn't upset your customer (it happens, pray they don't send the grumpy guy who hates his life). Then you get the measure back and calculate how much carpet is needed, extra charges, etc.. The fun part is when the customer shows up and inevitably says “Oh my gosh! 1200 square feet of carpet?! But my house only needs 900 square feet!” Que thirty minutes of patiently explaining seaming, ramping, and furniture moving charges to a highly agitated customer.
There are so many points during the sale where things can go wrong that it can become maddening at times. You may say all the right things. You may have the best sales promotion of the year going on. The customer may be eager to purchase. Then when the customer shows up to apply for credit and is declined, you watch the job vanish into thin air, along with your hefty commission check and a month of wasted effort.
Even with the potential snags and difficulties, selling carpet is a great job for the right person. The difficulties involved just make it more of a rush when you do land a huge job. But before you can land the big jobs, you need to learn how to sell carpet
Start out by knowing your products. You can't sell something you don't know anything about. When I started out at the last store I worked for, the first thing I did is make a map of the floor. I looked at every sample, ever color, and every style name. If I wasn't familiar with a product I called up our rep. When reps would stop by I would badger them for every little bit of information I could extract. The Stainmaster rep was a treasure trove of knowledge. Know more about your products than any other salesperson on the floor.
Now this may fly in the face of everything you've been taught, but honestly is a good thing! I know that there are a large number of super honest carpet salesmen out there. But like in any business, there are some that will say and do anything to land a sale. I was always honest, nearly to a fault.
People buy from salespeople they trust. If you project confidence, knowledge, and trustworthiness, people will buy from you. It's that simple. The sales you lose because you didn't push a customer hard enough are more than made up for by the customers you retain because they simply feel comfortable working with you. I can't tell you how many times that I've quoted a job to a customer only to have them come back a couple weeks later and say, “To be honest you're not the cheapest quote we got, but we trust you so we're going to go ahead buy carpet from you even though you're a bit more expensive.”
This doesn't mean that you shouldn't be assertive. It just means don't lie, and don't push them. I would never stalk my customers around the floor invading their personal space. I'd be there when they needed help and give them space when I thought it appropriate.
Confidence is key and develops with time. The phrase “sell the sizzle, not the steak” while old fashioned and kind of silly, actually makes a lot of sense if you think about it. It's really hard to show a customer this little tiny square of carpet and say “Please imagine this in your home. Now pay me lots of money for it.” The way you sell that tiny little square of carpet is to get them excited about your products. You need to stimulate their imagination.
I was always good at helping customers find something they'd like. Product knowledge plays a big part here. This carpet has a bit too high of a pile? Then know exactly which carpet is similar but has a lower pile. This shade is a bit too pale but they love the look of the carpet? Then know where to direct them to find the perfect color in a similar style. Know every style and every color sequence in every price range. There will be plenty of down time during which you can learn your products, trust me.
Get the customer excited about the prospect of seeing new carpet installed in their home. Ask them what rooms they'll be putting it in. Get them to visualize their homes. Help them to imagine what this new beautiful carpet will look like. Get them to take home samples so they can see the carpet in their home. You're not selling them on the sample, your selling them on the idea of adding something new and exciting to their home.
I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. Before you can send a customer home with samples, or really get them excited about the prospect of purchasing new carpet, you need to qualify them.
Qualifying a customer simply entails finding out what their needs are. Why exactly are they in your store today and what are they trying to accomplish? Are they merely window gazing to pass the time while their spouse is shopping elsewhere? Are they doing research for a future project. Or are they the type of customer you dream about, a serious buyer searching for the right carpet. Sometimes you can convert the other types into a serious buyer if you know what to say and can get them excited about your products. This comes with experience.
Find out what types of carpet your customer is interested in. Berbers? Cut piles? Patterned carpet? Which rooms are they considering having done. What time frame are they looking at? Don't make the mistake of interrogating them. Simply walk up and start a friendly conversation. Steer it in the right direction until you've acquired the information you need.
Qualifying customers is invaluable in maximizing your sales. Why? If your colleague is on a lunch break and you're alone in the department for an hour with four customers browsing, it's critical that you make the most of your time.
Unbeknownst to you, customers A and B are just browsing. Customer C is a serious buyer while customer D is looking for a custom area rug. If you don't qualify your customers you may spend the entire hour with customer D because she “seems really serious” only to find out at the last moment that she wants to buy a $300 custom area rug. If you'd taken the time to qualify your customers, you would have discovered that customer C would have spent $8000 on an entire house full of carpet had you only spent more time with her. Unfortunately she became overwhelmed by all the choices and left the department while you were working hard for that $30 commission on an area rug.
Does that mean that you should neglect the poor customer interested in the custom area rug? Of course not, but you need to focus your energy on the people most likely to make a large sale. If you've got four customers, you can't be in four places at the same time. It may sound cold, but you need to prioritize if you want to make money selling carpet. I focus on the customers that I deem most likely to make a decent sized purchase, and touch base with the others from time to time to see if they have any questions.