In Get An Unfair Advantage Over Big Box Stores Part 1, I shared how I was on a coaching call with Mark Bouquet, a Flooring Success System member from the Chicago area who said, “We love having Big Box Stores for neighbors. We take a lot of business from them.” In this installment, I will share strategies Mark and other flooring dealers use to swipe customers from Big Box Stores even though their prices are higher – sometimes a lot higher

No Silver Bullets

Keep in mind that there is no single strategy — no ‘silver bullet’ — that will magically enable you to get an unfair advantage over the boxes and leave them in the dust. Rather, you should implement multiple, integrated sales and marketing strategies that reinforce one another and position you as the obvious choice. With that in mind, let’s look at some effective strategies you can add to your Big-Box-Dustin’ arsenal.

Dealing with Brainwashed Consumers

At one of the Surfaces events, I attended James Dion’s class on the psychology of price. He said, “Price is just a number, yet consumers are obsessed with it. If you want to know who to blame, look in the mirror.” I agree.

For years box stores and national chains have been pounding the pulpit, preaching price prostration. Unfortunately, most small dealers followed suit. Instead of countering this ridiculous, price-is-all-that-matters message with education-based marketing, many dealers caved in with “me-too,” cheap-price advertising gimmicks. (It’s a crying shame, too, because selling on low price is totally unnecessary once you know the right strategies.)

So how do you deal with a price-obsessed consumer? A key strategy is education, and this begins before your prospect ever sets foot in your store.

First, testimonials are a powerful method for educating prospects that you can be trusted and that your products and services are worth the higher price you are charging. Use testimonials in all your marketing. Along with educating your prospects, it will also create differentiation because very few dealers use them.

Another education method is offering my Consumer’s Guide to Floor Covering. If you’re a Platinum Flooring Success Systems Member, you have access to this strategy. Here’s copy from the cover:

The Consumer’s Guide to Floor Covering

In this guide, you’ll discover …

  • How to turn your floor-buying nightmare into a dream come true
  • How to avoid predatory floor dealers
  • 7 costly misconceptions about floor covering
  • 6 mistakes to avoid when choosing a floor covering store
  • The 3 “Dirty Little Secrets” about installation that floor covering dealers pray you NEVER find out
  • Which floor covering is best for you
  • How to get an iron-clad warranty
  • 4 steps to getting the beautiful floor of your dreams … WITHOUT the stress!

In other words, in the report, you’re telling the consumer all the things you wish they knew about buying flooring, and countering the ‘cheap price is all that matters’ myth. You’re also indirectly telling them why your company is better than your competitors, and why they should buy from you at your price. Notice I said indirectly. Don’t come right out and say, “Hey, buy from us ’cause we’re the best!” That doesn’t work. This report is engineered so that prospects independently arrive at the conclusion that you are the obvious choice; that you are worth the higher price; that they would be foolish to buy from anyone else, especially the box stores or your ‘low-ball’ competitor.

Ask the right questions

Most dealers open their sales presentation with “How may I help you?” or “What kind of flooring did you have in mind?” In the Flooring Success System Core 3 training, I detail why this is a giant mistake and how it sets you up to compete on price and gives control of the process to the prospect. Instead, say, “Welcome to Jimbo’s Floors. Are you a new or returning client? A new client? Great! We have a special program for new clients. Can I take a quick minute and tell you about it?” (There are more sales closer Scripts For Success in the Core 3 Design Audit training.)

You also want to ask questions that paint a target on your prospect, giving you the info you need to close the sale. The Design Audit includes a handful of ‘target‘ questions, including…

  • What’s important about new flooring to you? Listen carefully to their answer because it will hand you the keys to the sale. That is called ‘getting the prospect to paint a target on themselves.’
  • What can we do to exceed your expectations? Again, another ‘target-painting’ question.
  • The last time you bought new floors, what did you like about the experience? What did you dislike? More ‘target-painting.

(Questions to avoid asking include, “How old are you?” “How much money do you make,” and “Will you go out with me?” Flooring Success Systems has done extensive market testing on these questions, and we’ve determined that they DO NOT help you close more sales.)


Testimonials give you a ‘halo‘ of credibility. What others say about you is 100-times more effective than what you say about yourself, even if you are 100-times more eloquent. Use testimonials in all your marketing and sales presentations, and display them in your showroom on your testimonial brag wall. This can be a large corkboard bulletin board.

Create a culture of referrals

You want to manage the entire customer experience with a ‘referral mindset,’ and train your team to do the same. From the time a prospect walks in, through the installation, and continuing with the post-installation follow-up, engineer an experience that “Wow’s” them and transforms them into raving fans, eager to send you referrals.

Use the ‘Rule of Reciprocity.’

Here’s an easy strategy that creates great customer service, helps create a culture of referrals, and is something the Big Box Stores will never do:

When someone walks into your business, offer them a beverage menu and say, “What can I get you to drink? Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, coffee, tea, bottled water?” (Don’t say, “Would you like something to drink?” That gives them the option to say, “No.”) When they accept your gift — even a $0.50 soda —, they will feel indebted to you and want to reciprocate by buying from you.

Build, nurture and protect your herd

Your past clients are the only people on the planet who have proven they’ll give you money in exchange for flooring, yet the vast majority of dealers ignore their past customer list. Instead, see yourself as a rancher. Invest the time, energy and money into building, nurturing and protecting your herd, something the boxes don’t do. This requires a shift in mindset, a shift which I believe is no longer a luxury, but a necessity if you want to be around for the long-haul.

The Neighborhood Advisor

This is one of the best tools for effective herd-building. This newsletter is NOT 100% about flooring. ‘All flooring is all boring’ because most of your past customers don’t need flooring in any given month. Instead, the NA content is 90% fun, informative, entertaining, valuable, general-interest information, and the remaining 10% flooring-related. (This can include special offers.)

Never Run Out of Store Event Ideas Again!

My friend and fellow FCNews columnist, Lisbeth Calandrino has written a great little book with 50 ideas for store events. Some of my favorites include ‘Cigar Night,’ ‘Casino Night,’ and ‘Open Mic Night.’ Just reading this book will expand your notions of what’s possible in your store.

And with 50 ideas you could do four events per year and not repeat yourself for over 12 years! I highly recommend that you get a hold of this fun little book.

To Tons Of Customers!
Jim Augustus Armstrong is The “Coach”

Jim Augustus Armstrong is the President of Flooring Success Systems, a program that equips dealers to double their profits, cut their work hours in half and beat the boxes! Many dealers have totally transformed their businesses and their lives for the better after joining Flooring Success Systems.
See what real, live dealers are saying!