Upselling: How to sell more in 2008
November 2nd, 2007

November-December 2007

By Zoe Voigt

Stories of gloom and doom in the new construction industry do not necessarily translate into sluggish business for tile dealers. Growth in an economic slowdown might seem counterintuitive but there are measures that dealers can take to maintain, and even improve, the bottom line. Upselling, using the right software, targeting the right markets, and providing exceptional customer service can help your productivity.

Although new residential construction is stagnant in many markets, the commercial real estate market continues to improve. Also, in the current environment, the renovation and remodeling business is a good place to look for growth potential.

The remodeling market
“We’ve experienced some sales drop in the new home market, based on the economy,” says Donna Triolo, showroom manager at Mid-America Tile. “On the other hand, business has really picked up on the other end. People are staying where they are and renovating.“

According to Leanne Barker, showroom manager at Antique Floors in Dallas, “We haven’t really noticed a slowdown in home sales yet. Our area was never hit with the skyrocketing prices, so we haven’t seen extreme changes.”

“Depending on our customers, and what market they’ve targeted, the slowdown could be an issue,” says John Zolman, sales and marketing manager for Miles Distributors in South Bend. “Some of them didn’t pay as much attention to the remodeling market when new home construction really took off. If they didn’t give as much time and effort to that part of the market, then some of the remodelers might have taken their business to the big box stores. Our customers are trying to get back those sales.”

Whether or not homes are selling well in your area, people may be nervous about spending right now. Homeowners may not necessarily be ready to commit to re-doing the whole house at once. So, this is a good time to remodel just one bathroom or the kitchen. Triolo, whose showroom is in Elk Grove, Illinois, says, “In my market, we are seeing a lot of remodels and add-ons.”

With the housing market slowing, people who might have considered moving may be thinking of just staying in their current home and fixing it up. These folks are likely to want to customize their home since resale is no longer their top priority.

Zolman says, “There’s an interesting trend in remodeling right now. What we’re seeing is that young people who bought a new home in a subdivision a few years ago are now ready to upgrade their the kitchen and bath. They bought these homes with the basic package, and now, as their incomes grow, they are able to make improvements and renovate using tile and stone.”

For several years, upselling in tile sales has focused on adding listellos, trims and borders to the job. This approach is still relevant depending on the market. Zolman says that he sees the large format and high-end decoratives as good opportunities to upsell.

If the client wants an elegant, custom look, this is the opportunity to work more upscale products into sales. There are so many new styles of accent pieces, loads of unusual sizes to choose from, better field, and high end trim. Triolo calls these pieces “eye candy.” She says, “One hot look right now is glass used as an accent. It just keeps getting better and better. Metallics are really popular right now too, as are stone mosaics.

“What a change from a few years ago. Now people are willing to add eye candy. They want to add on to the basics. We sit down with them, listen, and see what they are trying to do. We can give them a creative look and give them a little splash, but it is cost effective too.”

Customer service
According to Triolo, “The key today is good customer service, good product and pricing. If you offer good customer service, and your customers had a good experience, they will come back. We see lots of referrals, too, and that also stems from customer service.”

Barker is finding that in Dallas the trim pieces aren’t selling as well. She says, “As for boosting sales, the first thing that comes to mind is offering to add other elements like listellos and decos to the job. But what I am finding here in Dallas is that more and more the trend is a cleaner, contemporary look. That mid-century modern style is finally starting to catch on in Texas, so people want to use a lot of field tile and keep the design minimal.”

For Barker, upselling doesn’t necessarily equate to adding decorative tile to the sale. “If the homeowner wants a minimal look, we might suggest using tile in some other areas besides the kitchen and bath. We’ll see if they want to tile the fireplace, bar area, or we’ll suggest a wainscot in the breakfast nook to complement the backsplash.”

“People will still use some decorative tiles in the master bath or the powder room, unless they are really going for a modern, clean look throughout the whole house,” she adds.

“More than trying to boost sales, we are focused on customer service,” says Barker. “We try to help customers find what they are looking for. We sell to the trade, so we focus on really great customer service and then the designers, contractors and builders come back.”

Large format
You’ve seen the larger and larger format tiles at Coverings and Surfaces for several years. By now, your customers are seeing these tiles in consumer shelter publications. They may be ready to move in this direction. Zolman says, “The Midwest can be a bit slower to pick up on some of these ideas, but we’ve seen an increase in sales of the 18"x18", 20"x20" and even the 24"x24" tiles.”

According to Triolo, “The stone look is very popular, people want the appearance but not the expense and the upkeep of stone. That’s where we have some nice porcelains to get the look.”

Radiant heat
Floor warming is an option in bathroom and kitchen renovations. With the new electric radiant heat products on the market, floors heat quickly and create comfort underfoot. Radiant heat was seen as a luxury, but with several price points to choose from, it need not be suggested to only the high end clients. Some of the systems are energy efficient, or even solar powered, so the green movement has brought more interest to this product.

An opportunity to sell new products
Triolo says that one thing they are doing at Mid-America Tile is analyzing their product lines. “We’re taking a look at all the lines,” she says. “We’re looking to see where we should be and to increase the market area where we’ve been missing.”

Zolman says, “Something to think about for upselling is offering the simple care and maintenance items. I suggest making sure these aren’t forgotten in the initial sale or afterwards. When you sell those, you bring people back into the store to buy more when they run out. When they come back in they see your new lines and start to think about their next project.”

Software Choices

BVH Gregg has software solutions for stone, tile, terrazzo and carpet dealers. This product has estimating, slab optimization, accounting software, and a template digitizer.

Comp-U-Floor by Aya Associates offers integrated software to run your business; from point-of-sale through ordering, purchasing, inventory and accounting. It includes managerial reports and audit-trails for an efficient operation.

Dancik’s Enterprise Solutions has a large percentage of the market share in the flooring software industry and works for retailers, distributors and manufacturers. Dancik provides order entry, delivery warehousing, sales, margin, and cost analysis. They also offer visualization tools, point-of-sale, distribution management, scheduling, inventory management solutions, and B2B.

FloorEstimator by Sigma Micro Systems is a cost-effective estimating software that can integrate with QuickBooks for a complete solution, including accounting and inventory management, B2B.

FloorPro III is designed specifically for the flooring industry by American Business Computers. Reports can be exported to Excel and the program can be accessed remotely via the Internet. Radio Frequency Identification tracks inventory within the warehouse. If used with the GPS option, it allows for worldwide, automated inventory control. Order processing, purchasing, receiving, sales analysis, accounts receivable and payable are all included. Customer online access, (COLA) allows your customers to check stock and pricing and to place an order remotely. Retail includes point-of-sale, deposits and special ordering. Also, ABC will write conversion programs from your old system.

Gartman Systems DMS provides integrated information about profitability, sales, financial commitments, cash flow, operational efficiency, resource availability, product performance, suppliers and customers. They also offer accounts receivable, accounts payable, general ledger, payroll, order management, inventory and warehouse management, sales management, summary and analysis information.

Infor Global by Earnest & Asso-ciates has an integrated software package that works for all flooring businesses. Orders can be easily created from estimates. This program can handle purchase orders, special orders, automatic warehouse transfers and inventory management, including handling of special inventory items. It also references vendor catalogues, and has multiple conversion factors. Bar coding, electronic data interchange import costing, job costing, payroll counter sales are also all available.

Moraware JobTracker job management software provides job management, quotes, scheduling, purchase orders, inventory, accounts and customization.

Oneir Solutions offers an Enterprise Level Point of Sale POS, Business Accounting Software and Inventory Management System for single location companies bursting at the seams or for companies who want control over multiple locations in a sophisticated solution.

Plan Point by Blue Cove Technologies develops business management software for the tile and flooring industry. PlanPoint helps flooring professionals plan, manage, deliver, and analyze profitability. Estimating, purchase orders, work orders, material pick lists, financial reports, production schedule, and a contact manager are all integrated with QuickBooks.

Prophet 21 is Activant’s enterprise software solution for distributors. Features include order and inventory management, purchasing, pricing, financial, management, customer relationship management, business reporting and analysis, e-business and wireless warehouse management.

QFloor offers a user-friendly software program to manage retail flooring companies. This integrated system organizes, records, administers inventory, sales, accounting, ordering, payroll, scheduling, job costing, work orders, and B2B.

RFMS is a business management software solution, run by flooring dealer Terry Wheat. The software handles inventory, job estimating, order entry, sales analysis, banking, and general ledger. There are also job cost, profit analysis, AR/AP and human resource manager. Companion products include Bid Pro, Scheduler Pro, Inventory Bar-coding and B2B.

Roll Master/NetFloor Software by Textile Management Systems has different options depending on your needs. NetFloor is web based and Rollmaster works on your server. These modular systems manage inventory, job information, customer databases, estimating, accounting, sales analysis and marketing.

TileGem software creates scaled layout drawings for installations. This free program estimates the required materials needed to get the job done, integrates tile layouts with online tile shopping, and works out inlayed patterns.

Brief Review of Software

Of course, anything that can be done to automate systems that would otherwise be done manually will save time and money in the long run. Software specific to the floor covering business can help no matter the size of the office. There is a program for every tile business. Most offer a system to manage inventory, purchasing, receivables, job scheduling, estimating, visualization, or to do sales analysis.

Zolman says, “The correct software is good for relationship management and can help you target your marketing efforts.” Using software to track customers, keep records, and follow up with customers will improve sales.
Since your business sells tile and not generic widgets, there are advantages to using vertical software applications. There will be systems in place to deal with lot matching, measurement calculators, and inventory issues such as converting palettes to square feet. “Our software is helpful for information like how many pieces are in the carton, how much it will weigh, and if the tile is in stock,” says Triolo. “Whether tile is available or not matters when the client wants it yesterday. We listen and help them choose based on their time frame, too.”

Estimating software allows dealers, retailers, and installers to compute the most effective use of the materials. It helps figure costs from time, materials and quickly and accurately. Professional and accurate estimates help dealers make more money because there are fewer mistakes and less waste. Some companies provide business management and either offer estimating software as an add-on or within the product. Visualization tools and B2B (business to business) are available with some of these systems.
If your current software isn’t specifically for use by flooring dealers, you might simplify, save time and money by switching to another program.

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