Editor’s Desk: Learning as a survival skill
July 1st, 2011

by Janet Arden

Janet Arden

If there are lessons to be learned from the current economy, one is that change is a constant and we need to adapt – to new business models, new customers, new materials. Another is that some basics – like customer service – never go out of vogue. Make sure your customer cannot get the same attention from a website as she can from your showroom. This issue of TileDealer is all about giving you the tools you need to succeed.

Lesson 1: The devil is in the showroom details
When we first talked about this issue’s feature on showrooms we anticipated a look at the latest display ideas, some tips on new lighting techniques, etc. But, when Zoe Voigt started talking to dealers and distributors with successful showrooms to see what/how they had done in the recent lean years, we learned a lot more.

Know your business, your products and your customers. This means staying on top of trends, understanding where you fit in your marketplace and identifying what your end users are interested in. Are they trendy? Budget conscious? Green? More than one distributor talked about the importance of customer service. Lila Tully of Rubble Tile in Minnetonka, Minnesota, points out, “We aren’t salespeople, we’re design consultants: we sell emotion, beauty, art, and creativity.”

As Barbara Gilmartin of Design Materials Inc., San Antonio, Texas, puts it: “People can buy from the internet, from China, the competition, from factories that sell direct. But what we offer is a different animal, and the market is not the same as it used to be. There has to be that personal level.” Keep it fresh. As Michael Dowd of Paramount Tile in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, points out, “I think it is important to continue to change the look of my showroom — to stay on top of what’s hot and to show it.” Organization is important, but not necessarily by manufacturer.

Lesson 2: Industry education never stops.
Whether you are training new employees on tile basics or experienced professionals on the latest trends, industry education never stops. And thanks to the latest trends in learning – like webinars and online education – there are no longer any excuses for not staying on top of the latest in materials, installations, green building, sales, and more. Industry education has never been more accessible or more important. It gives you the edge to distinguish you and your team from the competition.

Take a look at the latest available training options in “Who needs training & why.”

Janet Arden

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