The economic outlook is darkening, so now is the time to remind ourselves what we must be doing so we do more than just survive any slowdown that might be coming our way.

If fewer customers come into our stores in the coming months, we want to convert a higher proportion to sales. 70-75% conversion rate is a good goal while at the same time maintaining or improving margin. A word of warning; everyone thinks their conversion rate is higher than it is, so don’t rely on gut feeling.

To some, the idea of increasing both conversion rate and margin is challenging, but it can be done. When prospective customers visit our store, they are considering whether or not they want to do business with us. Whether they know it or not, they are testing us and to improve our conversion rate and maintain margin, we must pass their test.

1. Store Presentation.

We are told that customers decide whether or not they want to do business with a retailer within 60 seconds of walking into the shop. Keeping our shops tidy and welcoming is a daily, not monthly, task. Also, you want customers to see those products that you have exclusively, have a price advantage in, or get a rebate on, so these products must be prominently displayed.

2. Engage with customers.

Your salespeople should know how to overcome “I’m only looking”; you can’t sell to someone you don’t talk to. People who walk out of our stores without speaking with a salesperson are opportunities that should not have been lost. Some simple strategies will convert “I’m only looking” into a meaningful conversation 90% of the time. Learn these strategies and make sure your salespeople use them and not have them use “I’m only looking” as a welcome excuse to go back to sit at their desk.

3. Listen to the customer.

Find the product that will meet the needs of the customer. Demonstrating that we listen is crucial in developing the relationship that will help us make the sale. Take notes, so we remember what we talk about with our customers, and we can make our follow up calls meaningful.

4. Follow up on samples.

Don’t wait for samples to be brought back in. Salespeople should be contacting customers to ask what they thought of samples. This is another step in creating the relationship that will incline the customer toward us when they make their buying decision.

5. Get the measure (or the plan).

Prospective customers might visit five or six flooring businesses, but most will only get two or three quotes. We want to be one of those chosen, so ask for the opportunity.

6. Get the quote out quickly.

Once they have had the measure or given us the plan, customers are generally excited to know the price. The longer it takes to get a quote into the customer’s hands, the more excitement diminishes and the less likely we will make the sale. Converting plans into quantities is the most significant choke point for most flooring businesses. Set a business standard for how long it takes to get a quote out and then monitor the standard. Address anything that is preventing getting the quote out quickly.

7. Follow up on quotes.

If there is one thing that will increase our sales and margin, improving follow up is it. We must get over the reluctance we have to contact customers. If we are not following up, our sales will be made on price alone. Not having a rigorous follow-up process is arguably the biggest contributor to low margins; if I’m not following up, my first price has to be my lowest. If your salespeople are not following up frequently, they are losing sales to your competitors.

8. Know what differentiates you from the competition and tell your customers about it.

If your salespeople don’t know what makes you better than your competition, they are competing on price.

If the market tightens as predicted, we must make every sales opportunity count and resist the inclination to drop our margin to keep volumes up. Focusing on these eight things will maximise our sales and allow us to manage our margin.

None of this is rocket science; all flooring businesses can do it. It takes discipline and structure, and systems. You likely don’t have a fully integrated business system, but you can still do this. If you are using RFMS, you have the tools at your fingertips to improve every one of these aspects of your business.

Chris Ogden is a consultant and Managing Director of RFMS Australasia (, a supplier of IT solutions specific to the flooring industry. Chris has an extensive background in all aspects of the flooring industry, and he can be contacted at