A Carpet Installer's Notebook: Selling You
Last issue I talked about operating as a business and offered some suggestions for determining your cost of doing business. Usually after that discussion the question of how to raise prices in this very competitive market will arise. I know it's tough out there; installation prices have not kept up with the cost of supplies let alone the cost of living.
So how do you get more money? Sales, brother, sales. I don't mean selling carpet, I mean selling yourself! Now we have been through this before so for those of you that missed it or just didn't pay attention the first time. This is what worked for me.
Be on time. Nothing will fry a customer's bacon faster than to be kept waiting all morning. If you say you will be there between 8am and 9 am, all they hear is 8am. You show up at 8:15, in their mind you are 15 minutes late. If you are going to be late use your cell phone and call! In 1874 Alexander Gram Bell invented the telephone because he was tired of waiting for the carpet installer.
Be polite and respectful. This is one that should go without saying, but unfortunately it needs to be said. You are in someone's home handling his or her prized possessions. Treat their possessions and loved ones as your own.
Be mindful of your appearance. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the last one respect the people who are putting food on you table, by looking like a professional.
Wear uniforms. These need not be work pants and shirts provided by a uniform service. There are simple and effective alternatives. For instance, everyone in the crew could wear plain, identically colored T-shirts (devoid of any questionable slogans) and clean jeans without holes. This way, whenever two or more of you are on the job, you look like a professional crew. If you're clean-shaven, be sure to shave daily. Long hair or beards? Fine, wear them as long as you want, but keep them clean, combed and neatly trimmed.
Keep your truck clean. This practice enhances your all-important image. Like it or not, the customer's perception of your skills will be affected by how you and your equipment look.
Vacuum each job. It's not enough to just pick up the scraps. Think about it: when you buy a new car, the dealer doesn't deliver it in dirty condition. Vacuuming has other advantages. You get to see every square inch of the job, seams get trimmed, kicker pulls get clipped, and - in the end - the job looks great. The vacuum my son and I use is a 6 gal 3hp shop vac. It's small, light weight, cost about $50 and we use it to vacuum the floor after sweeping before the pad goes down to get the last of the dust. This really impresses Mrs. Homeowner. Is it really necessary? You may not think so, but your customer really likes it. It doesn't take much time to vacuum a job. The carpet's brand new - it's not dirty. You're just getting up the cut naps.. On a 150-sq.-yd. job, you might add 15 minutes to your day, but the customers will be thrilled. It's well worth the time and effort.
Wear overshoes in bad weather. Buy some heavy galoshes, not the over-the-shoe type you'd wear with wingtips. If you get the right size, you can hold the back of an overshoe with one foot and step out of it even while your hands are loaded with tools or carpet. It blows people's minds to see you so careful about protecting their homes or businesses.
Unfortunately, adherence to all of my suggestions will do you no good at all if no one notices your efforts. To really make these tips pay off you must sell yourself! Ask customers to call the store and report their impressions of your work. Let's say you average 10 jobs per week. Sometimes you're in a house for two days. Some days you are chasing all over town to do five different bedrooms. If each of those 10 customers telephone the store - even if half or a third call - you will have three to 10 customers calling each week to say, "Your installers did a wonderful job! I am so happy. Thank you very much."
Follow this course for six months, and then ask for more money. I can't guarantee you'll get what you request. But, after all these calls from satisfied customers, I'll bet the store owner will stop and seriously consider whether he can afford to lose you.
Yes, I can hear some of you now "I work for a large workroom; that will never work!" Not true; I know of quite a few large workrooms that have tiered compensation and bonuses based on exactly what we are talking about here, professionalism.
Before you say, "Hey, I don't get paid to do all that!" Neither did I before I started doing it. It's all about setting yourself apart and having something of value to sell. What do you have to lose by trying? Lower wages?