- March 4, 2012
Mike Solmonson often cracks that he's been involved with the flooring industry for 57 of his 58 years. If it weren't for the one year he spent working at an auto mechanics factory in Detroit, he'd be a perfect 58 for 58.
Solmonson's parents had a flooring business, and he learned the ins-and-outs of the industry at a young age. He worked in installation by the time he was 15 and ran his own flooring business when he was 30. Now he's the sales manager at G. Fried Flooring in Tampa.
Solmonson says he learned one primary lesson from his parents: work ethic. “You meet when the client is available, and you do it because this is your passion,” he says.
Having such an extensive background in the industry helps Solmonson thrive in sales. “I try not to look at myself as a salesperson,” he says. “I think of myself as a flooring educator. My job is to inform customers and let them know what each product is.”
The first thing Solmonson does with a customer is seek information on their lifestyle, he says. How many people they live with, if they have pets and what concerns they have about the floor are among the questions he looks to answer.
But starting out on a good note is just a small step in being successful in flooring sales. “This is a service industry,” Solmonson says. “You have to be with the customers from start to finish.”
Unlike salespeople in other industries, that finish line doesn't come right when the sale is complete. That outlook is a large element of Solmonson's success.
For the past 20 years or so, he has incorporated a follow-up system for each customer, which G. Fried Flooring president Rufus Ashby says shows great initiative. As part of his system, Solmonson follows up three times: during installation, three months later and 12 months later.
“Staying in touch keeps me in front of the customers so they can refer me,” Solmonson says. “Repeat business is the best thing in the world to me.”
In addition to using the system himself, Solmonson appreciates when other salespeople use it, too. He buys his vehicles, for example, from Ben Pugliesi of Rivard Buick GMC in Tampa because he “does an amazing job staying in touch. It gives you a warm feeling.”
Although his system has proven successful, Solmonson doesn't require his team to use it. He just encourages them to have their own system and to remain a customer's contact point throughout the whole process, he says.
Finding top salespeople to work with him at the company is something else Solmonson focuses on. “Getting the right people to work with that has the same passion for sales and customer service is a major challenge,” Solmonson says. “It's a people-oriented business. A salesperson is only as good as the team.”
And despite Solmonson's developed routine and plethora of knowledge in the industry, he knows it's a rapidly changing business that fluctuates with customer preferences and what's considered stylish. “Flooring is a fashion business,” Solmonson says. “It changes at a very fast pace and there's never a dull moment.”
Follow through. Mike Solmonson with G. Fried Flooring says in any sales job, the process shouldn't end when payment is made. Staying in contact with customers is essential.
More work. Solmonson says it's also important to always ask for a referral.
Follow Steven Benna on Twitter @steve_benna