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Why We Shouldn’t Pre-Judge What a Customer Might Want

Angelo DeSanto
11 4 20 Oshkosh

Let’s say I get a request for an installation from a home in a super refined area of town. Big roofs, big cars, huge lawns … what sort of samples should I bring? Should I assume they are like me and would struggle with the large mortgage payments? Or should I plan on them being capable of ordering anything they want? Here’s a question: Could they even tell the difference between an expensive and low-cost floor? (That's a topic from my last post.) Not knowing, I bring a few samples from a range I feel are appropriate.

Let’s switch gears to the same scenario, but more typical: a call for an installation from a working class neighborhood (like mine). Should I bring the same samples as above?

Well … kinda like … maybe.

It depends on the customer, and one thing for sure is that chance favors the prepared.

One of my favorite all-time jobs was one that I didn’t really expect from that customer. 

It was many years ago now—1999, to be exact—but I remember the story perfectly. I sold him a 2 ¼-inch solid install over concrete and mentioned the use of medallions. He wanted more info, so I showed him the Oshkosh brochure shown above.

On the cover is a picture of a staircase with a beautiful parquet (the picture you see enlarged at right). He never even turned the page to look at the medallions. He was entranced with the cover picture and looked at me and said (I can still hear him say this in my head), “I want this floor instead. Cancel the quote and make this happen.”

I was taken aback because I was in a neighborhood of regular homes and not castles, but he was serious. He was the sales manager for a local Honda dealership and an adult capable of making choices, so it’s all history now. The floor, even way back then, cost $23/ft. just for material (it’s the one I talked about in my last post). It was a stunning floor and remains one of my all-time favorites.

That’s the happy part of this story. Because I happened to casually mention medallions, I sold a much, much more expensive job than the one I had expected to based on the neighborhood I was in.

Here’s the unhappy part of the story: A couple months ago I stopped by that house. The owner I had worked with was long gone, but I wanted to take better pictures of that parquet for my portfolio. The only ones I had were these old prints, which obviously are of no use:

11 4 20 Oldfloor

I was fully prepared to offer the new owner a free service in exchange for the chance to take better pics of that favorite floor.

When the new owner opened the door, I could see that a God-ugly black and while tile was laid over my parquet. I wanted to puke and cry at the same time. The new owner was a tile contractor, and a quick scan of the home through the doorway did not reveal any high order skill to me. I left sad then, and am still sad about it now. (I even took a picture of the outside of his house because he carried over the black and while theme to the outside, also, but it's probably better that I not post it.)

So, another lesson from this job turned out to be: Get great photos of your work while you have the chance. Taste is subjective, and even your best work might not be the next homeowner’s idea of a beautiful floor.

See all of Angelo DeSanto's popular blog posts and magazine articles here.

RELATED: Upselling Wood Flooring Can Set You Free from the Rat Race

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