The home improvement/remodeling business is front end loaded with perceptions of why consumers buy or don’t buy. Issues such as the economy, uncertainty, homeowners reluctant to commit, and price conscious consumers head the list.
Closely tied to these faulty perceptions are the attitudes and biases about marketing and sales practices of many who own/run small to moderate sized home improvement companies.
One group of people believes that reliance on their credentials, knowledge of remodeling products coupled with design capabilities, skilled project managers and installers are sufficient reasons for customers to select their company’s proposal. Many believe that a good response to buyer procrastination lies with cutting prices, or reducing quality to meet or beat price competition. This frequently leads to problems in running a profitable business with customer satisfaction. Moreover, this group tends to believe that selling practices in general and what they perceive as aggressive sales practices are diametrically opposed to the image they have created for their business.
Another group of people believes that a strong counterbalance to economic conditions, price competition, or consumer reluctance can be solved with extensive and diverse marketing, coupled with aggressive and sometimes “questionable selling practices”.
Both groups reinforce their beliefs and continue the practices they have established while bemoaning what they do not fully understand rather than searching for the truth. My answer to this is – – you cannot know, what you do not know.
No one in either group would question that the marketplace has changed. Today’s customer base includes many younger buyers interested in upgrades, more economical maintenance, and energy saving improvements. Older buyers respond to safety, security, and “ease of use” products. The availability of financing, diversity of marketing options, and expansion of competition all contribute to the growth and expansion of this $325 billion (annual) industry.
The customer, the products, all product availability, buyer habits and methods of decision-making have changed. How do you plan to change??
Many companies are deluded or simply misunderstand the selling process, frequently assessing it as an art form, or method of manipulation. The dictionary contains numerous definitions, some as simple as “exchanging property, goods, or service for money” or “to establish faith, confidence, or belief in certain products or structures”.
Recently we produced, via webinar, a 90 minute virtual sales meeting entitled “Going From Good to Extraordinary in Selling”. Over 900 companies plus their salespeople (estimated 3,500 to 4,000 participants) registered. Through a sampling of their questions and our answers, we offer some observations. Here are some of the questions received and answered during that program:
Q: How do you design a sales system that is effective yet doesn’t corrupt your credibility?
A: The prospect/customer is the key ingredient in a sound sales methodology. How the prospect thinks and feels has to be the major consideration in the development of a sales system – or that system will eventually fail.
You cannot design a sales system without first studying the habits, the language, the attitudes and practices of those you wish to sell. Only then can a selling method be designed as “methodology”, which is the orderly arrangement of facts and data so as to respond to the habits, practices, and values of those to whom you wish to sell.
Q: We have never given major importance to what you call “the inspection” or “needs assessment”. How important is this?
A: Sales training has more to do with understanding your customer than having your customer understand you. Frequently salespeople are measured by their ability to talk. This skill has to be balanced with the ability to ask questions, then being patient with the answer from your customer, often asking another question to get more clarity. This is called processing, done correctly it leaves an impression that the questions are being asked to ascertain more about what a customer desires as an outcome. Those who do not discover hidden “needs” miss sales and blame it on something other than themselves.
Q: You frequently use the word “methodology” in describing sales training. What does that mean?
A: Think of it this way, “a method by which to accomplish a task”. The second part of the word (ology) implies logic. Methodology requires a presentation that logically reaches the customer at their level of understanding while responding to both their needs and their value system.
Q: What are some of the guidelines and cautions in developing or refining a sales training program?
A: An ideal layout is presented in “The 7 Myths of In-Home Selling”. This is the first recording off of our best-selling package “The Science of Successful In-Home Selling”.
- Much of what is considered sales training is based on the personal philosophy of an individual. This training usually has minimal “long range” value. Instead, adopt proven practices, which can be taught easily and measured effectively.
- Stop telling; selling is not an art form. It requires a lot of listening and a great deal of practice. Learn (then teach) how to answer questions; upon receiving responses write them down and then comment. Examples: “I see” – or – “I understand” – or – “run that by me one more time”.
- Listening and processing information equates with helping and caring in the mind of the customer.
- Get to know your prospects early on and uncover their value system and needs prior to presenting your product.
- Creative selling occurs when the buyer is convinced it is his/her decision to buy. Notice that people most frequently say “I bought this from”, then they name a company or a salesperson. They seldom say “Joe Smith sold this to me”.
- A sound sales methodology requires scripting (selected language) as a teaching platform. Many companies and their salespeople resist this concept, although they tend to accept it when they see great acting or well rehearsed announcers delivering a commercial.
Q: What are the benefits of structured selling?
A: The prospect/customer benefits by having a better understanding of what the presentation is all about. The company benefits because they ensure that all customers are given the same story about the product, its benefits, warranties and protections. The salesperson benefits because abundant case history proves that structured salespeople sell more (usually with the same number of leads).
Q: How does “selling” the product differ from “telling” the prospect about the product/service?
A: People don’t buy the product or service you sell, they buy what that product or service will do for them. Through structured selling you can determine needs.
In most buy/sell relationships, the customer defines “wants”. They want to know more about the product, what it looks like and above all the price. Telling usually responds to wants. A structured sales presentation enables you to uncover needs.
Q: What role does emotion play in a sales presentation?
A: A great deal. Many decisions to buy are based on emotion, contradicting the belief that logical arguments and statistical presentations by themselves satisfy the customer. The majority of purchases your customer makes such as a car, rug, furniture,appliance, and even their home all represent a finished product with little need to create mind pictures. Home improvement projects require that you use pictures and “word pictures” to create an image that responds to the prospect’s feelings which were developed during needs assessment, i.e. what they would like to see as an outcome of their decision. Prospects are stimulated by word pictures accompanied by the energy and enthusiasm provided by the presenter.