How to make a sale

Remember your last big personal purchase? You had to define your needs, develop a budget, explore options and make a decision. That’s not too different from a purchase made in the business world. I was reminded of this today.Thanks to all my wonderful clients, which afford me the flexibility to live anywhere, I have recently relocated my business and family to Kansas City, where we are able to live near extended family. We bought a home we lovingly call a “fixer-upper.” On bad days, we just call it a money pit.

The remodeling of the kitchen is turning into just that, a money pit. We have been hunting for a kitchen remodeler. As the budget came together, we kept reducing the size of the expansion project on that side of the house. With the reduced size, we expected to be able to afford the premier builder in town.

That was our first stop. It was an amazing experience. The showroom was perfect; we got fresh baked cookies and coffee while exploring the options. Our sales person took the time to learn about how we use a kitchen and explained how her products would fit our lifestyle. Then we heard the approximate price. We gently backed out of that situation and moved on. Not uncommon in business for the premier product to just not work with the budget.

Then we were off to a rather sizable shop, over 200 employees, but they made the cabinets right there. We were expecting a little sawdust on the floor. No gleaming showroom. But, we were not expecting one of the worst sales people I have ever met. David quickly greeted us and asked us what were looking for. We explained the search just began and we did not really know. We needed help. Isn’t that what every sales person wants to hear? It’s an opportunity to steer the sale.

They did, after all, have pictures on the wall of show house kitchens that must have cost big bucks. They had to be able to consult with the client. But no, David told us proudly, “We are a custom shop, not like those big box stores you have been to, we don’t have a few options, we can do everything. You just tell us what you want and we will build it.” I explained we did not yet know we wanted. We need some help exploring options.

He again repeated, “That was the Home Depot way, not our way.” He said “We can do flush mount, frame mount, inset doors, corbels, whatever you can dream.” Now he was speaking “cabinet,” and I was lost. Remember we never mentioned, and we had not yet been to, a big box store. He just assumed, but he had now convinced me we needed to try them out since it sounded like they would be able to help us.

Off to Home Depot and we met Terry, who had been a cabinet builder for 30 years prior to retiring and joining the kitchen department of the “big box” chain. Terry again began to build report, as the premier builder had done. He learned about our home, our overall vision for the full house remodel and asked us a lot about how we use our house.

But here was the best part. As he learned about the situation, Terry turned the discussion by saying, “I understand where you are at, would you mind stepping over here, and taking my cabinet 101 class which should prepare you make these decisions?” How could we say no? It took Terry about 15 minutes to teach us about cabinet design and explain how we should evaluate the products and what to look for.

We spent another hour with Terry exploring options and planning. His team is at the top of our list. What made the difference? He taught us something new. This might be a consumer sale, but it directly relates to every business sales. When sales people find something to teach customers, they are positioned as experts who are on the inside track to success.

photo by Katrina Snaps

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