Hank Darlington: The art of selling skills
Start a formal sales training program and never stop!
I have two very strong opinions on what you must do to operate a successful DPH showroom.
Teach, practice and master selling skills.
Incorporate and utilize great business-management tools.
This feels like it might call for a two-part message, thus we’ll start this month with selling skills.
I hope that you would all agree that yours is a selling business. Nothing can happen unless you sell something. So, why is it that not very many of you teach and practice selling skills? It doesn’t make sense does it?
You spend a ton of money designing and building out great looking showrooms. You hire a team of folks to sell all these good-looking products, you bring in inventories, set up accounting systems, search out the best computer and software tools — but you don’t teach your sales team the fundamentals of selling.
It doesn’t make sense to me. There are so many books, workshops, webinars and other tools available that there’s really no excuse for not incorporating a formal, written selling skills program for your showroom business.
I also believe your vendor partners have a responsibility to help in this area. You and your key vendors do a good job of teaching your sales team the all-important product knowledge part of the equation — but I’m only aware of a few folks that offer formal sales skills training to their showroom customers.
Likewise, I believe there’s a big opportunity for the various trade associations and buying groups to do more in this area.
Several years ago, I wrote a selling skills workbook for ASA entitled “Essentials of Profitable Showroom Sales.” It’s a seven-chapter, 220-page workbook that has a quiz at the end of each chapter, a good glossary, appendix and table of contents. When it was first introduced, I did several live workshops all over the U.S., and followed this up by doing a number of webinars that followed the workbook chapter by chapter. I also did a number of private workshops for various wholesalers.
The workbook still is available and is part of the ASA’s Essential Series. I would encourage you to buy the workbook, encourage your team to read it and complete each quiz, and put together practice sessions and team meetings on each chapter. Yes, practice the meeting and greeting of customers, the qualifying process and even the presentation of various products.
Every sports team I know teaches the fundamentals of their sport and then they practice, practice, practice. Why should it be any different for sales professionals?
When we owned our business, we did a team meeting every Friday morning from 8-9 a.m. About half the meetings were product-knowledge driven and usually done by a factory rep. About 25% of the meetings were state of the company and general information sessions, and at least once a month, we dedicated a full hour to practicing selling skills. It works. By practicing basic skills, team members gain confidence, are more comfortable with selling and are overall better and more productive salespeople.
The following is a brief summary of what the ASA workbook offers:
Chapter 1 — The Role of the Showroom: Why they exist, why they are important to both the wholesaler and their vendors: This chapter outlines basic business-management techniques and why they are important. It touches on financial management, human-resource management and marketing management. There’s even a showroom sales consultant job description. This chapter also stresses how important it is to treat the showroom as a separate profit center, broken out from the overall wholesale business. Building out and staffing showrooms costs a lot of money, so it’s important to know what the actual return on investment is for the showroom part of the business.
Chapter 2 — The Characteristics of Successful Showrooms: Like most things, there are good showrooms and some that aren’t so good. This chapter recites seven rules for operating a successful showroom. It outlines how important it is to have a formal, written list of showroom “best practices,” spelling out how the showroom should be operated. It covers which demographic group and potential clients would be important over the next 10 years and how to target your marketing to this group.
Chapter 3 — Learning to be a Successful Sales Consultant: Here, you learn that selling is a wonderful profession, not just a job. It explains three main parts of successful selling. There’s a self-assessment questionnaire so each person can audit his or her personal selling characteristics. This chapter also spells out five areas of self-improvement that will help each person become a better salesperson. There’s a list of 10 reasons why people buy from a sales consultant. There’s also a list of 13 qualities of successful sales consultants. That explains how attitude, humor and action are important pieces of the sales success formula. You also will learn why honesty and integrity are critical components of sales success.
Chapter 4 — The Showroom Sales Process: This chapter identifies the nine steps in the showroom selling cycle and explains the importance of mastering each step. It outlines why first impressions are so very important and why the initial contact is a big part of that first impression. This chapter also underlines how very important it is to qualify every customer within the first 20 minutes of coming into the showroom. It talks about the importance of using “value points” to help sell yourself, your company and your products. It also covers the all-important aspect of how to handle customer concerns and objections.
Chapter 5 — Following Through: The selling process does not end by putting together a quote. There are a number of things that should be done to follow up a quotation. This chapter also describes eight valuable tools that you can use to help build sales. It also suggests several very effective ways to say thank-you for the order.
Chapter 6 — Helping to Grow the Business: This chapter concentrates on how to sell to achieve the highest possible gross profit margin. Making a sale is important, but making profitable sales is more important. If margins at your showroom are less than 35%, then you’re doing something wrong. You need to achieve this level of profitability to justify the expense and effort of getting in the showroom business in the first place. Profitability is more important than sales volume. This chapter covers 21 suggested ways to improve your margins.
Chapter 7 — Become the Ultimate Showroom Sales Consultant: Here, we explain why having goals and incentives is so important. We explain the 10 essential truths of showroom selling and describe 13 keys to showroom selling success. We list 10 showroom customer turnoffs and describe in detail how important listening skills are in the selling process. And we include 13 steps to effectively resole customer complaints. And finally, we share a number of techniques on how to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your competitor’s showrooms.
In summary, I’m encouraging you as strongly as I know how, to incorporate a formal sales skills training program for all of your sales team. Start day one and never stop. The old saying that “practice makes perfect” certainly applies here.
I still do offer a one-day selling skills workshop, pretty much following the above outlined workbook, so if you wanted to give your sales training a kick start please get in touch with me. And if nothing else, take a look at the aforementioned ASA workbook.