The importance of teaching selling skills
Closing the sale is critical in a showroom operation.
The fact that I’m sitting here in swim trunks and a T-shirt at our home in Baja, Mexico may make you think that I don’t have a very busy day in front of me. Well, you’re wrong. This article will take three or four hours to write and edit. Then I have to do six to eight miles in my kayak since I’m getting ready to do a 130-mile, eight-day kayak trip down the beautiful Sea of Cortez. Then I have to sit back down at my desk and work on a three-year business plan that I’m helping one of my clients put together. A busy day indeed!
Enough of this. Down to business! The subject this month is selling skills. I’ve written on this subject several times before. I truly believe that developing great selling skills is the most important thing you can do to ensure the success of your showroom business. Now that’s a very strong statement. The fact is your business is a selling business. Nothing else can happen unless a sale is made. There would be no business without sales. There would be no need for accounting, purchasing, receiving, shipping or inventory. There would be no showroom! Sales is the fuel that drives the engine.
Having said that, please help me understand why so few of you spend little or no time working on your selling skills? This is the biggest frustration I have with you nice folks. You work hard at product knowledge and that’s good. That’s also an important part of the formula for success. You have become good techies with iPhones, iPads, computers, etc. You’ve learned the company policies and procedures. All good things. Unfortunately, most of you don’t work very hard at mastering the one thing that grows sales for the company and compensation for you…selling skills!
There are lots of great books on the subject. I know because I must have 20 in my library. There are CDs on the subject, articles on the Internet and workshops directed at helping folks become better salespeople. I know Kohler offers a fine workshop on the subject. ASA has a workbook “The Essentials of Profitable Showroom Selling” and offers a workshop to go with it. I think it’s well-done, but I’m prejudiced. I wrote the book and do the workshop. There are so many options and opportunities available to you that there is absolutely no excuse for not wanting to become the very best salesperson in your marketplace.
Many of you see yourselves as designers and showroom “consultants.” You believe that your No. 1 responsibility is to help clients select products. Heck, yes! This is hugely important, but more important than that is writing the order. Nothing is more important than getting the sale.
Practice makes perfectSelling is a learned skill. It’s not hard to learn. Maybe the first step should be to start thinking of yourself as a salesperson, not simply a consultant. Call it what it is. Don’t be ashamed to call yourself a salesperson. In fact, be proud of it. Brag about it. Some sales types such as car salespeople, door-to-door salespeople and high-pressure, straight-commission salespeople have given the sales profession a bad name, but these folks are in the minority. There are a lot more very professional, ethical and good salespeople out there.
I believe that making selling skills a priority starts at the top. The owners and managers out there also have to believe it. So often on the wholesale side, a person starts in the warehouse, moves to the counter or inside sales, then into outside sales if they’re any good. Yes, they’ve learned the product, pricing and services that you offer, but did they get any sales training along the way? I doubt it. What’s with that? It’s a selling business and you don’t teach selling skills? It drives me nuts!
Thanks for letting me vent. You might be wondering what brought this on. For starters, I’ve recognized for most of my three careers that this is a glaring problem. Then I recently was reminded of it three times in the span of a week. Three of my consulting clients contacted me with questions and situations involving selling. The cool thing is I have presented my Selling Skills 101 and 201 courses to all three companies. They have bought into the importance of teaching selling skills. Consequently, when they have a question or problem we talk it through.
There are certain basics to becoming a good salesperson. All those books, CDs and workshops I referred to are pretty generic. The workbook I wrote and workshops I give are specific to the showroom business. Here are the main areas of importance that I believe showroom salespeople have to learn and practice.
The initial contact: This is the meeting and greeting of a client. It’s about how you welcome them to your place of business, how you exchange names and make them feel comfortable, how you briefly explain what role you play in helping them and how you tell them why you and your company are the best. This is where you might offer refreshment. You start to build rapport and put them at ease.
Qualifying the client: Unfortunately, I don’t believe many of you have mastered this. Most of the time you’re already talking product before you learn anything about the client. Qualifying the client simply means learning as much as you can in a short period of time, so you can make a decision on whether the time spent with that client will be worth your time and their time.
In a nice, comfortable, nonthreatening and no-pressure way you must find out what project they’re working on, where the project is located, what their time frame is, do they have a plumber and/or contractor, have they been shopping anywhere else and what is their budget. Once you have answers to these and other questions you can make the decision whether or not to invest more time and energy. Often times, showroom salespeople spend a lot of time, give away a lot of information and find out after the fact that they probably don’t have a very good chance of writing the order. Not good.
Presenting products and services: After you have determined that the client really is a good potential buyer, you start presenting your products and services. The key here is to “sell” the many important features and benefits that your products and services offer. From the very beginning you must sell (tell) the various values that you offer. You must learn to brag (in a nice way) about you, your company and your products and services. You must convey to the client that you do it better and that what you offer is different and more unique than your competition. You are the expert. You must make your client believe that you are the very best person to help them with their project.
Eliminate objections and concerns: From the moment the client comes through your front door they will have some concerns, such as you won’t have the products or styles they’re looking for, your prices will be too high, or you won’t be able to deliver within their time frame. Your job throughout the selling process is to find out what those concerns and objections are and make them go away. If you don’t, the client will leave with unanswered questions and concerns and most likely won’t come back. Learning to do this is an art and a skill.
Closing the sale: Too many of you go through the whole process and never ask for the order! Why? Doing this requires good timing. However, I contend that if you have done a really good job in each of the preceding steps, getting the order should be almost automatic. Each step builds on the next. There are no shortcuts. The purpose of the whole selling exercise is to get the order. Close the sale!
After sale follow-through: Too many of you fail to do a good job in this area. There is a list of things you should be doing to make sure that you have a 100% satisfied client. There are numerous ways of saying “thank-you.” One of your main goals is to get happy and satisfied clients bragging about you. Referrals are the lifeblood of the business. They are more powerful than all the advertising, promotions and PR that you might do.
In my opinion, teaching and learning selling skills are the single most important things you can do to ensure success in your showroom operation. If I can help in any way, please don’t hesitate to email or call. Good selling!