I’ve been active in our great industry for a long time, and during that time I’ve seen an incredible amount of changes. 

One thing that has remained constant is selling skills continue to be the single most important ingredient for success in the showroom business. I learned very early in my career that sales fuel the engines of virtually every business. Without revenues (sales) coming in you won’t be able to cover your expenses and the business won’t succeed. Everything in business depends on making the sale! In other words, nothing happens until the sale is made.

So my question to you is, “Why doesn’t everyone make teaching and practicing selling skills a priority in their business?” Virtually everyone in the showroom business works very hard at teaching/learning product knowledge. This is good! But very few folks have a formal, ongoing and never-ending selling skills training program. This is bad and drives me nuts.

It is much easier to learn great selling skills than it is to learn about a complicated shower installation or to learn some of the computer software being used today.

There are hundreds of books, videos, CDs and workshops on the subject of selling skills and the very basics of selling skills are similar regardless of what product or service you might be selling. Sure, there are certain techniques that should be used in showroom selling that will vary from selling cars, pharmaceuticals or electronics, but the basics are the same. 

I wrote a 250-page showroom selling skills workbook for the American Supply Association and have done a series of workshops and webinars on the subject for ASA members. The workbook is basic, but I believe everyone from new hires to experienced sales consultants would greatly benefit by reading this workbook and practicing the skills that are talked about.

We know how the way people shop has dramatically changed with the advent of the Internet and your clients are much more knowledgeable of the projects and products they are interested in. I believe they have higher expectations and are more demanding than they were before the Internet came along. 

There have been all kinds of speculation on whether the Internet will make brick-and-mortar stores obsolete. I believe 110% that showrooms are here for the long haul. Clients want to see, touch, sit on and sit in the products you sell and they always will need the high level of expertise the really good sales consultants bring to the mix.

In addition to writing for Supply House Times, I also contribute to Kitchen and Bath Design News, which focuses on kitchen-and-bath dealers and the manufacturers of products for that industry segment.

KBDN recently shared some interesting facts on what clients working on kitchen and bath projects want and expect from the kitchen and bath dealers they work with. I believe there are some real similarities for decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms. The survey conducted for KBDN was done by Research Institute for Cooking and Kitchen Intelligence. Here are a few facts that might interest you:

Favored client sales approach:According to the survey, 55% of clients favor a people-focused approach, while 37% favor a design-focused approach and 8% favor a product-focused approach.

Good, better best: Sixty-five percent of kitchen dealers surveyed prefer using a good, better, best sales method. That means clients were presented with three different price points on products to help them make selections and zero-in on a budget. Any more than this and you’ll confuse them.

Selling points: The survey shows the dealer sales consultants’ biggest selling points are: experience (57%); reputation (49%); problem solver (28%); creativity (23%); product expertise (22%); and price (14%). Does it surprise you price was this far down the list?

Sales tools: The survey reveals a variety of sales tools used by sales consultants, including: client testimonials (96%); photos and project portfolios (92%); knowledgeable sales staff (92%); up-to-date showroom displays (83%); and showroom location (81%).

Sales leads: According to survey respondents the best sources for sales leads are: referrals (91%); walk-in showroom traffic (44%) and website (32%). I’m surprised the website number is so low.

Biggest sales challenges: And finally from the survey, the biggest sales challenges for sales consultants include: clients with unrealistic budget expectations (75%); clients taking a long time to make a decision (38%); clients not knowing what they want (35%); rude or unfriendly clients (20%); and pressure to generate sales (14%).

I’ll bet you can identify with a lot of the above. Whether you are selling kitchen cabinets or tubs and toilets there are a lot of similarities. 

Now I would like to whet your appetite just a bit by sharing the several steps to “Showroom Selling Success” that I outlined and explained in the aforementioned ASA workbook I wrote. Learning selling skills is easy. It’s a step-by-step process. Learn and practice each step and you will see your sales increase and you’ll start having so much more fun. I guarantee it!

The Steps to selling success

Now let’s go through some of the key steps that will help both your customers and your business.

Attracting potential clients: This is done primarily via referrals, having a great website and a well-thought-out marketing program.

First impressions: This happens in a number of different ways: what other clients say about you; their reaction to your website; the location of the showroom and what it looks like when driving up to it; the first steps into the showroom and their initial looks left and right; how quickly they are met and greeted; how you are dressed and so much more. Remember you only get one chance to make a great first impression, so make it a good one.

Meet and greet the client: It is important to learn the correct way to approach the client. Your body language, eye contact, a smile that says “thanks for coming in,” and the first words out of your mouth are important.  

Qualifying the client: This is where you learn who they are, why they are there, what their budget is, what their timeframe is and several more important facts you must know to determine if spending valuable time with them will be worth both your time and their time.

The value presentation:After qualifying the client you move into showing and explaining why your products and services are the very best they will find. This includes reciting the many features and benefits of your products and making sure the client knows you and your company are the very best they will find.

Eliminate concerns and objections: This is an art and a skill unto itself! Listening is a key to success in this area. If you don’t eliminate any and all concerns/objections, the odds of you being the successful salesperson are greatly reduced. 

Closing the sale: This is the easiest part. If you have followed all the aforementioned steps and have done a good job with each one, closing the sale almost is automatic. Honest…it is! 

After sale follow-through: Very few folks do a good job with this and it’s one of the biggest opportunities you have to gain repeat clients and those all-important referrals.  There are a lot of easy things you can do after the sale has been made to guarantee more sales. 

I am encouraging you to embrace and recognize the need to work hard at improving your showroom selling skills. I continually read books and articles on the subject and I would encourage you to build a library of books, videos, CDs, etc., on this subject.

Make sales skills training part of your weekly/monthly training exercises. You, your bosses, your vendor partners and your clients will be glad you did.

Good selling!