If you are a salesperson and your two main thoughts are product and price Sales Coach International’s Gerry Layo has some bad news for you.

“Having an underprepared salesperson that focuses on product and price is a death sentence and you deserve what you get,” Layo told Supply House Times at the Forte decorative plumbing and hardware buying group’s summer meeting near O’Hare Airport in Chicago.

Layo held a four-day seminar for Forte members — the first two days with Forte salespeople and the final two with Forte owners and managers. “Forte was looking for a sharpening of the ax for the showroom salespeople,” Layo said.

And he delivered the sharpening.

Layo hammered home the point that has been known for some time now that the Internet has become an industry game-changer. “The biggest adversary is the Internet,” he said. “There used to be a saying 20 years ago ‘There is mystery and there is margin.’ The Internet has removed all mystery. Customers get information and go buy things online. Whether they are buying it cheaper or buying knockoffs online, you still are losing sales. The Internet is here and is not going away and people are getting much more comfortable using it. Is there something we can do about this? Of course there is, but it comes in the growth of the salesperson and not in some tricks and tactics.”

Layo said it all starts with steering the conversation with the customer away from solely product and price. “The salesperson’s job is to engage and connect with the customer. Talk about their project. How many projects have they done in the house? Are they using a designer or builder? Understand what the customer is trying to accomplish.

“Change the conversation to what the customer wants. They have a desire to get to a certain place and outcome. If you gain that understanding of the desired outcome you have a shot to offer products for that project and that’s when you assign a price. If I just assign a price to a product, the customer should go buy it online. You should buy the same thing elsewhere and pay less when the experience is similar to working with a salesperson.”

Layo gave a blunt assessment of salespeople in general in the current retail environment. “It’s not just Forte or the decorative plumbing and hardware industry, but in my opinion salespeople are grossly undertrained to connect with the customer,” he said. “If you connect with the customer so you can collaborate, then you can get to the point where you can convince them to make a choice and convey there is a strong risk going somewhere else and the best return on investment is by partnering with you.

“Today’s world is the same as yesterday’s world. Nobody wants to be sold, but they do need help buying. Diagnose what the customer is really looking for.”

Layo came away with a very favorable impression of the Forte group. “They came here thirsty to be trained and thirsty for direction,” he said. “Now we’re challenging the owners and managers to coach, lead and develop their teams to advance these skills. We’re on a path where the salespeople know it’s not their job to sell, but instead to help their customers buy.”


 This article was originally title “Engage and connect” in the September 2015 print edition of Supply House Times.