Editor’s note: We’ve added a new blogger, Nick Ritota, CKD, CBD, who is director of sales & marketing for CompanionCabinet Software, LLC. Ritota will be sharing his insight on cabinet sales and other issues related to the business of kitchens and baths. Here’s his first post:
Ask most kitchen designers to describe salespeople and you’re likely to get responses such as overbearing, used car salesman or even pond scum. We tend to think that the science of selling is far separated from the art of design; I beg to differ.
We all need to sell to have successful careers in this industry. While there was a time when design was king (let’s call that pre-2008 when they were beating the door down to get in), it was a mistake then to view the world that way. Think about it, if we were effective salespeople back then, we would have closed even more when times were good. We simply lost the ones we couldn’t manage due to the volume of qualified buyers.
Some shops solve the problem by having experienced salespeople up front and relegating design to the back room. While the salesperson may not know everything about design, they do know enough to package a sale for the consumer. And if you have a qualified drafter in the back (think visor, elastic around the cuffs and quill pen), you can correct the design before any error gets sold.
Now, I don’t know about you, but that pretty much reduces a designer to a commodity. And in this world, commodities are easily found and relatively low in value in the overall scheme of things.
So what do we have to change to succeed in the new world order? You guessed it, we need to learn how to qualify and close: two foundations of selling. Had we been thinking about the sales process back when the market was good, we would not have experienced the fall-off we have today. We would be taking share from those who didn’t know how to sell.
What we have to do differently:
• Qualify prospects. Knowing when the customer intends to pull the trigger, what their budget may be and how many places they have already shopped for the remodel flushes out most tire kickers.
• Actively listen and sell to the why. If a customer is trying to upgrade just to sell their home, it is a much different sale from someone who is staying put and wants a chef’s kitchen.
• Get into the home. The first one that gets into the home usually has the best opportunity to close.
• Avoid version hell. Your presentation should include a good, better, best approach based on your active listening; less versions means more opportunity to sell
• Quantify the project. Present your three plans and ask where you missed
• Qualify the desire to buy. Ask, “If I understood your needs correctly and brought back this plan with your changes, do you feel as though you would buy from me?”
• Close the deal. Ask for the sale…too often we think that any pressure to close makes us bad people; it is absolutely what you need to do to sell your project!
Finally, consumers aren’t interested in the minutia of the sale. Showing features, functions and benefits and racks of door styles confuses the buyer; and a confused buyer never buys. If you are listening to the consumer, you should be able to put recommendations together and advise them on what would work. Here is where your design expertise should be front and center.
Selling involves a pre-calculated, repeatable, systematic approach that leads to a predictable percentage of closing rates for you and your business.