We recently returned home from the Fall BKBG Annual Conference, and one of the topics of discussion was the process kitchen and bath dealers go through when working with their customers. It was interesting to hear the many different ways people in our industry handle potential new leads, bringing them through the process from suspects to prospects to customers.
When I returned home, I began looking at what we do as a company, and gave some thought to our processes for handling leads. For this month’s column, I’d like to share some thoughts on systems for handling different types of leads, and the best way to maximize those leads so that they can be transformed into customers – without wasting time on the tire kickers who will never end up doing business with your company.
Let’s start with the phone-in lead. In this case, someone calls in and asks us to come to their home. Now some dealers or designers feel that if a client is really serious about a new kitchen or bath, he or she should be willing to visit the showroom during regular hours before a home visit is scheduled. They want to qualify the lead before they invest time doing a home visit.
While I understand that, I question if dictating what the lead must do in order to start the process could potentially cost the dealer a job.
Now there are other companies that will run out on any phone-in lead that comes their way, which we don’t advocate, either. Ideally, a company should have specific processes in place for what to do with a lead who calls in looking for information about a kitchen or bath project.
This begins with who answers the phone. When deciding who answers the phone, the first thing to consider is the size of your company. For a three- or four-person firm, everyone should be answering the phone. For a larger company, there may be a receptionist who answers the phone. But regardless of who answers the phone, you need to be sure that the person takes care of the lead professionally.
I’ve never believed that asking who is calling is anybody’s business except the person for whom the call is intended. While you may believe that screening calls is good business, I would suggest you rethink that. Here’s why: Let’s assume that a client calls in and asks for the person he or she has been working with. If the person answering the phone asks who’s calling, and then says that person is not available, it can lead the caller to believe that the person being called doesn’t want to speak with him or her specifically. Would it not have been better to say “please hold,” and then come back and explain that the person is out of the office, then ask who is calling so the message can be relayed?
If you are involved with the sales process, then I suggest that you take all calls, as you will never know who is on the other end unless you take that call.
Another reason for the phone to be answered by sales/designers is the best first impression can usually be made at this time and callers don’t have to repeat themselves when the right person gets on the phone.
As for the automated answering service, while I support them for after showroom hours, I do not think it’s a good idea for companies to rely on a machine to direct callers to where they want to go. In our business, we have the potential of selling a very large ticket item to the caller, and I feel the caller deserves a human voice on the other end of the phone.
If you do use an automated answering machine, when asking the caller to enter the name of the person they are looking for, try using the first name of that person instead of the last name. Many times, they will only know the person by their first name.
So what’s the best way to handle a call for information? Begin by thanking the person for calling. Next, you want to get information from the caller: name, address, phone numbers (work/home/cell) and an e-mail address, if possible. This is a good time to ask some questions to qualify them, i.e. how soon are you looking to do something, how did you hear about us, what types of products are you interested in, etc. You need to connect with them, and a serious buyer will be happy to answer these questions.
Next, you need to decide what you will do if the caller wants someone to come out to the home. We do not think every call deserves a home appointment unless there has been some sort of qualifying to at least see if this is a good lead or just a tire kicker.
The next area to look at is walk-in leads. If your showroom is set up for walk-in traffic, it’s important that a process is in place so that the qualifying is done then and there. Again, the goal is not to run out to everyone’s home the minute they say, “We want to remodel our kitchen or bath.” When you have a questionnaire to go through, it makes you look more professional and you can get the information you need to determine if this is a qualified customer.
While at the beginning, most people are looking for a ballpark cost for the type of project they are considering, that’s something you should be able to provide if you have the right information. Every November, Remodeling Magazine prints a cost vs. value report on the average investment of a new kitchen or bath. If you don’t have this, I highly recommend that you get a copy so you can show your customers what the national average is for remodeling a kitchen or bath. This can help qualify your clients and also give them the information they need to proceed with the next step.
Walk-in traffic should be handled pretty much the same as a call-in lead. Having a process in place ensures that all of your customers get the attention to detail they deserve.
Remember, you want to qualify, qualify, qualify: That’s the name of the game. You need to be sure that the prospects you invest your time in at least have good potential to become your customers.
Stay the course and remain confident that you know what you’re doing and are the most qualified person to help your customer.