On August 20th, I celebrated 40 years of making my living selling kitchen and bath products. The economic rewards have paid my mortgage, bought my cars, paid for vacations, sent my kids to college and 12 years ago allowed me to buy the company I’d worked for over the past 28 years.
Lucky? Maybe. Hard work? Definitely. Though most of all, I attribute my success to a passion for the company I worked for, a passion for the client, a passion for selling and, yes, a passion for the industry and all of the wonderful people in it.
On my first day at work, in walked a prospective client who happened to be an interior designer. Wouldn’t you know it, baptism by fire! I had a catalog of the company’s offering in my hands, and a few days before I started, I’d studied it for product knowledge to augment my present selling skills.
When the designer was leaving our modest showroom, she thanked me, saying she had finally found someone with knowledge to help her. Needless to say, it wasn’t my design skills that had impressed her. Rather, it was my selling skills.
For 24 years I have been writing this column, hoping to share a passion I believe will take you on the path to being a successful salesperson. Many shared with me to help develop my skills, and to enrich my life and the lives of others. While it is now time for me to step aside, I want to leave you with the opportunity to keep or restore your passion for selling.
In this final column, I would like to leave you seven keys to selling successfully.
1. Questioning skills. What you know doesn’t count until you know the prospect’s needs, wants, desires and expectations. People with a passion for sales learn and execute the questioning process very well. They use it to qualify the prospect and to find and define the targets needed to develop the sale.
2. Development of a solution. The prospect must have an identifiable need or needs. Your product and service must have the features to solve the perceived needs. The prospect must place trust in you, your company and the products and services offered. The investment must fit the prospect’s economic position and foster the perception that the benefits to be gained are greater than the investment.
The time to sell is always now. As early in the process as possible, get the commitment from the prospect that they will become your customer.
In the development process, always keep in mind how you can stir prospects’ emotions to help encourage a sale. Some key emotional drivers are:
- Convenience – Prove life can be made easier.
- Fear – Avoid the negative, such as a price increase or the schedule not meeting a completion date if the sale is put off.
- Peer pressure – “Keeping up with the Joneses.”
- Pride – Self improvement, doing it for you and your family.
- Security – Protecting your family’s health, safety and general well being.
- Self image – Improving how we think we look to others.
- Wealth – Financial gain on investment.
- Use these emotional drivers to prove the value of your solution to the prospect’s project.
3. Presentation of the solution. Our professionalism frequently will fall short here. Don’t take the process of delivering and explaining your solution to their project casually. The simplest way to put it would be the motto of any Boy Scout: “Be prepared.” Remember, buying emotions are stirred by the benefits to be gained and losses to be avoided from your product, design and services. A dovetail drawer is not important to customers until they understand it delivers longer product life. An integral sink is no big deal until the prospects understand the benefit of not having a sink rim to gather dirt.
4. Invitation to do business with you. Always ask for the order! Remember, you have invested your time and talent and you need an economic return on this investment. When you ask for business from a client and hear a “no,” it means you need to once again sell the benefits to be gained and the losses to be avoided by your total offering. In order to be successful, you must believe your offering is the best available to the prospect.
5. Management of the sale to a successful conclusion. To fulfill your passion as a salesperson/designer, deliver what you promise. Any time you fall short of the prospect’s expectations, you fall short of sales success. My motto is: “Sell to sell again.” I have served three generations of the same family. With your passion to accurately design, sell and deliver, you will earn the same.
6. Offering thanks. Always thank prospects for their time and input as you build the sale together. Thank them for the order and finally thank them for allowing you to work with them in making their project successful and their dreams come true.
7. Follow-up and referrals. Your happy customer is the best advertisement you have. Always do follow-up to ensure satisfied clients, and then use those happy clients as a referral resource.
To be truly successful, first you must dream about success that seems beyond your reach. Next, internalize the dream into a target of reality. This target now becomes your goal.
Learning must occur in every step of the process. Your possession of knowledge is a major tool in climbing toward your goal. Once learned, you absolutely must practice your new skill, raising it to the highest level.
Now, the tough part (and where a lot of people fail): You must do it! You must set aside old habits and instill the new and improved ones. Success won’t happen overnight, but by following the success formula, you will be on your way.
Where are you today in this formula? Where do you want to be? Be like the little red engine helping the circus train up the hill, repeating the affirmation “I think I can.” To all of my friends and readers, I know you can!
Author’s Note: In closing, I’d like to thank KBDN publisher Eliot Sefrin, for not only allowing me to be part of the KBDN family for 24 years but for his focus on improving the kitchen and bath industry. Eliot, you are truly a “Hall of Fame” person. Thanks go as well to the KBDN editorial, art and production staff who have supported me over the years. When you work with people who are always there for you, much can be accomplished. Hats off to the sales staff of KBDN. They, like you and I, find the economic fuel to run the engine. Thank you to my wife who has always supported me in my quest for success.
Thank you to the advertisers who have found KBDN the best way to talk to their prospects. Finally, thank you to all of the readers of “Closing the Sale.” You have made contributions to my life in many ways, and have opened doors of opportunity I have walked through. To contact me, e-mail me at Ralph@ar-jay.com.