First Impressions: An Often Overlooked Marketing Tool

Ever since I found out the real estate market was a smarter investment (at least for me) than the stock market, I've had fun buying and fixing up properties in New York and Florida and helping my daughters with their homes in Tennessee and Virginia. I'm not a contractor or real estate guru. What started as a hobby has turned into a profitable venture. One thing I've learned over the past few years is this: a house with a newly remodeled kitchen and/or a nicely appointed bathroom can increase its value substantially, and it can sell much faster.

I'm not good with design or with a hammer, so I rely on the kitchen and bath showroom salespeople to help me with different projects. I am, however, an experienced shopper, and I've visited a lot of kitchen and bath dealers in many states. I've had a number of kitchens installed and remodeled, and I have tricked-out a lot of bathrooms, including one in a new home I just moved into.

Meeting and greeting
To me, the hardest part of the process is meeting the salesperson or dealer for the first time. It's not always a fun experience. Nothing is worse than dealing with someone you feel is hard to get along with, incompetent or lacking in personality and people skills. Now that I'm older and senility is starting to set in, I have a tough time with people whom I have to beg to take my money.

Just a few months ago, I walked into a showroom, looked around and thought, "I hope I like the person that comes over to meet me." This particular time, no one came over to speak to me, but there were two people sitting at desks at the side of the showroom. One was on the phone and another was rustling through some papers on her desk. I went over and stood in front of her. She looked up. I looked at her. We both looked at each other. Finally she said, "Yes?"

I said, "I wondered which one of us was going to speak first!" (I thought it was a funny remark. I guess she didn't; she didn't laugh.) She said, "We are very busy you know." It was not a stellar start to trying to get an estimate on a project in the tens of thousands of dollars. I ended up going someplace else where I felt the salespeople might have time for me and wouldn't mind giving me an estimate and letting me sign a contract.

Looking at observations
I'm sure your showroom isn't this way. But since I am on the outside looking in, I will give you my stats on some of the various showrooms I have visited over the past few years. Keep in mind that I am not a secret shopper. I am just a shopper, period.

I am a writer by trade, but I have some condos, townhouses and single-family houses for which I fix up kitchens and put in nice bathrooms. Once they are done, they sell fast, so I buy a few more. At this stage of my life this little hobby is rewarding.

Here's my list of observations that I have made while dealing with kitchen and bath showrooms over the years:

  • Most dealers will never ask your name over the phone when you call for information. If they do, and then call me by name, I really feel good, and I think I should set up an appointment to meet them.
  • If a salesperson shows me different bathroom ideas and says, "This is what I have in my home," I am more apt to buy from them.
  • Not everyone shows up on time for an appointment for an estimate. At least 20% of the time, the salesperson will be late. I immediately think my job will be done late as well.
  • When showing me kitchens, many salespeople don't ask me if I'm doing this for resale. Usually I have to offer the information. I like it when they ask and get to know me a little bit.
  • I always ask for a CKD or CBD. 'Some of the salespeople I talk to are neither, but what amazes me is that most don't know what the designations are. It definitely separates the ones who are CKDs and CBDs apart from the competition.
  • I always try to get a lower price every single time. I usually don't buy from a person who sticks to his or her guns and doesn't budge without giving a real good reason to do so unless I like their personality and they can make me laugh. No kidding. In fact I remember once shopping for a whirlpool and multi-spray shower, finding what I liked, and saying to the salesperson, who was much younger than me, "I'm not buying this unless you can save me a few bucks." He replied, "Okay, let me see what I can do." Then he came down $7.50. I laughed out loud. He explained, "Usually I can't come down a nickel, but you seem like an astute shopper." I waited for a second, and he said, "If it's the money that's the problem, I can show you something cheap, but you don't look like that type of person." I liked the guy. I gave him a down payment right then.
  • I will not buy from a person who doesn't know his or her business or is too busy to give me enough attention. Telling me how busy the company is, and how much work you have, makes me feel like I have to take a number and that I will be lucky to get the kitchen or bath installed when I need it.
  • I'm impressed with genuine knowledge, someone who has time for me, and someone I can get to know and who treats me like a friend. Believe it or not, money is not the only deciding factor when buying a new kitchen or remodeling a bathroom. Features, benefits, product knowledge and likeability play far more of an important role.

You've probably heard the phrase, "You never get a second chance to make a good first impression." You would be amazed at what goes through your customer's head when you open your mouth the first time you meet him or her. I think first impressions is an important topic, and the NKBA has invited me to discuss this and other thoughts from the outside looking in at one of the programs at K/BIS in May in Las Vegas. Hope to see you there!

Bob Popyk is CEO of Bentley-Hall, Inc., a marketing firm specializing in sales and marketing strategies for creating more customers. His sales meetings and seminars are presented internationally to major companies and industries. His books include "Here's my card" and "How to increase your business BY 25%...Starting Next Week! For more information on Bob, or his company, e-mail, write to: Bentley-Hall, Inc., 120 Walton Street, Suite 201, Syracuse, New York 13202, or visit his Web site online at