Find the Difference, Sell the Difference

Selling is not as complicated as we sometimes try to make it. We often view the skills needed for successful selling as being very special attainable by only a few.

In truth, selling skills are not that special, and acquiring them is not that difficult. What is key is knowing how to use these skills properly.

One skill to focus on whether you are a novice or an old pro is the skill of finding and developing a difference. Every customer is looking for a reason to buy, whether it's from you or your competitor. What the customer is looking for, then, is the difference. In his mind, he wants to be able to defend his decision with clarity, and understand the differences between his selections and alternatives in the marketplace.

The customer has a real challenge when it comes to clearly identifying differences because, the fact is, the differences in today's market are often difficult to distinguish. Let's take a look, then, at how we can find differences, unravel their importance to a specific consumer and use them to earn the sale.

In the discovery of difference, the easiest place to look first is at product differences. Unfortunately, in the current marketplace, products available in the same price range seem to have few little differences between them. Today's technology of construction and finish techniques have put products on a par when it comes to quality, and created less obvious differences than were once acknowledged.

I recall when finish was a big issue. We had one manufacturer who had a seven-stage finish system. When customers compared this finish system to what they knew from the past that their old cabinets had a soft finish that collected dirt and turned black around the handles they felt secure in the difference. Today, however, nearly all finishes will look good and last a long time. While this is an advantage to the consumer, it makes choosing much more difficult.

To help the customer and, as a result, promote the sale, you need to do your homework when it comes to product construction. These construction differences do exist, and they may be important to your customer, thereby influencing the sale. You need to find out what these differences are if you're going to point them out to your customers.

A few areas where you might find product differences that your customers may be sensitive about include:

  • The Drawer. It's amazing to me, but the difference between a wood drawer and a particleboard drawer is huge to consumers. Also of note, and equally as important, there is a major benefit if the drawer is dovetailed. While you and I know that nearly all drawers will last the expected life of the kitchen, to the consumer, these characteristics are important.
  • The Door Style. Carrying a wide selection of different door styles, and knowing what styles complement which designs, will help you with your sales. Unfortunately, while it doesn't happen often, once in a while a customer will have his or her heart set on a door style that you don't have. Once you discover this fact about your customer, don't invest your time and talent trying to advance a sale that won't take place.
  • Finish and Wood Species. Again, some consumers are set on a special look; it may be a need to match their dining room table or grandma's old ice box or whatever. If you don't have the ability to meet your customers' needs on a repeated basis, it may be time to find a manufacturer that will give you the breadth of styles, woods and stains your marketplace is asking for.

You can create the difference your customer wants through your knowledge. Without true expertise, the finest-built product in the most favored door style, wood species and finish can still result in a bad kitchen. To expect success and be assured of making a difference, use your knowledge and expertise to create a fabulous kitchen both in function and appearance. This will raise you above your competition.

If you don't have the industry knowledge to create the finest design within the budget available, you will always have a tough time winning the sale. It takes more than just sales skills.

Next, continually examine the products that you carry. Why can't you be the one with the special cabinet, or the right door style, wood species and stain?

Another difference is the sales/designer's ability to develop a level of trust with the customer that is greater than your competitor's ability. There are a lot of characteristics you must have to create that level of trust; two of the most important would be honesty and integrity. Additional trust-building characteristics include listening, following-up and displaying your creativity.

It's amazing to me how many sales opportunities are lost not because of price or product problems, but because the relationship between the salesperson and the customer was not solid. Either the relationship and trust were never developed, or the relationship and trust were destroyed due to any number of reasons. These reasons include: miscommunication between the salesperson and the customer about needs, wants and expectations; the salesperson didn't design to the budget of the prospect; the salesperson did not respond in a reasonable or promised time with the information the consumer expected.

The lesson here is that the major differences for the consumer are not found in product or pricing as often as in the design/salesperson's difference or indifference.

My challenge to you is to be sensitive about what helps you earn or lose the sale. If you are honest with yourself, you will find areas to improve your closing rate and your expected profits by finding and creating differences you can use in proving your importance to your prospect. You will be turning these well-defined differences into both logical and emotional reasons for prospects to place their confidence in you, your products and your company.