Enhancing Your 'Likability' Quotient

This past winter, I spent a great deal of time at my condo in Florida. After looking at my older kitchen cabinets, outdated flooring and appliances in need of repair, I decided it was time not just to remodel my condo kitchen, but also to enhance my investment property.

I know that remodeled kitchens and baths can add a great amount of value to a property and make reselling much easier. However, what turned out to be a fun experience became a little trying, too not because of the showroom I chose, but because of the salesperson. She drove me nuts. She didn't have a clue about my needs or what it would take to make me satisfied in this significant investment.

The Search
I started searching for a showroom by looking through the Yellow Pages. There were 51 listings under "cabinet makers," 14 under "kitchen cabinets & equipment household" and seven under "kitchen remodeling." In the "kitchen remodeling" listings, some companies redirected the reader to the firm's ad under "cabinet makers." So, I went there.

Rather than just tossing a coin, I checked out a few companies that listed their Web sites, checked out what they offered and also made a few calls. Out of eight calls I made inquiring about kitchen remodeling, only one person asked for my name. Five of the dealers told me how busy they were with the new construction in Florida, one made me feel like I was an intrusion, and one had an answering machine on during the middle of the day. The others gave me a ton of information and made it easier for me to know where NOT to go.

I ended up going into the showroom where the person on the phone initially asked for my name, and then transferred me over to a salesperson. When I arrived at the showroom, the person I originally spoke with was not there. Apparently he had taken ill, and I was met by "Maggie," a salesperson who had just come on board.

From the start, I found Maggie annoying. It seemed that every question I asked, she had to call someone else over for an answer. I had all of my measurements and was looking for an approximate quote. She told me that she "could not maneuver on any of the appliance prices," and once I was given a quote there was "no negotiation." She said that was something she was "told by her boss." I asked if I could talk to her boss. She said, "No, he's busy."

What killed me is that I really liked what the company sold, but I couldn't get past Maggie's ineptitude and lack of sales skills. She had a "that's all I know, that's what it is" personality.

On a scale of 1 to 10, her likability quotient was about a 2.

Her sales and marketing skills were not even on the chart. She actually read to me directly out of brochures and off product sheets.

When I asked her why one particular appliance was better than another, she replied, "You get what you pay for." When I asked about different color countertops, she said, "Maybe your wife could come in to help you with the colors." I'm not married. I said, "I don't have the luxury of having a wife," but it went right over her head.

I even went so far as to ask one of the other salespeople to take over. He said he couldn't because I was her customer. So, I did the only thing I could do at that point. I left. I asked for her card, said I would be back, and went out the door. I had specs, prices and all of the information I needed to go someplace else.

The problem was that I didn't know where else to go. I ended up asking my neighbor who had just bought new appliances and had a new counter and some tile installed. She gave me the name of a dealer that does kitchen remodeling. She also gave me the gentleman's name with whom she dealt. She said, "He's really knowledgeable and goes out of his way to help." So, I went there. It was a big difference, even though I didn't like the cabinets and countertop any better than the first place I went.

Instead of hearing things such as "The difference between the $1,300 appliance and the $1,600 appliance is $300," I got actual features and benefits, good advice and enough information to make me think I was getting good value for money spent. He took the time to find out that I wanted a better kitchen for my condo and a lesser quality one for my investment property. He told me what I could add on to the price of my investment property with a new kitchen, and how I could cut a few corners and still have perceived value. He asked me about my cooking skills (none), and what I have for a kitchen up North.

He also asked me about other kitchens I've had in other properties I've owned, and what I liked about them. We went into financing options, tax advantages and other things I never discussed with Maggie. He asked who did cook for me (since I didn't), who visited me at the condo, if I ever rented out my condo and how much more I could get from renters with a nice kitchen. He was sales savvy, yet was a genuinely nice person. On a likability quotient of 1 to 10, I would give him at least a 9-1/2. His sales skills almost made him a 10. He mentioned a few other add-ons and I told him to "just do it." I didn't even ask the price. I knew it would be fair.

A Closer Look
How is the customer rapport with the salespeople in your showroom? Do you even know? Are they instructed to get another salesperson involved if they feel the deal isn't going anyplace?

I know it's difficult to like everybody, and not everybody will like us, but selling kitchens and baths is your business. The key word is "selling." Customers don't come in and say, "I'll take that kitchen over there, who do I make the check out to?" Good marketing starts with getting the customers to like you. Personality helps. If they like you, they will trust you, and if they trust you, they are more apt to buy from you.

Marketing skills can be learned, but likability is not taught in schools or sales training classes.

You develop it. It's the easiest way I know to sell more kitchens and baths than your competition.