Sharpen Your Sales Tools for Success

I once heard a story about a wood-chopping contest, where the long-time champion went into the woods and chopped wood non-stop from the opening bell until the final moments. By contrast, the challenger went into the woods, and at the ring of the bell, his chopping started, too, however, those listening to him also heard periodic moments of silence from him throughout the contest.

After the final bell had rung and his chopping results were measured, it was astonishingthe challenger had chopped the most wood, and was declared the new champion.

The new champion was asked about the intermittent chopping. Had he grown tired? Had his equipment failed him?

"No," he said. "The only time I stopped was to sharpen my ax."

Staying Current
In our company, and in my observation of others, I've detected a problem. We, like the dethroned champion, focus on flailing away, and we often do it with dull sales tools. I believe it's important to take a look at the tools of our trade and review them periodically to make sure that they're honed properly.

For example, examine your displays. While displays are one of our most important sales tools, I've seen many outdated displays taking up room and contributing to a negative experience for those visiting and looking for new ideas.

Manufacturers regularly change or discontinue a door style or finish, and often, we don't keep up with those changes. It's a real downer to stand in front of a display and tell a customer "it's almost like this," or note that the drawer guides have been changed, or say that what they're seeing is a discontinued display.

I understand that there is time and expense involved in keeping displays current. However, you need to take responsibility for your showroom and make sure that your displays are clean, complete, current and as sharp as they can be.

Sharpening your sales tools also includes reviewing your customer literature. Is it current? Too much? Too little? None on hand? Worst of all, do you know you that have it somewhere but can't find it, or know that if you did find it, the literature wouldn't be presentable? It doesn't take much thought to know that your literature must be current, as well as filed properly so that you know where it is and that it is in good shape.

It's also important to have your name on your literature. This type of information is a great tool to use in the presentation of a product, and to place in the possession of the prospect. Quality literature is a silent salesperson that consumers will use in their decision-making process.

If you're using computer programs to create your kitchens and baths, are you able to utilize everything that software can do for you?

I hear a lot of talk about the challenges that come with program enhancements. Unfortunately, training time in this area tends to be non-existent, and is generally done on the job and under the pressure of getting a design and quote ready quickly. The designer usually defaults to what he or she knows, failing to capitalize on the software upgrades and the computer's maximum potential as a sales tool.

Another important tool, and maybe the toughest of all, is keeping track of your chips laminates, solid surface materials, granite, wood species, finishes, appliance colors, bath fixtures, mouldings, etc. It can be very frustrating to go through your chain of laminate chips and find that the color you're looking for isn't there. Even more frustrating is the situation where a customer chooses a color, only to find out later that it has been discontinued. Keeping track of these samples, and keeping them up to date, is never easy, but it's important to your business.

This concept applies to hardware, as well. One of my pet peeves has to do with hardware that's missing from a display or from a hardware board. While I understand that there are circumstances when it is the right decision to lend, sell or give a piece of hardware away, I also know that a critical component to selling is to have a complete range of hardware samples.

To understand the importance of hardware, I'll offer this example. A person walks into a car dealership to buy a car, and the model he test drives or the one on the showroom floor is without the driver's side front hubcap. I guarantee that the first thing the customer will notice is that the $75 hubcap is missing, even though the rest of the $30,000 car is intact. Don't let a missing $5 piece of hardware detract from your costly display. Make sure that the hardware in your displays is in place, and that your sample board of hardware is complete.

Plan Implementation
When reviewing your sales tools, it's important to decide what samples you need and then implement a plan to manage them. Too often, we try to have everything and, in doing so, we have too much, manage nothing very well, and find ourselves always incomplete.

This simply leads to frustration when you're working with a customer and you can't find what you think you have and probably do have. While this may not embarrass you, it should.

However, the bigger problem here is that it breaks the flow of the selling process. In addition, it can also convey a more subtle and damaging message; the prospect could interpret this lack of showroom management into doubt about your company's ability to handle the job, and about whether you can be trusted with detail.

At my company, we just raised the bar by creating better systems and management of those systems, so that we can rest assured that our selling tools are in place and dependably sharp just like the champion woodcutter. In order for us to do this, we invested the time and energy, creating new control systems that includes monitoring things on a daily and weekly basis.

I suggest that you, too, take time out like the challenger in the woodcutting championship contest. Sharpen your sales tools, and put yourself in the best possible position to create your next sale. You can become the champion.