Selling Success is All in the Details

While I love to sell, paying attention to detail is not one of my strong points. Unfortunately, I've learned that a small, overlooked item can consume the expected profits on a job. In addition, the emotion-robbing, time-consuming process of making corrections must be dealt with, somewhat paralyzing the opportunity to create new sales.

In fact, I've found that, when you're involved in the wake of problems created because of the lack of attention to detail, new mistakes are more likely to occur. The lack of focus actually creates an environment where other problems are born, making them somewhat self-perpetuating.

It's important to understand that success depends not only on our own attention to detail, but also the focus on those items by those who are involved with the project. To ensure success, make sure those around you understand that selling success is, indeed, in the details.'

Customer relations
It all begins with the first meeting with a potential customer. Very early in the interviewing process providing you're asking the right questions your prospect is likely to tell you some of the keys to earning his or her business. While these keys may or may not be spelled out in great detail, it's very important that you capture this information. Armed with this knowledge, you can develop a strategy to create a match between your products and services and the needs and expectations of the prospect.'

If getting this important first contact information is a challenge, try asking: "What do you dislike most about your existing kitchen?" and "What have you seen that you would like to include in your kitchen?" These questions will unlock opportunities for more probing questions, and the chance to capture your prospective customer's needs and feelings. At this point, the information becomes your target for development of the sale.

Early in your sales process, explain to your prospect how your company operates, what you expect from them and what they can expect from you. Be sure to cover the time line required to complete a successful project. This is a critical part of your qualifying process. On occasion, you and your client will part ways at this point because your products, services and the way you do business don't match the prospect's needs. While it's better to know this information sooner rather than later, you will only find this out in the details of qualifying.

Once you've developed your relationship and created a design for the project, the customer must be apprised of the details so that there is a clear understanding of what will take place. This can be very challenging, because your customers' perception is their reality. They will build their perception on what you and others say, how they interpret the drawings and what they see and experience in your showroom. If this is not done correctly, days or weeks later, as the project is being installed, you'll hear such statements as: "I thought you said", "I didn't understand it that way" or "Why didn't you tell me?" Any time these statements come up, it's likely a detail was missed or not understood.

Paper trail
It goes without saying that attention to detail always includes measuring correctly, designing with accuracy, reviewing the plans and acknowledgements for accuracy, and making sure all of the numbers and nomenclature are correct. Beyond this, there is the communication between you and your customer, which must be as complete as possible.'

In our company, we have a form that we use to ensure that we cover the communication details. It starts with the following:'

"Thank you for your order. The following information is a communications tool used to make certain we both have an understanding of the specifics of your cabinetry order and installation project. We will need your acknowledgement (signature) on this form before we schedule our crews. Thank you for your confidence in The Ar-Jay Center."

Following this statement, there is a list of the items that we review:

  • Delivery dates and lead times
  • Demolition
  • Cancellation and returns
  • Color, grain and texture
  • Painted and synthetic finishes
  • Payment terms
  • Alterations and plan changes
  • Countertop measuring and installation
  • Insurance
  • Removing contents from'environment
  • Making driveway parking available
  • Change orders
  • Dust and particulates

Each of these headings is developed into a sentence or two to help the consumer understand the details. For example, the heading "dust and particulates" is developed as follows: "Our installation crews will make every effort to control dust. However, there are always dust particles that will permeate beyond the installation area, and these may cause you some additional cleaning efforts when the job is completed." Covering these details of the installed job minimizes lots of potential problems.

To consistently take care of the details, you must rely heavily on the systems you employ in your paper flow, checking for accuracy and communicating this to the consumer, installer, etc. Even if you draw up the best of contracts, have the customer sign off on plans and do everything from a legal point of view, you could still find yourself in the uncomfortable position of your client not understanding, or not wanting to understand, the details. It is, however, important that your selling system have as much documented communication as is manageable.

I believe, near the end of the project, we, as salespeople, should be involved because the customer did trust us with their money and project. We want the project to be wrapped up so we can get the balance of the money, and we also want the prospect to be a happy customer, one we can use to get referrals for additional business.

I believe there are three areas you must excel in to ensure your success in the kitchen and bath industry: You must be able to sell; you must be able to design, and you must pay attention to and hold yourself accountable for the details. While none of these items is more important than the other, if you are weak in any of the three, you will not be able to attain the success you desire.