Developing New Sales Techniques
There are three major things you need to think about when running your shop:
1. Sales. 2. Sales. 3. Sales.
No sales means no work . . . and, unless you're independently wealthy, no work means no shop. So, it's a good idea to continually remind your staff that everyone's in the sales business, all the time.
Here's a good example: You're delivering a set of kitchen cabinets to a job site. The builder has been hollering at you to get the work shipped there as soon as you can, because he's behind schedule. Your driver arrives with the truck right at breaktime. What's the best approach to demand that the contractor get someone to help right away, or to wait until the crew is done with their snack? Often, the best thing to do is hold off even if the builder is in a hurry.
This example is just a reminder that a sales approach doesn't end once the contract is signed.
The person who answers your telephone can often be a huge part of your sales force without you even knowing it. It's been proven time and again that when a potential customer contacts a company, their decision to buy is usually made, at least subconsciously, in the first few minutes of dealing with that company. Your staff better be friendly and helpful!
Take your abrasive people out of the early phone contact loop. For that first important contact with a customer, you're much better off with someone pleasant, positive and helpful.
That staff member doesn't necessarily have to know your business inside out, because new prospects usually don't want to deal with a know-it-all type.
Years ago, when our shop was just starting out, an old builder friend of mine told me to take the money we were thinking of spending on advertising and marketing, and put it into customer service. His reasoning was that, over the long haul, your customers remember your shop for how you take care of them as much as they do for the quality of your work. Of course, your product has to be good, too, but the people and performance memories are powerful and lasting.
Your goal should be to convert your customers into an integral part of your sales force. They become your referral base a solid and strong foundation that largely determines how you get your work. If you can achieve this goal, you will not have to rely on employing salespeople nor will you have to figure out new sales techniques all of the time.
At our shop we've found that the true power of an established business, at least in the construction/ remodeling world, lies in referral and repeat business. The customer who comes to you by this route is really pre-sold, and probably the only obstacle to not doing business with your shop is price.
What follows are a couple of tips with respect to customer service that, in our experience, really translate to sales techniques:
- Most important of all, take immediate care of screwups. The
oven cabinet that's 2" too wide has to be fixed as fast as you can
as does the drawer bank beside it as that won't work after you've
shrunk the oven unit. (And, maybe, you have to send it back out to
the job site without doors so the countertop schedule can stay on
- Looking after punch list work falls under the "sales" category,
too. If you can get to those last few touch-up items quickly,
you'll be remembered as a shop that takes care of business.
- You may want to send your front-line salespeople to sales
school. A good sales course can really help hone a selling
approach, and most of the good ones these days focus on low-key,
non-threatening sales techniques. The school should teach your
people about asking questions, nurturing the customer and staying
As far as sales training is concerned, consider also enrolling those staff members who have any customer contact especially project managers and office staff. It may seem to you that these people are not involved in the "front-end" sales process but, really, any employee who deals with your customer is in sales.
- By all means try to identify your customer, but remember
that all people enjoy two things being taken care of and talking
about what they do.
A builder, for example, may require more technical information, but he'll still appreciate a low-key approach, and he may really want to tell you just how your work will fit in with the overall plan. Encourage him to discuss that with you.
In contrast, a homeowner may need more explanations and education, yet will probably not appreciate being spoken down to by a know-it-all. Try to get homeowners to talk about why they're undertaking the project and why your work will enhance the dream.
As a last example, a restaurant owner may want to know all about
your shop schedule and availability, but will probably love to talk
about how your cabinets and fixtures will enhance what he's trying
to do with the food and atmosphere he wants to create.
There are other ways to improve your sales approach.
One way is to get that logo of yours together, and use it on all of your company's visual presentations proposals, letters, trucks, tee shirts, etc. It will give your sales efforts a unified look, and your prospects and customers will get the sense that they're dealing with a reliable and professional company.
Another great sales technique we've employed is to use the shop as a "showroom." Taking customers out into the shop is often a great way to show off your investment, and let people see just how serious you are about what you do.
A growing number of companies are also using the Internet to do business, and a successful cabinet shop should be no exception these days. Getting a Web site set up can be as effective as any printed brochure. While there are a lot of "tire-kickers" online, your site can be a great resource for people who want to know more about you, but do not want to be in a one-on-one, face-to-face sales situation.
Lastly, don't forget networking. As a member of your church, school, builder community, whatever, you personally can be a salesperson for your business.
People often know you by what you do, and it's a good way to
spread the word about your company.
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