A few years ago my wife and I went looking for some new kitchen cabinets. We visited several showrooms and announced, “We’d like to see some cabinets.” The salespeople responded by demonstrating their cabinets. Their product knowledge was of the highest order. They all could describe the wood used, construction details, and hardware options. Enthusiastic presentations were typical. By the end of these presentations we had enough product information to convince us that the cabinets described were well made and, therefore, expensive. We did what all customers have been trained to do. We asked. . .
- What does it cost?
- Can we get it for less with different hardware?
- How big is your discount?
By the end of the day we had an armload of product brochures and lots of price quotes. We were truly proud of ourselves as comparison shoppers. We were
determined to get the best product at the lowest price. Does this customer sound familiar to you?
At the last a cabinet shop, we approached an older gentlemen wearing baggy tan pants with a folded wooden ruler in his back pocket. “Can I help you?” he asked the carpenter pants .
Confident in our abilities as wise customers, my wife and I said, “We’d like to see some cabinets.” With a slow, sweeping wave of his arm toward the cabinets behind him, the older gentlemen said, “We have lots of cabinets that I’ll be glad to show you.” Then he did something strikingly different from the other cabinet salespeople. Rather than walking over to the cabinets, he turned to us and said, “Would you mind if I asked you a few questions first? If I understand what you’re trying to accomplish, I’ll be able to point you toward the best cabinets for you.”
My wife and I felt our comparison shopping method was coming to a screeching halt. Oddly enough, we didn’t mind, because this older gentlemen was the first person who expressed interest in finding out what was on our minds. His cabinets were secondary to our goals in making a change to our kitchen.
While this older gentlemen may never have taken the seminar I teach–Wilson Learning’s “Counselor Salesperson”, which teaches sales people to be consultative–he was doing it. (Too many people like that on the street and my business is in trouble!) There was no lack of product knowledge in Marco, as we discovered later when he explained how his cabinets and other services addressed our problems. The skills he demonstrated led him to sell us a complete kitchen renovation and brought a halt to our comparison shopping. He did this by demonstrating that he wanted to solve our problem, not just sell us a product.
Let’s examine how he accomplished the sale and differentiated himself:
- Other cabinet salespeople were dressed in a suit and tie. This gentleman wore tan pants with a wooden ruler in his back pocket. His hands were calloused, as you would expect from someone who actually did carpentry. He listened to us and understood we were not technical experts on carpentry.
- As we described our situation, he told us stories about other customers in similar situations. He had a picture book of work he had done on their kitchens.
- He discussed his feelings about quality only after we brought up its importance to us. Consistently, he would discuss his values in kitchen remodeling only after we brought up the topic.
- He always made it clear that his desire was to help by giving us a clear value propositions for everything he asked us to do. During our first visit, for example, he requested to visit our existing kitchen by saying:
“I’d like to look at your current kitchen to be able to draw an accurate model of your new kitchen. I’ll come to your home, ask you some questions about what you’re trying to accomplish and take some measurements. This will allow me to create a drawing of the new kitchen you want. This will give you a clear picture of the kind of work I can do and allow you to decide if we should work together.”
The Sales Detective lesson:
Customers are less interested in the technical specs of your product than in how it solves their problem. As Ted Levitt the renowned marketing guru from Harvard once said, “People don’t buy ¼ inch drills, they buy ¼ inch holes.” Sell what it does, not what it is!