Tag Archives: Wilson Learning

The Sales Detective – Lessons from a Cabinet Maker

By Bob Davis

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

Kitchen cabinet display in a store in 2009. Fo...

Image via Wikipedia

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!


Today’s Specials – Make a (Sales) Difference – January 6, 2011

The Sales Cafe is open again, for a new year and new ideas. We wanted to take advantage of the break and scour the Internet for the best links about sales to share with you, but ended up watching the first season of Psych while munching on homemade chocolate peppermint bark most of the time instead. (Thanks @mommommom!)

So we’re back and really ready to go. Our goal is to make 2011 the smartest year yet. And we don’t mean just looking smart, we mean acting smart. We want to make smart decisions in order to change outcomes. Today’s Specials focus on getting in the right frame of mind for making a difference in 2011, for yourself and others, by doing things like making one smartly placed sales call or changing your organization’s culture (which are just two of the topics we plan to cover in the weeks ahead).

1. Forget New Year Resolutions – Set Goals. First things first. We couldn’t agree more with Jeb Blount, sales guru and host of several sales blogs, including Quick and Dirty Tips, who offers smart advice for sales people to make that difference this year. Does that mean we can ditch our no-caffeine resolve and strive for the goal of making a great pot of coffee?

2. No dgrunts, no gomos. Next, we’d like to revisit the wisdom of the folks (well, the guy–Sam Parker) at Just Sell. We like their attitude of moving with a smile (smovers) and banning gomos (people who just go through the motions of working and living) and dgrunts (people who are disgruntled). It’s another inspiration for the year ahead.

3. To Hell With Resolutions! What’s on Your “Stop Doing” List? We love this take on goals for the year. What’s on our “Stop Doing” list? We like the one about always saying Yes and never getting it all done.

Please take a moment to tell us one of your goals (or “stop doings”). And, whatever you decide to do or not do, we look forward to the specials in the joy-filled and prosperous year ahead for all!

Today’s Specials – Monday, December 13, 2010

For half the people we know, December’s full of parties and business planning for next year. For the other half, it’s year-end list-making time, and some (like Time.com) take it to an extreme.

At the Sales Cafe, we don’t like to look back, only forward. “Straight ahead to ’11” has become our motto of late. (In fact, we are looking forward to 2010 being just a dim memory.)

With our motto in mind, Today’s Specials focus on some creative ways to bolster your sales next year–which is less than a month away.

1. Secrets to Selling to the C-Suite:  Strategic Calling. Okay, so this first one is a bit of shameless self promotion, but it really is good content. Both the PDF and the Podcast links provide valuable insight into uncovering hidden opportunities at your key accounts. This comes from the wise folks at Wilson Learning. (Disclaimer:  ELA Consulting Group is a Wilson Learning agent.)

2. 2011 Sales Planning:  Activities vs. Results vs. Outcomes. In this post, sales blogger Marci Reynolds offers some ideas to consider when sales planning and also provides a couple of excellent links.

3. How to Use the “Seven Deadly Sins” to Turn Visitors into Customers. Smashing Magazine provides a unique and, actually, quite helpful, take on generating business.

Every day this week, we will post our favorite holiday season-related link. Who remembers the odd pairing of Bing Crosby and David Bowie on a late 1970’s TV special singing Little Drummer Boy? Here’s a link that includes both a new, interesting reenactment with Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly and the original clip.

Countdown to 2011: 18 days

Today’s Specials – Friday, October 29, 2010

A list of sales and marketing linksTGIF is all we can say this week. It was wildly busy and, honestly, we like it that way. But it’s also nice to get a break and that’s what weekends are for. Here’s the list for today. Enjoy and then take cover for the big Halloween weekend.

1. Capitalizing on Complexity 2010. We downloaded the interactive version of the IBM study summarizing the 1500 face-to-face interviews with CEOs from around the world, just because it makes a really dry, but very interesting, paper kind of fun to read. What’s the biggest concern for all these C-level wiseguys? The complexity of operating in an increasingly volatile and uncertain world is their primary challenge.

2. Apple cuts community from its list. As Footnoted.com shows us on a regular basis, you can glean so much information by reading a company’s financial documents. This was a subtle change for Apple, but it really does make a statement.

3. Building Cultural Competency. Our friend, Carl Eidson, over at Wilson Learning, has a great deal to say about team building across multiple cultures and geographies.

4. Idea Zombies. In honor of tZombiehe holiday, we couldn’t resist sharing this link, in which sales guru Lori Richardson poses the ultimate business question: “Do you have idea zombies in your business?” It’s an idea cultivated by Danielle Brigida of the National Wildlife Federation.

And now, it’s late on Friday. So, in the words of the fabulous Tracey Ullman: “Go home!”

Today’s Specials – Wednesday 10/27/10

A list of sales and marketing linksToday, The Sales Cafe wanted to start something special:  Post a sales/marketing Web-surfing round-up of links that interested us. This will be a regular feature in the Cafe, directing you to appealing, amusing and provocative content about sales and marketing, keen observations on things like sales… and marketing… as well as branding, sales development and sales effectiveness, among other things.

Okay, so there are lots of these lists all over the Internet. This is ours.

1. Just do it. We wanted to start with a cool branding link, yesterday’s Internet sensation, to have you check out the new Nike-LeBron James ad with special analysis from No Pun Intended, to show how hip we are and to make a wise comment about sales and branding. Unfortunately, right after we watched it, access to the ad became spotty when Nike nixed being able to watch it because of copyright grounds. Another option is to go here to watch and listen to the ESPN dudes discuss). This now makes us want to comment wisely about viral videos getting blocked due to copyright grounds. However, this is a list, and we will save the copyright and branding conversations for another time and move on.

2. To Be or Not To Be? That is the personal branding question. Here’s an Inc. link, the second of a point-counterpoint series on personal branding. Timothy Ferriss, who created The 4-Hour Workweek, explains why not to use (abuse) your personal brand. Not sure if sports figures can dismiss their personal brand. (See #1.)

3. Mini-Sales Training. Take a quick test on the best way to open a sales call with a B2B prospect. Now we’d like to know the best opening for a B2C business sales call.

4. Make Calling Strategic. Sales development icon Wilson Learning has created a podcast that helps determine the issues around salespeople making strategic calls and pinpoints the critical success factors in turning a plain old sales call into a strategy session with a trusted adviser.

5. Selling Topless. Couldn’t resist ending with this powerful story about entrepreneur Leslie Haywood, called “Why This Entrepreneur Made Her First Sale Topless, But Not the Way You’re Thinking” by BNET (again) writer Donna Fenn. It proves that with passion and determination, you can sell anywhere. (And, yes, Haywood was topless.)

What have you found that’s appealing, amusing and provocative re: sales and marketing? Share it here or drop us a note: shalvoy@elaconsultinggroup.com.