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A New Approach to Selling

By Dave Pomeroy

I've always enjoyed woodworking and recently made the decision to invest in some more expensive pieces of equipment.

Eventually, when I retire, I'd like to have all the tools I might need to indulge myself in my hobby. I'm trying to create my "dream" woodworking shop so to speak. Also, I recognize that once I am retired I won't have the spending power I currently do, so now is the time to buy.

Last week I visited a specialty store that sells woodworking equipment. I've purchased things there before and thought for sure that they'd have the 10-inch cabinet saw and 6-inch jointer I was looking for.

Dave Pomeroy

SALESPERSON?

When I arrived, the salesperson was busy so I proceeded to inspect these items myself. I quickly and easily discovered that the store carried three different brand names of the items I wanted. I also discovered that each tag was labeled with only the price, nothing else, no descriptions, features, advantages, or benefits. Naturally, I began to compare the items based on the only information I knew -- the price.

Right about that time, the salesperson finished what he was doing and approached me. I told him what I was looking for and casually gestured to the nearest brand. With a conspiratorial look he stated, "I wouldn't buy that one, but that's just my opinion!" When I asked why, he responded with a couple of generic reasons.

At no time during our conversation did he try to qualify my needs, wants, or desires. Not once did we discuss the motor size, tabletop finishes, ease of operation, warranty, or any other feature of the equipment. Instead, he took the route most salespeople do and ended my miserable experience by going to the computer and printing me out a "quote" for one of the less expensive brands. He then handed me his business card and encouraged me to "let him know what I decided."

As I walked to my car I examined both the quote and his card. The quote stated the product order number, a two-word description of the product, and the price. The card stated his name and underneath, the title of salesperson. (By this time I was half expecting the title of "order taker" or something of that nature).

I got into my car disappointed and actually feeling slightly cheated. I was ready and willing to spend a large amount of my hard earned money to equip my workshop but I only walked away with a measly quote. More importantly, this was supposed to be fun; after all, I was looking for tools for my "dream" shop.

When I got home, the first thing I did was phone other shops to see if they had comparable tools. I wasn't impressed with any of them either, as they only gave me the price without even trying to get me to visit their show room.

Okay, so what could my salesperson (I use that term loosely) have done differently? A lot. I think, however, that the more important question is -- what are you and your people going to do differently? Whether you're offering services or products, sales can make or break a business.

SUCCESS IN SALES

There are six basic things that can make you more successful in sales.

1.Understanding the need for and structuring your business to sell to the premium customer.

2. Packaging and pricing your services or products to encourage buying and discourage shopping around.

3. Understanding that selling is a process, involving the following steps:

  • The sales opening
  • Discovering customer needs, wants, and desires
  • Demonstrating the product or service
  • Trial closing
  • Overcoming objections
  • Closing the sale
  • Confirming the sale
  • Sales follow up

4. Improving the number of sales in the home by adding on services or accessories.

5. Making it easy for front line employees to become better sales closers.

6. Improving sales results by tracking individuals' closing rate and average dollars per sale.

STRUCTURE YOUR BUSINESS TO SELL TO THE PREMIUM CUSTOMER

Thom Winninger

In his book, Full Price - Competing on Value in the New Economy, author Thomas J. Winninger states that the general buying population can be broken down into three groups of customers:

17% - PREMIUM

27% - STANDARD - PRICE DRIVEN

56% - VACILLATING - NEEDS EDUCATION

Premium

This customer is value driven; they think long term and want "no hassle" services and products. They will base their decision on value. This is the customer that you need to target in order to achieve and maintain the profit margins necessary to stay in business for the long haul.

Standard

This customer is price driven; they think short term. They will base their decision on price. This is the customer you should not attempt to cater to. You cannot stay in business for the long term by meeting their need of getting the best price.

Vacillating

This customer may be value or price driven; they may think long or short term. They will base their decision on either value or price depending on how you merchandise and sell your services and products.

If you look like and act like a "price only" business, customers will base their decision on price. If you look like and act like a "value" business, they will base their decision on value. The rule of thumb "if it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and walks like a duck, it probably is a duck" definitely applies here. These customers don't need you to specifically target them, as they will adapt to your style.

So, what does all this tell you? Your concentration should be on the premium group and the vacillating group will naturally follow. This gives you 73% of the customer base, enough to succeed in business over the long term.

Target the premium group in anything and everything you do. Structure the way you answer the phone, the way you care for your customers' homes and belongings, your pricing of services and products, your service vehicles, your tools and equipment, the grooming of all personnel, your uniforms, your people skills and technical skills, etc. around the needs, wants, and desires of the premium group. Think value, value, and value!

Make it your top priority to know more than your competitor about the premium group. Structure accordingly your company systems and training programs to meet their needs and exceed their expectations.

KNOW YOUR STRONG POINTS AND MARKET THEM

To effectively concentrate on the premium group you must first concentrate on yourself. Who are you and what are you known for? What is that you do better than anyone else?

As a person, it's hard to maintain relationships with others if we're confused about who we are. The same goes in business. Domino's Pizza is known for fast delivery, Volvo is known for safety, Nordstrom's for service, etc. What do you do best?

Once you've defined yourself, position your services and products to demonstrate these strong points and how they will improve your customers' lifestyle and provide solutions to their problems. Winninger believes that companies need to do five things to accomplish this:

1. You must be responsive.

2. You must be knowledgeable.

3. You must demonstrate quality.

4. & 5. You must have two additional discretionary items.

Customers Want It Now

Customers want everything NOW and unfortunately, they're used to getting it. You must be responsive. Responsiveness starts the second your customer phones your business. Does an actual live voice answer quickly, or must they wait five rings to get an automated menu? Another example, how long must a customer wait for a service appointment or an appliance installation? Always be pro-active not reactive.

Know What You're Doing

Customers expect knowledgeable professionals. Make sure every single employee is as knowledgeable as he/she can be. Conduct or provide regular staff training. Many manufacturers and/or associations offer helpful courses year round. Don't forget to include training expenses in your annual budget.

Seek applicable certification for employees. Once again look to manufacturers and associations. The most visible and therefore initially effective way to portray knowledge is with your uniforms, service vehicles, business cards, ID badges, etc.

Quality

Customers expect quality. Make sure every aspect of your business portrays quality. Carry only quality products and use only quality repair materials. Again, focus on the visible; uniforms, service vehicles, show room, advertising, etc.

That Extra Something

Customers expect the extra effort. Identify two things that make you unique. Play on these. Some examples are:

  • Hearth education certified
  • Factory certified
  • Twenty years of continuous service to the area
  • Largest selection of hearth appliances
  • Emergency service
  • Masonry repair and rebuilding services
  • Gas piping capability
  • Satisfaction guarantee
  • Choices of payment or financing plans
  • Video inspection of all chimneys
  • Multiple level service agreement OPTIONS
  • Gas and oil appliance maintenance and tune ups
  • Hassle free insurance processing of damage claims
  • Recognition for award winning service

PACKAGE AND PRICE YOUR SERVICES OR PRODUCTS TO ENCOURAGE BUYING AND DISCOURAGE SHOPPING AROUND

Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald's, discovered many years ago that people want choices. Kroc created the combo meal -- fries, burger, and a drink. He then introduced the small, medium, and large, which later became regular, large, super size because he wanted people to feel they were getting more than a simple "small."

The same was done by car and truck manufacturers; many models come in a variety of choices -- Limited, XL, XLT, LS, etc., etc. Even the United States Postal Service does this with their regular mail, priority, and express mail.

Thom Winninger wholeheartedly agrees and states that you need to "vertically integrate" your services and products. In other words, create "packages" that provide choices, and give value to those choices.

The fact that you offer three different packages tells the customer that they do not need to shop around. You provide all the choice they need! I know if my salesperson would have presented my woodworking tools in a similar way I would have left feeling confident that he could take care of my needs.

Structure your packages so the customer will not pick the smallest priced package but will favor the added value of the middle package. Your basic or smallest package should provide high quality service with total safety and piece of mind. The middle priced package should be the basic plus an added value. This package can then be priced considerably higher. The third and ultimate package should have yet more value added. This price increase should be slight, not nearly as much as from the first to the second package.

When pricing any package, be careful; you must make sure that you can still make money and maintain your profit margins.

Possible Packages

Here are some examples of possible packages:

  • Basic Lining Package: Includes labor and top of the line UL listed relining material that carries a lifetime warranty.
  • Standard Lining Package: Includes the basic package plus a stainless steel chimney cap to protect the entire chimney.
  • Ultimate Lining Package: Includes the Standard Package plus a crown seal and waterproofing of the entire chimney.

Here's another example of packages for your cleaning services, note how their names signify their value:

  • Bronze Service Plan: Basic Cleaning Program; 10 Point Evaluation Program; Single Year Service Plan; Forward Scheduling of Service.
  • Silver Service Plan: Basic Cleaning Program; 10 Point Evaluation Program; Two-Year Service Plan; Forward Scheduling of Service; Locked In Service Fee (during the forementioned two year service plan); Video Inspection of the Entire Chimney; Multiple Unit Discount.
  • Gold Service Plan: Basic Cleaning Program; 10 Point Evaluation Program; Three Year Service Plan; Forward Scheduling of Service; Locked In Service Fee (during the forementioned three year service plan; Video Inspection of the Entire Chimney; Multiple Unit Discount; 24-Hour Emergency Service; Masonry Water Proofing; 10% Discount on any Masonry Repairs.

Another plus to presenting packages in this manner is that the human nature in all of us is never satisfied with the basic or bronze. We always want the best, therefore, nothing but the ultimate or gold package will do. My "dream" shop definitely deserves the ultimate! For you this means more sales. When the customer chooses the ultimate or gold package you've just added on a stainless steel chimney cap, a crown seal, and waterproofing, two years of service fees, etc.

In the next article [The Chimney Sweep News - March 2002] I will continue discussing the six basic things you need to do to make you sales more successful. Remaining are numbers three through six:

3. Understanding that selling is a process.

4. Improving the number of sales in the home by adding on services or accessories.

5. Making it easy for front line employees to become better sales closers.

6. Improving sales results by tracking individuals closing rate and average dollars per sale.

In the meantime, make the necessary moves to identify and cater to your premium group of customers -- remember, they're value minded. Identify yourself and follow Winninger's rule of five be responsive, be knowledgeable, offer quality, and have at least two discretionary items. Then begin to package your services and products offering choices that portray value.

Dave Pomeroy operates Pomeroy Signature Training, 866-338-6924.

This article originally appeared in the November 2001 issue of SNEWS - The Chimney Sweep News. Subscriptions (10 issues per year) are available for $99/year. Please call 541-882-5196 during business hours in the Pacific Time Zone.

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