At some recent training sessions, I have noticed a need to discuss sales techniques that help close the showroom consultation faster and get more people through the sales process. There is a definitive need for better sales training and product training in showrooms; I hope some of these ideas will help.
I asked a group of showroom consultants if they knew what a sommelier was or had ever been to a restaurant and experienced a sommelier. Sadly, this group only had a few that did. And I say that because I would bet that the showroom ownership knows what a sommelier is.
A traditional sommelier or wine steward is a “trained and knowledgeable wine professional, normally working in fine restaurants, who specializes in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food pairing,” Wikipedia notes. “The role of the sommelier in fine dining today is much more specialized and informed than that of a wine waiter.”
Think of it like this: You like red wine but don’t know whether to go with the Argentinian Malbec or something from Napa to go with the filet. The sommelier comes to the table, suggests a wine, describes the tasting notes, and then tells the winery’s heritage. You get completely drawn into the experience and agree to spend more than anticipated for a fantastic wine that pairs perfectly with your dinner.
Showroom consultants are sommeliers in their industry.
A customer comes into your showroom; your showroom sommelier helps the customer select the perfect pairing of faucets, bath accessories, cabinetry and fixtures to create a great experience. The showroom sommelier explains each brand’s heritage and how important it is to work with boutique brands.
Getting the customer excited by expertise and heritage storytelling; it’s the same damn process!
A good suggestion would be to take your employees to a dinner where a sommelier is present and go through the experience together. Then explain to your employees why you are doing this. Another good suggestion would be to pay your employees to where they can experience this on their own.
Your employees are sommeliers; treat them and expect them to perform that way.
Maybe even make them dress and act that way. Refined. Elegant. Make your showroom look like that restaurant, too — special, clean, well-appointed.
Doing this will get you away from the Internet-shopping, tire-kicking Home Depot customers because, like a restaurant, those customers will go to Wendy’s and stay away from your place — which is good.
Another topic we discussed in training is moving through the sales process faster, and I have a few suggestions.
We have been conditioned over the years to get the customer to say “yes.” In fact, even the golden sales book many of us used was called “Getting to Yes,” by Roger Fisher. However, a technique in sales I am fascinated with that seems to make more sense is getting the customer to say “no” at first.
I discovered this technique from Chris Voss, the Black Swan Group CEO in New York and former FBI hostage negotiator. I love comparing terrorist/hostage negotiation to showroom sales — because sometimes it feels that way! Anyway, Voss explains clearly on YouTube that he keeps the dialogue going with someone by getting that person to say no; here are some of the best ways to use it:
“Is now a bad time to talk?” Great for prospecting because if they do say yes, you know they really mean it. If they say no, then the door is open for dialogue.
“Is it a ridiculous idea to ____?” This phrase is great to use during a showroom consultation. Once you are in stride talking about a project, you could ask, “Would it be crazy if we sat down and put this plan on paper and see what it looks like?” or something to that effect.
“Are you against ____?” Great to use when asking to close the sale. “Are you against putting a deposit down and getting this on order?”
“Have you given up on ____?” Best used in email, this is a great follow-up on bids when you can’t seem to get them on the phone. “Have you given up on the bathroom project?”
This type of questioning takes some practice and may not be for everyone to use. We all have our own skills and techniques that work in showroom selling. However, if this could get you to the finish line faster and help convert more quotes, is it a ridiculous idea not to give it a shot? (See what I did there?)
Handling Decision Fatigue
Using no-oriented questions is best noticed when decision fatigue happens, Voss says. At some point in a consultation, you can feel when the customer is tired of thinking about the project. Robb Best, who released a book called “Selling to the Brain,” suggests the normal attention span of a customer is about 20 minutes; you should likely give them a break and have them stand up and move around often.
Voss stresses better decisions are made in the morning and not to push hard in the afternoon unless it is a no-based response.
Preventing fatigue in showroom sales can be fixed with hospitality as well. Espresso, cold water and snacks can all perk up your customers and give them a moment to step back and have clarity.
Decision fatigue hits the showroom salesperson, too. At some point in major projects, I have seen many showroom people skip the add-on sales items because, quite frankly, they, too, get tired of asking the customer questions. “Do you want a vent fan?” “Do you want water conditioning or filtration?” “What door hardware do you need to match the room?”
Sadly enough, this is where you can pick up substantial profits — and there is an overwhelming fear of having the customer walk out because you are pushing too hard.
Any showroom salesperson who has been in this business for a length of time knows when to stop asking questions and wrap it up. They can sense the glossed-over look of the customer; they, too, are likely ready to move on to a few minutes of peace.
What I suggest is planning a follow-up meeting or having pre-made quotes for some of these add-ons that the customer can take along. Water conditioning and ventilation are the two easiest to think of. Either way, the customer must buy that product from someone, so it may as well be you.
Any time customers leave your showroom, they should have some piece of collateral, a quote or something physical to create a memory of being in your showroom. It will help remind them to keep the dialogue going with you.
On the other hand, you need to follow up within 24 hours of them leaving. Let them know how important they are to your business and how much it would mean to you to get the sale or add on to the sale.