Selling is not as complicated as we sometimes try to make it. We
often view the skills needed for successful selling as being very
special attainable by only a few.
In truth, selling skills are not that special, and acquiring
them is not that difficult. What is key is knowing how to use these
One skill to focus on whether you are a novice or an old pro is
the skill of finding and developing a difference. Every customer is
looking for a reason to buy, whether it’s from you or your
competitor. What the customer is looking for, then, is the
difference. In his mind, he wants to be able to defend his decision
with clarity, and understand the differences between his selections
and alternatives in the marketplace.
The customer has a real challenge when it comes to clearly
identifying differences because, the fact is, the differences in
today’s market are often difficult to distinguish. Let’s take a
look, then, at how we can find differences, unravel their
importance to a specific consumer and use them to earn the
In the discovery of difference, the
easiest place to look first is at product differences.
Unfortunately, in the current marketplace, products available in
the same price range seem to have few little differences between
them. Today’s technology of construction and finish techniques have
put products on a par when it comes to quality, and created less
obvious differences than were once acknowledged.
I recall when finish was a big issue. We had one manufacturer
who had a seven-stage finish system. When customers compared this
finish system to what they knew from the past that their old
cabinets had a soft finish that collected dirt and turned black
around the handles they felt secure in the difference. Today,
however, nearly all finishes will look good and last a long time.
While this is an advantage to the consumer, it makes choosing much
To help the customer and, as a result, promote the sale, you
need to do your homework when it comes to product construction.
These construction differences do exist, and they may be important
to your customer, thereby influencing the sale. You need to find
out what these differences are if you’re going to point them out to
A few areas where you might find product differences that your
customers may be sensitive about include:
- The Drawer. It’s amazing to me, but the difference between a
wood drawer and a particleboard drawer is huge to consumers. Also
of note, and equally as important, there is a major benefit if the
drawer is dovetailed. While you and I know that nearly all drawers
will last the expected life of the kitchen, to the consumer, these
characteristics are important.
- The Door Style. Carrying a wide selection of different door
styles, and knowing what styles complement which designs, will help
you with your sales. Unfortunately, while it doesn’t happen often,
once in a while a customer will have his or her heart set on a door
style that you don’t have. Once you discover this fact about your
customer, don’t invest your time and talent trying to advance a
sale that won’t take place.
- Finish and Wood Species. Again, some consumers are set on a
special look; it may be a need to match their dining room table or
grandma’s old ice box or whatever. If you don’t have the ability to
meet your customers’ needs on a repeated basis, it may be time to
find a manufacturer that will give you the breadth of styles, woods
and stains your marketplace is asking for.
You can create the difference
your customer wants through your knowledge. Without true expertise,
the finest-built product in the most favored door style, wood
species and finish can still result in a bad kitchen. To expect
success and be assured of making a difference, use your knowledge
and expertise to create a fabulous kitchen both in function and
appearance. This will raise you above your competition.
If you don’t have the industry knowledge to create the finest
design within the budget available, you will always have a tough
time winning the sale. It takes more than just sales skills.
Next, continually examine the products that you carry. Why can’t
you be the one with the special cabinet, or the right door style,
wood species and stain?
Another difference is the sales/designer’s ability to develop a
level of trust with the customer that is greater than your
competitor’s ability. There are a lot of characteristics you must
have to create that level of trust; two of the most important would
be honesty and integrity. Additional trust-building characteristics
include listening, following-up and displaying your creativity.
It’s amazing to me how many sales opportunities are lost not
because of price or product problems, but because the relationship
between the salesperson and the customer was not solid. Either the
relationship and trust were never developed, or the relationship
and trust were destroyed due to any number of reasons. These
reasons include: miscommunication between the salesperson and the
customer about needs, wants and expectations; the salesperson
didn’t design to the budget of the prospect; the salesperson did
not respond in a reasonable or promised time with the information
the consumer expected.
The lesson here is that the major differences for the consumer
are not found in product or pricing as often as in the
design/salesperson’s difference or indifference.
My challenge to you is to be sensitive about what helps you earn
or lose the sale. If you are honest with yourself, you will find
areas to improve your closing rate and your expected profits by
finding and creating differences you can use in proving your
importance to your prospect. You will be turning these well-defined
differences into both logical and emotional reasons for prospects
to place their confidence in you, your products and your