The Use of Boldness in the Sales Process

Sixty years since the advent of the modern kitchen/bath industry, design firm owners are still not making nearly enough money for the beautiful, functional and complex projects they design and produce. Here’s my proof that dealers are not charging enough for their work. The vast majority:

  1. price jobs based upon what their local market can bear instead of what their annual company budget for a market-rate owner’s salary, overhead and desired net profit would demand;
  2. do not regularly take cash discounts from their suppliers even when they can earn 36% returns;
  3. do not have at least 12 months of fixed expenses (including a market-rate owner’s salary) parked in a liquid investment portfolio, ready to capitalize on an opportunity or survive a nasty recession;
  4. have not developed a string of successful showrooms spilling over into adjoining states;
  5. are too busy, grinding away in their daily operations, to get away and learn what they don’t know.

Having reviewed hundreds of dealer financial statements over my 48 years in this industry, I can say with a high degree of certainty that most practitioners are undervaluing their jobs by at least 15%. On a $2,000,000 operation, that’s $300,000 being left on the table. Imagine what that kind of extra cash can do to solidify a firm’s financial underpinnings or achieve its growth objectives!

Of course, when told that his/her firm needs at least a 15% price increase, the natural owner’s reaction is: “Can’t be done. We are already the highest priced kitchen/bath company in town.”

But it can be done. I’ve seen scores of dealers do it once they (a) understand how to properly budget their operations to determine what their firm’s price formula must be and (b) discipline their team to follow a specific sales process – a process based upon one simple strategy: the use of boldness in sales.

What is it that causes even veteran salespeople to delay giving the price to a prospect? Perhaps it’s the fear of hearing: “Wow, that’s much higher than we expected!” Or: “We need some time to think your price over.” Or maybe these salespeople just harbor some timidity because they couldn’t afford the project at that selling price themselves.

In The 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene states: “Everyone admires the bold, no one honors the timid.” Research shows that boldness and hesitation evoke very different psychological responses in consumers. For example, hesitation puts hurdles in your path. Indeed, when sales designers need to take time – like a couple of weeks – to come up with a design and a price, they create a gap that allows consumers to think as well. Telegraphing any timidity in the area of price creates the risk of “infecting consumers with awkward energy and doubt.”

Conversely, Greene believes “boldness destroys such gaps.” The swiftness by which a price is delivered and the positive energy of that action leave your prospects “no space to doubt and worry.” So kitchen/bath firms that adopt a speedier, disciplined sales process can fill that gap, gain trust and secure retainers before their competitors have even developed a plan and proposal. Greene continues: “Audacity separates you from the herd. Boldness gives you presence and makes you seem larger than life.”

So how do you inject boldness into your sales process? Don’t be conventional! Don’t waste your client’s time – and yours – by taking weeks to come up with a plan. That’s how all of your competitors work. Be different, do it right there in their home. And do it with them!

Yes, ask your normal interview questions to get a strong sense of project scope, their priority of needs, and why they want what they want. Yes, inspect the basement under the kitchen, study the construction to determine whether a partition can be easily removed, and locate the distant electrical panel.

But no, don’t take the time to measure the space now – not until you are retained on the project. After all, you are a professional. You can “eyeball” the general amount of space needed to develop one possible, workable “plan.”

After the first hour of interviewing and observing, it’s time to perform – time to demonstrate your expertise and professionalism. Boldly state: “Wow, you have some great possibilities here!” And then, using your hands and walking around the space, talk through one plausible layout with your prospects, letting them know the general placement of the refrigerator, sink and range, roughly the amount of counter space that would be available for a good preparation area, etc. Yes, you may sketch the “plan.” But, during their initial one-hour visit to your showroom, you made it clear that all sketches remain your property until you’re retained. Ask them how they feel about this initial “plan.” This kind of performance and conversation will have them quickly bonding with you – and gaining you a distinct advantage over the competition!

Then, let your prospects know you’re excited about their project! That this layout is just but one possible idea. That once you have accurate measurements, and have committed your team’s time to their project, you will develop two to three preliminary plans to scale. That their job, with so many great design possibilities, deserves a lot of attention! If they’re going to live in this house for the next 10-15 years, surely they would want the opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of each plausible plan before making a final selection. Indeed, if this were your house, having been in the kitchen/bath industry for so many years, that would be exactly what you would want. It’s the only way you would be comfortable with your final design selection.

But, if this were your own project, you’d also like to know up front roughly how much such a “plan” might cost. So boldly invite them to develop a budget with you!  

You are going to be totally transparent with your prospects about how much this kitchen will probably cost. By having them involved in this interactive budgeting process, they will come to understand where the major costs are and appreciate the final number – whatever it adds up to be. Your role here is to serve as a facilitator, educator and consultant. Be objective and thorough.

Yes, you need to have a strong grasp of what things cost because you absolutely must develop a realistic budget with them. But, as a professional, this should not be an issue. Once you’ve arrived together at the final total, state with confidence that it will be accurate within plus or minus 8%. Not 10%, that’s too convenient. And 5% doesn’t give you and your team enough flexibility to hit the target. So use 8%.

By taking these two bold actions in your prospect’s home – developing a “design” and a “price” – you have delivered exactly what your prospects need to make an intelligent decision. You’ve done it faster than anyone else. And, in an educational, meaningful way so they “own” the end number, bonded with you, feel like you are a better value, and they can easily shop within your company. If they were conditioned properly about your process during the showroom visit, you will walk away with a signed design agreement and handsome, non-refundable retainer check.

Forty years ago, I developed and perfected this bold sales process for myself. It doubled my sales volume almost overnight and increased my selling price by over 30%. Fourteen sales designers in my company learned it. Their success was leveraged into three additional, profitable showrooms. Since 1994, members of a nationwide group have mastered, and further perfected, this unique sales approach with equally satisfying results. Today the process is embedded as the centerpiece of a new, industry-specific management software. Tomorrow there will be dealers all over the country – scaling up their operations with multiple showrooms – charging and getting at least a 20% higher price for their projects.

Definitely a bold, optimistic statement. But dealers need more automation to streamline operations, and the industry needs a jolt. After all, a night-and-day improvement in productivity, revenue growth and net profit is a powerful motivator for dealers – and vendors – to embrace and champion positive change.

Ken Peterson, CKD, LPBC, is president of the Charlotte, NC-based SEN Design Group. For more info about this topic, or the upcoming date and location of a four-day, industry-specific business/sales school, please contact Peterson at 1-800-991-1711 or [email protected] Peterson also welcomes comments, questions or concerns.

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