How can window coverings retailers and interior decorators participate in this growing market and sell more wood treatments? Good, basic selling skills is the answer.
Five Basic Skills
1. Be enthusiastic -- No one wants to buy anything from a dud. Think of your own experiences as a consumer. Isn't it easier to buy a product or service from a cheerful, enthusiastic salesperson? Enthusiasm is contagious. Spread it to your customers.
2. Know your products -- Have regular sales meetings stressing product knowledge. Supplier representatives are eager to present products at your sales meetings.
Know what wood is used in the product. Is it basswood, poplar, ramin? Know the features and benefits of alternative wood products. Will this blind warp or discolor in a window with direct sun? The list of product features you should know is almost endless.
Use role playing as part of your sales meetings to test product knowledge, sharpen sales skills and develop specific responses to objections.
3. Know your competition -- Today's consumers shop to find the best value for their money. Know your competitors' products, pricing and service. Gather this information regularly.
If your competition has the same product at a lower price, ask your supplier about it. Research other suppliers with similar products. Look to add products that are unique, that will differentiate you from the competition and make it more difficult for the consumer to comparison shop.
4. Know your customer -- Determine your customers' needs, wants, tastes and budget as soon as you can during the sales process. Ask questions to get as much information as possible, but avoid any questions that can be answered with "No." Listen to your customer. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
Develop your presentation to best meet all of the customer's requirements, but be creative and have alternatives ready. If the customer wants a house full of shutters but is startled at the price, suggest using shutters in the living room and wood blinds with their accompanying lower price for the rest of the house.
Wrap some of yourself in the presentation. Your product knowledge, service, enthusiasm and creativity are a benefit to your customer and are included in the price.
5. Close the sale -- No one ever got a sale without asking for it, but knowing how and when to ask determines success or failure. Ask questions that lead to the close: "Did you want oak stain in the library, or painted white to match the rest of the house?" Remember, never ask a question that can be answered "No."
Watch for indications of acceptance in the customer's expressions, such as nods of agreement, smiles, etc. Answer all questions thoroughly but keep control of the situation by continuing to ask questions that lead to the close.
Wood window treatments are timeless and are undergoing unprecedented growth. You can participate in that growth and sell more with good, basic selling skills -- enthusiasm, product knowledge, customer knowledge, creativity and knowing how and when to close.
Even if you don't close the sale the first time, if you were enthusiastic, confident and built a relationship, the customer will be back.
Ted G. Milligan is director of sales at Royal Wood, Inc., Phoenix, AZ (602) 415-9600.