A recent Wall Street Journal lead story: “As Detroit Slashes Car Jobs, Southern Towns Pick Up Slack.” The story tells how Osceola, AR, clinched a new plant with a Toyota affiliate by improving schools. “The new jobs . . . require that workers have a decent education. Towns understanding this new math are winning the work.” The story went on to tell how nearly one for one, manufacturing jobs lost in the North are being won in the South—a rare story in American headlines.
Just as a town can compete and win an auto plant with education,
your business can compete and win with education as your edge. When
products are the same, on the Internet or at a box store, professional
sales skills will add value to the customer and beat lower prices
three out of four times on shop-at-home appointments.
EDUCATION SELLS QUALITY AT HIGHER
As co-founder of Exciting Windows! and Window Coverings University,
I believe strongly in education. At our Exciting Windows! annual
conference we heard Len Casey tell how education impacts upscale
home furnishings sales (see page 38).
As the only winner of the DuPont International Award for Excellence
in Marketing for two separate products, and as president of Heritage
Kitchen Cabinets, America’s highest quality manufacturer,
Casey could tell with authority what it takes to win when selling
premium products. One of his most interesting insights is research
showing that over one-third of customers who purchased home furnishings
wish they had bought upgraded products. When you know your customer
will be happier with better, you are encouraged to sell the best!
FLYERS BEAT COSTLY ADVERTISING
Casey went on to compare the difference between costly advertising
and the power of proactive communications. In today’s environment
advertising isn’t working as before—lead cost today
is estimated at $175, higher than ever. Instead, simple flyers,
door hangers, networking and customer follow up are beating newspaper
and radio by a mile. Why don’t more dealers use them? It takes
management scheduling and effort.
Independent business owners don’t understand the principles
or how to apply them. Franchising, an exploding phenomenon in window
coverings, makes training a core value. Franchisees learn to get
appointments at low cost and often sell $200,000 the first year—a
level achieved by fewer than 20 percent of window coverings business
owners after five years! Franchises prove the power of education.
CLOSE MORE AT HIGHER MARGINS
Once you have an appointment, the challenge is to close the sale
without reducing profit margins. Again Casey, and other speakers,
showed how education is the answer. To reinforce the point, Glen
Karr of Winnipeg, Canada a multi-million dollar window coverings
retailer, told how 50 retailers dropped prices to compete with Home
Depot when they came in the market. “I knew they were going
to kick my butt no matter what I did, so I decided to raise prices
10 percent,” he said. “The other window coverings dealers
are gone today and we’re still growing.”
Story after story, from New Jersey to Illinois to California told
the power of education to win against competition.
PRODUCT KNOWLEDGE: THE BEGINNING
Winning over competition begins with product knowledge, but the
real difference is understanding customer motivation and controlling
the sale. At industry seminars and events, I am asked over and over
how to win against low-cost competitors.
When I ask how they present products I hear the same story every
time: “First, I measure the windows. Then I ask the customer
what product they want and bring in different varieties, say real
wood and faux wood blinds, and maybe different manufacturers. When
she asks me the difference in price and I tell her the cost and
features of each.”
That, folks, is not selling. Anyone using this technique deserves
to get beat. The only thing you have to sell with this method is
price. There is little value added by the sales consultant.
COMPARE TO A PROFESSIONAL
A professional will begin by making a friend on the phone. Between
polished phone skills and guiding the customer to a helpful company
Web site, the consultant pre-sells the customer before arriving
for an appointment. Then, by touring the home, building credibility
with intelligent questions and a personal portfolio of photos and
information, a professional will work with the customer to decide
products and treatment ideas before bringing in samples. Then, the
final step will be to determine the budget range the customer can
accept and willingness to purchase today.
Only then will a professional bring in samples and take measurements.
The sale is automatic when the exciting product is within the budget
agreed. Everyone is happier with this approach—customer and
Yes, education is the edge. If you want to know more, send for my
booklet, “How to sell Concepts instead of Commodities”.
Just e-mail. Listen to sales tapes by Tom Hopkins and Brian Tracy.
Read books by Zig Ziglar. Attend industry events that teach sales
as well as product technical info and design concepts. When you
educate yourself you will sell more in less time at higher profit
and customers will want to buy from you again and refer you often.
That is what education can do for you!
This article is based on Steven C. Bursten’s actual experience
with sales and financial information working with hundreds of window
coverings businesses. Whether you are a sole manager who aspires to
higher sales, or you manage 50 window fashion decorators in a multi-million
dollar business, this series will help you manage sales better and
increase your profitability. Bursten is co-founder of Window Coverings
University and Exciting Windows! service. He also is the founder of
Decorating Den Interiors and author of a how-to book on new business
start up, “Bootstrap Entrepreneur.” Questions and comments
are welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org
or call (888) 333-8981.