Selling is the process of identifying a customer's needs and the products which can satisfy those needs. It also includes taking it to the next step and closing the deal, which means getting the customer to commit to purchase from you.
Some salespeople try to sell by offering an inexpensive item-something that is 25 to 50 percent less than what the competition offers. This wrongly assumes that the customer's need is to save money. The proper thought process is to begin by asking the customer her budget. Yes, many customers, including some in expensive homes, cannot-or will not-spend large amounts of money, but others will. Retailers who offer the lowest prices often sell only price and do not have service, quality products or a good reputation to offer.
Should you try to get as much money as possible from your customers? This must be your decision, but you should offer them the designs they desire within their budgets. This helps you make the extra money you need to run your business, and you will not insult your customer by assuming they cannot afford attractive and high quality window treatments.
Fabric vertical blinds are among the best treatments to offer to get a fair selling price and high margins while offering a beautiful product. There are a few common objections to selling fabric verticals. While you and your customers may not raise any of these, knowing them will help you sell more:
• "My customers won't buy fabric verticals, and I will lose the sale to my competitor who offers a low-cost option." It is certainly a risk that you could lose a sale because a customer cannot afford your services. Does this mean you should start with a low-cost treatment? No. You should begin with a beautiful and reasonably priced design and if the customer cannot afford it, work your way down. If you start at the bottom, you might be offering a low-quality treatment and your customer might pay much less than she budgeted and end up with a treatment she does not like very much. This sale will not lead to favorable word-of-mouth advertising.
• "But customers are asking for the latest in decorator PVCs." It is our experience that customers like to see the latest in styles and technology, which includes attractive washable fabrics such as those in the Vertilux Styles of Your Life 3 collection. Customers want beauty. They will buy what you offer. If you offer beautiful washable fabrics, they will buy them.
• "My customers want blackout window treatments." Some rooms require blackout or maximum room darkening. Typically these are bedrooms. Most fabrics require a liner or a backing to be blackout. However there are some fabrics, like Quantum or Mountain Metallic, which are inherently blackout. These often are more expensive options than PVC, but they should be offered anyway. Compare a high-end PVC to a fabric vertical with a backing and you will see a minimal price difference and a happier customer.
Customers like the style of fabric, even when backed by channel panel which makes them room darkening. But remember, not all applications require blackout. Many rooms will look even better with a beautiful light-filtering fabric blind.
CUSTOMERS PAY FOR PREMIUM
Why does this article start by discussing profits and expenses and lead to selling fabric verticals? This is easy: If you pay $70 for a PVC vertical blind, and sell it for $140, this is profit of $70. If you pay $85 for the same window done in fabric verticals (only a little more investment), and sell it at $195 retail, your profit becomes $110 for the same time and effort.
Why would a customer be willing to pay $55 more? There are several answers: First, she doesn't think she is paying more because you started by selling the fabric blind at $195 (remember, we said start high and work your way down) and she never even considered a less expensive option. Second, customers are willing to pay a premium for attractive luxury items.
Why would you spend time selling and installing a low-cost product for little profit with the chance of losing the deal to a low-priced competitor anyway? By offering unique and beautiful products and services, you can please your customer, respect her desires and let her know you understand why she hired a decorator in the first place.
When it comes to price you must be competitive, but there is never a bottom to the price wars. Decide to offer products that let you make a real profit.
Ben Kutell is national sales executive for Vertilux Collection, Miami, FL; (800) 356-8837; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.vertilux.com.