Yes. Shop-at-home selling is different from selling retail in a store. Bottom line, here’s why: In the store salespeople talk about products, durability, functional light control and privacy. Customers compare features and colors and make a decision based on the serviceability of the product for their window. In the home you have the opportunity—but not the requirement—to sell on emotion, concepts, ideas and beauty. Still, most shop-at-home salespeople sell in-home as an extension of selling in the store. That, dear friends and shop-at-home lovers, is your opportunity to smash competition.
This article is a follow-up to the one that ran in the April 2004
issue of Draperies & Window Coverings (“Shop At Home Strategy—Do
You Embrace It or Tolerate It?” page 64). That article stimulated
a lot of interest about why shop-at-home really works. To re-cap,
a lot of independent retailers and chain stores are feeling the impact
from shop-at-home. You recall, in the April story, I disclosed my
bias in the first paragraph: I love shop-at-home selling. For window
coverings, and flooring as well, shop-at-home done correctly is the
best way to serve customers who want a beautiful home.
Sometimes competitors execute professionally, as do most of the franchises
and large organizations. But a lot of beginners muck up the market
by selling too cheaply, because price is their only edge. Professional
or beginner, they both work from home or a small office. Neither has
store overhead or staff. Yet, both have the potential to serve customers
better than salespeople in the store.
IT’S ABOUT THE PROJECT NOT THE PRODUCT
Traditional retailers look at home selling as just a different location
to do the same thing: to show products and let customers decide what
they want. Lord knows a lot of stuff is sold that way, but that type
of selling misses the mark. The real strength of at-home selling is
to get to know the customer, to build personal relationships and to
foster repeat sales and referrals.
You do it by being an expert, and understanding the entire project—all
the issues surrounding your customer’s purchase. That does not
mean being a decorator. But it does mean that the at-home salesperson
should have a sense of what else is going on in a customer’s
life when she buys your product. The goal is to help make the customer’s
home a happy place for family and an inviting environment for friends.
Shop-at-home selling is a way to earn premium margins by giving premium
service. It is about customer feelings, attitudes and long-term goals
more than products. In a nutshell, it’s about the project and
the person, not the product.
SOMETHING ELSE GOING ON
Every customer who buys new window coverings makes that single decision
as one decision among many. They may not know it themselves, but as
soon as they change one product, other things in the room are no longer
acceptable. The furniture looks shabby, the flooring dated. One new
product in a room almost always leads to more new products. The higher
the income, the more they are changed all at one time. In fact, window
coverings often are the second decision after furniture or flooring.
But these other decisions are seldom addressed by the store salesperson.
IN-STORE IS ABOUT PRODUCTS
In-store selling focuses on product and performance. After all, what
else can the store salesperson talk about? They cannot visualize the
home and furnishings. They have little understanding of other decisions
and products being purchased. So, the store salesperson talks about
what they know: Which blind has heavier gauge aluminum; which has
better gears in the headrail; whether you can pull the cellular shades
up from the bottom or down from the top; about the finish on the shutters
and the quality of carpentry; about light control and privacy; about
long-term durability and performance.
The store salesperson will demonstrate the product—how it functions;
how light comes or doesn’t come through from behind. These are
proper subjects for an in-store sale. Are they important? Sure they
are. And to some customers they are more important than anything else.
Store visitors may not welcome your advice on their décor or
about their project. They may prefer to do it themselves and tell
their friends how they selected everything themselves without a decorator.
But that is in-store selling.
DON’T SELL IN THE HOME THE WAY YOU SELL IN A STORE
Most at-home salespeople sell the same way in the home as they sell
in the store: talk about products, performance, durability and function.
That’s why they are in a hurry to see more customers. If you
only talk products and pricing, there’s no reason to take very
long. And there is no reason for the customer to decide about anything
except price! The representative has added little value.
The salesperson’s only hope for differentiation is to talk about
their company’s reliability, ethics, commitment to service and
the way the company stands behind products they sell. But, after all,
if it is a name brand manufacturer, why should the customer worry?
The manufacturer will stand behind its product. Why not buy from the
low-cost provider if you are just buying a product?
SELL THE PROJECT, NOT THE PRODUCT
The successful shop-at-home salesperson becomes the customer’s
friend. He or she knows that window coverings are not the only things
the customer is buying. He will understand that people who care about
their homes are continually improving, updating, and adding new things.
The successful salesperson will help the customer have a beautiful
outcome in the room, and the entire home.
Even if the window coverings salesperson does not sell wall coverings,
paint, furniture or flooring, he should know enough about those products
to understand how window coverings coordinate. After all, the window
coverings salesperson may not care about other products, but you can
be assured the customer cares!
Upscale customers want a beautiful home. Mid-scale customers may not,
but often they can be educated. The more a homeowner thinks about
the overall project, the less important is any single product or brand.
And, the less importance is the price of that product! So, it becomes
the consultant’s job to switch customer thinking from the product
to the project! This is not about interior decorating; it is about
human understanding and simple awareness.
AWARENESS, SENSITIVITY AND DETECTIVE WORK
Valerie, my wife, who is exceptionally successful in sales, teaches
the idea of “detective work.” It’s an overall sensitivity
to the customer and her project, and the emotions the homeowner feels
that are beneath the surface.
For example, as you drive into the neighborhood, what are other homes
like? Do they have attractive window treatment designs? If yes, your
customer will want to keep up with her neighbors—if you encourage
her. Do other homes have ordinary windows? Then help your customer
be the leader with the best looking windows in her neighborhood.
More detective work: As you turn into the driveway, how many garages?
What types of cars? If they own a Mercedes or BMW, possibly they want
their window coverings to reflect the same status. If they have a
beat up Chevrolet, their window coverings can be their ticket to new
status with friends, even if they cannot afford a new car. This is
selling on emotion and feelings. It works many times and has nothing
to do with products.
YOU CAN DO IT!
Get the idea? We already have powerful selling ideas, and we haven’t
entered the home yet! This sales positioning is not about interior
decorating, it is about being observant and sensitive to people’s
emotions. More detective work is possible after you enter the home,
but it would take a training manual to tell it all. In fact, check
into advanced training for shop-at-home professionals at industry
events. It will pay real dividends.
For now, use your sense of empathy. Walk in your customer’s shoes.
Feel her feelings. Build on her desires for a beautiful home, or educate
her to the opportunity to make her home beautiful. Every homeowner
wants to be appreciated for good taste and as a good homemaker. When
you sell beauty and recognition, you won’t have to be the lowest
price. And every customer you sell to will rave about you to others.
Then you’ll know you understand shop-at-home selling and how
it really is different from retail.
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 the retired founder of Decorating Den
Interiors and author of a how-to book on new business start up, “Bootstrap
Entrepreneur,” and is a leading expert in window coverings marketing,
sales systems and sales management through his company, custEmers.com.
Questions and comments welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org or (888) 333-8981.
For a report, “Why your customers love shop-at-home, and so should
you,”send a request with your business name and address to sah@custEmers.com