Are You ‘Smarter’ Than Your Clients?

by WOHe

When I look at today’s kitchen and bath consumers, I see
shoppers who are more knowledgeable than ever. I also see consumers
who are fully aware that they have myriad options in researching
and planning their kitchens, baths and other residential
spaces.

The vast majority of consumers take full advantage of this. They
pick up design magazines, and purchase books and videos for their
upcoming projects. They visit a plethora of dealers, distributors,
lumber yards and home centers and obtain literature. Most
convenient of all, they sit at home and visit the Web sites of
kitchen and bath manufacturers and collect design ideas and product
options.

When you consider just how well-educated the average consumer is
as he or she walks through your showroom door, it’s imperative that
you not only know your products well, but that you know more than
your customers know.

I started thinking about this last year when a kitchen
salesperson related a story to me. A prospect came to his showroom
to have his kitchen remodeled. This prospect had visited other
dealers, as well as various Web sites, to obtain information on a
cabinet line that the kitchen salesperson carried.

The sale should have been easy, because the customer already had
a good idea of what he wanted concerning design, door styles and
finish options.

When the kitchen salesperson went over the customer’s
information, he found what he thought was a problem: The customer
had chosen a door style that was not available from the
manufacturer. The customer insisted that it was on the cabinet
manufacturer’s Web site and the salesperson insisted that the door
was not available. The customer eventually left.

That evening, the salesperson visited the Web site and, sure
enough, the door style was there. He had received a product
bulletin announcing the new offering,’

but had yet to review it. In effect, he lost the sale because
his customer was more knowledgeable than he was.

I had a similar experience once when I tried to purchase a new
minivan. I collected literature, looked at different makes and

models and thoroughly researched the vehicle online. Before I
talked to the first salesperson, I knew everything there was to
know about the vehicle that I wanted. I knew my desired options and
what it should cost. Armed with all this knowledge, I still found
buying my new vehicle to be frustrating.

I was just like any consumer looking for a new kitchen in that I
could open up the phone book and find company after company that I
could bring my business to. They all had the vehicle that I was
looking for, but the salesperson would determine who got my
business.

The salesperson and company that ended up making money on my
sale were the ones that made me feel confident in them.

Getting smarter

Knowing more than your customers do about your products and
services is not a difficult task. It simply requires you to be
diligent in continuing your education in both your products and
your industry. There are many ways to accomplish this, and they
should be an essential part of your business routine. Here are just
a few:

  • Get out into the field. See other jobs in process or visit show
    homes and builder models. Why not stop into other showrooms? This
    is a fantastic opportunity to see new products and ideas in use. In
    addition, it’s important to know what your competition is offering.
    Learn from the creativity of others in your business.
  • Be sure to attend association meetings and trade shows. These
    events bring speakers and companies from your industry to you to
    specifically increase your knowledge base. Attend regional and
    national shows. This is an opportunity for you to learn about the
    products and services from the whole industry.’
  • Read and research. Your customers, as I noted, have many
    options in both researching and planning their new projects. You,
    too, must take advantage of this. You have access to everything
    that they use, plus you have access to trade magazines that deliver
    monthly information about new products, design ideas and business
    techniques. Know your industry as well as you know’your
    products.
  • Be product savvy. As a manufacturer’s rep, I emphasize
    product-specific education every day. It’s very easy to become
    complacent with your knowledge about products that you work with
    daily. These products are constantly changing, however, and it’s
    necessary to stay current.

Make sure that you know the manufacturer’s spec book inside and
out. Be especially diligent in completely reading new and updated
spec books. They present new products, as well as changes to
existing items.

Manufacturers often supplement the spec books during the year
with bulletins. Bulletins are very easily misplaced or put away
without being read. One of the most successful ways to avoid this
is to write the bulletin changes right in your master spec book.
That way, whenever you turn to the item that has been changed, your
bulletin note is right there.

I also receive a lot of updates via e-mail. I print them as soon
as I see them, and immediately record them into my spec book.
Manufacturer-sponsored training seminars are another important
source of valuable product knowledge for kitchen/bath dealers.

Customers take the manufacturer’s literature home and study it
thoroughly. You, too, should study it and note door styles,
finishes and any unusual uses of the products in the design. When
customers question items in the literature, you need to be able to
accurately answer their inquiry. You should be intimately familiar
with manufacturers’ Web sites, as well. I check my manufacturers’
Web sites several times a week to make sure that I’m fully aware of
any updates. Many manufacturers now have specific sections
dedicated to updating their dealers with bulletins, administrative
forms and new products.

In the end, you should be the unquestioned authority on your
products and services.’

Research and planning have become exceedingly quick and easy for
consumers. They, in turn, have become more educated and more
knowledgeable than ever. If you’re to earn their business, you must
be well prepared and know more than your customers know.

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