I once heard a story about a wood-chopping contest, where the
long-time champion went into the woods and chopped wood non-stop
from the opening bell until the final moments. By contrast, the
challenger went into the woods, and at the ring of the bell, his
chopping started, too, however, those listening to him also heard
periodic moments of silence from him throughout the contest.
After the final bell had rung and his chopping results were
measured, it was astonishingthe challenger had chopped the most
wood, and was declared the new champion.
The new champion was asked about the intermittent chopping. Had
he grown tired? Had his equipment failed him?
“No,” he said. “The only time I stopped was to sharpen my
In our company, and in my observation of others, I’ve detected a
problem. We, like the dethroned champion, focus on flailing away,
and we often do it with dull sales tools. I believe it’s important
to take a look at the tools of our trade and review them
periodically to make sure that they’re honed properly.
For example, examine your displays. While displays are one of
our most important sales tools, I’ve seen many outdated displays
taking up room and contributing to a negative experience for those
visiting and looking for new ideas.
Manufacturers regularly change or discontinue a door style or
finish, and often, we don’t keep up with those changes. It’s a real
downer to stand in front of a display and tell a customer “it’s
almost like this,” or note that the drawer guides have been
changed, or say that what they’re seeing is a discontinued
I understand that there is time and expense involved in keeping
displays current. However, you need to take responsibility for your
showroom and make sure that your displays are clean, complete,
current and as sharp as they can be.
Sharpening your sales tools also includes reviewing your
customer literature. Is it current? Too much? Too little? None on
hand? Worst of all, do you know you that have it somewhere but
can’t find it, or know that if you did find it, the literature
wouldn’t be presentable? It doesn’t take much thought to know that
your literature must be current, as well as filed properly so that
you know where it is and that it is in good shape.
It’s also important to have your name on your literature. This
type of information is a great tool to use in the presentation of a
product, and to place in the possession of the prospect. Quality
literature is a silent salesperson that consumers will use in their
If you’re using computer programs to create your kitchens and
baths, are you able to utilize everything that software can do for
I hear a lot of talk about the challenges that come with program
enhancements. Unfortunately, training time in this area tends to be
non-existent, and is generally done on the job and under the
pressure of getting a design and quote ready quickly. The designer
usually defaults to what he or she knows, failing to capitalize on
the software upgrades and the computer’s maximum potential as a
Another important tool, and maybe the toughest of all, is
keeping track of your chips laminates, solid surface materials,
granite, wood species, finishes, appliance colors, bath fixtures,
mouldings, etc. It can be very frustrating to go through your chain
of laminate chips and find that the color you’re looking for isn’t
there. Even more frustrating is the situation where a customer
chooses a color, only to find out later that it has been
discontinued. Keeping track of these samples, and keeping them up
to date, is never easy, but it’s important to your business.
This concept applies to hardware, as well. One of my pet peeves
has to do with hardware that’s missing from a display or from a
hardware board. While I understand that there are circumstances
when it is the right decision to lend, sell or give a piece of
hardware away, I also know that a critical component to selling is
to have a complete range of hardware samples.
To understand the importance of hardware, I’ll offer this
example. A person walks into a car dealership to buy a car, and the
model he test drives or the one on the showroom floor is without
the driver’s side front hubcap. I guarantee that the first thing
the customer will notice is that the $75 hubcap is missing, even
though the rest of the $30,000 car is intact. Don’t let a missing
$5 piece of hardware detract from your costly display. Make sure
that the hardware in your displays is in place, and that your
sample board of hardware is complete.
When reviewing your sales tools, it’s important to decide what
samples you need and then implement a plan to manage them. Too
often, we try to have everything and, in doing so, we have too
much, manage nothing very well, and find ourselves always
This simply leads to frustration when you’re working with a
customer and you can’t find what you think you have and probably do
have. While this may not embarrass you, it should.
However, the bigger problem here is that it breaks the flow of
the selling process. In addition, it can also convey a more subtle
and damaging message; the prospect could interpret this lack of
showroom management into doubt about your company’s ability to
handle the job, and about whether you can be trusted with
At my company, we just raised the bar by creating better systems
and management of those systems, so that we can rest assured that
our selling tools are in place and dependably sharp just like the
champion woodcutter. In order for us to do this, we invested the
time and energy, creating new control systems that includes
monitoring things on a daily and weekly basis.
I suggest that you, too, take time out like the challenger in
the woodcutting championship contest. Sharpen your sales tools, and
put yourself in the best possible position to create your next
sale. You can become the champion.