Use Fun, Informal Approach to Qualify Potential Clients, Designer Says

by WOHe

Use Fun, Informal Approach to Qualify Potential Clients,
Designer Says

What’s the best way to qualify clients and make the sale? When
it comes to maximizing your results, the approach is everything,
according to Vincent A. Castiello, CKD, of Royal Kitchens &
Home Improvements, in New City, NY, who spoke about this topic at
the recent Kitchen/Bath Industry Show in Orlando, FL.

Castiello recommends a “shepherd” as opposed to “cowboy” sales
approach, explaining that, whereas “cowboys” use aggressive tactics
and push a client, “shepherds” pull the customer in by leading in a
gentle manner that creates a bond between designer and client.

“Your initial impression will make or break a sale,” he
emphasized, elaborating that people have a general impression of
salespeople as pushy and dishonest, which must be counteracted in
the initial meeting. Successful salespeople counteract that
negative stereotype by having a positive, fun personality that
makes people want to be around them, he adds.

“People are informal today,” he further explains, “so you need
to run your business informally.”

Castiello, who is also the founder of Total Success Corp., a
company dedicated to teaching professional selling, believes that
kitchen and bath salespeople/ designers need to “sell the kitchen
first.” To that end, he explains that he doesn’t do any designing
until a client is qualified and the sale has been made.

To make a sale this way, Castiello suggests listening more than
talking, and bonding with and qualifying clients by first having
them fill out an extensive questionnaire when they visit the
showroom. People who don’t want to give the salesperson their name,
or who say they’re just looking, are done for the time being, not
ready to buy, he believes. For that reason, Castiello recommends
leaving them alone rather than being pushy and following them
around the showroom, which only serves to annoy them and discourage
them from returning when they are ready to buy.

A potential client who is seriously in the market for a kitchen
or bath remodel should receive an appointment to come in for a free
consultation. Castiello recommends against visiting a potential
client’s house for free. He also recommends charging a design fee
on a sliding scale, depending on the budget for the project.

Once a sale is made, success is more likely if a designer can
talk a client out of unfavorable schedules with a completion date
either too near or too far in the future. For the latter, Castiello
says, prices of materials can change, making the bid you gave
someone two years ago end up being unprofitable today. He
recommends having the client call three or four months before the
anticipated time of the remodel, rather than setting up the deal
years ahead of time.

On the other end of the scale, projects that have to be done in,
say, three weeks in time for someone’s graduation have a high
stress and failure rate. It’s best to explain the remodeling
process to the clients and ask them to wait until after the big
event, he believes.

In general, he advises, “Don’t be hesitant or timid about asking
questions.” Astute questioning can increase the bond with clients,
and help a designer understand what’s truly important to them about
the project in short, helping to find the “hot button” of the real
emotional benefit they’re trying to get out of the remodel.

Castiello’s seminar also dealt with budget and financing issues,
as well as how to counteract low-ball bids by competing remodelers.
Overall, Castiello emphasized the importance of perceiving one’s
self as a salesperson rather than an estimator in the initial
stages of a job, and making sales an important focus along with

“If we don’t know how to convince clients that our company and
services are worth their investment, we won’t be afforded as many
opportunities to show off our talents,” he concluded.

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