June archive. Posted by Kathy Pace: This post is an excerpt from Window Fashion VISION Magazine. The link to Kathy’s full article is below. If you’re finding it harder to sell these days and people are holding on tighter to their money, stop everything, go directly to a quiet place and do not pass go until you’ve finished reading this article—the third in a series for VISION Magazine that focused on selling transformations. The first two dealt with the brain on sales, and today we pivot slightly to matters of the heart. Bringing heart into the success equation requires self-reflection, freedom for new ideas to develop, and an open mind. It challenges the status quo, so it feels a little risky at first, but a glimpse of what is possible is there for the willing. I promise it won’t be hard to tilt your head to one side and say, “Hmm, I hadn’t thought of it like that before.”
I can’t fault you if the title of this post somewhat takes you aback. For me to insinuate that you have been asking the wrong questions in your appointments goes against well-established habits and pretty much everything we’ve learned in training. Aren’t we supposed to discover customers’ pain points? Once we know the problem, we’ve been taught that it’s easy to educate the client on the features and benefits of the product to solve it. If we’re a little more experienced, we might even introduce problems the client doesn’t know they have. Next, we present facts in a rational way to convince the client your product will solve the problem. Overcome any lingering objections, persuade when necessary, and the outcome is sure to be sold. But more often than we want to admit, we’ve done all those things and it is not.
We’re left wondering where we went wrong with what seems like a very sound sales formula we’ve been using for years. If problems need a solution and our products are the answer, why aren’t more clients buying?
The thinking that got you to where you are is not the thinking that will get you to where you want to be. You do have great products that solve problems. Yet you struggle with quotes and design boards that don’t convert to revenue. The thinking that got you here—including most sales training— is stuck in a time warp and it’s time for innovative thinking to move us forward.
To illustrate, shall we play a word association game?
Close your eyes and mentally list the things that come to mind when you hear the word “salesman.” Don’t dwell on it, just note what quickly comes to mind. Chances are your list contains one or more old stereotypes. Someone pushy, fast-talking, gimmicky and too slick to be trusted, even though most people who sell these days are professional, respectable and doing the best job they can.
Your list was influenced by an old style of transactional selling that included pressure situations wherein one person wins, therefore implying the other person is the loser. Unfortunately, that thinking is still top-of-mind for both buyers and sellers and it’s reinforced far more often than you may realize.
When it comes to sales, we need a transformation! There is a way to sell more that doesn’t involve being “salesy,” which is good because everyone hates a salesy salesperson.
BUT WILL YOU DO IT?
Will you use innovative, modern thinking and human connection to transform the way your clients experience design-related purchases? Answer “Yes” because it starts with you. Answer “Yes” and you will sell more. You will be the positive change you wish to see in the world. Another word for positive change is transformation.
First, be willing to replace outdated win-lose thinking with a modern win-win mindset.
You can do this if you focus on how you help. ABC is replaced with ABH: Always Be Helping. Helping is the goal, not closing, and this is where real transformation begins. If you really want to help, there is another belief well past its sell-by date that you must be rid of. We’ve been programmed to believe a sales transaction takes place between two people, strangers, who don’t know one another. As a result, we keep the people we work with at arm’s length for fear that something may be taken from us. Both buyers and sellers approach the interaction as if there is more to lose than gain.
Transformational thinking starts with asking yourself these questions: Can you let down your own wariness? Put aside your fear of being taken advantage of? Get rid of your fear of your ideas and prices being shopped? Of “wasted time” because a client can’t buy right now? Will you, instead, be open and fall in love (just a little!) with each prospective customer you meet? If you do, sales will follow. You may even fall back in love with your business and remember why you started it in the first place.
In our earlier word association game, it’s safe to say “love” wasn’t on your list, nor the words “innovation,” “modern thinking,” “human connection” or “transformation.” These are NOT words the selling profession is known for. The very culture and reputation of sales are stuck. This presents a great problem for today’s thinking entrepreneur trying to build a thriving business.
Businesses must create customers. The definition of a customer is someone who buys goods or services; therefore, a sale is necessary to create customers. You can see the conundrum when selling has such a bad rap. Something needs to change fast!
Here are the RIGHT questions for you, the seller.
Do you love your customers when you are selling to them? Do you love helping them, whether they buy from you or not? Do you prepare and make recommendations like you would if you were designing for your best friend, your daughter or your parents? Or do you make recommendations like a salesperson?
Today’s business climate, with clients uncertain about what the future holds and prone to holding discretionary dollars a bit closer to the vest, is not kind to the traditional salesperson. The thinking that got us where we are is not the thinking that will get us to where we want to be. Transform your practice to modern thinking, which, these days, includes professional relationships with a more human connection.
Maybe, dare I say it, loving your clients is the way to sales success. It is outside-the-box thinking to go into an appointment to love your client. But it is well-established that clients buy from those they trust. A high-trust, low-resistance, connected friendship doesn’t happen from a place of wariness and a fear of being taken advantage of. Remember, these are feelings both buyers and sellers experience, so someone must make the first move. An intention to love might just change your trajectory and be your ticket out of this mess that traditional salesy sales got all of us into in the first place.
Second, understand that the wise designer is the WHYS designer.
Socrates said the wise man is the man who knows what he doesn’t know. I’ll rephrase that for the purpose of design sales. The wise designer is the WHYS designer. The one who doesn’t immediately jump to recommending products to solve light and temperature, privacy or hard-to-get-at windows. The product is the right answer but for the wrong problem. Wise pros remain curious and continue to ask “Why?” And why again after the first answer. And then again, down to the real root feeling, philosophical in nature rather than practical. The root cause is always bigger than the functional problem. Solving bigger problems equals selling more products.
Rather than go in already knowing, a WHYS designer will start with a beginner’s mind. It takes more time and more caring o be WHYS. When you slow down and make a genuine connection, human to human— not seller to buyer—and ask questions because you really care, you will uncover that the client made the appointment because something just didn’t feel right about their room. It’s causing them to be uncomfortable in their own home, which just isn’t right.
There it is! The philosophical problem is that home should be a sanctuary; a place for love and rest, a place to gather and spend time with people who mean the most to us. Not a place to feel uncomfortable.
It’s bigger than heat, glare or privacy. Do you see, now, what you must solve? By making an appointment with you, your client is saying “Please help me. How can I have a more comfortable, inviting home?”
That is the question you are there to answer. Your product is the solution, but care enough to answer the question lovingly by selling how life will change for the better. That is win-win. Once your products are installed, love is evident because the way your client feels in their home is completely transformed. Your clients feel; therefore, they buy.
Descartes said, “I think; therefore, I am.” For the sales profession, being wise means knowing that clients feel; therefore, they buy. They buy the feeling that comes from owning the thing, so you must sell the feeling of transformation. When you do, you also solve a very important business problem—the one that’s been keeping you up at night worrying about how to help clients stop hesitating and start buying. You don’t have to stay stuck in the sales time warp. Everything changes when you decide to get rid of old beliefs and introduce modern thinking. Don’t worry about the close; help, instead, by transforming the room. There is plenty of business for WHYS designers. The change you want to see starts today with you, with all of us in the sales profession on a win-win mission, one transformation at a time.