chinese chessAny kitchen and bath professional knows the occasional (or maybe the not so occasional) prospect can be hard to deal with.  Maybe the prospect loves the feeling of control, maybe they are bent on taking advantage of the salesperson, maybe they aren’t ready to even remodel yet — or maybe they’re just an evil bunch of time wasters whose only desire in life is to make salesperson feel miserable.  Some prospects make it seem impossible to close a sale in a reasonable amount of time, or perhaps make a deal at all.

Even though this may be true, every salesperson should make it a goal to help 100% of the prospect’s they encounter buy a kitchen (assuming they were properly qualified of course).

But here’s an interesting thought to consider:  is it the prospect that is challenging, or was the designer ill-prepared to deal with the tough prospect?  Even Donald Trump is famous for describing the scenario that two salespeople can walk into a room on the exact same deal.  One will close, the other will not.

Of course salespeople won’t make the sale 100% of the time, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be consistently prepared every time.  When a sale is not made, they should record why it was lost so they can notice trends over time and better prepare for the next challenging prospect.   But when going into a meeting with a new prospect, salespeople should expect the prospect to be the biggest challenge they have ever faced and prepare vigorously for it.

If the prospect turns out to be a relatively easy-going person, then the sale will be that much easier to close because the salesperson was prepared for the worst-case scenario, and was ready to deal with any question that could possibly arise.  But time and time again, salespeople spend 90% of their time drawing instead of planning out potential obstacles in their sales process.  Preparing on how to answer objections, deal with challenges or handle competitive bidding situations is not only fundamental to winning more deals — it is the single most important time a designer can spend.

To help you better prepare, we’ve listed 5 basic strategies a kitchen designer should use to help prepare for a meeting with any prospect.

  1. Planning – This word is the essence of this post. A salesperson should never go into a meeting without a well thought out battle plan. Chess masters start a chess match by planning dozens of moves ahead before even entering the match. A good chess player would never sit down at the table and think one move at a time – or worse yet, react and then make their move.  The same can be said for the best salespeople.  Going in to a sales meeting, the salesperson should always know:
    • What questions will I ask?
    • How will I establish my position?
    • How might they challenge my position?
    • How will I respond to their challenges?

    The ability to answer every variation of these 4 key points will allow designers to be well prepared and more successful with every type of prospect.

  2. Patience – A salesperson usually works very hard to get to the point of closing the sale, but not everyone reacts to major purchases the same way.  If a prospect starts to show signs of cold feet, they should not be pressured into completing the sale.  Often times a salesperson thinks they’ve worked enough to make the sale and will push a take it or leave it offer on the buyer – usually out of frustration.  After all, they just spent hours on the prospect’s design so showing cold feet near the end of the process is the ultimate insult because it is every designer’s worst nightmare.If the salesperson shows a little patience and avoids pressuring, they’ll realize the prospect is much closer to a sale than they might realize.
  3. Expect the “11th hour freak-out”- Many things can go wrong as a salesperson tries to get a prospect to close.  A salesperson may hear some of the most irrational objections:
    • What if my kitchen doesn’t look right?
    • What if a nuclear bomb goes off in Charlotte during my kitchen installation?
    • What if you guys go out of business?

    Instead of reacting to them with shock, anger or frustration, back off a little and let the prospect vent.  This is the time to ease up, not get emotional, and bring the prospect back down to reality when they are ready.  By expecting this behavior, a salesperson will be able to take emotion out of the equation and keep the sale alive.  Many prospects “freak out” right before making a large purchase.  It’s human nature — not an insult.

  4. A confused buyer never buys – Sometimes when the prospect is difficult, it is because they don’t know what to do next. The salesperson hasn’t described the process well enough (or clearly enough) for them to understand.  The prepared salesperson should explain the process in simple terms so prospects can’t veer off into fantasy. We call this “greasing the skids.”  The prospect should be taken through the sales process in stages, and should be educated about each stage they’ll be entering into.  This also keeps the deal moving forward and on track.
  5. Maintain control of the process – If a typical kitchen sales process is completed in four steps, a good salesperson should outline the four steps before you begin and keep them in each stage until they’re ready to move forward. They should be kept in the right mindset for the right stage in the process.  If they slip into a different stage of the process (talking about price when you first meet them) they should be gently guided back into the correct stage and reminded about the importance of staying focused on the right things at the right time. If a child asked “Can I learn algebra”, a good teacher wouldn’t respond by teaching them algebra.  Instead, they would make sure the child had mastered basic math first, right?  The same goes for taking a prospect through a sales process.

Buying a kitchen is a major purchase for many consumers. Many emotions can come to light as the sale draws to a close, and many things can make a sale go south. Kitchen designers can greatly reduce the chances of losing sales if they are better prepared for both the common and the unique objections buyers have before writing the check.  Closing the sale is the most intimate part of the sales process and one that requires a lot of trust between the salesperson and prospect.  This is exactly when designers should be at their best.

By taking 15 minutes to plan before every meeting with a prospect, salespeople can avoid fumbling or reacting poorly in situations.  We hope our five points above will better prepare you and your sales team for your next close!