SOS HelpDear BreakFront:

As you know, times have been troubling for cabinet dealers. In the huge economic downturn, I feel like my dealership has been hit the hardest. We’ve been in the business for 60 years and up until recently I thought we were doing fine.

Since 2008, I’ve had to close two showrooms and cut back on employees. We advertise every Sunday in the paper and send out flyers in the mail with our information and web address.

I haven’t seen the leads pour in like I was told they would, yet I’m spending an arm and a leg on the best mailers and a website every month. My dealership has the most awesome designers you could ask for; they’ve all been in the business for 20+ years. They definitely know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to sales. They always sell the best products and really know how to get a customer to add on to their original design. It seemed to work before but now we are having a big issue with getting those 30K sales. It seems like all we can do is muster up a few $8-10K sales and hopefully make some money off of them. I want to be able to pass this dealership on and have it stay open once I retire but with the way things are going, it doesn’t look like that will happen.

I know I’m in need of a change- I just don’t know what it is.


Distressed Cabinet Dealer

We know this distressed cabinet dealer is not the only one of his kind. Times are tough and changes need to be made. So one of our cabinet industry gurus, Chris Mele (CM), sat down and had a very straightforward conversation with Mr. Distressed.

When Mr. Distressed called, he wasn’t exactly open to big changes. After a few initial evaluation questions, Chris came to the conclusion that Mr. Distressed suffers from a common industry ailment: his team is too wrapped up in a product based selling approach.

With the goal of our business being to help as many cabinet dealers as possible, we decided to share the conversation with you.

Digging Deeper

Distressed Dealer: Why shouldn’t I sell the cabinetry that’s in my showroom?

CM: Because consumers aren’t actually buying the cabinetry.

DD: That makes absolutely no sense – of course they’re buying cabinetry.  Why else would they be in the showroom?

CM: What you are referring to in your question strikes right at the heart of the selling problem in our industry.  Salespeople and designers mistakenly assume the consumer is in the showroom to buy cabinetry.  Of course on the surface it appears that way, but underneath that’s not what they’re buying at all.

DD: So you’re saying they’re in the showroom because they need to remodel, and everyone knows the remodel takes cabinetry, but they’re not interested in buying cabinetry?

CM: Bingo!  You nailed it on the head.  Let me give you some examples.  Julie shows up in your showroom because she just had a divorce and wants to completely remodel her kitchen.  What is she buying?

DD: Cabinets?

CM: No, in this example she’s buying the ability to start clean and fresh, to completely remodel her kitchen so she can move on.  Sure there will be cabinets in her project, but that’s not what she’s really buying.

Let’s try another example: you steer your car into the guard rail on the way into work and the car is no longer drivable.  You don’t really care about cars to begin with, but you do need something to get you into work each day.  You go into the car dealership over lunch – what are you buying?

DD: A car?

CM: Nope.  You’re not buying a car at all.  In this example you’re simply buying a means to get back and forth to work.  You could care less about the actual car you’re buying because you’re buying something else.

DD: You’re splitting hairs.

CM: You can argue all day long that these are subtle differences, but they fundamentally separate average performing kitchen designers (who close between $150K to $500K each year) from Naturals who consistently sell $2M+ in retail sales.

DD: What do you mean?

CM: If you sell based on product alone, because that’s what you value based on your education and experience, then you’ll forever compete on price.  If you sell to what the customer actually wants to buy – the reason why they came into your showroom in the first place – then you’ll get a swing at higher ticket kitchens.

Let’s go back to our example of Julie earlier.  She’s buying the ability move on and at the core of her purchasing decision is to completely change her kitchen so the house looks different – so there’s no memory of “him”.  If we asked Julie some questions we would find out that she can’t sell her house right now so she’s stuck there – that’s why it’s so important to her to be able to make her space look completely different.

So I’ll ask it again – Is she buying cabinetry as you propose or is there something deeper at work here?

It took a while to break through with Mr. Distressed, but Chris was able to do it. Check in next week to see how the conversation continues on sales and pricing for Mr. Distressed. Comment below with any questions you might need answered by a cabinet industry guru on product based selling.

Read Part 2 of the conversation between the Distressed Dealer and Chris.