The lifeline of your business begins with sales. Often, I meet with fabricators who do not have a sales strategy or even a salesperson or sales department — they solely rely on walk-in business and referrals. Be careful because this type of sales strategy might be working well for you now based upon the market conditions, but when the tide turns you may find yourself scrambling to maintain market share and sales within your market.
Sales occur in every organization to a greater or lesser degree. A business that heavily relies on referrals will need a supplemental sales process to draw in more customers. While word-of-mouth is a great way to advertise, it has many limitations that can be overcome with a more focused sales process.
Businesses that have dedicated employees and have developed sales strategies tend
to have more control over their businesses’ success. The market is currently strong and so this is a great time to develop a strong sales strategy that will help your business thrive for years to come.
Whether you choose to have a designated salesperson or a whole team, it’s important to have someone within your organization focused on sales. Once identified, there
are two fundamental elements for them to consider:
- Understanding your company’s differentiated value and your market niche
- Outlining your customer sales experience.
Understand Your Niche Market
Define and understand the products that you want to sell, and share this vision and goal with your sales team. Brainstorm how your offerings and services differ from your competitors, and then train your team to highlight these differentiated values that set you apart from other fabricators.
Be aware of the capabilities of the shop and understand what it is you want to highlight to increase sales. For example, if you have the ability to miter efficiently, your sales team should promote that capability. It is important to showcase the differentiated values that you have over your competitors. If you try to sell everything, you will spread yourself too thin. If the salespeople can successfully focus on selling the differentiated value(s) and highlight the unique capabilities of your company, this will set your business apart from the competition and result in an increased profitability. The direct impact sales staff has on your bottom line will be clearly seen.
“It’s important that our sales team understands our shop’s processing capabilities,” explained Kip Cameron, of Granite-Tops in Cold Spring, Minn. “For example, the value of common line cutting to maximize slab utilization and using SlabSmith as a selling tool to help customers understand the value and option. Having this knowledge directly impacts our bottom line because of increased material yield.” Emphasize where your company excels and educate your sales team, and watch your profits increase. Set goals for increased future profits.
Define Your Customer Experience
Successful selling is having the ability to educate a customer and allow them to clearly see why your product is the one they want to purchase. A customer will spend more on a product if they see the value in it. It is the salesperson’s job to educate the customer as to what makes your company unique. Create a win-win sale every time. A good salesperson can educate your customer and set expectations that your shop can meet.
“You want educated salespeople so they make good decisions in the very beginning, at the first point of contact,” commented Cameron. “This greatly reduces many mistakes.” When the salespeople are prepared with goals and have checklists of decision points, all expectations can be met. Having no call-backs, less chaos in the shop and, more importantly, having the customer’s buying experience be top-notch is critical to success.
Streamlining the process and experience allows for a confidence to develop in the sales consultant and subsequently a very happy customer.
The sales process includes everything from the first impression made by your showroom to the sales representative’s friendly greeting all the way through the purchase itself. Maintaining a well-kept and organized shop is important because the customer is walking into your environment for the first time with a fresh set of eyes. Their first impression of your facilities reflects the overall image of your company. Managing the overall appearance entails the following:
■ Cleaning regularly
■ Organizing the shop in a professionally pleasing manner
■ Staging the process in ways that accentuate its key features
■ Training the salespeople to have complete knowledge of all steps in the process
These are just a few items that will have an effect on an outside observer’s perspective. It may very likely take practice to keep a well-kept facility, but it is the best option. The customer’s perception influences the sale, so the upkeep on your shop is crucial to winning them over. When a company holds itself to the high standards of a clean, well-organized atmosphere with products glimmering on display, they are understood to be high quality.
Buying new countertops is a luxury, and so customers’ buying experiences should be that of luxury. Give the customers the support
they need in selecting the materials and project designs. If you offer slab viewing of stock material or allow the customer to select which parts of the slab will be used on their project, this will feel like a personalized sale to the customer. Liken buying countertops to buying jewelry for the home. A countertop is a stunning piece of material that customers want to showcase in a striking way.
In order to create the perfect project for your customer’s home, it is essential that the salesperson uncovers their needs. Listen to your customer and identify their individualized requirements. Develop a relationship with the customer through the process of selecting the countertop material, fabrication and installation. Help the customer bring their vision to life and walk out the door satisfied.
After the Sale Relationship
There has to be a level of trust established when a customer purchases from you. When that level of trust has been built and the customer’s expectations have been met, the relationship with your customer does not end. That means your staff must make sure to continue your relationship. Leave marketing materials with the customer when you have the chance, whether it is a flyer, a business card a magnet or some other promotional material that will provide them with access to information and remind them of your business and the satisfying experience you provide. If you plan on following up with the customer, let them know when they should expect to hear from you.
Customers that trust your business will refer new potential customers in your direction, but think outside the box and gain an increased value from this word-of-mouth communication by directing it. If it is a residential customer, offer them some sort of a small reward for referrals that subsequently place an order with you. Or, if a customer purchased from you for a commercial building and are planning on hosting an event, such as a grand opening or re-opening, this could be a marketing opportunity. If there is a creative opportunity to display your company to a group of potential customers and permission has been granted, take ahold of it. It never hurts to actively brainstorm new approaches to reach their target audience.
Have the face of your company in the community so you stay top of mind. This could be accomplished in many ways, such as an advertisement on a billboard, hosting an event or speaking at a Chamber of Commerce meeting, just to name a few. Develop a relationship with the community. When you are involved at events, it engages current customers as well as encourages new customers. The goal should be to create and strengthen long-lasting relationships with your clients.
The goal of increasing profits is attainable as long as you are prepared to make it happen. Have a dedicated salesperson or team that is educated on the select products your company wants to focus on selling to your niche market. Also, have a clear customer sales experience outlined for your sales staff. The customer should feel welcomed into the experience and at the end of the process understand the value that you bring to the table.
This article appeared in the Q1 2017 issue of ISFA’s Countertops & Architectural Surfaces magazine. (http://www.isfanow.org/Countertops-Current.aspx)
About the Author
Dale Schleppenbach has been a sales consultant for Park Industries for 20 years.