Revisioning: Part 6: Selling Lifestyle Solutions. Part II
Last Month we discussed how to control our own natural defensiveness, this month we will dig deeper with:
Reassuring and Educating Reluctant Clients
Pure defensiveness is usually easy to spot: nervousness, inappropriate anger, fidgeting, sweating, distractedness, or pressured speech, to name a few signs. These folks may simply not permit you to calm or reassure them enough to engage with them in the selling process. But other more frequent cues—usually verbal—may signal opportunities for you to build trust with the prospect while differentiating yourself from the Big Box nerds or your local product-centric competitor.
Here are some phrases I’ve heard recently on our showroom floor that “announce” that a prospective client may be reluctant but probably amenable to engagement. I’ve added responses that 1) educate the prospect, 2) and/or reframes the situation away from a retail sale and toward a consultative service transaction, and/or 3) positions you as a caring and committed expert whose primary interest in life is clarifying and meeting their needs, most likely with solutions they may never have imagined—which is, after all, why we are in the business.
I’ve used responses that fit the demographic niche for my business on the Monterey Peninsula, where residents tend to be older than average and a bit golf obsessed—Pebble Beach is just next door. Please extrapolate from these examples to fit your own demographics and selling style. Just remember your goals: to educate them (to your company, and to the range of solutions available in home automation); to reframe the context away from retail, toward a service transaction; and to present your company as the place that will work hard to understand their needs, and use your expertise to tailor the technology to their lifestyle. Here goes:
• “I’m not an audiophile.” This is an opportunity to explain that most of your customers aren’t audiophiles, and tend to be more interested in home theater, or flat panel TVs in selected rooms, or music throughout the home, or remotes that simplify everything, or an alarm and surveillance system, etc. Then you can ask: “And what specifically do you have in mind?” Try to find out what home automation might do for them by inquiring about their household, lifestyle, etc.?” But go slow here, and be respectful of their privacy. Don’t make it sound like you’re “casing the joint.” Later, if you’ve earned their trust, they may be comfortable providing additional details, which you can use to identify integration solutions appropriate to their particular circumstances that will make their life easier, safer, or more fun.
• “I don’t imagine you do little jobs.” Here’s where you can inform them that you do a wide range of projects, large and small, and let them know that your company believes in getting things right. “For us, the size of the project isn’t critical. What matters is that we understand your needs—what you’re trying to accomplish—so we can do the best job possible, within the limits of the equipment we sell and install.”
• “Can I re-use some of my old equipment?” Here’s where you build trust by showing that you are flexible, and are not just trying to just load them up with new equipment. “Some older equipment, like speakers and sub-woofers, can be reused without much sacrifice, as long as you like the sound, and they are working properly, and fit the room physically.” Then offer to inspect and test them. “But other re-used equipment, such as surround receivers, can compromise the system design and TV performance, and make switching between sources unpredictable.” Then explain the problems with different video cable standards, switching video in the TV and audio in the Surround Receiver, etc.
• “Can you match a price I saw online?” OK, here’s what we’ve been waiting for: an opportunity to begin to explain our value proposition. “Well, it depends on what you mean by online. Our prices are generally in line with prices charged by legitimate internet resellers, who are authorized by their manufacturers to sell online, and who can honor the manufacturer’s warranty. Of course, there is a lot of fraud on the internet, and b-stock or refurbished goods misrepresented as new, or grey market goods that lack a manufacturer’s warranty.” Then answer their questions, emphasizing your consumer-friendly policies: installation guaranteed for one year; or we pay shipping for items returned for repair during the warranty period; or we offer loaners, in the case of component failure during the warranty period.”
• “I just want to see what you have.” This person probably doesn’t want to be pressured, so approach him (or her) in a relaxed way, and gently probe for their interests or goals. Maybe offer him a global summary of what you do—maybe a sentence or two. If you’re lucky, they may have a question or additional “announcement” that will provide a way for you to engage them. But basically you’ll have to be patient, and wait for them to come to you.
To summarize, lifestyle selling begins with educating prospects, reframing the context from retail to service, and positioning your company in the marketplace. Next time, we’ll look in greater depth at how to present the breadth of the home automation field to the clients without boring them to death, Then we’ll move on to the gentle art of qualifying them more systematically in the new age of selling lifestyle solutions. •