Salespeople can turn phone calls into sales or turn potential buyers off.
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a FURNITURE WORLD Magazine series, written by Leslie Carothers to help home furnishings retailers to manage their intentional and unintentional internet presence. Ms. Carothers is founder and principal of The Kaleidoscope Partnership, a nationally known training and consulting firm.
Salesperson: “Good morning, thank you for calling XYZ Home Furnishings, my name is Tom, how may I help you today?”
Customer: “I saw a piece of furniture on your website and I’d like a price, please.”
Salesperson: “I’m sorry, but we don’t quote prices over the phone.” Our pricing depends upon a range of factors including what finish you select, what fabric you choose, etc.”
Customer: “Well, could you give me a general range then?”
Salesperson: “I’m not sure about that specific piece, let me go check.” “Can you hold on a minute?”
Customer: (sighing)”Yes, I’ll hold on.”
If the above dialogue is fairly typical of the type of phone interaction your sales associates are having with customers, then you have a golden training opportunity to help them convert more of these “price shopping” phone inquiries into sales opportunities and/or actual sales.
FIVE KEY CONCEPTS
Here are five key concepts to keep in mind when selling over the phone to help you and your sales associates turn price shoppers into loyal buyers:
1.It starts with making sure your sales associates know and understand everything that’s on your
- Do they know what is advertised that day on your website?
- Do they know what products you are showcasing that day?
- Do they have a cheat sheet that shows them the general range of pricing for those items you are featuring on your website?
- How many steps do they have to take before they can get a customer an answer?
- Do they know what brands you are linking to from your website?
- Have they ever looked at those manufacturers’ websites?
- Do they understand how to use your website? Do they have easy, fast and instant access to the internet from where they answer the phone?
In other words, are they working from a position of strength or weakness when they pick up your phone to talk to your potential customer?
Remember that your consumers think of your website as just another storefront and they expect the same level of service and assistance. (Think of what auto dealerships are doing with internet sales these days.
2. Now that your sales consultants are armed with knowledge, training and access to your website, it’s time to have your sales manager role-play and/or listen in on customer/consultant conversations. The purpose, of course, is to give positive developmental feedback so consultants clearly understands what is expected of them.
Young consultants, especially, have a difficult time with verbal interaction because they are so used to text messaging and instant messaging their friends. Their ability to transition from one thought to another VERBALLY is quite often limited. Have your sales manager spend extra time with them to overcome this obstacle.
3. Now that you’ve assessed everyone’s sales skills over the phone, create an actual phone script that details how to handle phone call price inquiries. Sales consultants are often not sure about what to say during a phone inquiry regarding price. Because of this, many will arbitrarily decide that a customer isn’t serious and cut them off. Since they lack the proper skills, it’s easier for associates to get them off the phone, without making an effort to convert them.
Make sure your script includes common objections and how to overcome them. You want to make sure your consultants are as empowered as possible when dealing with customers coming to you from your virtual storefront.
4. Work on listening skills with your sales associates. Again, role play. Listening is hard enough to do in person, but over the phone, it’s absolutely critical since there is no body language to interpret. Help them understand that they have to give the person on the other end all the time they need to verbalize their needs and wants.
This statement or one similar can be critical to their success: “Before we move on, is there anything else you’d like to add or that you’ve thought of since we began talking?” “I want to make sure I hear everything that’s important to you before I answer your questions.”
5. Another important phone skill to cultivate when working with internet price queries is affirmation of choice. This is why it is critical to give your consultants fast and easy access to your website. They need to be on the same page, literally, as the customer so they can have the following dialogue:
Salesperson: “The piece you’re asking about is really (insert complimentary phrase). You have really good taste.” Tell me, what do you like about this piece? How do you see it fitting into your room?”
This, readers, is THE key phrase for all internet phone inquiries. Establish rapport by complimenting them on their selection. It’s so much easier than selling in person because the customer has already pre-selected and is just calling you for a price. This is a customer that, more times than not, is ready to buy!
The question for the customer is, “Who are they going to buy it from?” The question for you is, “How can I add as much value as possible to their phone experience so that they want to buy it from us?”
At this point, the customer, seeking a direct response to his or her question might say something such as, “all I really need is the price, please.”
Here is what the well-prepared salesperson should say:
Salesperson: “I’d be happy to give you a range of prices for this piece which will be dependent on your fabric and finish selection (and whatever else may be in the mix), but first, how soon do you need this piece in your home?”
This is basic qualifying, but you would be surprised how many sales consultants never think to ask this question over the phone.
By having them ask this question, you are alerting the customer to the fact that you may or may not have it in stock and are opening up the possibility for the following dialogue:
Customer: “I need it in my house in four weeks.” “Do you have it in stock?”
What follows is the golden dialogue opportunity that turns lookers into potential buyers:
Sales Consultant: “No, but we DO have several pieces similar to it that are in stock and on our sales floor.” “Is it convenient for you to make an appointment with me on Thursday so I can meet you and be prepared to show you what we have available that would meet your delivery needs?”
If the customer is serious and local, nine times out of ten they will agree to this suggestion.
The critical components are that the salesperson makes an appointment and is prepared. Don’t waste that customer’s time. If they agree, they are coming in to make a buying decision.
Remember, they’ve already done all their research over the internet and have called you for a price on a style they know they like. Even though you don’t have that exact piece in stock, if they agree to come in and look, you KNOW that they are serious and are not completely sold on having to have that exact piece.
Come close to the style they want, treat them like kings and queens, give them a good value for their money, help them have fun while shopping and watch those pesky phone inquiries turn into loyal and valuable lifetime customers.
Leslie Carothers, is a 25 year veteran of the home furnishings industry and the principal of The Kaleidoscope Partnership - a national company that helps retailers and manufacturers leverage the internet and their websites to powerfully and profitably impact their businesses. Her areas of expertise include: Using analytics to drive profitable growth through different business units; writing content for retail and manufacturer websites; increasing conversion rates from phone or email inquiries; and helping retailers and manufacturers lay out their websites for maximum ease of consumer and consultant use and functionality. Questions on any aspect of internet marketing can be directed to her via the www.furninfo.com message boards or email firstname.lastname@example.org.