Peter A. Marino, Ron Wolinski and Cathy Finney provide helpful information for sales professionals on qualifying and probing.
View all articles by Peter A. Marino
Tips For Bedding Sales - A Strong First Impression
by Cathy Finney
Giving your full name sets you apart. You sound professional. I've had people tell me over the years, "Cathy, forget it! My last name is too long and too hard to pronounce!" Guess what? The L-O-N-G-E-R it is and the harder it is, the easier it is for them to remember it. It gives them a handle! Give them your title whatever your title is. If you are the design consultant or a bedding sales associate, let them know. If you do not have a title, pick one. Get one now!
Remember, they do not know who you are and what you do. So tell them up front why you're here. This sets you apart from every other "clerk" they've come in contact with who is just trying to "sell them!" When you get their name, repeat it. "Mary, it's great to meet you." Don't just say, "Oh, it's nice to meet you." They have given you their name. They have given you a gift. Treat it as if it is very special to you.
•Shake their hand, look them directly in the eye and focus on just their name.
•When you hear their name, repeat it. "Mary it's great to meet you." This helps to reinforce their name.
•Use their name.
•Make it a top priority. "Focus" on only them and their name. You can't "connect" with them if you can't remember their name.
•You must build rapport quickly! You can tell everyone you greet that, "I'm here to make this easy, painless and fun! My job is to do all of the work so that you have none of the worry!" And remember that "help me out" are instant bonding words. Humans are wonderful. Everyone wants to help. By asking for their help, you have now become "buds." "We’re doing this together. We’re a team." You’ve just built instant rapport.
•Let them know how you work. Tell them, "the way that I work with my clients is...." Don’t tell them "the way I "like" to work with my clients is..." Just by inserting that one little word (like), the entire meaning changes. Walter and Louise don’t care what you would like. It sounds like you’re giving them an option. Also, without the "like" your words become a statement of fact.
Tips For Bedding Sales - 14 Reasons To Ask Probing Questions
by Ron Wolinski
1. To ask the customer's permission to probe: "Mind if I ask you why you feel that way about innerspring mattresses?"
2. To get information (customer needs, concerns, circumstances): "What concerns do you have about looking for a new mattress?"
3. To create a professional image: For example: "Just so that we make sure that we work together to find you the sleep set that best meets your needs, I'd like to ask you a few questions. How does that sound to you?"
4. To save the customer time and trouble: For example, "In order not to waste your precious time, I'd like to ask you a couple of questions. OK?"
5. To check for understanding (your own and the customer's)
6. To sell add-ons such as pillows.
7. To make the customer feel important.
8. To give information.
9. Get the customer to "think about it" in your store before they turn to you and say, "We'd like to go out for lunch and think about it."
10. To bring the sale to a conclusion, that is, to win the customer's commitment.
11. To answer a question with a question to stay in control of the sale.
12. To answer an objection with a question.
13. To clarify a customer's statement.
14. To ask for the customer's help, especially at the beginning of a sale: For example. "To get you started, I'd like to ask you a few questions, all right?"
There are two basic types of probing techniques, each with different objectives. The first type is the "open probe," which invites the customer to speak his/her mind in their own words. This approach allows the customer to freely express their experiences, values, emotions and concerns. This technique begins with words like "what... when...where... why... who... how... explain... describe..." These key questions encourage the customer to reveal whatever is on his/her mind.
The second type of probe is a "closed probe," which allows you to direct the customer. You choose the subject of discussion. The answers to these probes are a simple "yes" or "no," or a choice of alternatives which you supply. This allows you to focus on areas which you want to discuss. For example, if you ask the question, "What's important to you in a mattress?" you've used an open probe, leaving the customer free to discuss anything he/she chooses. Closed probes, on the other hand, are the best approaches for dealing with unresponsive customers, allowing you to literally pull out information with "yes/no" questions. Some examples of closed probes are:
Are you looking for a pillow top or tight top mattress? Is sagging at the edge a problem? Do you have a queen size set now? Are you often too hot or too cold on your present mattress? Would you prefer a king or queen set? Does your partner disturb you when he/she turns or rolls over? By utilizing professional probing techniques and listening carefully to the answers, you will truly establish yourself as a home furnishings consultant who finds what's important, fills those needs with the benefits of a product and makes specific recommendations. Now you're solving, not pitching.
Tips For Bedding Sales - More Probing Questions
by Peter Marino
Probing is the skill by which the salesperson gathers information and finds out the customer's levels of need. Mixed in with the idea of need are the customer's concerns: their hopes, their fears, their doubts. Secondarily, but still important, probing can be used to obtain the customer's commitment. There are two kinds of probes, closed and open.
Closed probes are used in three different ways.
1. To win a simple yes or no, but without intending to win confirmation of a need or agreement from the customer. Some examples are:
• First time in our store?
• Did you see our ad?
2. To win a yes or a no in order to confirm the customer's need or to win his agreement.
• So what you're looking for is a mattress that'll last a long time, right?
• Let's see if I have this right. You would buy a queen size sleep set, if you were sure it will go up the stairs to your apartment?
3. To win the customer's buy-in through an alternate of choice.
• Want to take it with you or do you want us to deliver it?
• Have you decided on a mattress with or without the pillow top sir?
Note that while the alternate of choice is most often used as a closing technique, it is also helpful in other phases of the sale. For example, a store receptionist might ask a customer after welcoming her: "Would you like me to direct you to the bedding department or would you prefer I get a salesperson to take you there?
Open probes are meant to encourage the customer to talk freely as shown in the following examples.
• Mind telling me why you are replacing your present mattress?
• I'd appreciate knowing what about your present mattress makes you feel uncomfortable.
Note that with the exception of the interrogative words How and Why, the others like What, Where, and When can introduce either open or closed probes. The following examples help to illustrate this.
• What made you so unhappy with the mattress you purchased the last time? (Answer: Let me tell you what that good for nothing sold me. La-di-da-di-da.)
• When did you first notice that? (Answer: Where do I begin? La-di-da-di-da.)
The best rule is to use the probe the situation calls for. When selling sleepsets, for example, the salesperson must quickly use closed probes for specific information: "What size? Is this for you or for the guest bedroom? Mattress, boxspring, and frame? Will you be taking this with you today? What have you seen elsewhere so far that you really like? How much were they asking for it?"
But once the salesperson has that specific information he must ask open probes: "What's wrong with your present set? What are you looking for in your next set?"
Corporate trainer, educator and speaker Dr. Peter A. Marino has written extensively on sales training techniques and their furniture retailing applications. Scores of his articles are posted to the "Sales Skill Index" on furninfo.com. He is available for in-store training, and speaking.
View all articles by Peter A. Marino