Every year, during the Executive Forum and Fly-In, a delegation of member executives from Plumbing Manufacturers Intl. (PMI) travels to Washington...
Following professional etiquette can help you make the sale
We have heard it time and again from salespeople and managers that the customers don’t give them the respect they deserve. The question is, is their respect inadvertently squandered? Let’s take a look at a few points of etiquette and see how we stack up.
First, we need to show respect by being on time and looking good. Your customers want to deal with professionals, scruffy looks or getting to the appointment late kills respect immediately.
You may not have thought about this one, but parking in the driveway could lead to at least three undesirable situations. First, you could run over the family pet, toys or other items as you pull in. This is a deal breaker before you even begin. Second, your car could drip oil or other fluids on the driveway surface, and this is a serious customer turn off. Third, if people in the home come and go during the demo, you will have to move your vehicle and interrupt or prematurely end the demonstration.
When you are invited into customers’ homes, be very careful with their doors and floors. You must show respect from the moment you arrive. We have seen salespeople open the door using the edge of their sales kit as a wedge, possibly scratching a door the customer values. Be sure to remove your shoes. Don’t ask if you should as the customers may be too timid to say they want that. Nothing kills a sale like leaving black marks on a customer’s carpet, so why take a chance? Take the lead and take off your shoes.
Here is an old-fashioned one. We suggest you call customers by their formal titles until they give you permission to use more familiar terms. No matter what their age, they may not want you to call them “guys” or use their first names. Above all, never shorten the name they give you. For example, if your customer says her name is Debora, never call her Deb or Debbie.
Sometimes we accidentally shoot ourselves in the foot by using words that cause trouble or stir emotions. For example, many salespeople will tell the couple that their children or grandchildren will enjoy the water. What if they don’t have children and it is a sore point for them? What if they don’t have grandchildren, and are insulted that you assumed they were grandparents? Obviously, stay away from sex, politics and religion, but the list of dangerous topics is much bigger. For example, don’t talk about specific interests and hobbies unless you know the customer is interested in them too. Overall, use your best judgement, and remember, it doesn’t hurt to be extra careful.
When you begin any demo or installation, never open your kit and put it on the counter without asking for permission first. Never put it directly on the counter, but place a freshly laundered towel under it. It only takes a grain of sand under the kit to scratch an expensive countertop and not only end the sale, but incur unnecessary company expenses. Also, make sure you have a plastic protector sheet to put down beside your kit. You have to be a very good salesperson to get a sale when you have left a big red mark on the counter by spilling a drop of reagent.
Be extra careful that children or pets don’t eat or touch dangerous chemicals and other items while you are touring the plumbing or doing a black light test in the bathroom.
Be careful not to push up too hard on the faucet when attaching your mini. Plastic faucets can snap off, and that will certainly dampen your customers’ spirits. Also, be careful not to drench your customers with water or scare them with the popping noise when you blow the hose off the faucet by making the water flow too fast through the mini.
The condition of your mini-lab speaks volumes of your pride and respect for the product. If your glassware is chipped, dirty or missing, the message you are conveying is that you didn’t care enough to be prepared, and no excuse will make up for that impression. Respect for the equipment and the customer is integral to the presentation.
Many salespeople are now using mixed media mini conditioners to show that their conditioner removes chlorine. Remember to only use these minis on chlorinated water. If you use a mini with carbon on a well and bacteria is introduced into the mini, that bacteria is now in an environment that is ideal for growth. When you get to the next home, you could be carrying a lot more than you think into the home. Never leave your mini open to the atmosphere, and you may want to rinse it with peroxide or bleach occasionally. If you work both rural and municipal markets, you need to have two minis.
Many salespeople and dealers do not realize that the law requires you to carry Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for every chemical in your kit. The MSDS provide essential information about handling the chemicals and what to do in the event of spills, ingestion, etc. Many in our industry fail to realize that our kits contain chemicals that are governed by strict safety laws.
As we do the three cup test, the taste test, the tea bag test and many other interesting demonstrations, we tend to use a lot of cups. None of your customers appreciates it if the kitchen is a mess after you leave. Show respect by bringing your own cups and taking them away. Also, don’t leave garbage from your demo. If you tear pillows or open containers, take them with you. Always leave their kitchen cleaner than when you arrived.
You have to show respect to get respect. Your respect, likability and creditability will earn their trust. Without it, there will be no sale or referrals. Respect is the mark of a true professional. wqp