In response to requests from Plumbing Manufacturers Intl. (PMI) and its members, as well as from other supporters of the U.S....
Tips on conducting sales appointments with female customers
We all have heard the saying “men are from Mars, women are from Venus,” made famous as the title of John Gray’s 1992 book. The differences between men and women can affect not only our personal lives, but our professional lives as well. In a predominately male industry like water quality, these differences can result in little things that can cost big sales. In Part 1 of this three-part series (“What Women Want,” February 2014), we discussed how to prepare for your sales appointment. This installment will cover what to do — and not do — during the appointment.
Tip #1: Dressing for Success
Dress slacks and a tie are not necessary for this date. A pair of khakis and a polo shirt, preferably with a company logo and your name, however, show professionalism. I also suggest keeping a clean change of clothes in your vehicle. We have a client in Minnesota that requires its service department staff to keep four clean uniforms in their trucks at all times. As a result, they have been highly praised by customers for their clean presentation.
I also recommend a set of booties (shoe cover-ups) to slide on when you walk into the home. If you do not have booties, make sure to wear matching socks — without holes. One time I was training a new sales professional when I noticed the client staring at his socks. I looked down, only to realize he had two different colored socks on. The prospect’s focus was on his socks, not his product.
Slipping on booties or removing your shoes when walking into the home will set an excellent first impression.
Tip #2: Parking Your Chariot
When I started out in the water treatment industry, I accompanied a colleague on an appointment on a rainy day. We parked in the driveway in front of the garage and went to the front door. “Mr. Jones” was home, but “Mrs. Jones” was running late. About five minutes later, a wet and grumpy Mrs. Jones walked in the front door with her arms full of groceries. Now, Mr. Jones did not exactly choose the right words when he asked, “Honey, why are you wet?” Mrs. Jones was not shy to reply that “somebody” (not the title she actually used) had parked in front of her spot in the garage, forcing her to unload her groceries in the pouring rain. She did not pay one bit of attention to us the whole appointment.
I highly recommend parking in the street, especially if your vehicle happens to have any fluid leaks. If you choose to park in the driveway, ask whether the location is OK with the homeowner. And for goodness’ sake — never park in the garage!
Tip #3: Introducing Yourself
Always introduce yourself by full name and company name. A handshake (not too hard, and never the “limp fish” handshake) is important if she seems accepting of the gesture. One client told me she never does business with a man who does not look her in the eye during the introduction, so eye contact is key.
Women are planners, so explaining what you are going to accomplish during your visit (“I will be doing a plumbing assessment, testing your water and then presenting your options”) will keep her from guessing what comes next. I also like to ask what her time frame is for the appointment. This allows you to prepare yourself for a short appointment if she has to pick the kids up from soccer practice.
Tip #4: Personal Space
Often I have trained new sales professionals who are so excited to share their knowledge that they do not realize they are right in the face of the homeowner. Women are sometimes uncomfortable when left alone with a male. Keeping your distance will keep her at ease.
Tip #5: Ask & Listen
Listen! I say this first, because it does not do any good to ask the questions if you do not listen to the answers. Early in the appointment, ask for her concerns with the home’s water, what she likes (and doesn’t like) about her current equipment, and her price range. I usually write these concerns down so I can be sure to address each of them and to verify I am listening. Remember, this is her story and her choice. Her story will assist you in guiding her to the equipment that best suits her needs.
Tip #6: Carry a Towel for Your Test Kit
You have your test kit on the floor of your vehicle. You set it on the ground outside to knock on the door. You set it on the floor while removing your shoes. Where is the next place you set it? Right on the counter where she will be preparing dinner!
Asking permission, then placing a clean white towel on the counter prior to laying your test kit down, demonstrates your respect for her property. I take it a step further by carrying a clean white washcloth inside the kit. I set my testing supplies on the washcloth to protect the counter from the chemicals and stains.
I also recommend keeping your testing supplies clean and free of buildup from previous tests. You would never go to a doctor who used dirty equipment.
Tip #7: Educate
She wants to know what she is paying for and how it works. Explain the tests you are performing, how your equipment works and the full benefits of the equipment you are proposing. Remember to use layman’s terms — most people are not familiar with “RO” and “TDS.”
The soap flask and tea demonstrations are great ways to exhibit benefits. If you are not familiar with these demonstrations, go to www.moti-vitality.com or www.wqpmag.com/videos for instructions. Believe me, she will be explaining all of the above to her friends at the next soccer game.
Tip #8: Be Honest
Always assume you have an NBC Dateline crew filming you. Using scare tactics or being dishonest will not only cause you to lose the sale, but will eliminate the chance for future referrals. Honesty and integrity should always be your No. 1 goal.
Watch for the conclusion of this three-part series in the October issue of Water Quality Products. We will cover the closing and, most importantly, what to do after the sale.