Retail Observer

November 2018

The Retail Observer is an industry leading magazine for INDEPENDENT RETAILERS in Major Appliances, Consumer Electronics and Home Furnishings

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NOVEMBER 2018 RETAILOBSERVER.COM 57 H ere's a snapshot of Bob Muenkel's thoughts on the most important factors that contribute to the sale. Bob said he believes the most important part of the sale is qualifying the customer. "If a sales associate can learn how to question consumers thoroughly to determine their wants and needs, that associate is halfway to the sale." He explained that there are two critical factors sales associates need to qualify for: need and desire. A need might be a new mattress for a spare bedroom. A desire might be to get a quality night's sleep. (The difference can be between a $ 599 vs. a $1,999 sale!) "Qualifying customers based on need will help you bring the customer into the store, but qualifying shoppers based on desire will bring them to the order desk." When I asked him to explain the difference, Muenkel said, "When you qualify the customer based on need, you have to determine mattress size and other factors. When will they need the mattress? Will it be the primary sleep system? Will it be used in a spare bedroom? " At this stage, he said, it's nearly impossible to differentiate yourself from your competitors, making it even more critical to gather complete information and to listen carefully to the customer's answers. "Qualifying based on desire is very different. Here, you've successfully diagnosed the customer's sleep problems— something very few sales associates ever do." But that's just the first step, Muenkel explained. A good rule is to then segment sleep problems into two buckets: comfort issues and support issues. Comfort issues can cause delays in falling asleep or excessive tossing and turning, depriving the customer of deep, restorative sleep. Support problems arise when the customer's sleep system isn't maintaining proper spinal alignment, leading to pain, stiffness and soreness. Muenkel recommends that sales associates ask a number of diagnostic questions, such as: • How do you feel when you first wake up in the morning? • When was the last time you enjoyed a really good night's sleep? • Do you wake up in the middle of the night? If so, how often? • Do you sleep on your back, side or stomach? • Do you feel like you need to nap during the day? • Do you feel rested when you wake up? • When was the last time your mattress felt really comfortable? • How long does it take you to fall asleep? • How many hours of sleep do you typically get? "These questions are by no means complete—there are hundreds of questions we could ask related to comfort and support problems. The key is that these questions can help you distinguish yourself from your competitors and close more sales." Muenkel stressed that asking the right questions is just the beginning when qualifying a customer based on desire. "Listening to the answers and knowing what to do is just as important." Sales professionals should always look for evidence of comfort and support problems, or both. "As you talk with the customer, be sure to help them identify their underlying sleep problems, then be ready to formulate a plan that will help the individual customer eliminate their issues. "And the sales associate should always make sure the action plan includes a targeted feature-benefit presentation that directly addresses the specific sleep issues." In conclusion, Muenkel emphasized that when qualifying customers, the goal should be to guide the interaction gently toward a solution-based conversation and a targeted, benefit- based sale. "Always remember that consumers make high-ticket buying decisions when their confidence in the outcome exceeds their fear of making a purchasing mistake," Muenkel said. "Asking diagnostic questions is the necessary first step in selling solutions that give customers confidence in the outcome and help sales associates maintain above-average sales results." Without a qualifying process, sales associates run the risk of becoming order takers. By utilizing these methods to qualify every customer, sales associates can take their sales to higher, more profitable ground. E. Michael Allen – VP Home Furnishings AVB/BrandSource RO

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