A consultative, solution-based approach is needed for selling cooking appliances, writes the team from T21
How many times does a customer walk into your store, point at a cooker and say: “That’s the one I want, right now,” hand over the cash and be out of your hair in ten minutes?
Once a week? Once a month? Maybe it’s rarer than that. Would it be fair to say that most cooker sales tie you up for a good hour or two each time?
Unlike a TV sale, which may take thirty minutes max (an hour if the customer is incredibly indecisive), cooker sales can be extremely involved.
One reason for this is because cookers tend to be long-term purchases, which means on the one hand if your customer hasn’t bought an oven for a few years there may be quite a raft of new features which need explaining. We were recently impressed with the advances made in self-cleaning technology. How did it work? What were the differences between pyrolytic and catalytic self-cleaners? Which one was better? We demanded explanations and demonstrations! And even though induction hobs have been out for a while now, we’re still amazed by them. There’s nothing which wows the geekier members of our team more than a great induction hob demo.
Secondly, long-term purchases tend to be more considered. They require some thought. After all, the kitchen is the hub of the home and there are often multiple preferences in play: maybe one half of this charming couple sitting in front of you wants a different kitchen to the more intelligent half (no prizes for guessing which is which) and they start arguing about which cooker they need for it right there in front of you. It’s an important, often emotive investment: the oven, the hob, the extractor, in fact the whole cooking area, needs to be absolutely perfect.
And within budget of course, often a harsh reality-check which may dash the hopes of many an aspirational masterchef. As indeed could your customer’s kitchen ‘situation’, by which we mean their plumbing and electrics, the layout and accessibility of the kitchen itself. What if they really want a gas hob over here by the window but there’s no gas pipe? Or maybe there is but it needs extending from another part of the kitchen and made safe. Maybe this is something you could do but it’s going to cost extra and you’ll have to uproot their lovely floor tiles or dig into their wall. Would they consider an induction hob instead? Maybe they really want a range but there’s no way it is ever going to fit into their shoebox of a kitchen.
Bear in mind that you shouldn’t just point out problems without suggesting solutions: this is where you should shine, bringing your expertise, your knowledge and your problem-solving abilities into play. Not to mention your diplomatic skills.
And maybe, after a couple of hours spent working through their options, preferences and budget, a rethink is required, which may take days, even weeks. What happens then? Nobody wants to send their lovely customers home with a hundredweight of brochures, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. If that happens, you need to have established such a great relationship with them that they’ll definitely come back to you once they’ve done their rethink.
What if the cooker installation is part of a larger kitchen refurbishment? A longer-term project which your delivery and installation schedule doesn’t sit so well with, particularly if there are delays elsewhere in the project that are out of your hands? What if you need to be on the phone, regularly engaging with the installation guys, the warehouse, maybe even the manufacturer because the project has been delayed or changed and the cooker install needs be altered?
If there’s any part of the shop floor which requires a consultative, solution-based approach to selling then it’s cooker sales.
There are many ways to define the consultative sell and it’s often a misused term, but for us it’s all about the customer and the type of dialogue and relationship you have with them. It’s about spending time questioning customers to understand precisely their needs and preferences, and their aspirations. It’s about understanding their situation thoroughly, calling upon your expertise to recommend the perfect solution and selling it, not simply advising.
Knowing your product is clearly critical, but going further than that it’s about having the intelligence, authority and management skills to make that solution happen, to deal smartly with any issues that arrive before, during and even after the sale because that’s where you make the difference.
The best cooker sales-people are part seller, part project manager, part kitchen designer, part counsellor, part tyrant. Probably the last thing you’re doing is selling a box off the shelf – but then where’s the fun in that anyway?