Laundry: Asking the right questions

Don’t assume what the customer wants when it comes to their laundry appliances, suggest the team at T21

Recently T21 conducted some research.

To be fair, it wasn’t very scientific: we just asked everyone in the office which top three features were most important to them when buying a new washing machine. Each feature was scored with three points, two points or one depending on its priority and then we wrote them all up on the Big Board in felt tip pen.

What we thought would happen would be that one or two features would rise to the top of the list easily, thus proving that there are common factors which influence every customer’s washing machine purchase, creating a set of assumptions or ‘rules’ that can be relied upon by today’s multi-skilled salespeople. And that’s what this article was originally going to be about.

However, when the results were compiled, no such commonality presented itself. No doubt the marketing departments of every white goods manufacturer in the world have conducted much better research over the decades and maybe they show something different. However, we were quite astonished by the sheer variety of our team’s laundry expectations.

There were a few oddball answers: “lots of dials and flashing lights” for example, and “a really big window so I can watch it all go round”, and there were a few which had been expected, such as “Dedicated programmes for washing trainers”, “A quieter spin cycle”, “A big drum for big loads” and “A Woolmark Green certified woollen wash”, but there was a raft of other requirements which scored equally high points, and when challenged on the importance of such things, those who’d requested them were very passionate in their defence.

Foamy bubbles were popular, as were allergen-cleansing programmes, eco-start modes and the ability to add additional load to the wash mid-cycle. In fairness, we’d expected these to show up, but only as secondary to what we thought of as ‘common features’. We weren’t expecting them to have equal priority. Some people didn’t even know that these features existed, so they asked to change their vote, which caused even more chaos.

Does this information help us from a sales training perspective?

Well, yes it does. For one thing, it illustrates that you can’t assume what a customer wants. Peoples’ needs vary greatly and there are enough feature options across the product range nowadays that every whim can be catered for, which means in turn that sales people must work hard to narrow down and recommend the right product choices at an early stage of the sales conversation. Spend too long waffling around and your customer will leave.

Which means that you have to ask the right questions. It’s the only way you’re going to accurately discover exactly what your customer wants from their appliance and which compelling features are going to be the best ones to demonstrate.

If the simplicity of this sounds a tad underwhelming, then think about what we mean by ‘the right questions’. Asking how much someone wants to spend, for example, isn’t always the right question because not every customer knows how much they need to spend to get what they want. It depends how much research they’ve done beforehand.

Last month in our article on refrigeration we suggested that you ask questions which help to paint a picture of your customer’s lifestyle, so we’d suggest that you employ similar techniques when talking about laundry. Does the family enjoy active sports, for example, or do they have pets? Babies? How frequently are they doing the washing? What would make their laundry routine easier? What would make it less time consuming, less of a chore? If they could do such-and-such, would that make it easier for them? How often have they discovered a lone sock left stranded on the stairs fifteen minutes after closing the door on a load of washing?

Importantly, as our non-scientific poll revealed, it may have been a while since your customer last bought a washing machine or a tumble dryer, so they might not be aware of recent innovations. This, we think, is where you can really wow them, especially if there’s a way to demonstrate how awesome the thing is. However, it only has impact if the feature is relevant to their needs and has a direct benefit, so unless you know what those needs are you’re just working on assumptions, which means that your intended wow-factor might just fizzle out to nothing.

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