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Lisbiz strategies: When wooing customers, focus on the ‘experience’

June 10/17, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 26

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Everyone talks about the customer experience, but few know what it actually is. It goes way beyond reciting a pleasant greeting when a consumer calls or offering assistance when she ultimately enters your store.

Customer service today is essentially about delivering a memorable experience for the consumer throughout the entire purchasing process. Why is this so important? According to a study published by the Temkin Group, companies that earn $1 billion annually can expect to earn, on average, an additional $700 million within three years of investing in improving the customer experience. Not only is this a significant return on your investment, but it goes a long way in improving your relationships with your customers. Which, in turn, brings more repeat business—and so on.

Following are some actions you can take to improve the customer experience in your store:

Be clear on what really matters. If being on time is an important value, make sure everyone understands and adheres to it. By being consistent is one way you can show your customers you care. Continually discuss what matters, monitor to see that every- one is following the rules. Furthermore, check to see if the rule is creating any problems.

Know your customers better. When it comes to improving your customer relationships, one size does not fit all. If you are finding problems with your policies, it’s likely you’re not clear on who your customers are and what they need. One way to find out if you’re on track are customer surveys. If you ask them what they need they’re likely to let you know.

Get your customers to love you more. Remember, the customer doesn’t love products— she loves the people who provide the products. Statistics provided by the Journal of Consumer Research showed more than 50% of an experience is based on an emotion. In other words, if I feel good about working with you, it’s likely you have produced a positive emotion. It may be as simple as sending the customer a hand-written thank-you note after the completion of the sale or something a little more impactful such as sending the customer flowers after the sale.

Stay on top of customer feedback. When I go to business websites, I often see unhappy customer comments that have been on the site for years. Ask customers for testimonials and continually post them on your website.

Use social media to create a great customer experience. Post new products on your Facebook page and ask visitors for their opinions. If this is new to you, or you’re not comfortable with these tools, get someone to help you. It’s likely your competitors are already doing this. Don’t give them an unchallenged advantage.

Make your business a community hub. Everyone is looking for something to do, so why can’t your place be that destination? You can show movies, arrange fun get-togethers or even have someone conduct Zumba/yoga classes in your store. If it were me, I would have the farmers market in my parking lot. Find out what will draw customers to your store and go for it.

Think creatively. There are no rules for what you can do to attract more people to your store. Continue to recreate your own customer experiences. You’ll quickly discover what works, although you may have to do them more than once to achieve the desired effect.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business, or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Lisbiz strategies: TISE 2020 education—Behind the scenes

May 27/June 3, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 25

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

I recently returned from the TISE 2020 educational planning meeting in Irving, Texas. This is the third year I’ve been chosen to be on the committee. It’s interesting to find out what the attendees think of the prior education tracks and what seminars they would like to see moving forward. This information helps us determine the types of seminars to present in 2020.

As Katie Thompson, senior content and project manager and program moderator, stated: “The importance of the feedback from the participants from 2019 can’t be understated. It gives us an idea of what is important and what we should keep or eliminate. Having different industry professionals get together for a day and a half gives them an opportunity to share their expertise and great ideas.”

TISE is known for its grand exhibition, but the education program is considered an integral part of the show as well. The educational classes start the day before the show opens so it doesn’t detract from traffic on the show floor. In fact, the more savvy manufacturers use the classes to drive attendees back to their booths when the trade show opens. At Surfaces 2019, several manufacturers sponsored seminars and were involved in the design and presenting of these seminars. The participants’ comments indicate the attendees liked having the manufacturers present and be part of the education program.

The education committee is also an opportunity for industry professionals to get to know each other. Since many of the professionals come from different parts of the industry, this is probably the only time they get to share ideas and learn from each other.

So, what’s on tap for next year’s educational seminars? Installation, for sure. During our talks, we were challenged to come up with more ways to showcase the installation trade. Included in that discussion are the fabricators, who are often overlooked at the show. Both groups share a common concern of how to find new business. The subject of helping installers take better care of their physical health, namely their knees and backs, was a major concern for the group. Providing seminars for installers and fabricators on how they can differentiate themselves from the competition was also discussed at the meeting.

Developing more sessions for interior designers was also discussed and supported by the participants. Manufacturers as well as retailers are interested in finding ways to network with them, and Surfaces is a great place to make it happen. Providing CEUs for ASID could help drive traffic among this key target group. Another idea is to give the designers a platform and competition for them to showcase their skills.

One suggestion was to have industry experts make themselves available in the halls to answer questions. These industry experts can be retailers, manufacturers, installers and consultants. We have people who can tell you how to get around the show—why not have “hall monitors” to answer specific questions on marketing, retailing, installation or showroom design? It is useful and would add another fun element to the show.

Participants also agreed that more networking programs couldn’t hurt. In fact, it was suggested that attendees get “matched” before the show and then follow up to meet at the show. That could get interesting.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Lisbiz strategies: How to make the most of TISE after the show

February 4/11, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 18

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Surfaces is a great time to catch up with friends and customers. It makes me aware of how important people are in my life even if I only see them once a year. Thank goodness for social media.

This year I decided I would take away information from Surfaces that will be useful until next year. That means new people, new products and new ideas.

I picked up as load of magazines and sent them home. Keeping up on new products is difficult; I’m interested in trends and what architects and designers are thinking. The concept of “aging in place” is a tremendous opportunity for our industry. I hope you are attending local classes.

There is another designation called “Age Safe America.” I just took the class; it is very insightful. It’s important you know what kinds of flooring are safe for customers who are planning on staying in their homes long term. If you want to know more about it, reach out and I can give you a course discount. I will be teaching a course on “aging in place” in Albany in March.

When I found out I didn’t have to walk miles to get my badge I was elated. Could this be any easier? The layout with the speakers and the press made it easy to network and talk with people. The meeting rooms were close by and the rooms had sofas and chairs in the front row. It was like talking with people in my living room. Normally I would be spending my time looking for my meeting room and rushing around. I had less stress and more time to meet and talk—my favorite things. Hats off to Katie Thompson, senior content and project manager, The Design Group | Global Exhibitions and all those at Informa for making it easier to navigate the education sessions.

This year I took photos of certain displays and posted them on social media and asked friends what they thought. There were lots of comments from attendees and others who just follow my posts. I forget that flooring is very fashionable, and who doesn’t like fashion? Since I’m teaching a class for realtors and retailers, “The Value of Historic Homes,” I spent time looking at products that could be suitable for period homes. I live in a historic area in Albany, N.Y., called Hudson Park. My neighbors are always asking me what flooring and paint colors they should use in their homes. Reach out to realtors and ask if you can show flooring at one of their internal trainings.

Many of the floors in period homes are old and elegant so sand and finish or screen and recoat is often the solution. If there is extreme damage, a new floor is called for. I found some perfect “historic” flooring and will bring some samples to class. By the way, if you’re in the Albany area and want to attend any of my realtor classes, just let me know and get my schedule. I teach an all-day product knowledge class that is well attended by realtors. This is a great place to network. Teaching these classes has made me more aware of flooring fashion as well as the technical aspects. I am also teaching the “Historic Homes” class in Rochester, N.Y., on March 27. If you live in New York and would like to host one of these classes, let me know.

Despite the long days on my feet, TISE never ceases to amaze me. Thanks to the industry and how hard everyone works to make TISE a success.

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Lisbiz strategies: Learning opportunities abound at TISE 2019

January 21/28, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 17

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

For the last couple of years, I’ve been a part of The International Surface Event (TISE) education committee. For two days, we review proposals and discuss trends. It’s a ton of decisions to make in a very short time. I love being part of this process and listening to all the ideas. Attending the show is like seeing it all come together.

TISE 2019 comprises three world-class tradeshows: Surfaces, StonExpo/Marmomac and TileExpo. TISE is the largest North American floor covering, stone and tile event in the industry. I’ve been attending Surfaces for more than 20 years, but I still get excited thinking about it. Every year, the Informa Exhibitions marketing department puts on their creative caps to come up with a new theme. I love this year’s education theme: Converge.

According to Informa, “The new Converge education program at TISE will offer the industry a whole new way to gain training, knowledge and information. With flexible scheduling allowing for the busy trade show atmosphere, persona interest groups (Creatives, Suits and Hammer & Nails) for immersive, targeted discussions and the freedom to pass freely between session topics to gain exactly the knowledge attendees are seeking.”

So what do you want learn? Many of you have told me a real issue is what technology should you be using to connect with your customer? Another issue is how do you train your salespeople on the same technology? Every business needs a competitive advantage, and that’s what you can get at TISE 2019. This is the age of the consumer. Take this opportunity to learn as much as you can to connect with them.

I suggest you work in as much education as possible and take tons of photos of new products to post on social media with your customer. I can almost guarantee you will have an order by the time you get home. If you’re still not sure how to use your social media or upload photos, check out one of the seminars taking place at the show that can get you up to speed.

This is the time to get dressed up, put on your best face and enjoy this wonderful show. It probably sounds silly, but I always have tears in my eyes when I first look at the show floor. It requires so much effort on the part of so many people to execute.

I am honored to be part of the Converge program, and I will be speaking at the following seminars: “7 Techniques to Talk Crazy Customers (or anyone else) Off the Ledge,” Tues., Jan. 22, 8 a.m.-9 a.m., and “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace,” alongside attorney Jeffrey King. This seminar takes place on Wed., Jan. 23, 9:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m. King will talk about legal implications, and I will discuss how to create a civil workplace.

As a speaker, I never have enough time to get to all the seminars, but it’s important for me to learn from other industry experts. I love the Hammer & Nails category. Just like you, I’m interested in what’s new in the installation area. I will get to one of the Creatives. You know fashion is my passion, so I’ll have to find what colors are hot and what’s in and what’s out. I am also teaching continuing education classes to realtors this year, and color and style is one of my courses.

Don’t forget to pack those comfy shoes, an additional cell phone charger, a couple of energy bars and get some extra sleep. Book those important appointments and don’t forget to make dinner plans with those friends you only see once a year. See you there.

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Lisbiz strategies: Customer testimonials are a virtual gold mine

January 7/14, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 16

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

According to Maria Dean of conversionlifters.com, testimonials and word of mouth are the driving force behind 20%-50% of all purchasing decisions, yet only about one-third of businesses are actively seeking and collecting customer reviews on an ongoing basis.

I recently conducted a workshop on the value of reviews and testimonials. When I asked the group how they used the reviews and testimonials, they said they assumed they received referrals from them. It seems like asking for referrals is something you do. However, no one has a strategy for using them. The reviews sit on the platforms waiting for something to happen.

Statistics tell us that at least 73% of consumers go online and look for reviews before they shop. Therefore, the more reviews you have the better.

Consumers perceive reviews are true, and your platform profiles enhance SEO. Any good feedback will help your business improve. Yes, there are crazy customers out there who can find problems with any situation. Responding to them can repair a bad relationship or help address a bad situation. Reviews can be fake, and some people just love causing trouble. You will still have to respond to them. You should always make sure you have 15 positive reviews that keep changing. Reviews that are five years old really don’t help you.

Let’s talk about testimonials. When you ask for a testimonial, it’s valuable to find out about the customer’s business. Not all customers will have a business but the ones that do can become an important business partner. On my site, I put the logo above their testimonial and then thank them for their testimonial. Think about how great it looks to the next customer reading the testimonial.

You can tell your customer you would like to put her testimonial on twitter and then ask if she would mind liking and retweeting it to her followers.

Where do you get your testimonials? Your installers have the best opportunity to get valuable video testimonials. When the customer tells the installer how beautiful the floor looks, this is an opportunity to ask her if she’d let you video the testimonial. Some customers will decline, which is fine. You can be sure the ones who agree are glad you asked them and love being in front of the camera.

Don’t forget to get a signed release from the customer stating you are allowed to use the testimonial online and as part of your marketing. These testimonials can also go on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. The more places you can share it the better.

Let’s talk about video testimonials and your installers. Installation is the key to our business, so a customer raving about the installer and the product is worth a ton more than you can imagine. It would be great if you could take a photo of the product, the installation, the installer and the customer.

Here is another testimonial that will get you considerable mileage: Have one of your better customers review one of your new products. Let’s say you come back from a product show and find an unusual product. Call up that great customer and give her enough products to test it. She could install a piece or get it dirty and then clean it. After she “test drives” it she can write a review for your website.

Great idea, right? It wasn’t mine. Two years ago I was asked to try out a magnificent area rug and write a review about it. And what did I get? The area rug.

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Lisbiz strategies: Resolve to do better in the coming year

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

No matter how old I get, I still like the idea of New Year’s Resolutions. There is something about it that makes it fun and gives me something to look forward to. This year I have decided to be very specific. I will spend time learning how to get closer to my customers.

The only way this will happen is if I change the things that make me uncomfortable. I have to change my attitude and outlook. There are certain things I fight—much of it has to do with changing social media. I learn it and then things change and I’m lost.

I admit to having a new desktop computer that I rarely use. The one I like is 10 years old and it is likely to quit any day. (Yes, everything is saved to an external drive.) It turns out I love the keyboard, so why not just change them out?

Another resolution is to learn how to present power point from my iPhone. Unfortunately, neither the Geek Squad nor the Apple store has anyone who knows how to do this. I met a young man at one of the computer stores who said he will teach himself how to do it and then set up a course for me. He said he has had several people ask him how to do it.

My web developer suggested I do short, weekly podcasts and ask for donations. What? He has someone who is doing it and has a huge following. Will I have a huge following? I do not know but it is time to find out if anyone out there is really listening. I will also step up my YouTube and Twitter posts.

I am embarrassed to admit that it took me six months to decide to learn how to enter a customer’s name into my Follow Your Customer account. (Follow Your Customer is a powerful post-sale marketing tool no one should be without.) I just did not want to learn it; it was not easy and I prefer easy. Follow Your Customer has been one of the most valuable investments I have ever made when it comes to connecting with my customers.

Your customers want to hear from you and be part of your life, but it will never happen if you do not stay in touch. Have you ever heard that consistency is the best salesmanship? Consistency is surely the best customer service. It is time to stop and acknowledge that customers have tremendous power over us. Their choices are endless and they have no reason to be loyal. We are only as good as our last blog or Twitter post. We have heard over and over again the value of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Are you maximizing your relationship with these social sites? I know I can do better.

We all say we want more customers, but are you invested in doing what it takes to obtain them? It takes time and effort to build a following. I look at my number of followers and realize ‘they own me.’ It has taken time for us to connect and it’s time I give back.

It is important to understand customers are worth money. They buy my products and have expectations about our relationship. It is exciting to know customers want to hear what you have to say, and they are willing to follow you.

I love my customers—it is time to show them how much. What about you?

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Lisbiz strategies: Fighting fiery situations with cool temperament

November 26/December 3, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 12

By Lisbeth Calandrino

The other night a friend and I were having dinner at a local restaurant. All of a sudden, I hear a male customer yelling at the top of his lungs: “I’ve been insulted by the waitress; I don‘t have to take this!” He kept at it as the waitress tried to calm him down, but nothing seemed to help. Then the owner came out and the argument continued. The customer’s wife began crying, and the man huffed off to his car. His crying wife got her meal to go.

Apparently, the customer was cleaning his teeth with dental floss right at the table, and the people at a nearby table complained. It seemed everyone was upset, including two waitresses and the owner. The more they tried to calm the customer, the more he yelled. Nothing was working.

I talked with the waitress. She said she told the customer he was upsetting the other people, and he needed to stop cleaning his teeth. This set him into a rage. Maybe he felt wronged and humiliated. Who knows? But wouldn’t it have been easier to move the complaining couple to a different part of the dining room?

Many people feel anger is dangerous, and if they confront it they will also be out of control. One of the conditioned responses is a feeling of fear, which often stems from having been around angry parents or other adults when we were children. This makes us believe confrontation is dangerous. The thinking goes: If I’m angry, I’ll lose control, just like my father and mother. Being exposed to this as a young child produces a conditioned response and feelings of fear when we’re around anger or confrontation.

Anger is tricky. How you feel about it has a lot to do with how you handle it. Do you want to go and hide? Do you start to sweat, get furious or ignore it?

When it comes to conflict resolution, sometimes the best solution is finding a way to de-escalate the problem by letting the aggrieved person have their say and empathize with them. The theory is people just want to be heard and acknowledged.

Situations such as these can be unpredictable, and you never know what will happen once you open your mouth. We live in a society where situations can quickly turn violent. Here’s my advice: Whenever possible, look for differences in opinions rather than who’s wrong and who’s right. If I had been sitting next to Mr. Floss, I think I would have just said I would like to move. My feeling is there was no reason to confront him or take sides. No matter how wrong the person is, taking sides only heats up the argument. The real problem started when the waitress told the man he was upsetting the other patrons. Other than bad manners, what was the man guilty of?

The moral of the story is, whatever happens, don’t take it personally. When you are trying to litigate a situation, taking sides will only exacerbate things. Show empathy to the injured party. This means understanding their feelings, although you might not agree with them. The waitress could have told the annoyed party that she understood this might be upsetting, and she would be happy to move them. Instead, the waitress summoned both the boss and the owner and confronted Mr. Floss.

When dealing with angry customers in your business—and hopefully that’s the exception rather than the rule—it’s best to focus less energy on who’s right and wrong and more attention on putting out the fire to begin with. Remember—there’s always another way.

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Lisbiz strategies: Expanding your client base can reap rewards

October 29/November 5, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 10

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Everyone says they need new customers. The question is, where do you find them? Looking for individual customers is really the hard way. Instead of looking for one or two new customer, it’s easier and more efficient if you look for “industry partners” who use your products. After attending the Remodeling and Deck Expo in Baltimore (FCNews, Oct 15/22), I’m thoroughly convinced flooring owners should be networking with people in the building industry and attending this conference. Why just connect with one or two builders or remodelers in your area? Why not look for ways to connect on a larger scale?

Let’s talk about the real estate industry. Realtors are always interested in new customers. Who do you know that has more connections with consumers than those in the real estate business? I think this is a winning group for you, but you’ve got to “work it,” as they say.

Through the years, I have spoken at real estate offices about flooring products and trends. Usually these meetings are small (about 10-15 agents). Regardless, they are always excited to learn about new products.

This past year I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Greater Capital Association of Realtors (GCAR). As one of the largest realtor associations in the U.S., the group represents more than 10,000 members from Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County, Md., as well as industry-related professionals who follow the real estate business. Frankly, I never thought this would be anything more than a one-time speaking opportunity. After the event, Debbie Isom, director of professional development, spoke with me about becoming certified to teach. I started thinking, would this industry be interested in flooring on a larger scale?

The certification was quite a process. You are required to have a certain number of points that support your expertise and ability to teach. You get additional points for being in the real estate business. Our first class was filled. In fact, we had to turn people away at the door. Who would have thought so many people would be interested in flooring? They actually thought it was fascinating. Attendees received continuing education credits.

We are about to offer our second class— Nov. 7–9, in Malta, N.Y., and Mohawk Industries has agreed to sponsor our event. Why am I telling you this? This is a huge opportunity for you to build some great connections. I’m not suggesting you get certified to teach an event, although this is an option. The requirements for certification are different for each state. You can probably connect with instructors in your state and talk with them about a flooring class and all you have to do is help them write a course in flooring.

Furthermore, you can host this event in your business, invite builders, interior designers, kitchen designers, home inspectors or anyone in the real estate industry and consumers. Imagine the event you can hold; you will be able to fill your showroom with lots of new faces and potential customers. FYI, several of our participants in my last class were consumers who were considering purchasing new flooring.

Why not use this as an opportunity to start your own networking group? It’s a great chance for a flooring dealer to get connected in the building industry. Furthermore, why not include your local flooring association and the World Floor Covering Association? Think big!

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Lisbiz strategies: Finding new customers in unlikely places

October 15/22, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 9

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

I have a therapist friend whose favorite expression is, “You can’t get chocolate milk in a turnip field.” It may sound silly, but if you’re looking for something specific, you had better know where to find it.

Looking for new business should be on the top of everyone’s list, but I realize it takes some time and effort. Like many retail owners, I’m time-starved so I get it. But this year I’ve been reintroduced to opportunities in the building and remodeling industry. This is an industry that directly connects to the flooring business. For many of you, it’s your bread and butter business.

I recently spoke at the Leading Suppliers Conference (LSC) in Portland, Ore. The LSC was established by the National Association of Home Builders in 1964. The conference serves as a multifaceted supplier resource for the building industry that represents the business interests of its members through advocacy, education and networking. I understood how important this connection was when I realized how many of their members operate in the flooring space.

In addition, I presented a talk on coaching at the Remodeling and Deck Expo in Baltimore earlier this month. The show is managed by Informa Exhibitions, the same folks behind TISE. If you’ve attended this event, you know Informa Exhibitions understands how to put on a great show. While preparing my seminars, I thought, “I don’t come from the remodeling or decking industry. What could I teach them about their business?”

I decided to tell them that no matter what the industry, all businesses have three things in common: How do we make money? How do we hire good people to help us make money? How do we keep them?

Following the seminar, several business owners came up to talk to me about their companies. I felt accepted and that my information was useful to them. The lesson learned here is, if you can establish commonalities with people you’re on the road to building connections.

As a retailer, if you’re seriously looking for new business, consider partnering up with some of your customers. Look for those businesses that are in a position to help you get more business and you can reciprocate. In my mind, the remodeling sector represents a great fit. Findings reported by Metrostudy—a firm that provides market insights to help builders, developers, financial institutions, manufacturers and retailers make informed strategic business decisions, deploy investment capital and improve risk management—predicts this coming year will be great for anyone in the remodeling and building trades.

As a recent market summary showed: “The strong economy and increased demand because of 2017’s natural disasters led Metrostudy, a sister company to Remodeling, to boost its 2018 prediction from the 4.7% rise in activity it forecast three months ago. Metrostudy now predicts there will be 12.57 million projects launched in 2018 that are worth at least $1,000. That’s up from 11.96 million last year.” (As I sat down to write this article, Hurricane Michael had just made landfall in Florida. There may be more business than some retailers can handle.)

Bottom line: Remodelers and builders are your customers; they need your help. Why not start calling builders to attend one of their meetings and find out what they need? Think of how excited your customers will be when they see you’re networking with their builders and understanding the trends in ‘their ‘worlds.

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Lisbiz strategies: Info-based dialogue sets sales process in motion

September 3/10, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 6

By Lisbeth Calandrino

There are various types of conversations we all use to function in everyday life. When attempting to converse, whether person to person or in a group or organization, it is essential to understand the different types of conversations and how each type functions.

Informational conversation is what most people would define as conversing. It is the type of conversation that “gets beyond the gate keeper,” and this is important when it comes to establishing a level of trust or rapport before making a sale.

Informational conversation concentrates on exchanging facts and/or pieces of common information. These facts can be correct or incorrect but, most importantly, they are free of opinion or feeling from either of the participants. It is a low-risk conversation in that it reveals little or nothing about those involved.

The basic, informal “hello” gives a clear invitation to begin an informational conversation. It acknowledges that someone is responding on the other end of the phone in a polite and direct way. If the person smiles when saying “hello,” the person on the other end will hear the friendliness in the speaker’s voice.

A more formal greeting could do more to orient the caller into the conversation. Saying the company name first gives the caller a better idea of whom she is speaking to—for example, “Discount Carpet, Hillcrest branch, this is Juan, the manager speaking.” The caller is able to confirm she is calling the correct place and speaking to the person who can effectively deal with her problem.

If the caller requests to speak with someone else within the organization, the person answering the phone should reply courteously, “I can get them on the line in just a minute if you are willing to hold.” He then should wait for a response. If the caller agrees to hold, the employee should set the phone down with the speaker directed away from any noise and quietly get the person the caller is waiting for. If the business has phone extensions, he can easily transfer the call to the correct person and thank the caller for waiting.

Advising your sales associate to stop talking may seem counterintuitive to making a sale, but many salespeople often talk excessively and fail to listen to the customer. We often feel that we need to control the conversation, or we will lose the sale. However, the problem with constantly talking is you are unable to truly understand the underlying needs of the customer.

When qualifying a prospect, you are evaluating whether or not she is in a position to decide to buy your product. If you are talking to someone in an organization, it is important to speak only to the person who has the authority to finalize a purchase. If the person is not authorized to make a deal with you, then find out when the person who can close the deal is available and call back. 

Once you have the person with authority on the line, inquire if he or she has the means to close the deal. This may involve finding out information about available funds on credit cards, lines of credit and monthly budget. Informational conversation is a great way to get the ball rolling.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.