Qualifying customers properly

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By Chris Coltran

Having spent more than 28 years in our industry—and having had the opportunity to train tens of thousands of RSAs ranging from highly experienced to brand new—I have seen firsthand so many of the challenges that salespeople deal with on a daily basis.

Of these many challenges, I want to address the qualifying step in the selling process. With so much emphasis put on product knowledge, it’s easy to see why qualifying gets overlooked. Many RSAs just want to start talking about product as soon as possible, because that’s where the majority of their training has been and where they tend to feel the most comfortable.

While talking about products is comfortable for the RSA, it is quite the opposite for the client. Chances are pretty good that your prospect hasn’t purchased flooring in more than 10 years, if at all. So now you are speaking a foreign language to them. To not take a moment to first qualify your client is a big mistake and a huge waste of your time. It’s akin to proposing marriage before first going out on a date!

Time is money. It’s a non-renewable resource that you can’t get back, so be sure to use it wisely. Is your potential client a tire kicker? Or is she someone who intends to make a purchase? Before you know the answer, you first need to qualify her, meaning you need to ask qualifying questions to get to know her better. This can be accomplished by asking the typical “what, where, why, when, who and how” questions. Following is a sampling:

WHAT
What are you looking to purchase?
What features are important to you?
What do you like (or not like) about what you have now?

WHERE
Where is it being installed?
Is it your own home, a rental or investment property?

WHY
Why are you looking to purchase new flooring?
Is it not performing to your satisfaction?
Is it a want or a need?

WHEN
When would you like this project completed by?
Have you been shopping around?

WHO
Who is the decision maker?
Who will use it the most? Pets? Kids?

HOW
How are you planning to pay for this?
Do you have a budget in mind for this project?
Do you need financing?

As you proceed with your line of questioning to qualify the client, it’s important to not confuse the term “qualifying” with “prejudging.” While qualifying is a process designed to glean information through a conversation with a client based on a series of relevant questions, prejudging is when you make a determination about your client based on observations, either visual or verbal, and not on solid information.

Most people have probably been prejudged at some point in their life. These prejudgments are based on frivolous thinks like such as: where we are from, how we talk, where we live, the vehicle we drive, where we work, where we went to school (or if we even went to school), how we dress, our accents or expressions, etc.

In sales, it’s dangerous to qualify your customer by making assumptions based on superficial assessments. Remember, people are all individuals. Believing you can observe a few details about someone and be able to determine their income level, education level or their potential as a client is ludicrous. RSAs should worry less about whether they think their client can afford something and more about showing products that meet the needs of their clients.

In my books, “Selling to your Grandmother” and “Grandmother Philosophy” I encourage retail salespeople to treat every customer as if she were their own grandmother. You wouldn’t lie to her, cheat her or take advantage of her, and you certainly wouldn’t sell her something that you wouldn’t buy. You love your grandmother and you would treat her like your best customer. While you would certainly qualify her, you would not prejudge her. Remember, just because Granny’s hair is purple, doesn’t mean her wallet isn’t green. She is standing in your store and she has money to spend on your products. Treat her with the respect she deserves.

Chris Coltran is the president of C2 Coaching & Training, providing sales coaching, custom sales training and customer service courses. For more information visit chriscoltran.com.

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July 13, 2020

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