By Guy Aston, Mid-Market Business Director, Huthwaite International

It is a grave error to consider a sale in the region of many thousands, if not tens of thousands of pounds to require much more skill than a smaller sale of hundreds or a few thousands of pounds. Yes, I accept fully the physical process of getting to a decision in the larger sale will be different; more contacts, longer decision time, the involvement of proposals and presentations and possibly a number of major influencers, all of which may not be present in the lower value sale. However, in terms of persuasion and helping the customer to arrive at a decision in your favour, the required skill level of sellers in both arenas may well be on a par. Let me illustrate the point.

Everyone condemns Double Glazing selling. It is described as pressurised and pushy and we all hear the nightmare tales of the seller that wouldn't leave until the police arrived! So what is going on? Why do these salespeople seem to have such a poor reputation? Well, in true Huthwaite style, I will tell you that the first place to investigate is not the seller but the customer. Let's just consider the decision they are being asked to make.

To double glaze an average semi-detached house might cost as much as £6,000. How often does the average householder spend £6,000? Maybe when they buy a car or a house extension. Is this a minor decision for them? No it is not. Just think how you would shop around for a car, or how many companies you might talk to requesting a quotation before you choose a builder. For this nature of customer, £6,000 is a major purchasing decision, very different from buying say, a £75 digital camera.

This customer needs to be very sure that their needs are met (The stained glass will look just like the old glass being replaced, won't it?) They need to be clear on the energy savings the glass will provide and that the work will be implemented during the desired dates. In addition, what about mess in the house? Will they clean up? There is always the nagging worry about security — are the new windows really secure as we've all heard the criminals stories about popping out the glass! Conversely, can we get out in case of fire? This is not simple decision. If it should go wrong life could become a nightmare and we have all heard the stories haven't we?

So how does the average double glazing seller approach the sale?

Driven by a numbers-focused management, they meet with their prospect and work to have a signature before they leave. There is little focus on the customer; instead they display their sample window and talk, talk, talk. When the customer raises concerns they are treated a glib "No problem" and the seller moves on to talk about more of the fantastic features of the window. Meanwhile the customer feels pressured and becomes more uncomfortable and at this point the braver customer may well ask the seller to leave. If the seller fails to obtain a signature, as the customer would like time to think, a phoney telephone call is made to management to obtain a special price if the customer decides today — yet even more pressure!

£6,000 is pocket money to a large corporation. A single manager might be able to sign it off. To a householder, £6,000 is a great deal of money, never more so than in today's austere world. The householder needs to be sold to in a manner that reflects the seriousness of the decision they are being asked to make. They require time and information to make a considered decision to buy a product they see as valued and with which they are comfortable. It may even require more persuasive skill than a seller trying to close a £20,000 deal with a larger organisation.

The moral of the story is that it is the nature of the decision that should determine the required skill and approach, not the size of the business.

For more information visit www.huthwaite.co.uk

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