As stated in Part One, never quit asking relevant questions. Questions are pertinent and essential during the qualifying phase of a sales presentation, however, questions are still valuable tools during all phases of the selling process. For instance, questions during the presenting process clarify statements, determine desires, draw out objections, and direct the conversation. Questions also show concern and help gain agreement on important points.

The qualification or relation phase does not have a precise beginning or end. In reality, qualifying interfaces all segments of the selling process. Next, showing merchandise allows the customer to become more emotionally involved in the decision making process because she is now exposed to the aesthetics, such as the color, as well as the feel, touch and sight of the floor covering.

In your showroom, always generate alternate solutions by showing products in a way that creates comparison shopping within your own store. Do not show the customer her ideal product right up front. Make the selection one of good, better and best or you may receive the infamous stall, “Let me think it over.” Allow plenty of time to create alternatives in order to let her thoroughly explore all possibilities and feel involved in her shopping experience.

In evaluating possible solutions, avoid presenting sample deck boards, which are samples with very small colors grouped together. If you have to present deck boards, isolate those samples from other colors by putting white sheets of paper around each individual color so that each color “glows” at the customer. Of course, nothing really happens to a small sample of color when they are presented in larger forms. It is just that exact hues of colors are not always obvious to the naked eye until they are isolated. Complementary samples in the form of 6-inch swatches are usually provided by most mills at no charge and are available quickly. Of course, 18 x 27 inch or larger samples are also available.

When you discuss solutions, do you become more animated and energetic? Does your voice display excitement? Does your body language exhibit your enthusiasm? If not, you need to change your approach. After all, if you can’t get excited about your product, how can you expect your customer to become motivated enough to buy? So, show that you believe in your product and services. Without a doubt, this is the most critical component of any presentation.

Also, be careful not to become a product knowledge junkie. Generally, only give product knowledge when asked for. The customer did not come into your store for a trade fair. She simply wants to know how your product will contribute to a beautiful room. As the old selling proverb goes, “Less is more.” Keep your discussion on fashion, color, style, etc.

What’s more, when presenting, avoid too much puffery, which creates an improbable claim. Examples: “We have the best installers in town” or “We are the largest dealer in the area.” These type of statements show insecurity. Accordingly, the following are danger words that hurt your credibility and are often clichéd: greatest, best, largest, highest-quality, fastest and quickest. Generally, any adjective that ends in “est” is probably a danger word. Furthermore, while you are purging dangerous words or phrases, generally eliminate “trust me,” along with “always” and “never.” No matter how well intentioned, when salespeople use these words they plant doubt in the customer’s mind.

Moreover, there is a superb technique called “cushioning,” which helps the salesperson connect and relate to the customer. It is empathy-based and meets the human condition of feeling understood. Cushioning is simply a linking statement that makes what the customer feels and says important. These “linking statements” simply cushion her objection, stall or hesitation. Use this supporting dialog each time the customer says something that sustains her reasoning or brings up a point or objection that has not yet been discussed. “Good point,” “I’m glad you brought that up,” and “You are exactly correct.” (Buyers like to feel correct.)

Cushioning is an important step in the ongoing objection strategy. Suppose our customer raises an objection. Then suppose we say something like, “Ms. Customer, that’s not so. You are crazy to think that.” Obviously, even if we do not agree with the customer, we would not answer her objection in that way. On the contrary, our point is to find a point of agreement, or cushion, between the customer and us before we address the objection. For example, you might say, “I understand exactly what you are saying,” and then give new information to handle her concern. What a tremendous way to lower resistance and differentiate ourselves from the competition. The old axiom, “The customer is always right,” applies here. However, your sustaining point must be delivered skillfully while leaving the customer in a comfort zone that does not make her feel affronted.

In addition to cushioning, the best method of avoiding all future objections before they become one, is by getting agreement on important issues. This does not mean manipulating the customer into repetitiously answering obvious yes questions with a yes answer. Instead, it is building value by making sure that the customer truly understands the meaning of important points essential to meeting her needs and enhancing worth.

In other words, we should not assume that the customer understands or even hears every important point we make. “Getting agreement,” allows permission to move on in the presentation either to other merchandise or to change the focus of the conversation. Therefore, after answering a question, you might conclude with, “Does that make sense?” or “Does that answer your question?” If she says “no,” back up and re-explain. She probably was not listening. These confirming questions put you on common ground and make you the trusted advisor while constructively controlling the direction of the sale. This selling technique is part of a deliberate closing process. We focus on finding out what is necessary to do business, from beginning to end. Here’s an example:

Customer: Will this carpet become matted over time and show traffic patterns in the main wear areas?

Salesperson: Good point! I’m glad you asked that question. (The cushioning link) This carpet is made of nylon, which is the strongest man-made fiber. Furthermore, this yarn has been constructed with a very tight twist. Like a braid of hair or two pieces of twine in making rope, as it gets twisted tighter it gets stronger like a coil, but it gets skinnier because all of the yarn is tied up in the twist. An analogy would be if you drove a mile through a tunnel, I would think you drove a mile, but if you drove through that tunnel like a corkscrew, you might drive 20 miles. This yarn is twisted tight like a 20-mile coil in order to keep it looking new. (You have offered new information and demonstrated when possible.) Does that answer your question? (Get agreement on important points.)

Practice getting agreement into your presentations and visually demonstrate what you are saying when possible. Within any selling environment, the prospect is more involved in the process of reaching agreements with you, rather than trying to resist being convinced, if you get agreement ahead of time. Consequently, objections do not eventually surface as arguments or reasons why the prospects won’t buy; they only surface as points that must be clearly addressed directly as the presentation naturally unfolds. Again, aways include the cushioning technique as a first step. It breaks down defenses, puts the customer on your side and makes her feel understood.