Advice from our SVP Patrick Bain: How should you be selling in 2017?
When it comes to getting the best advice out there, there’s no substitute for an expert’s opinion. That’s why we sat down with our Senior Vice President Patrick Bain to talk all things sales in 2017. Patrick has a 20-year successful track record in sales and home furnishings —in other words, he knows his stuff. Whether it’s how to sell rugs or how to sell software, there are some best practices everyone should be using.
How is selling different in 2017?
In 2017 your first sales person is your web presence. 94% of every product search starts in an online format, so your site is where customers will land first. Your consumer may be local, but they’re looking online trying to figure out how to they can get to their local retailers and what these retailers offer.When creating your site, the number one question to ask yourself is if your website connects and resonates with your potential customer, that’s where to start.
Overall, is how you approach potential customers changing?
Yes, even for myself, I approach a potential customer a bit differently. Perfectly related to what I was just talking about with the importance of a web presence, we’re also now using digital marketing to make that strong first impression.
We know who our customer base is, and they are often looking for products in a digital framework. In a lot of ways our digital presence is like an icebreaker. We present ourselves online and that paves the way for an in-person meeting and official handshake.
I still think it’s a balance of the two—both in-person and online presentation—but it’s clear people trust what’s out there today circulating in digital media.
What do you think most people do wrong when they try to make a sale?
I think a lot of people really underestimate the importance of product education. They paint too broad a stroke, thinking they know the product but they really haven’t taken the time and initiative to learn about the unique value proposition.
For example, let’s look at how to sell rugs; Just because you know a rug is red and square, this isn’t what’s going to sell it. Knowing instead that this same rug was power-loomed in Egypt, or is made from high-quality naturally-dyed wool, now you have unique factors to build on.
We live in a very technical, detail-obsessed world where people are going online to get product specifications before buying. Customers actually do want to know if a rug is 1/8” thick so they know it’s going to fit under their doorway, for example. This level of available detail is the expectation that today’s E-commerce atmosphere has created.
What is one piece of advice you’d give someone starting out in sales?
Never underestimate the potential of your customer because assumptions are deadly in sales. You should always ask enough appropriate questions to make sure your audience knows that you’re engaged and in tune to what their needs are. If you don’t know your customer’s needs, you should always be asking a question to determine what they are.
Do you think sales best practices are different for high-ticket items? For example, how to sell rugs versus a T-shirt?
No, I actually don’t. Whether we’re talking how to sell rugs or how to sell anything else, these are all in some way, need-based items. Your rug may be completely worn out and falling apart, or maybe your T-shirt has a hole in it. Of course, there are different price points here, but how you handle the sale and the best practices you use should be the same.
No matter what, your main question should still be: “How can I make a lasting relationship out of this sale?” Oftentimes people misconstrue selling, they think a sale ends with the cash in their hands. This is a huge mistake because it’s vital to foster a relationship with your customer. You satisfied one need they had, now how can you keep satisfying their needs? Good relationship building is how you make lifelong customers. For example, if you sell someone a sofa, follow up with a thank you card. Today, automation can help you with that. If someone purchases an item off your website, send them an automated thank you email. This is a good way to start.
What is the biggest thing you’ve learned from working in the Rug & Home Furnishings industry?
The biggest thing I’ve learned is that the apprehension to embrace technology continues to limit the possibilities in this industry. For various reasons, home furnishings has been moving at a slower pace when it comes to embracing new technology and automated processes.
With that being said, I’ve learned a lot about the power technology can deliver for a manufacturer or retailer when they do choose to embrace it. Technology can completely transform a customer’s experience for the better. We all know there are cost barriers to new technology and it can be difficult to accept major changes. But to do nothing and refuse to move forward, in my opinion, is more criminal than trying something that might fail.
Patrick Bain has worked at RM Innovation for the past four years and currently serves as the Senior Vice President. He is an expert in sales, whether it’s how to sell rugs, furniture, or currently software. He has been monumental in the company’s success and is a proven expert in sales, business, and leadership.