It’s been emotional

A quick sell may seem the easy option, but taking the time to sell a full package is better all round, says T21 managing director Paul Laville

Emotions are very powerful things when it comes to buying decisions. Stimulating a strong desire for a must-have piece of technology, for example, can often spark those welcome words, “I’ll take it now!”

But some products and technologies inspire desire, and perhaps engage our enthusiasm, more easily than others. Think about domestic appliances. The label isn’t exactly inspirational. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine anyone getting emotional about a dishwasher, a kettle or a steam iron. Sometimes people do, and I’ll come to that later, but for many, domestic appliances are things they need right now.

Washing machines, in particular, are frequently purchased because the old one has spent the past six months rattling around like a bucket of nails. The laundry’s piling up and the machine needs to be replaced immediately.

In these circumstances, there’s a different kind of need – a much more negative emotion at play. It’s called ‘customer pain’ and it’s responsible for forcing the customer into making a ‘distress purchase’.

Where customer pain is at work, it’s important to be genuinely sympathetic and reassuring, but you should recognise it as a great opportunity, too. After all, you know for sure that your customer needs a new machine, so unless you mess it up, they’ll definitely be buying from you.

At this point, you have two options. You can sell a new machine like-for-like, sort out the delivery, take the money and congratulate yourself on a job well done. Nothing wrong with that, right?

Well, how about the second option? This requires a little more skill and thought, and is actually the one that delivers a better result for your business and a better experience for your customer. With this option, you recommend a full solution – not only to remedy your customer’s current pain, but also any pain they might potentially suffer in the future.

A somewhat clichéd analogy is that this is a bit like being a GP: your customer is the patient and you prescribe them something which removes their pain.

The full solution may involve a customer care or service plan, so that when the new machine breaks down in the future, your store takes immediate ownership of the problem and resolves it without any quibbles. Yes, you’ll have people who never take out extended warranties, but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t propose it to them. If you lead the conversation with the benefits of the plan, then you might surprise yourself. And if you’re a Retra member, you can take advantage of free online training that provides excellent advice on how to sell extended warranties.

The full solution could equally involve selling up, rather than replacing like-for-like. A costlier machine may be more reliable, more energy-efficient and have programs that suit the customer’s needs better than a basic model. So don’t forget to ask open questions: fully explore your customer’s needs, budget and situation. Then propose a solution that answers all their needs, removes the pain and reassures them that you’re looking out for them for the long term.

And don’t forget the power of desire.

I mentioned earlier that it can be difficult to think of appliances as desirable, but actually MDA and SDA ranges are filled with objects of desire. People aspire to own premium products in their kitchens and, as we saw at CES this year, where connected appliances stole the show, there’s plenty in the kitchen to be excited about. Tapping into peoples’ aspirations will help you sell up.

So, you could go for option one – the easy sell. Or option two, which is more difficult, but the mutual rewards for you and your customer are there if you go for it. The ‘solution’ sell turns a distress purchase into a pleasant buying experience, which can ensure a profitable sale at full value. It also helps build bridges of trust and loyalty among your customers.

Why loyalty?

Your customers will remember how you took their pain away, how you listened to their problem and advised on a complete solution, which made them feel very happy with you. So they will come back, and there’s every chance that they’ll recommend you and tweet about how buying from you is worth every penny.