Comfort Level Critical to Embracing New Products

Change. We really don’t like it. And, as a rep, I will attest that kitchen and bath professionals dislike change more than most. It’s probably just human nature. We are, after all, most comfortable with what we know.

Take our kitchen and bath product lines; we know our current offerings inside and out. We know the features to highlight and the product benefits to pitch in order to close the sale. If there are questions, we already know the answers. We have unparalleled confidence in the products and our knowledge of them to be able to quote them quickly and move onto the next job without doubt lingering in our minds.

It’s this confidence that makes us so apprehensive about change.

New products are fraught with danger. We’re uncertain of the features or strengths that will close the sale. We are unsure of the answers to the questions we are bound to be faced with, and often have to spend too much time finding these answers. Our lack of confidence and knowledge makes quoting quite a long and arduous task, leaving many doubts lingering in our minds. Comfort and confidence are strangers to us in these situations, so when a sales opportunity is before us, human nature takes over. We shy away from the new product and quote what we are comfortable with each and every time.

This is quite a quandary for me as a rep, because part of my sales growth is dependent upon adding new dealers to sell my products. And it takes a lot of time and effort for me to build up their confidence and comfort levels.

It’s also a dilemma for you as a dealer or salesperson. After all, you are adding new product lines to your business for a reason. You believe that they will, in some way, be of benefit, and you are willing to invest time and money in samples, displays and training to accrue this benefit. You have to make sure that you realize the full remuneration of your investment.

The only way that we both can gain is if we work together to make change as painless as possible.

Training is an obvious and important first step. It is incumbent upon me to do my best to not only introduce you to the product, but build your confidence and comfort in it.

When learning a new line, the most helpful thing that you can do for me as a rep is to be open to doing things in a different way. While this can be hard, to be successful we need to be willing to change and adapt. When I hold trainings, there are always people in the room who want to resist change at all costs. They know what they know, they are good at it and the last thing they want to do is learn something new. Though it’s my job as a rep to sell them on why they should do this, it’s also essential for them to have an open mind. I might just have something that will benefit them and their company – plus their company is already investing in the new product.

Besides having an open mind, product knowledge must be cultivated, as well – not just the specs and pricing, but the little things. Pay attention to matters such as “company story.” If the new product line comes from a company that is family owned, learn the history and sell it to your customer. Find what’s distinctive about the firm, or find a unique aspect of the company that your customer will relate to. Every company will claim to make the best wooden boxes or have the best finishes, but you need to sell exceptionality to your customer, and knowing a good “company story” is helpful. Selling is often story telling, and if you know the “company story,” learn the manufacturing process and find the selling points, you have more opportunities to find out exactly what will appeal to your client.

Knowing the new product and the “company story” is great, but a comfort level has to be built, as well. Questions will be numerous and endless, so I encourage my new customers to call me – and customer service – with even the smallest of questions. Build a relationship with your rep and customer service. Be willing to call about anything you are unsure of. That’s what we’re here for.

Your comfort level will come from not only learning about the products offered by a new company, but from the confidence in knowing that, if you need help or don’t know something, you have a reliable resource in which to turn.

Besides finding a comfort level in selling and quoting, getting those early orders correct is a must. I look at the first order as a make-or-break proposition. If it goes smoothly, then the salesperson will be encouraged and confident to do more and more. If it goes poorly, I may not get another shot.

If you’re the one venturing out and ordering that new product, it’s even more important to you because a job that goes poorly may have even bigger ramifications in your business.

With all of this on the line, I wouldn’t place an order without checking it, double checking it and even triple checking it. I would fax the order to my rep first to have a fresh set of eyes go over it.

When I was absolutely confident in it, I would fax it to customer service. I would then call customer service and go over the order line by line. They’re not just new to you – you’re also new to them. Don’t cross your fingers, whisper a prayer and hope that they know what you want. Be sure, reduce the risk of misunderstanding and do triple the work on the first one. Investing time in this first order will not only reduce the chance for mistakes and misunderstandings, but the extra effort will – in the end – force you to learn more and more about your new product line.

You can’t afford to gamble with your client’s satisfaction in the project, and I cannot afford to gamble with your satisfaction in my product. Your goal is to effectively utilize the new product line, and mine is to gain a new satisfied customer who will continue to buy more and more.

Don’t forget to learn the processes, as well. You can dot all of the Is and cross all of the Ts, but if you don’t know when order cut-off dates and times are, or how orders are confirmed, or even when deliveries should occur, dissatisfaction may yet head your way.

Change. We may not like it, but sometimes it has to be undertaken to better our businesses. If you have made the decision to try something new in your business, make sure that you are dedicated to making it work.

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This article originally appeared in Kitchen and Bath Design News 10/2005

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