Countertops Magazine Archive

The Top Determining Factor behind Every Sale

There are numerous elements that can affect your sale. Buying decisions are influenced by a myriad of key factors: price, quality, relationships, trust, risks, brand, warranty and the list goes on. However, only one factor is at the root of every single decision and is the final determiner in every purchase decision.. Every person involved in selling needs to know it.


Before we expose this ultimate driver that’s affecting every one of your sales, I want to back up one step and address a glaring issue in our industry. That is a lack of perceivable differentiation between companies selling countertops.


We all feel our offering is unique, and perhaps that’s true. However, to the customer visiting our showroom for the first time, that uniqueness is not so apparent. The truth is, on first blush most companies appear to be very much alike. This is a critical clue leading us to the single greatest determining factor of the sale.


Let me ask you a question. How do you differentiate your company to a client? What do you say? Are you bigger? Better? Family-owned? Have you been around the longest? Do you have greater inventory? And does that really matter to your potential customer? Difference only helps the sale when the customer perceives that difference as meaningful and valuable.


The Single Biggest Determining Factor

This brings us to the one factor that determines every single buying decision. What is it? It’s value. Value is king when it comes to sales. When we shop, we are ultimately all looking to compare the value of products and service providers.


We look for differences between companies and products to make these comparisons.


We seek to understand the differences between offerings to determine what to buy and from whom. We read literature to understand product benefits and listen to what the sales person says about his or her company. We visit review sites to see what others say about their experience with a company. We try to weigh the value of each company we are considering. Who’s better? Who’s cheaper? What are the potential risks of a poor choice?


When we don’t perceive much of a difference, price wins. That is why it is so important for our industry to differentiate ourselves from the herd during the sales conversation.


The Job of a Sales Professional

Your job as a salesperson is to build value in the mind of the potential customer for what you uniquely offer. When the perceived value of what you offer exceeds the cost, the sale is made. Until that point is reached, they will choose lower price, because the money in their bank has a greater value than the difference you appear to offer.


Sales professionals must become experts at building value. It’s a skill like any other and can be learned. We must develop mastery at building up the perception of value in the mind of the customer. We must be clear in building our case for the real value we bring to the customer. The key is to communicate how that value is unique, relevant and important.


If you want people to buy what you’re selling, it starts with understanding how people make their buying decisions. We all want to feel safe in our buying decisions. We want to know we are getting a good value for our money. So we look for value comparisons. We look for differences in companies that provide similar products.


When we don’t perceive any difference between companies or a product, it makes our decision difficult. We lean towards saving the money and choosing the lower price, or maybe the second lowest. Most buyers know that the lowest price carries with it the risk of a bad job.


Clarity helps customers choose wisely. Your goal should be to provide clarity of the differences between your company and the competition, between your products and processes and theirs.


A Common Question

In 14 years of selling countertops through our five retail showrooms, I noticed that the single most common question consumers ask is, “What does an average kitchen cost?” I finally created a very elegant Q & A poster that addressed this common question. It stated, “Q: What does an average kitchen cost? A: It doesn’t matter, nobody wants an average kitchen.” It actually caused them to stop and think about what it was they really wanted.


Today they may walk in and ask, “What is your price for level 1 granite?” They are trying to position you in their mind. Are you Macy’s or Walmart? Are you the low price leader or a quality player?


Studies show that the average American consumer is willing to pay up to 50 percent more, if they see a perceived difference in value or quality. That’s only if they see a perceivably higher value. The rise of quartz countertops is proof of this powerful truth. People are perfectly willing to spend more if you give them a good reason why. Often, we simply don’t give them powerful enough reasons.


What Buyers Are Looking for

Buyers look for value comparisons between products and service providers as a way to help make the right decision. That’s why an educated customer is better for everyone except the low price leader.


When we educate our customers about our products, processes and the value differences we offer, we make it easier for customers to make good decisions and help them better understand why we should be their first choice.


Without clearly differentiating, we are simply putting together bids and hoping for the best. We may land some, but not because we were helpful or professional in selling. The better we do our job as sales people, the easier it is for the client to make a decision.


The biggest money question nobody’s asking is, “How much more could you have sold, if you had clear, demonstrable reasons why customers should choose your company?” I guarantee even your accountant doesn’t have the answer to that one.


Here’s an even bigger question: “What would happen to your company if you demonstrated an undeniably greater value to every prospect?


The Value Difference Makers

As buyers search for value along their pathway to purchase, they look for differences in a few key areas. Here are some to consider:


  • Quality of materials
  • Quality in workmanship
  • Timeliness and professionalism of service
  • Warranty
  • Strength and integrity of the company
  • Brands we trust
  • Connection with the company or salesperson
  • Risk or potential issues


They also look for assurances of what we will receive in exchange for their hard earned money. They ask themselves, “Have others I know trusted them? Who have they worked for in the past? Is this company’s higher price worth it? Is it safe to go with the lowest price? What are the possible outcomes of my decision?” All buyers want to save money, but they also want avoid the regret of making a poor decision.


Your job, and the job of every single person selling for your company, is to build perceived value in your product offering. However, I’m amazed at how many people in sales in our industry think it’s all about price. Actually, it’s almost never solely about price. If that were true, quartz would not be expanding while less expensive materials are declining.


How is it that buyers are willing to pay sometimes twice the price to have quartz over granite when 10 years ago in some markets, you couldn’t give it away? Simple, perceived value.


Sales guru Jeffery Gitomer says “Sales comes down to four words: Perceived Value, Perceived Difference.” He nailed it. That is one of the smartest statements on sales I’ve ever heard. We need to understand the power of that simple concept. Perceived difference and perceived value tips the scales in every selling circumstance. If they don’t see the value, they won’t pay more. It’s as simple as that. If they don’t see difference, they look to price.


Defining Value

So, what is value? A textbook definition may read along these lines: “the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.”


So, what determines value? Value is worth placed upon a product or service offering by one person alone – the buyer. Value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. If they don’t see it, it doesn’t exist. This is one time where perception is reality. Until you get them to see a greater value in what you’re selling, the odds are stacked against you.


How do we build value? What are the building blocks that create value? Every customer has a different set of things they consider important. Some value convenience, while others insist on higher quality. One shopper may prefer to buy from someone they trust while another buys solely on price.


This is where smart sales people do what I call “discovery.” Discovery is getting to know and understand what a potential customer values most. It’s done through asking a series of key questions designed to uncover their true buying priorities.


A great question to ask a customer is, “When I say the word countertops, what one word comes to mind?” This question will tell you a lot about what frustrates them or what excites them.


In his book, The Big Book of Sales, author Alan Gordon refers to building value as, the neglected sales skill. He’s right. Most sales people are not skilled at all at building value in the customer’s mind. It can actually be quite simple, but requires that we learn how buyers think.


Shoppers think so many different thoughts during their shopping experience. What will this look like? What will it cost? How will it perform? What could go wrong? How long will it take? Will they stand behind the product? These are the clues that lead us to the foundation of building value in the mind of the consumer.


The Reason Value Propositions Don’t Work

There has been a lot written in sales and marketing books over the past 20 years on creating a strong “value proposition.” The concept is to develop one strong message about how your company or product is uniquely superior. While that may work for some products, it doesn’t work so well for service industries like ours.


If you are like most countertop companies, you serve many different types of clients; homeowners, home builders, remodelers, designers, etc. Each one has a different set of things they consider of utmost importance to them.


Value is established by the buyer. It only matters if they say it matters.


A home builder might consider reliability and being on time the greatest values, while a homeowner might value trust or assurance of quality. Often consumers trust their builder or designer and that trust is the single biggest driver in who they do business with. In every buying outcome, value is at its center.


I’ve known design firms where if I came in, did the project for free and offered to hand them $1,000 for the opportunity to do their work, they’d still say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Why? Their relationship and trust built up with their fabricator was their greatest value. In an industry like ours one single value proposition doesn’t fit all.


So, you need a quiver full of arrows that can penetrate the heart of any buyer. You choose which one is right for the situation. That’s where discovery comes in.


You want to perform discovery in every sales situation. Discovery is the well thought through series of questions designed to uncover the buyer’s most important value buttons. Here’s where you want to ask great questions.


Great questions are unlike those your competition is asking. Ask questions that establish value in what you offer, all while sorting out their biggest drivers and hot buttons. Every sales person should have a list of at least 20 questions they can use in the discovery phase of a sales conversation.


James Perly, of Perly Consulting Group, said of his new closing method, “We beat our customers over the head with a value stick until they close us and ask us to buy. The whole meeting is about how we’ll deliver massive value to the customer.”


Countering Low Price with Value

If a prospect says, “I can get cheaper, at ABC company," what do you say? Simply tell them, “Yes, you’re right. There are cheaper companies out there. So how do you think they are getting away with charging less? What corners are they cutting in order to get that low price? Do you think they are using lesser quality workmen, or lower quality products?”


You might simply say, “Lowest price and high value almost never go together.”


For every buyer in every purchasing decision, there will always be a hierarchy of values in their mind. Sometimes we are able to add new concepts to that value equation. When a client would walk in and ask, “how much do your granites cost?” I would ask, “So then quality doesn’t matter?”


I would continue and say, “Did you know that granites come in three quality levels?” Now I have them thinking about other things than just price. Often that became a new significant factor in their decision. I was also surprised to note that the client would almost always say, “You know, you’re the only person that’s told me that.” To which my answer was, “Of course, if you were only buying seconds or even worse third quality, why would you bring up quality as an issue?”


The concept of building value is perhaps the greatest skill you and your sales team can develop. It won’t happen overnight. It takes a little time and effort, but the payoff is enormous. Try it and see if you agree. Value truly is the ultimate tool in selling.


About the Author

Kirk Heiner has been in the home building and countertop industry for more than 30 years. He’s an author and sales coach, having done training and seminars for corporations like Lowe’s, DuPont, Stock Building Supply, KBIS, the National Kitchen & Bath Association and many more. He is the chief marketing officer for KB Express and can be reached at [email protected].


Sidebar: Nine Key Elements that Build Value

Here are some common things valued by consumers.You should think through and plan out how to convey each one:

  1. Proof of Higher Quality Product
  2. Proof of Higher Quality Craftsmanship
  3. Guarantee
  4. Zero Maintenance
  5. A Trustworthy Sale rep
  6. Company Reputation
  7. Recommendation of a Friend
  8. Feeling Comfortable with a company or sales person
  9. Comfort about our decision