Business owners in the framing industry use a variety of creative methods and expend a considerable amount of time, money and attention to generate sales leads. In addition to traditional advertising media, today’s businesses introduce themselves to prospective customers through websites, email and social networking. And well they should, because creating awareness for your brand lies at the foundation of any good marketing strategy. However, it’s not enough to just reach out to prospects; you need them to reach back. You want them to reciprocate by responding to your overtures. Ideally, you want each prospect, upon introduction to your business, to jump into the car, drive to your business and make a purchase—without procrastination and without detours or delay.
Unfortunately, modern consumers rarely take the shortest path to the point of sale. Getting a prospect into your business often involves an intermediate step: a phone call. Making a telephone inquiry gives prospects an opportunity to ask questions; assess the quality of customer service, competence and professionalism; and ultimately decide whether you’re the one they want to do business with.
In my previous column, “Turn Your Website Into a Sales Engine,” I wrote that the goal of your website should be to get a prospect to call you. A phone call is easier to achieve and gives you a second bite of the apple: a personal interaction that lets you build rapport with your prospect, provide useful information about your business and distinguish your business from the others.
That phone call also halts, at least temporarily, the prospect’s online browsing and keeps them from the clutches of your competitors.
I view every phone inquiry as an opportunity. It’s a chance to have a conversation with a prospect and to start and build a relationship. A telephone inquiry lets you sell the unique benefits your business offers and to sell yourself.
Your website may aim to get a prospect directly into your store, but the odds of it happening are stacked against you, especially if the prospect also visits the website of an always-on-sale-but-not-really-on-sale craft store and sees a coupon for 70 percent off. At that point, it’s “game over” for you because you have nothing with which to trump such a compelling offer, regardless of its veracity. But if your website convinces a prospect to call you to obtain more information, answer questions or learn about your current promotion, the outcome of the game is now within your control.
Now, let’s look at what you can do to take advantage of the great one-on-one opportunity a telephone inquiry offers.
When you receive a phone call from a prospect, you must be ready to effectively handle the call. Your primary goal, of course, is to get customers and their frame-worthy items through the door of your business. However, to make that happen, you’ll need to reach two secondary goals: building a rapport with the prospect and taking control of the conversation.
Building a rapport will come naturally as a result of the conversation, especially if you take time to include some small talk.
However, making a new friend is just half of the battle. You must also take control of the conversation. Taking control lets you—not the prospective customer—determine the direction and length of the conversation. Fortunately, with practice, you can fairly easily take control of a conversation. You need only ask questions; then, you’ll be the one driving the bus.
In any dialogue, the person asking questions is the one in control; the one answering the questions is not. You needn’t be pushy or rude to take and retain control. Instead, develop a habit of ending your portion of the dialogue with a question that encourages your prospects to talk about themselves or the items they want to frame. Controlling the conversation also lets you steer the discussion away from price.
The best questions to ask are those that help you get your new acquaintance into your store or gallery. Preparation makes that goal easier to achieve. Develop a list of standard questions that you can rely on. Here are a few to get you started:
- Where will you be displaying the artwork?
- What is the decor in that room?
- Do you know where we’re located?
- Can you come in now?
These questions are easy to work into almost any conversation, and they help you achieve your objective.
Keep in mind that someone is going to be in control of each conversation; if you’re not in control, the prospect is in control. The one question a prospect always wants to ask is, “How much will this cost?” That question is the one that you can’t and shouldn’t answer over the phone. Simply be strong and get them into your store or gallery, so that you can make a sale.
When you do get a question about price, explain briefly that pricing depends on a lot of variables, including the mounting method, glazing options, degree of required preservation and display options. The existence of all those variables makes it impossible to answer that question over the phone. Promise that you’ll provide an exact quote when the customer comes in.
Avoid mentioning the size of the piece the customer wants framed because he or she probably knows the dimensions of the artwork and will expect that information to be enough for you to quote a price. Also, avoid discussing the frame itself because this question, too, may lead to another pricing question: “What’s the cheapest frame I can buy for this piece?”
After you rattle off all the variables that affect price, follow up with a question of your own to retake control.
Open the Door
Clinch the deal by asking for a commitment: “Can you come in now?”
When a customer says, “Yes,” let him or her know where your shop is. Give directions that might bypass a competitor’s location.
Conclude the call by recommending that the caller ask for you upon arrival. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the only one there; it puts a potential customer on a first-name basis with you and lets that would-be client know that he or she has a friend in the business.
After ending the call, write down the name of the person you spoke to. It’s also good to keep track of your conversion rate—that is, how many prospects show up after a call. These techniques are amazingly effective, and they can make a dramatic difference in increasing your income.
Selling is possibly the most overlooked and underdeveloped skill in our industry. It’s also part of your job, so learn to do it well. Improving your sales skills and those of your staff can pay off in a big way. Because the sales process often starts with a phone call, include these tips in any training program.
When your website does its job well, your phone will ring more frequently. How well you handle each opportunity to speak with a prospect often determines the success or failure of your business. Be a guerrilla. Learn to sell. ◆
Paul Cascio, the Guerilla Framer, is the lead instructor for The American Picture Framing Academy (pictureframingschool.com). He also provides business and sales training and consulting. Contact Cascio at email@example.com.