Selling the Opportunity not the Piano

This is a writing which addresses the proper way to convert online piano interest into “live” showroom traffic. Simultaneously, it is an article on how not to achieve it. 

A popular perception is growing that since many prices are available online that pianos should follow suit. MSRP’s are available for most everything online; more and more folks post “out the door” prices on new pianos and lots of folks list the price of their used pianos as well. It’s the way of the world, right?  I recently had some sales associates in larger markets use the reasoning that they provided “out the door pricing” because they were afraid prospects wouldn’t want to invest in a drive to the showroom if they didn’t know the price first. On top of this you can get a Clavinova shipped to you from Kraft or Sweetwater so what’s the big deal, the cat is out of the bag, right? With all the pricing information online for everything from houses to cars to “who knows what all” on Amazon, I can see the origin of this line of thinking, but I must state that it can be a hazardous train of thought. It is a possibly impending train wreck for an aspiring piano sales associate. Follow me…

My not so humble opinion is that every piano is a “one of a kind.” Every acoustic piano has its own distinctive touch, look and sound… personality and characteristics, so to speak. If your job is to help steer folks in the direction of the very best piano for them inside their price range, why would you advise them to decide with partial information and without the benefit of the experience of getting to know you, the best concierge in town, and getting to know the pianos they should consider for this significant decision? I’m not saying that everyday commodities and goods should not be purchased online. I AM saying that an instrument which most likely will live in a home for decades and either inspire or de-motivate players it comes in contact with should NOT be treated as a widget. 

If you sell yourself as the most trustworthy tour guide in town to help them find the very best piano inside their budget some great things can transpire. Let me remind you of a valuable age-old saying by Teddy Roosevelt: “Nobody cares what you know until they know that you care.” It is the same in cyberspace. Until you make a personal connection you are NOT a concierge or in a position to serve – you are simply a disseminator of information, not even a step above Wikipedia. People go online to get information with which to arm themselves and head in the direction towards a decision: a decision to care any further, quit caring, head toward the most appropriate product, and yes, they arm themselves against the dreaded salesperson and a potential bad choice. People online LOVE choices which is why they love our inventory list and in years gone by catalogs. Bright and shiny pictures evoke interest and enjoyment during the shopping experience, BUT people have always been, and still are (despite our machines and technology), relationship seeking beings who most often desire validation when making a major decision. They need someone to trust that can steer them in the right direction and place them in a position to choose from a well-thought out selection within their budget. My unequivocal advice? Sell your company and yourself as the best resource BEFORE you attempt to sell a piano. First you are selling confidence; secondly, you are in the position to sell pianos.

Weekend sales events performed well and were very profitable in most all well-planned instances, before the new economic normal manifested itself in 2008. The psychology of a short term, great opportunity to buy at a believable discount was a wonderful staple until the consumers got skeptical because discretionary income became scarcer. Properly executing the right event at the right time in the right place can still be a thing of beauty, so let’s learn from the sales process they employ.  During a well performed weekend sales event there are some important selling elements that day-to-day sales associates should employ. The first is the setup. Every great event has a credible reason why an appointment is a great idea. I’m not going to go into a full-out sales training mode during an article, but suffice it to say that my belief is that every “day-to-day” piano sales associate should impress upon their prospects the fact that they are: A) successful   B) busy and in demand… and therefore C) need to work by appointment to serve their career and prospects best. You should sell the benefit of the appointment to allow you to be your best tour guide/concierge and place the most pragmatic and intelligent options in front of them instead of attempting to sell a piano they have never experienced over the phone or via text or email.

Your first job is to sell an intelligent buying experience, to sell confidence, to sell yourself as a trusted ally in this critical decision. YES, there are anomalies and even art pieces and very expensive pianos sold to collectors and unique prospects from a distance without a “live encounter” do occur, but please don’t fool yourself into thinking that this is a highly profitable way to sell a stream or volume of intermediate and premium pianos. Let’s face it, you can’t name one extremely successful piano sales person who is not any good in person on the floor, not one… and we’re not talking about digital where a digital is a digital, we’re talking about fine pianos and the sales folks who sell them well. They have people skills. Many, many premium and intermediate priced pianos are relationship sales. This is the heart and soul of the matter, so I’ll say it again (because it bears repeating): THE COMPANY WITH THE MOST FRIENDS WINS! You must make more friends in cyberspace, and talk them onto the gallery floor, than your competition and you must get good at it to be a six-plus-figure sales associate.

Back to the weekend sales event analogy… after the attendee to the sale, who agreed to an appointment (and by the way, it is well documented that the closing ratio for appointments kicks a**),  gets processed by the greeter, they get handed over to the next salesperson in the rotation who performs a “pre-talk” and “fact-finding.” My not so humble opinion is that pre-talks and fact findings are the key. Day to day sales individuals need to steal heavily from the event scenario and get good at    A) appointment setting, B) greeting and then C) fact finding. If the prospect is “bottom line diving” for a price and you are more than willing to provide one, why would they know to value the intelligent way to purchase? They won’t.  If you educate them to the fact that there is always something cheaper to buy but value is the most important factor you can best fit them with the right piano. 

So, when talking someone onto the showroom floor from cyberspace, pay attention to the chronological order necessary to deepen a relationship so it can turn into a profitable one. To achieve having control of the chronological order of the sales process, you need to become adept at redirecting and re-framing the context of the conversation. Statements such as, “price is always important, but for you to enjoy the right instrument over time we need to assure the value of your purchase.” Then in the spirit of good question-based selling, you should end the statement with this question: “Wouldn’t you agree?” 

The worst thing you can do to yourself is to allow the prospect to make a decision based upon price and a picture, before you even get to show them any pianos in person where they can see, touch, and hear the actual personality of an instrument. Back to the weekend sale example: after a properly set appointment (I think I have an article already on this), a proper greeting designed to get them to like you and a thorough fact finding, the best event sales persons’ would end the exchange before the prospects even got to see the pianos in such a manner: “Based upon what you’ve shared with me I can think of two or three pianos that would be perfect for you to consider. Please give me permission to introduce you to them”    

This same methodology can be applied to lead generation follow up. THE LARGEST ROOKIE MISTAKE A SALES PERSON CAN MAKE IS TO TRY AND TURN A 2,3 OR 4 STEP SALES PROCESS INTO A ONE STEP SALE. It happens all the time, over and over again, people work against sound sales psychology to serve their own needs and wants, and make the prospects needs and wants a secondary priority – BAD decision.   

Sell the value of the appointment, sell the HUGE advantage of them trusting you to help them with their decision then, after you listen intently to what they want, take them to the appropriate 2-4 instruments they should consider based upon what they told you. Don’t complicate it and don’t try to speed it up. The selling of fine pianos is built upon how well you can deepen relationships and become the trusted tour guide. 

It takes some diverting and deflecting to get people off of “out the door price” and sometimes you can’t. Sometimes prospects aren’t able to focus on the best way to buy the right piano for them, BUT your job is to educate them and not re-enforce the ignorance of making an important decision without all the proper information. The stone-cold truth is that the proper information cannot be gained by talks or texts or emails. The only way to see if an instrument actually belongs in your home is to feel, hear, see in person and experience the candidates.     

To summarize, make friends, set appointments and put the appropriate instruments in front of prospects in a “live” setting. The trick for ALL piano sales persons with a good LeadFlow is to figure out how to get them to like you; like you enough to allow you to be their resource for information and advice on all things piano. Then a funny thing happens: When you carefully identify and meet people’s needs by providing them good options, you increase your value to the marketplace and subsequently your income. BUT don’t put the cart before the old proverbial horse.

Engaging is difficult for many reasons but mostly because people feel more empowered with information than ever before. They also don’t often realize that they need some assistance. As we all know, information without context is just data. In today’s selling environment people want to buy, they just don’t want to be sold.

In summary: So, I get it, you need to sell. All of us sales professionals do. The problem is that IF you look or act like it, you will sell less. If you exhibit a servant’s heart and try through voice mail, texts and emails to serve as many people as possible, your numbers will take care of themselves. Guess what…the greatest sales individuals I’ve known don’t force it. YES, be diligent, diplomatically persistent, and by all means know your product, BUT above all else learn to get people to just plain talk with you and put together some instruments for them to consider.

Sell the Opportunity not the Piano.

In the end, slowing down and paying attention to the chronological order of things are important. We can end up going slower by trying to force the issue and going too fast. Let’s persistently and passionately place music in as many lives as possible.  Something tells me that if we focus on that honorable goal, then over time, the money will take care of itself.      

Here are two magnificent quotes to memorize to end this article with:

The first is one I allude to regularly: “Be quick, but don’t hurry.”  Coach John Wooden

My paraphrase to sale pros? Working hard and working fast is desirable, but going fast just to get done is counterproductive and it is not good salesmanship.

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work – Thomas A. Edison   This one needs no paraphrase or explanation, it is indeed self-explanatory. Happy Selling.

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