As consumers, our buying decisions are usually based on fulfilling our emotional needs, even though we justify purchases with logic and reason. We hardly ever hear ourselves say, "I know it doesn't make sense. I just want to buy this item because it makes me feel good"—even though that's usually the real reason we're buying something.
In the mid-'80s, I was introduced to a concept called "romancing the product." As a regional representative for a premier flooring manufacturer, it became apparent that I was trying to sell a Cadillac in a Chevy marketplace. My territory was primarily a commodity-demand—as opposed to a qualitydemand—region. I had to learn how to promote my high-end product to flooring retailers and provide them with the skills to do the same with their customers. Clearly, to achieve success, I needed to romance and create desire for the flooring that would negate the price; logic and reason would not be enough.
Do your clients base their buying decisions on emotion or logic and reason? When I pose this question to a group of sales professionals, they always respond "emotion." Then I ask: "How do you sell or promote your product?" The typical response: "We sell with logic and reason."
Recently, while visiting a car dealership to check out a new sedan, a salesman approached and asked me what was of interest. When I pointed to the model, he proceeded to "feature dump." Without asking me any questions about my specific needs, he began to address me with logic and reason. The reality was that I was picturing myself traveling down the road in that sleek and stylish machine. My imagination immediately conjured up a vision of myself as sophisticated, exciting, wealthy and—dare I admit— single and available. My emotions were running the show. My admiration for the car had nothing to do with logic and reason.
Although we justify our impulses with logic and then usually apply logic when managing the financing of the purchase, it is emotion that brings us to the edge of the buying precipice.
Ask your friends and associates if logic or emotion motivates them to visit the mall, car dealer or electronics store. Look at all the products we purchase and ask: Are our choices emotionally motivated? You might be surprised at the number of household items and everyday purchases that are emotionally based. The following frequent purchases typically fulfill an emotional need before we spend our money on them.
• Groceries: provide nutrition for our families, the needs for a healthy lifestyle and quality of life.
• Clothing: a reflection of our personal image and ego conveyed in fashion.
• Home maintenance: fear of a depreciating asset.
• Big-screen television: quality entertainment, the reward after a hard week of earning.
• Home furnishings: reflect who we are and our values. Fashion décor or design elements—particularly hardwood flooring—evoke an emotional response to the extent that they can affect our mood.
This is what romancing the product is all about. It is triggering the emotional receptors that move you closer to securing the sale. It is showcasing the products that you love and, more importantly, respect. If you believe in the hardwood flooring product, be passionate when you promote it. Know why you believe in it; express enthusiasm and project energy. As a mentor of mine frequently points out: "People do not fail because of what they do not know but because they are not enthusiastic about what they do know."
You can romance any product and should consider the following factors:
Quality: If you offer many choices within a product grouping, you may have more confidence in some over others. Find ways to differentiate those products. For example, when we promote Best, Better, Good in a hardwood flooring line, you may know that the Best product will ideally meet the clients' needs. If price becomes an issue, trade down to Better, which may still offer many of the same benefits you so enthusiastically promoted. Also, understand where your products rate competitively from a quality perspective. It is vital to not default to the more economical hardwood choice until you have explored their emotional buying motivators such as pride in workmanship, prestige, the security of performance and fashion consideration.
Color and texture: Nothing evokes an emotional response more than color, texture and design. The color of our vehicles, our interior and exterior designs and clothing fashions are means by which we express ourselves emotionally.
Prestige: Many consumers seek out products that are unique, rare or precious, and they pay a premium. BMW, Rolex and American Express all employ prestige. Prestige and status are emotional wants—they feed the ego.
Reliability: Fear can be a buying emotion. If we offer security and reputation that meet or exceed our customers' expectations while representing the product honestly, we build trust that overcomes fear or apprehension. We can promote our company's reputation with references from satisfied customers, community involvement, company history and collateral material. Be passionate about the company that employs you.
Product Value: The only way to determine exactly what a customer values is to ask specific questions. These questions need to be prepared in advance. Every person has different expectations as well as different values. Recently, I visited an electronics store while shopping for a plasma television. This multinational chain represents several brand-name products. I asked the salesperson who approached me which product represents the best value? The salesperson looked at me, somewhat perplexed, and led me over to the most expensive unit in the store. He assumed that value was represented by the highest price tag. He did not determine my definition of value. My definition of value is what product offers me the biggest bang for my dollar: style and color, reliability, quality, and the bells and whistles that I will actually use. This salesperson would not have wasted my time if he had asked me a few specific questions that would have quickly uncovered my buying criteria as it relates to value. So always prepare a good questioning protocol.
How do we sell in the hardwood flooring industry? Fortunately, hardwood flooring offers terrific value over other types of floor coverings. As a product of nature, wood flooring offers qualities and character like no other interior finish. The points below will enable you to romance the product to your customers.
• Decorating Versatility: Wood floors offer a vast variety of species, grades and stains.
• Durability: Most wood flooring products should survive the house.
• Easy Care: Unlike wood floors of old, today's finishes are easy to maintain, and they may be refinished to renew their appearance. Wood floors also are easily repaired.
• Hypoallergenic: Wood floors do not harbor pollens, mold, dust, dander, etc.
• Investment Value: A wood floor is an appreciating asset and increases the value of your home.
• Natural Warmth: Wood flooring is a natural insulator.
• Timeless Beauty: The natural beauty and character of wood evokes an emotional response, and that beauty never goes out of style.
Why should we romance the product? When we promote a wood floor with enthusiasm and sincerity, employ the factors listed in this article and remember that we are promoting fashion, then we are no longer selling commodity. In other words, we can promote quality wood floors that your customer may spend a premium for.
The next time one of your friends brags about a new purchase, ask him or her about the reason behind the purchase. More often than not, the answer will be one that defends his or her decision. In addition, consider the products you purchase and ask yourself whether your choices are emotionally motivated.