Taking sales calls is not unlike going on a first date. Worry about how the other person will react can cause you to clam up or overthink everything you say, resulting in awkward conversation that sounds insecure and falls short of selling your assets.
Disclaimer: I’m extremely experienced with the latter scenario, but I’ve never actually tried to sell a floral arrangement. Still, I think I get it. I’ve listened to countless test calls by Tim Huckabee, of Floral Strategies, so I’ve heard all the common pitfalls. Also, I spent about a year working for Ann Taylor, where I was the absolute worst member of our team at getting customers to open credit cards. The ask made me uncomfortable, which showed big time in my voice and composure, so naturally, no one took the bait.
I heard Huckabee speak once again at the recent Canadian Florist Business Forum, where he demonstrated how to sound more confident and effortlessly land more profitable sales. No matter how many times I hear him, I learn something new. Below are a few of my latest takeaways:
Ask fewer questions. Give more advice.
“The floral industry is notorious for torturing customers with questions, many of which they don’t know how to answer,” he said. Among his most despised queries: What kind of design do you want? Which flowers? How much do you want to spend?
Huckabee advises that florists ask only two questions: What would you like the card message to read? (to gauge the occasion and number of people the gift represents) and Have you shopped with us before? (to expedite the order-taking process and get a sense of the sender’s preferences in terms of style and budget). Equipped with this information, you are poised to offer your expertise, Huckabee said, offering this example for a hypothetical dinner party arrangement:
“What I suggest is a wide and low arrangement in a glass vase that includes a leaf wrap. It covers the stem and has a nice clean finish, which is really great if your guests will be looking at it all evening long.”
By contrast, if you ask if the customer if wants a leaf wrap, “he’ll be confused and feel embarrassed that he doesn’t know what that is,” Huckabee said. That discomfort might stop him from ordering flowers again.
“The flower business and the restaurant industry are first cousins once removed,” Huckabee said. “There’s a lot of shared DNA: perishable product, nightmarish holidays, demanding customers.” However, there’s a fundamental difference in how waiters and floral sales people peddle their product.
“Waiters do a fantastic job making their dinner specials sound like phenomenal experiences,” Huckabee said. “They whet the customer’s appetite by describing the flavors and spices, the food’s origins, the presentation on the plate. They never ever start with the price!”
Customers are prepared to spend more than you think, so take a shot, use your adjectives, and pitch a grand design featuring premium flowers in vibrant colors and terrific textures that conjure, say, Grandma’s garden or a contemporary and chic museum or hotel lobby.
Sell more finishing touches.
You can easily improve your bottom line if you sell more add-ons. But don’t do it haphazardly.
“Make only one suggestion and make it relevant for the sale,” he said. For instance, a bright mylar balloon befits a birthday arrangement, whereas a box of gourmet truffles is more appropriate for an anniversary arrangement.
Introduce the suggestion with the proper language. Don’t say, “Would you like to add a stuffed animal to your order?” A more natural (read: persuasive) pitch would be, “As a finishing touch, we can attach an adorable plush monkey.”
Finally, price it. “…and it’s only $5!”