Virtual Versus Traditional: Are Virtual Sales Appointments the Wave of the Future?
By Jennifer Smith
I started working with a company on Long Island and in one conversation heard they conduct some of their consultations via FaceTime. I was appalled! How in the world can you do in-home sales without being in the home? I like to think of the pro and cons of any situation and the more I thought about it, the less I was turned off by the idea.
We like to consider ourselves professionals, like a doctor. My Los Angeles-based child is able to meet with the family doctor in Michigan whenever she is not feeling well or needs a prescription refill, conducted through a secure virtual portal on her cell phone or laptop. A friend recently had to move across the country for work and he was able to take virtual tours (of the homes in which he was interested) with his realtor. The chosen house was ready for closing when he arrived, sparing him the loss of time to fly back and forth to house hunt.
We take college courses, buy cars, grocery shop and hold business meetings online. (In 2018, the WQA Mid-Year conference was held virtually.) We even conduct interviews online when hiring, so maybe we are onto something. Isn’t that essentially what a sales appointment is, an interview?
What would a virtual sales appointment look like?
A set time to call would be necessary, as well as ensuring the homeowner has the same virtual meeting application (FaceTime, Skype, Facebook Messenger, etc.). The appointment should start with asking all the same questions asked when the installer walks into the home (but he wouldn’t have to don booties over his shoes). Dealers could still get to the root of why the respective clients are looking for water treatment and what type they are seeking.
When it comes to the plumbing assessment, dealers would have to be very specific on where to point the camera. This would be an excellent opportunity to educate the homeowner on their current equipment, where to find the shut-off valve to the home and explain how to troubleshoot. How many times has an installer gone to a home, only to realize the softener was bypassed or the clock was set to the wrong time due to a power outage?
Dealers could share the benefits of equipment by performing demonstrations in the showroom of the dealership or in their own kitchen (make sure the background noise is low and there are not any dirty dishes in the sink. A Recording In Progress sign works great). One can still use the soap demonstration, chlorine demonstration and tea demonstration as visuals! This would also be a great time to show what equipment the dealer may have in his own home or showroom. Make sure the installer holds the camera steady, to prevent motion sickness during the sales appointment.
Next is the closing, which, if all the right questions have been asked and the benefits explained, should be the easiest part. I like to give options with visual charts that discuss the benefits and limitations, plus the warranties. Any paperwork or brochures can still be used, preferably displaying them neatly on the wall so it is easier to discuss without the camera flipping orientation from portrait to landscape. Once the sale is made, the paperwork can be sent via email to be signed. The customer can pay via credit card or the installers can collect a bank check.
Pros and cons
As I said earlier, I like to look at the benefits and the challenges. I asked many people who are and are not in the water-treatment industry what their thoughts were on this topic. I was shocked to hear the number of consumers and sales professionals who loved the idea for the following reasons:
- More respect for the client’s time. Homeowners often feel rushed to make sure their home is in tip-top order to have someone visit.
- Difficult pets. Many people have dogs that protect their home. Homeowners have to put their dogs in a separate room or outside.
- In-person contact. Some people just don’t like other people in their home. They understand someone will be there to install equipment; however, if they can avoid the salesperson, then shopping online works for them and it’s much easier to get rid of the high-pressure salesperson.
- Less windshield time. More sales appointments can be accomplished in a day without driving across four counties, especially if some of those homes are over an hour away. In addition, not fighting traffic would be a boon to many. Wouldn’t it be great to avoid those orange barrels and honking horns?
- Advances in technology. Many water-treatment companies are selling the ‘most advanced’ equipment, which includes phone apps that tell you how much water you use in a day, when your softener is going to regenerate and much more. This is just one more way to prove we are keeping up with the times. There could definitely be challenges, however!
- These virtual appointments would need to be for prospective clients on municipal water or with current customers where the water chemistry is already familiar. Problem/well water would require water testing, as well as ensuring the home has proper water pressure, etc.
- Both parties must ensure a reliable Internet connection is available—distraction due to poor reception is not helpful.
- Ease of appointment management. It is easier for the homeowner to cancel the appointment and/or end the appointment. Virtual appointments may not work with elderly people or those who are technologically challenged. This pertains to both the homeowner and the sales professional.
- Body language will be difficult to read for both the sales professional and the homeowner; dealers lose that very important one-on-one, face-to-face connection. It is imperative the home is visited for a follow-up. This provides the opportunity to make that connection and make sure everything is working properly.
So are virtual in-home sales the wave of the future? I think we need to offer the option to the homeowner, if an in-home appointment is not doable. Let them make the choice; it’s their home and their story. If a virtual appointment appeals to them and you are the only company offering this option, you are already in first place.
About the author
Jennifer Smith, CWS is the Vice President of Moti-Vitality. She entered the industry as a sales professional creating over 80 percent of her own business. Smith currently hires and trains sales professionals, management and office staff for water-treatment dealerships across the country. She is currently co-authoring “Leading to Success,” Moti-Vitality’s second industry-specific book.
About the company
Moti-Vitality specializes in hiring sales and management professionals specific to the water-treatment industry. Each week they also invite all water-treatment professionals across the country to join their MV Pro Call to discuss industry subjects. Moti-Vitality’s Marketplace supplies numerous industry-specific products, such as testing supplies, demonstration kits and faucets. Visit www.moti-vitality.com for more information.