If you’re tired of your current sales technique and worry about how the customer perceives it, consider trying this alternative approach
Chances are, you didn’t get into business because you loved to sell. Most contractors got into the business because they liked working with their hands, they liked helping homeowners, or they were raised in or inherited a family business.
And selling? For most contractors I know, selling is a “necessary evil” that comes with the territory. It’s not that selling itself is bad, since you know you provide an important service and you’re ethical about it. But selling in general feels forced and can still sometimes feel slimy, even if your services are legit. You probably have also noticed that if a customer feels like they’re being sold something, they shut down.
Fortunately, there’s a different approach that erases all those negative connotations about sales and can still help you deliver great services and even make more money than the selling approach you are accustomed to.
Stop Selling, Start Facilitating
Since you may not love selling and customers don’t want to be sold something anyway, stop selling right now. That’s a relief, right?
Stop selling. Stop seeing yourself as a salesperson. Stop the “sales presentation” portion of your meeting with a customer. Instead, become a facilitator.
As a facilitator, you are facilitating the customer as they make a decision. After all, it’s ultimately the customer’s decision whether they hire you or not to provide plumbing services for their family. As a facilitator, you aren’t trying to force the customer into choosing something. Rather, you are helping them make a decision.
You facilitate the decision by:
- Helping the customer understand the problem.
- Helping the customer understand the cost of the problem and the value of the solution.
- Helping the customer understand the options they have for a solution (including why your company is best positioned to help them).
- Then (and this is the part that most plumbers miss) helping the customer understand how to make a decision.
By helping the customer understand the problem, you’re showing that you don’t have any secrets and are interested in transparently helping them find a solution. Customers will appreciate that you are simply explaining what’s happening, especially if you give them ideas about how to keep this problem from happening again.
By helping the customer understand the cost of the problem and the value of the solution, you’re framing the decision-making process about the overall value, not just forcing the customer to purchase something. By helping the customer understand the solutions available to them, including why your company is the best at helping them, you are professionally showing them (not in a pushy way) that they have options but not all those options are created equal.
Once you’ve laid the groundwork with the above pieces — which are all educational and not “salesy” — then you help them make a decision. Instead of forcefully asking them to sign on the dotted line today, take a different approach. Ask them what factors are important to them about the solution or the company providing the solution. As you do this, list those factors in a column on the left side of a piece of paper. Then, across the top of the paper, list your company plus other competitors (if the customer has quotes from other competitors) or list other product choices (if the customer plans to hire you but isn’t sure which option is right for them).
Your checklist might look something like this (with a much longer list of factors down the left column):
|Your Company||Competitor A||Competitor B|
Once the checklist is created, allow the customer to rank each option. They can do this on their own, and you can be there to help them if they aren’t sure about something.
|Your Company||Competitor A||Competitor B|
If your company is as good as you think it is, and can deliver on the most important factors that the customer listed, great. You'll come out on top in the ranking system and get their business. If it’s not your company, wish the customer well and be on your way. Then decide whether you need to make some changes in your company to improve on the factors that your customer thought were important.
A Final Word
This is a powerful tool. Instead of being perceived as a salesperson who is just trying to close the deal, you are coming in as a facilitator who has the customer’s interests at the top of your mind. And, using the customer’s own words and priorities, you are showing them (hopefully) that your company is the very best one to help them.
About the Author
Mike Agugliaro is the “Business Warrior” and founder of CEO Warrior, a business consulting, training and mentoring firm, providing tested and proven methods to defeat the roadblocks that prevent small to mid-sized businesses from achieving their ultimate success. He has played a key role in building and selling Gold Medal Service, New Jersey’s largest and most respected home service company. For more information about CEO Warrior, visit www.CEOWARRIOR.com.