By Jim Hinshaw
I just had a great conversation with Allen eaker (his company earned an award for selling high-end systems, in the 20 seer territory, in his market). He asked me if there was a great restaurant in Fort collins, colo.—someplace where i would like to take my wife for a special dinner. i said we liked steak, so we went to Sonny lubicks, a great steak house. But what was the special occasion? He said he wanted to buy us a nice meal; he had just closed a couple of large sales and had used some concepts from my training he attended years ago. He had my full attention.
He had a job for an older building in the center of town, a unit on the second floor was out, and the owner wanted to look at a replacement 4-ton unit because the second-floor occupants were roasting. Allen had not done work for this customer for over 20 years. He listened to their concerns, asked some ques- tions, and installed a used condensing unit to give himself some time to do a complete analysis of the entire building. this is a public building; he was one of several bidders on the proj- ect. the end result was he got a contract for hundreds of thou- sands of dollars, replacing the entire system with a high-tech system, all because he looked at the entire building instead of quoting a new unit for the second floor.
Yes, i realize you cannot negotiate on a public bid, that you should always bid what they ask for, and that there is no money available for entire system replacements in a public building— just don’t tell Allen that.
in a second case, Allen got a call from an existing customer who was selling a building to another company; they needed some duct modifications for the new owners. Allen met with the new owners, asked questions about their business, how long they were going to be in the building, if their business was on an up cycle—all important factors in looking at the plumbing/ HvAc system in the building. He ended up offering them sev- eral of those high-end systems. they agreed to that proposal and have since talked to Allen about an addition to the build- ing—several more systems needed, another big proposal endorsed.
in both these cases, what many would do is simply offer what the customer asked for. Allen decided to go further, get more info, and offer them a real solution, at a cost that was many times their original budget. in his words, the same strategy can be used in selling commercial as in residential. You may have more people involved, larger projects, but in these cases the final numbers were huge compared to what the minimum, low- cost proposals would have been. people buy emotionally, jus- tifying it with logic later on.
Why the fancy meal for my wife and me? Allen sat in one of my sales classes years ago; he internalized the message, started offering high-end systems with full warranties. What he said was it changed his business forever. So, take a lesson from a fellow contractor, try asking more questions, listen more, talk less. Offer the best system available, even if it is a public bid. it pays dividends. Oh, by the way, Allen has those same high-end systems in his home and office. in his words: it is easy to sell what you actually believe in.
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