Recently, our washing machine stopped working. A month ago, our refrigerator broke. A month before that, our garage door was having problems. And a month before that, our dishwasher door went out of commission too.
Needless to say, more than a few appliance people have walked through my doors lately.
And only this last time did it click … all these repairmen are better salespeople than I am.
Here’s are seven reasons why -- and lessons we can all learn.
1) They get prospects to work on their schedule.
The washing machine won’t drain. The dishwasher door stops latching properly.
Things breaks, and you do what any rational person does: You procrastinate as long as possible. (Or until your significant other gives you the look.)
If, like me, you’re only handy with a credit card, you call some repair shops.
Our washing machine stopped working a day or two before a three-day weekend. The appliance company I reached out to was slammed and wouldn’t be able to get to it until next week sometime. If you've ever had something break before a long weekend, you've probably heard the same thing.
Already, you’re being managed. Before you've even agreed to work with the appliance shop, they’re managing your expectations and forcing you, the customer, to implicitly agree to their available window of time.
Takeaway: Manage Expectations From the Get-Go
Managing expectations is an ongoing battle. But winning the first battle is critical to making sure your prospect goes along with your processes and procedures -- which will cut down on future hassles and speed up your ability to deliver a good finished product.
And it all starts with those tiny interactions, those first encounters, like scheduling. Get the prospect in the mindset of working with your process by using a tool like the Meetings app in HubSpot Sales to get your prospect to book time on your calendar.
2) They charge an upfront deposit.
Pay attention, creatives: This point is for you.
Creative services, as a whole, suck at sales. If you're in the field, you probably do free work with the expectation that “ongoing work” or “referrals” will come your way (it almost never does).
Clients, who have about as much skill and experience in design as my pug Rudy, critique your pitch as if they’re Impressionist masters.
Now let’s contrast that initial sales process with an appliance repairman's.
“We’d love to come out on this date and this time,” they tell you. Then, they inform you of an upfront deposit -- just to get them to come out to your house.
And this deposit only covers a diagnosis. If they find and fix the problem, you can apply the full amount to your total payment due at the end.
But still, they won’t even lift a finger until you pay a deposit. Don’t like it? No soup for you!
Takeaway: Say "No" to Spec Work
No other industry does free spec work on the promise of a future, ongoing relationship.
While RFPs are (sometimes, but rarely) tolerable to a certain degree, going overboard on free mockups, wireframes, or ‘test’ campaigns only devalues your future services and further erodes pricing margins in the long run.
3) They always start with a diagnostic.
Asking for someone’s budget is a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, it helps you come up with different possible solutions to their problem.
On the other, the number you're told is usually completely arbitrary. A department’s share of profit, or what the competition has quoted them, is not a good indicator of value.
Case in point: Development.
A client’s application has bugs. They want to get rid of them. They say they have a budget of $XXX.
Sounds great -- so you invoice and get started. And it is great, until your developers get into the code of the website and recoil in horror.
The back end is a mess. Nothing works the way it's supposed to. And your new client doesn’t understand why it’s taking twice as long (or going to cost twice as much) to fix these issues as you originally predicted.
The only real way to prevent getting yourself and your client into a similar scenario is to diagnose these problems upfront.
But if you don’t charge for this diagnostic work, it’s almost always rushed, haphazard, or skipped in order to hit that arbitrary deadline you’ve been given.
Contrast that behavior with the appliance repairman, who makes no. The only thing they’ll be able to do when they come to your home for that first visit is diagnose the problem. That’s it.
Takeaway: Always Diagnose Before Prescribing
Only after understanding the full extent of the problem can you begin to prescribe the solution.
“How long will this application take to fix?”
The answer’s not “Three weeks.” The answer is, “That depends on what we discover.” Discover, then go from there.
4) They sell convenience.
Only after I adhered to their schedule, paid an upfront deposit, and went through a diagnostic was the appliance repairman ready to make an official ruling.
The motor was worn out. He also just so happened to have said part on hand and could fix it immediately.
“You mean it can be fixed in a few minutes, before my wife gets home, and I’ll look like a hero?" I asked. "Where do I sign?”
Value-based pricing sounds nice in theory. But what holds people back from effectively selling value is a lack of understanding what you’re selling.
Takeaway: Sell Value, Not Commoditized Widgets
How do you go from charging $2,000 for a website (or any other product) to $50,000 or even $100,000?
You sell a solution. Not a feature, a design, or a few lines of code.
You listen intently to what your prospect is struggling with -- using website design as an example, usually something related to business objectives like increasing revenue or cutting costs -- and you deliver a solution that makes or saves the company a lot more than it costs. And this lesson applies whether you're selling a project, a service, or a product.
In the example analysis below, the salesperson has clearly broken out three different scenarios and calculated the monthly revenue increase the customer can expect to see as a result of each.
Source: Brad Smith
5) They are transparent about pricing.
Chances are, your clients have no idea what you’re doing for them.
They kind of get it from a high-level perspective.
But they don’t understand it from an in-the-weeds point of view. Even if they think they know all about SEO for example, they have no idea how challenging and time-consuming it is to tackle canonicalization problems on a large site with international visitors.
During the initial sales process then, you’re selling the invisible. A bunch of intangibles that are hard to grasp and understand.
Google “SEO services” and you’re bound to find someone who’ll guarantee a #1 ranking in one month for only $500.
There's no way a client call tell the difference between that lunatic and you?
One thing jumps out … the price you’re both charging. Which makes it a race to the bottom.
Takeaway: Clearly Show How Price Relates to Value
That several-thousand-dollar proposal you emailed over will sound like it was pulled out of thin air to a client. An appliance repairman gives you a detailed pricing breakdown, with the upfront price (Read: Cash, not NET60) easy to see and understand -- even for a layperson like me.
Source: Brad Smith
6) They build profits into their price.
Tell me if this sounds familiar.
You’re trying to lock up a new project, so you send a message to a member of your team to give you an hourly estimate for this work so you can apply your rate and send over a quote to the client by end of day.
He tells you, 200 hours. So you multiply that by your project rate of $100/hour, hit "Enter," and throw it on a proposal.
Here’s the problem. This number doesn't take into account project management, time to meet with the client, implementation time, and so forth. It's also not taking into account all of the tools and software it takes to complete a successful implementation.
Takeaway: Charge What You’re Really Worth
Remember that overhead, labor, and profit are supposed to be accounted for in your hourly rate or product price. So don't immediately fold on a discount or reduce your hourly rate just to win the business.
My appliance repairman charged $200 for less than one hour worth of work.
Remember that the next time a client tells you $100 an hour “sounds too high.”
7) They seed their next appointment.
The only thing you can count on with appliances is that they’ll break. Probably sooner rather than later. So what happens the next time?
This, my friends, is the purchasing occasion. It’s the moment that motivates someone enough to pick up the phone.
Reverse-engineer the steps people take to find you to determine where you should start promoting, marketing, and prospecting for more customers. Then coordinate your own sales efforts to match up with those activities.
Take appliances as an example. Those companies place a sticker in the upper right-hand corner of your appliance that reminds you who to call each and every time you use the thing.
Source: Brad Smith
Takeaway: Perform Simple Actions to Generate Repeat Purchases
A timely notification or update like the one below is an example of an in-product reminder that prospects should upgrade or buy something new.
Source: Brad Smith
Keep yourself top-of-mind with reminders, check-ins, and continuing pieces of information that add value to your prospect's life.
Smart people tend to over-intellectualize things. We memorize all the closing techniques. We study all the tips, tactics, tools, and hacks we can find.
But at the end of the day, some of the best sales lessons are sitting right in front of us in plain sight.
They’re being practiced and delivered by professionals: People who have been in the game and around the block more times than we can count.
When you watch what they’re doing, notice that it’s not overly complex or sophisticated. It’s basic. The simpler, the better. They’re executing a well-worn process with confidence.