It seems like our industry has seen an increase in overall business during 2013, which is a welcome change from recent years. In talking with others in the industry, everyone seems to be confident that 2014 will be a good year as well. New prospects are presenting themselves, and a flood of new small businesses are being started in the upswing.
In 2013, many kitchen and bath professionals found themselves taking on smaller projects, often with smaller budgets. In some cases, this may simply have been a reflection of what their clients wanted or could afford; in other cases, they may have been servicing smaller jobs because they valued ongoing relationships with allied professionals (builders, architects, interior designers) who needed help with these jobs.
Now, the pendulum seems to be swinging back a bit, with a shift toward projects with higher budgets and larger scopes. But with the shift in budget comes the possibility of a shift in clientele – and client attitudes.
Being in the custom, high-end market, our clients are generally highly educated and extremely knowledgeable about the products and services they want. Additionally, they most likely have been through the new building or renovation process prior and have also lived through some leaner times. This can present some unique challenges.
We see the clients of today being very cognizant of the value of their money and how they will be spending it. We see our clients asking many, many more questions than in years past. And sometimes they become that “tough cookie” who can be a real challenge to sell to.
Today’s clients might be spending more money, but they want the very best for that money, and they want to understand all the options. They want to weigh those options and determine where they want to spend more and where they want to spend less to offset their splurges.
This makes our job as a salesperson harder in some cases and easier in others. Typically, when a client is asking more questions, this usually will require more time spent on their project. We may also have to develop more alternatives for them, more options which, in turn, may require more pricing and estimating, more proposal writing and an increase in overall client correspondence. Whether the time is spent on the phone, on email or in person, these types of clients require more communication and the increase in workload that goes along with that.
However, just as these clients require a bit more work, this allows us to reap the benefits of these types of client personalities. Given they have all of the information and options laid out for them, the decision-making process for them will usually become easier and you can help make the sale faster by guiding the client in the right direction. They will typically know what they want and what they don’t want, and that makes our jobs easier.
However, there are always some tricks to help close the sale with the “tough cookie,” prospect. Below are a few ways to maximize your success with this type of client.
Over Communicate: I find, with the amount of information we have to provide to these types of clients, you need to adequately explain each option. Most clients will only be able focus on one or two items in the conversation and then they begin to think about these, often tuning out the rest of what you are sharing. So speak slowly and make sure they are hearing all of the details (even if you have to break up your communications into several conversations or meetings).
Along with the verbal discussion, it’s a good idea to provide them a concise, written outline of what is entailed with each option. This take away will allow them to go back and revisit the project details after your verbal explanation, allowing them to make a better decision.
Provide Exact Sampling: These clients are very touch and feel oriented, so providing exact examples of each of the options available to them will only help you in the end. Ensuring the clients understand exactly what they will be getting will allow them to make decisions more effectively and ensure their expectations are met.
If you have a showroom, you may have options of each type of detail available to you. Of course, you may not, in which case ordering a sample of the exact combination of details in each option the client is interested in may be a good idea. Yes, it can involve some increased cost, but it may well be worth it in the end.
I had a client we were doing a project for where we had proposed a higher-priced product for one room and a less expensive product for the other adjacent space. After seeing the full-size sample of each option’s quality, the customer decided to upgrade to the more expensive product for both spaces. I had to order two sample cabinets in the exact finish, interior specifications and door style from each cabinet company, which was a substantial investment (the cost could always be added into the project if you see fit). Yet going the extra mile with this customer really paid dividends.
With these types of clients, it isn’t always about the cost, it’s about the value. If you can explain and show them the differences and let them perceive the added value for spending more, then you’ve already made the sale – and, in this case, the up-sale.
Focus on the Details: This type of client personality is very detailed oriented. I once had a client who told me he “would never work with any man who missed a bit of stubble when shaving, because if he missed that simple detail staring him right in the face in the morning, what subtle detail would he miss on my project?” I know that’s extreme, but at the end of the day, he’s correct.
We have to mind all the details and make sure they are accurately stated. This starts with your presentations, both written and verbal, as well as your designs and drawings. Make sure your final construction drawings have been over noted with details. Even more important is executing the installation. It’s all in the details with these clients. If you get the details right, you’ll get the referrals.
Those “tough cookie” clients may seem to be a challenge at first glance, but don’t be intimidated; rather, embrace them. They know what they want and if you do your job correctly, they will want you to provide it for them. It’s about obstacle versus opportunity. Don’t let their questioning or desire for more options feel like an overwhelming obstacle for you. It should be seen as a wonderful sales opportunity – and an opportunity to win their referrals, as well.