There a lot of things not to do when you are handling a one-on-one sales meeting, but here are some pretty obvious ones that stick out to me.

  1. Don’t try to find out about who the customer is, their knowledge base  and what they want.
  2. Make the problem seem larger and more complicated than it is.
  3. Don’t listen to what the customer wants, even though the customer knows their way is not the best way, but it’s what they want.
  4. Don’t try to work with the customer when your quote is too high and the customers says it’s too high and asks, “can you do better?”
  5. Have a one size fits all solution.
  6. Assume the customer does not know about or have access to the Internet to cross-check what you are telling them.

This scenario played itself out last week quite nicely for me to write-up here.  The heat of the summer has finally worn us down and we’ve decided to install an evaporative cooler in our house. We got some referrals about who to use and made some appointments to get estimates. This particular sales person represents a very large and long-established home repair and installation company, whom I will refer to as BigCo. We knew they would be higher, but wanted to get a sense for what they were offering compared to the one-man company we also got quotes from.

BigCo never asked me what I knew about evaporative coolers, my experience with them, or if I knew how to start them in the spring and winterize them in the fall. I am no expert, but I’ve had evaporative coolers in past residences and I know how to maintain them myself, so I might not want to pay for extra service fees. Further, I know how they work, and while the location I wanted it to be may not be the most efficient for cooling, it was going to be more than adequate for our purposes. Further, where I wanted it installed is in a location not visible from the front yard or the back yard. So, aesthetics was an important consideration for its location.   The first rule in sales for any product is to know your customer.  BigCo did not ask me about any of the above.

BigCo was time-consuming, waxing on and on about how complex it was going to be. Further, they only use the best equipment that they get exclusively from such and such manufacturer. And, their installation contractors are better than anyone else because they have been in business since the early part of the 19th century (Seriously, he said this).

BigCo was using a typical sales tactic of instilling and building fear in the customer in an effort to make it seem like the problem is so big that only they can solve it with their decades of experience and vast supply chain. Come on, man, it’s an evaporative cooler, which I can buy over the Internet from this same manufacturer (I later checked)! It’s not a friggin’ jet engine!

Finally, the quote, further sweetened with a 5% friends and family discount that he will get me in on, but its only available if I accept right now.  I wish I could say the F/F discount put the deal over the top for me, but since it was two times over my budget and four times greater than my lowest quote, it was a non-starter from the get-go.

I did not say no, or I would think about it, I just said that’s way over budget, can you do better? I gave him a classic opening to come back and work with me. I knew BigCo was going to be higher anyway, but I also knew that they probably had better warranties, assuming the company does not file for bankruptcy, which you can never rule out anymore, so I was willing to consider a higher quote than what I already had.

He did not budge. No, “let me look at where you want to put it and see how much it reduces the costs”, or, “let me take out the service fees and warranties” or, “let me call my boss to see about increasing our F/F offer”, or… Nothing. Nadda.  He said his quote was the best he can do.

So, in summary, BigCo did not get the sale.  But the encounter is sure a good experience about what not do to in sales.