Listen to the customer, evaluate the job site or drawings, and then offer alternatives that make sense to your customer. Odds are that they didn’t fully understand the mechanics of what you do when they contacted you.
It’s 7 a.m. on the Monday after Easter, and I’m at 36,000 feet flying out of Portland on a two-week trip to the Midwest and East Coast. The view out the airplane window jump-starts my imagination. I love the shapes, colors and textures of the clouds, especially in the early morning sun. Would it be the same vision to you? Maybe. Maybe not. In fact, you might hate flying and feel a sense of apprehension while I marvel and dream. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and too often we project our sense of beauty and our likes and dislikes onto our future customers, so that we are not truly listening to them. This could cost you the job and a lifelong customer. To be successful, learn when to listen, learn from visual clues, and most importantly, check your ego at the door. Don’t allow a flippant “no problem” to be your hurdle to success.
When I owned my concrete polishing business, I had an employee who enjoyed producing job site samples, and he was good at it. Well at least the mechanics of it. What he wasn’t good at was listening and checking his ego at the door. He was more concerned with showing the potential customer what he could do, not showing the customer what they had asked for. If your customer requests their floor to be finished to an 800-grit level, or even a 400-grit level, and has shared their very specific reasons, then that’s what you need to provide if you want to increase your chances of getting the job. What my employee liked was to take every floor to 1,500 or 3,000 because he loved how the floor popped. Never mind that the customer was interested in a lower grit finish because they perceived high gloss to equal “slip and fall,” or their maintenance budget was being cut and a 400-grit or 800-grit finish with less shine would appear cleaner. Not agreeing with, or maybe even accepting, your customer’s demands is your right, just as it is their right not to hire you and show you the door.
You have the right to educate the customer in a patient and open-minded manner; after all, you were contacted to provide a service because you’re the “concrete polishing expert.” How can you “open the door?” First, you need to push any preconceived notions to the back of your mind. If you don’t listen to the potential customer, how are you going to know their real or perceived needs? You may have all the knowledge, equipment and trained personnel necessary to deliver the right service, but if you allow your ego to blind your judgment, odds are that you’ve lost before you even stepped in the door. Listen to the customer, evaluate the job site or drawings if possible, and then offer alternatives that might make sense to your customer once their own opinions have been listened to and considered. Odds are that they didn’t fully understand the mechanics of what you do when they contacted you. It is your time to seize the opportunity to make them an educated buyer. Maybe a higher grit finish is right for them, but make sure that you aren’t the only one who sees it that way.
Being successful in business, as in life, is knowing when to be right, and when to allow the other person their thoughts and views, especially when the “other” person is a potential or existing customer. It is like a successful marriage, though much easier to end in divorce. And even if an individual or company has been your customer for years, not just a new contact, it doesn’t make listening any less important. If you want someone to share your vision, you must first listen to their vision. Do they want cream? Do they want aggregate? Will the floor allow you to deliver what they envision? Listen, win. Talk, lose.