Prospect or Suspect?
How to say "no" to business—and be better for it.
By Greg Nettles
Being an unpaid consultant is no way to make a living. The trick is to identify the people with whom you really want to do business, and build your relationships from there.
To accomplish this, you need to engage in some seemingly harsh practices. Teach your sales force to pick and choose from the customers coming through your door. Ask your customers to pay for proposals. Create estimates for any necessary walk-throughs.
These approaches seem contrary to customer satisfaction, but if done right, they'll ensure customer satisfaction, as well as a profitable business over the long haul.
Most of us have showrooms designed to demonstrate technologies in lifestyle settings that are as close to a high-end home environment as possible. At The Stereo Shoppe, we've even installed a fully functioning kitchen that features a full Crestron automation system.
Several years ago, we were giving prospective custom clients good reasons not to use us. Our salespeople would work with clients in our showroom, educating them about available options and even visiting their homes to come up with an estimate. We'd do a free proposal and make sure it line-listed models and prices and gave as much detail as possible.
Then we'd hand the proposals to clients and never see them again.
We finally realized we were creating shopping lists for clients to take their business elsewhere. Customers used our displays and our knowledge to learn about what they wanted, and then shopped for the cheapest price on the internet. Competitors who lacked showrooms would send their clients to us to get educated and decide what they wanted, and then undercut our prices, satisfied with being paid only to install the products.
Everything we were doing allowed customers to slip away. We had spilled our popcorn in the lobby and weren't holding on to anything. And we were so preoccupied with proposals for jobs that were never going to happen that we didn't always have the time needed to focus on the jobs that paid.