For many of us, this approach might look time-consuming. You might argue ‘Why would I give away free advice? I deserve to be paid for my skills’ and you’d be quite right, but if you want to work with the best clients, on the best projects, then you need to play a longer game.
Often the most untapped resource within our business is our network. Referrals don’t have to just come from paying clients or those who have worked with us before, they can come from people who believe in us as experts.
Trust is developed when we are willing to show up and help people make the right decision for them, even if it doesn’t mean buying our services or products.
We develop trust when we put the other person first and help them make the decision that’s right for them.
In this blog, I’d like to show you a practical example of how, with a completely different approach, a supplier could have won me as a raving fan for their business. Now I am not saying that by reading this you don’t know to have better conversations, but rather just to look at the contract between how the supplier left me feeling as a result of our conversation.
A few weeks back, I approached a service provider on Facebook Marketplace. Someone I know has a garage that needs clearing out and with my helpful nature, I offered to contact a company to help clear it. Being a fan of Facebook Marketplace, I decided to use it to reach out to a potential supplier for a quote.
I am not experienced with waste removal or how it works with our local council. So I am a novice coming to a conversation and in need of some guidance.
However, what followed was a frustrating conversation of exploration and trying to find the facts. It resulted in neither of us getting what we wanted. I wasn’t able to make an informed decision. In fact, I had more questions than before we started, and he lost the business.
There are a few things within this conversation to note, which I have copied to the left.
- He readily accepts that I am going to send over photos giving me the impression that the quote will be based on his estimation of what he sees in the photos
- When the quote comes, it is a standard price that later transpires not related to what he sees in the photos as he says “I haven’t even looked at [garage] yet”
- He supplies the price and my instant reaction is “How come??” I am clearly in shock.
- With the lack of information, I make my own estimation of how many loads. What I don’t realise at this point is that I’ve made an assumption on the size of a van, based on my notion of a ‘man with a van’.
- I am also assuming that the waste will go to the tip since the garage owner pays council tax.
- My assumptions start to annoy him and he is clearly getting defensive about my price objection “Who said 3 loads and I use TJ Waste in Hilsea”
- At this point, the novice that I am is starting to work out that disposing of waste might cost money! I am curious now whether this is the same for disposing at the council. Maybe this will be the best quote I can get and a realistic cost for this person clearing their garage?
- I need some information and I need someone to help me. I don’t really feel I should ask this person as they aren’t that forthcoming, but I know that if I can get him to engage with the conversation and get the right intel, there is a high likelihood I’ll reward him with my business. So I press on.
- Just as I am realising that the price is probably very reasonable, the conversation goes dead. The supplier has had enough and probably doesn’t see the point in continuing. Little did he know how close I was to understanding he was cheap and agreeing! He could well have been offended by my price objection because to him he is cheap, and in declining I was offending his worth.
So how could this conversation have gone?
When writing LinkedIn profiles for my clients, one of my biggest rules is handling objections and answering questions before they are asked. This means supplying the information that surrounds a statement before the mind can jump in and object. In this case, supplying the information around the answer provided recognising that the answer alone is too ambiguous.
“Thanks for the photos. It’s hard to estimate, to be honest. [personalised]
My normal fee is £250 per load. I have a [insert vehicle] that can carry [tons]. To give you some idea this would be about the space of four three-piece sofas or 7 double beds.
The cost includes disposing of the waste at TJ Waste in Hilsea at £140+VAT. I have been using TJ Waste for years as they are comparatively cheaper than the local tip, which tends to be 20% more expensive. Of course, as a resident, you are able to tip there for free within your council rates. However, as a tradesperson completing the job for you, this won’t be possible.
I estimate the job will take approximately three hours [now I am getting an idea on the labour charge] for myself and colleague. We work Monday – Saturday 8 am – 4 pm and have full insurance. If you’d like me to pop over to provide a final quote, I’ll be very happy to do so.
Of course, your cheaper option is to do it yourself by hiring a van and taking it to the tip, but I assume this isn’t something you can do?
[personalised] As I said the photos give me some idea but I don’t want to give you any nasty shocks.
So what just happened here?
In crafting the above message, I re-wrote several paragraphs a number of times to avoid any ambiguity and avoid the need for further questions. It took me about 10 minutes, but that isn’t to say you need to take 10 minutes with every message. When crafting this, I was sure to make the main bulk of the email generic so it could be copied and pasted. I also aimed to provide full information so the person has all the information to make their choice – including times of operation. Mentioning insurance was to give extra credibility that I think about these things, and it gives buyer other criteria for their list when talking to suppliers.
I broke the cost down to give an understanding of what was involved in the job without being patronising. I also handled their potential objection about using their local tip instead of paying this waste company.
What I have also done is given the prospect the opportunity to take the information and run. If they realise from what I’ve said that doing it themselves is cheaper and they are physically able, they know they are free to do so. I’ve also made it easy for them to thank me for the intel and use it – rather than thinking they’ve just snuck a look at the test answers.
By asking the final question, I am engaging them in conversation and the answer to this particular question should elicit all the information I need to know about their situation and why they are asking a tradesperson.
“No, we couldn’t do it ourselves. It’s for an elderly lady who needs to clear her home.”
The more we understand the situation the more we can tailor our advice and cater for them in our interactions, showing sensitivity where needed or even offering advice or referrals to other suppliers that can help the prospect solve their real problem.
The service you are supplying is always a means to solve a bigger problem. When you understand this and deliver your services with this in mind, you’ll stand out.
“No, we really can’t do it ourselves because we don’t have a valid driving licence. We’re trying to turn the space into an art studio and want it done within the next week”
Now when you visit, you can encourage them about the art space and get to know them. This level of rapport will go a long way to them agreeing to work with you, especially because very few of your competitors are likely to do it. You might refer other trade persons to them again positioning you favourable with them as well as your local business community.
No matter what service you’re offering, providing information to help your prospect make their decision will always work in your favour. The less pushy you are about trying to agree on the sale, and the more you honour where they are up to in their thought process – even allowing them to talk honestly about doing it for themselves – the more a prospect will trust you.
Even if you think that prospects know this information already, never make assumptions. If you’re worried that spelling it out might patronise a prospect who does know, then structure carefully to supply information (in case they don’t) while providing key information (in case they do). The example above demonstrates this.
Remember, once you’ve crafted your message, you can use it again and again, providing excellent customer service in a heartbeat. Tools like TextExpander allow you to program long paragraphs of text that populate at the touch of a button on multiple devices. A message like this could be sent in the moments while lining up for ice cream with your kids at the beach.
How do you want to leave someone feeling?
Even if a prospect doesn’t buy from you, it isn’t a waste of time. By mapping out the information clearly and helping them make the right decision, you leave something with them. Something they will remember and something they will tell other people about. It’s this kind of ‘stickiness’ that leads to our names coming up in the right conversation.
P.S. It took a conversation with my friend’s husband to finally learn the information I needed to make my decision and thus why I can now answer my own question in this blog.