How to Win an Argument and Lose a Sale

© 2005 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Fall 2005
Author: Scott O'Neill
Page 72

How to Win an Argument and Lose a Sale
By Scott O’Neill

I lost a sale last month.

Okay, I’ve lost many sales in my life, but I shouldn’t have lost this one. And it bothered me so much that I made changes to my sales strategy, to our company’s sales training, and to our product line. Here’s what happened.

A lady called on the phone and asked about buying a new garage door. I asked her some questions to see what kind of door met her needs. After I learned that she intended to stay in her home for a long time, I suggested that she buy a durable, double-sided, insulated steel door. (So far, so good.)

Educated By the Internet

However, she said that such a door didn’t sound necessary. She said she had done some research on the Internet and felt that a 24-gauge non-insulated door would be fine. I asked where she got her information, and she directed me to a manufacturer’s Web site that provided a comparison of steel gauges and an overview of steel door features.

Here’s where my sales effort began to fizzle. I admit that I probably took exception to the thought that she knew something about garage doors that I didn’t already know. I chose to argue the case that a two-sided steel sandwich door would be better.

And, yes, you guessed it. I lost the sale.

Winning the Battle, Losing the War

Where did I go wrong?

On a personal level, I let ego and my personal desire to offer the better long-term product get in the way of truly listening to the customer and doing my best to meet her needs. Yes, on a technical level, I was correct that a well-built sandwich door is stronger than a pan door.

I may have won that battle, but I lost the war. I lost the sale and a chance to build a trusting lifelong relationship with a customer. That hurts.

Changing Sales Tactics

On a professional level, I did some productive reflection on that lost sale. I reassessed my usual approach to selling garage doors. You see, I’ve always pushed to sell the better door. I’ve learned that, in the end, it results in a longer-lasting system and a more satisfied customer.

However, the customer doesn’t always want or need the better door. Sometimes, they just can’t afford it. And sometimes, as in this lost sale, a good 24-gauge pan door will be a suitable and durable solution. However, I still can’t, in good conscience, sell a cheap door that the customer will regret buying.

Changing the Product Line

The lessons I learned don’t stop there. On a business level, I reassessed the selection of garage doors that we sell. We looked for a competitively-priced alternative door that offers the merits of overall good construction and durability. More importantly, it had to be a door that won’t negatively affect our company’s reputation.

We found such a door and added it to our line. But I instructed our staff that this door is not to be the first choice we present to the customer. This door is only for those customers who just need a good, solid, basic door. I know that some dealers routinely sell cheap doors, but I can’t live that way.

A Win-Win Situation

Today, I sold one of the alternative doors. The customer was an elderly gentleman who is readying the home for sale in about a year. As he said, he just wanted “a decent, well-priced” door system. After a few minutes of discussion, it was clear that our new alternative door will meet his wants, his needs, and his budget.

In the end, I got the sale, he got a relatively good door, and our company’s reputation will remain intact.

Don’t get me wrong. I still encourage customers to buy the best door they can afford. But now, I listen more carefully to their needs. I educate them without arguing minor points. I offer them a selection of quality options. Then, I let them make the decision.

Scott O’Neill has been in the garage door business since 1986 and a sales manager since 1992 at Madden Door, Martinez, Calif.