Tweaking Sales Tactics in Tough Times: What to Do When a Would-Be Client Cusses You Out
© 2008 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Winter 2008
Author: Scott O’Neill
Tweaking Sales Tactics in Tough Times
What to Do When a Would-Be Client Cusses You Out
By Scott O’Neill
Sales tips are hard to find in a dismal economy. Even in my own company’s 32-year history here in California, we’ve never seen an economy this bad.
When times are good and customers have more financial flexibility, you can push for the big sale without sacrificing your reputation with the customer. However, in hard times, you need to focus more sharply on listening closely and meeting the needs of the customer.
A Victim of the Housing Crisis
That’s what I learned from Nancy R., who called last week asking about repairs to her flip-up door. She intended to sell the house but couldn’t because of the dramatic decrease in home pricing. Then she added that she’s “under water,” which means she owes more to her lender than her home is currently worth.
So, when the main hinge on her hardware bent, she wanted us to simply fix it. I explained to her that metal fatigue precludes us from being able to bend the metal back to a straight arm. I told her that, at a minimum, she needed new hardware, which is costly since her door is 50+ years old.
She Cussed Me Out!
She got angry. She even cursed at me as I provided her with quotes to replace the hardware vs. the entire door. In better times, I would not consider a new $800 door to be a major expense. But given her situation, I needed to keep focused on meeting her needs.
At that moment, the tone and delivery of my response could make or break that client acquisition. So instead of challenging her objections directly, I decided to empathize with her.
A Calm Response
I calmly responded, “You know, I completely understand where you’re coming from—it’s no fun to have to buy a new garage door right now. But can I also just suggest that this could be a perfect opportunity to update the look of the house a bit and make it safer at the same time?”
Her attitude seemed to change, and she replied, “Well, I have to say that the old door clipped my car once and left a dent on it.”
Going for the Sale
Once I heard that slight opportunity in her tone, I offered more beneficial points, suggesting windows to brighten the appearance and light up the interior. Her angry tone started to wane. She then mentioned that she intended to rent out the house, so she wanted a cheap door.
Suddenly I had another opportunity to clarify the value of doors, explaining that she could get a better product by investing a little more money. At this point, I thought I was getting a door sale for sure.
Yet this is where I learned my lesson. She said she would NOT to buy a new door because she was “tapped out” financially.
At that point, I offered to inspect the door’s hardware to see if there might be any possible other fix we could do for her. It was that, or I could lose her to another company who would.
“You’re willing to come out to work on this door for me, then?” she replied with a hopeful tone.
“Sure, we can come out for our standard service call and bring new hardware in case it’s needed,” I said.
So we did. The result was new hardware that cost her nearly $500. But the important lesson was, I had to be realistic and seize every opportunity, no matter how large or small.
Fight the Fire or Fan the Flames
In times of economic struggle, it’s like walking into a fire. You can either put out the fire, or you can further ignite the flames. In Nancy’s situation, I could have easily ignited the flames with some poor salesmanship.
So, it’s important to find ways to quell the fears and anxieties of your would-be clients. In all cases, we need to keep our focus on meeting the needs of the customer, even if it means a smaller sale.
After all, a sale is a sale, and we all need to keep the economic engine of America moving along … even if it’s one hardware part at a time.
Scott O’Neill has been in the garage door business since 1986 and a sales manager since 1992 at Madden Door, Martinez, Calif.