I recently had an opportunity for a contract on a nice remodel. A mid six figure job that was right up our alley for location and scope. The clients had just closed on $1.3 million for a 3 story victorian on a very popular street in Belmont Massachusetts. I had completed a very large remodel 2 houses away the previous year and was in negotiations with another client across the street. To top it off, it was hand delivered by a realtor friend of mine who sold them the house and referred my company. The table was set.
The end of the story is that 2 weeks after our first meeting with the clients they had already picked a different company before even seeing my proposal. I was completely blindsided as I never had clients that didn’t give me a chance to meet with them a second time.
My post mortem on my failed sale lasted several weeks as I considered all the things that I might have done wrong. Of course, I feared the obvious possibility that they simply didn’t like me and were not interested in a second date. However, I swore I would not let let this failure go without learning from the experience and getting better.
There were several signals that my clients gave that I either missed or outright fumbled. Learn from my combination of 5 deadly sins that lead to my death as a salesman and close more deals.
Speed kills– I walked into the appointment and within 2 minutes we were already touring the house. I violated rule #1 in selling. Build rapport. By skipping this step, I reduced myself to just another contractor and all they wanted from me was my number. I also reduced my clients to just another job. By moving too fast, I missed an opportunity to get to know my clients, even at a baseline level. They also didn’t get a chance to know me and see if we clicked with basic communication.
Lesson #1 – Do not rush this stage! Discipline yourself to be patient and drive the appointment and the conversation so you can build critical rapport with your clients.
Sense of urgency- They were ready to move and ready to move fast. I have grown accustomed to clients hemming and hawing over decisions to move forward and I made the fatal assumption they would be no different. They asked me how long it would take and I immediately went into my canned response about typical timelines for design and scope development. What I should have done, was paused and asked them how quickly they wanted to move! Reality is that we could have jumped quickly to get the job on track and I missed it.
Lesson #2 – Listen to your clients and be ready to respond to their needs if they are ready to rock.
Complacency– There will be times in your business when everything is clicking. Similar to a baseball player on a long hitting streak, he just can’t miss. The enemy at this stage is complacency. I took my foot off the gas just enough to let the other guy pass me by. When I am going good I am clawing and scrapping. I am hungry and eager to show potential clients how hard I will work for them and the best way to show that is with responsiveness. Your clients do not want to hand over keys to their homes and hundreds of thousands of dollars to contractors that are not eager and excited for the work. If you come across as too busy or “too sexy” for the job then, most likely you will get passed over.
Lesson #3 Keep your foot on the gas and stay hungry
Email Black Hole– I took 1 week to prepare the design and scope development proposal. I then traded emails with the clients for another week. When I received an email to just send the proposal, I knew that I lost the deal. 4 days later, she emailed and confirmed they went with another firm. Why didn’t I set the appointment for the proposal before I left the original sales call? Why did I wait 1 week to email the request to set the appointment? All wasted steps. I can turn most proposals around in 24 hours so why hesitate? In a moment of self awareness I think it has to do with ego and trying to make it seem like my proposal is this big elaborate creation that takes weeks to put together. It don’t!
Lesson #4 Set the next appointment before you leave.
Mr. Personality– When it comes to selling your company’s services are you selling yourself and your company with just your sales pitch or have you already sent over detailed information about your company and your process? Are you banking on the hope that they will fall in love with you at first site because of your good looks and bubbly personality? A good personality is vital but, the communication of your company’s processes are just as important. If you are a design build firm like mine, that process is complex and will be overwhelming for a client to try and absorb in their first meeting with you.
Lesson #5 Make sure you are selling your business and process and not just your personality
The takeaway- I think what my wife’s spin instructor says before a hill climb sums it up.
“Wipe your sweat and get your life in order”
As always, I welcome all of your unfiltered comments, corrections, suggestions, additions, critiques and questions.