Not Everyone Wants a BMW Paint Job

One of my coaching clients was recently reviewing his sales numbers with me. He began to implement my sales system about six months ago, and his closing rate has not changed. However, he has increased his selling price by more than 30 percent. In other words, he is getting a lot more money for the same effort.

As we were talking, he said rather forcefully, “Price doesn’t matter.”

Of course, in one sense price does matter. We can’t charge arbitrarily high prices just because we want to be wealthy. But in another sense, he was absolutely right. If we offer a superior value, then we should charge a superior price. And customers will pay that price, if they want superior value.

As evidence, look in any parking lot. You won’t see it filled with beaters and Yugos. You will see a mixture of vehicles. Some will be expensive and some will be cheap. People have different values. Some are content to drive a Yugo so long as it gets them where they want to go. Others want to travel in a more comfortable and luxurious setting. Both are doing what is right for them.

The same applies to paint jobs. Some people want a BMW paint job and some are content with a Yugo paint job.

If someone is in the market for a new car, they have an idea of what models will fit their budget, needs, and desires. If they have a Yugo budget, they aren’t going to go to the BMW dealership. But if they are in the market for a paint job, it isn’t so easy to distinguish the BMW contractor from the Yugo contractor.

So, the person with the Yugo budget will often call the BMW contractor. And then the contractor will be told that his price is too high. Duh! If we are offering the BMW of paint jobs, the trick is to attract those customers who want a BMW paint job rather than the Yugo buyers.

High-end brands like BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes focus on value in their advertising. They taut their luxury, dependability, comfort, and the other values that will appeal to their target customer. We should do the same in our marketing.

>Not everyone wants a BMW paint job. That’s fine. But we could save ourselves a lot of time and frustration if our marketing attracted those who do, rather than those who want a Yugo paint job.

Training our Customers

Most contractors recognize the need to train their employees. If we want work performed to a certain standard, we cannot assume that our employees know how to achieve that result. We must show them the proper way to perform the tasks required in their job.

Unfortunately, we often fail to recognize the need to train our customers. Yet, the results can be much worse than failing to train our employees.

Consider: You have given the customer an estimate and they ask if you can do better on your price. If you immediately cave and reduce the price, you have taught the customer a lesson—his wish is your command. And he will likely continue to act on that premise.

However, if you tell the customer that you can reduce the price by changing the scope of work or by using different materials, you have taught a much different lesson—your price is determined by the labor and materials required, not the customer’s desires.

Virtually every interaction with our customer implicitly trains him as to what we expect and will tolerate. We can train the customer to use and abuse us, or we can train him to treat us with respect and professional courtesy.

As professional contractors, we know what it takes for a job to go smoothly. This requires everyone involved—our employees and the customer—to do their part. We spend time training our employees to do their job efficiently and to our standards. We should do the same with our customers.

I Want My House Painted

One of the worst things a contractor can do during the sales process is make assumptions. Unfortunately, it is easy to do. We often assume that we know what the customer means. And often that assumption is wrong.

For example, I once had a customer tell me that she wanted the entire interior of her house painted. That seems pretty straight forward, but appearances can be deceiving. As we walked around her house and discussed the project, I asked her about the ceilings, closets, and several other items. After she told me to leave three or four things off of the estimate, she jokingly said, “I guess I don’t want the entire house painted, do I?”

If I had assumed that I knew what she meant, I would have bid a job that was much different from what she wanted. By asking a few questions, both of us became clear as to her needs and desires. And then I could bid the job accordingly.

I don’t mean to imply that we should endlessly interrogate a customer. That would serve no useful purpose and would likely annoy the customer. But we must be careful to identify when we are making assumptions.

If we seek to satisfy the customer’s needs and desires, we must first know what they are. And that means asking the right questions. Anything less is a disservice to the customer and to ourselves.

Your Price is Too High

Suppose your customer utters that bane of contractors everywhere: “Your price is too high.” How do you respond? If you are like many contractors, you say something like, “It’s a lot of work.”

“Your price is too high” might seem like a pretty straight forward statement. But what does it really mean? It could mean:

  1. I have lower prices from other contractors.
  2. That is more than I want to spend.
  3. That is what I am supposed to say as a negotiating tactic.

These mean very different things. If we start trying to defend our price without clarifying the customer’s meaning, we could literally talk ourselves out of a job. So, let us consider a different approach.

A professional contractor should expect his price to be higher than most of his “competition.” He shouldn’t hide from that fact, and he certainly shouldn’t be defensive about it. Instead, he should treat it as a source of pride—he has earned it.

Consider the following reply: “I’m not surprised. In fact, I’d be more surprised if I wasn’t the highest price you have received.” Rather than apologize for your price, wear it as a badge of honor.

Defending your price tells the customer that you aren’t confident in what you are charging. And if you aren’t confident, the customer certainly won’t be.

This doesn’t mean that you can charge arbitrarily inflated prices. But if you are offering superior value, you should charge accordingly. If you got it, flaunt it.


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