If it sounds too good to be true…

…maybe what you consider to be good or true is skewed. Sometimes things are so good and so true that people just don’t want to accept it. They may be weighed down with skepticism or shackled by fear.

For example, what if I told you that you could buy rental real estate for $150 and generate cash flow of $120 to $150 a month? You would probably think that this sounds too good to be true. You’d be right that it’s good. You’d be wrong that it isn’t true. I’ve done it twice in the past 4 months and I’m going to do it again in March. And what if I told you I’m going to buy another property for $0 and it’s going to generate the same type of cash flow?

My point here is not about real estate. My point is about your mindset, and that applies to any business endeavor, including painting. Indeed, it applies to life.

You’ve probably heard all kinds of claims about real estate, internet marketing, selling vitamins, and countless other businesses. And if you are like me, you probably dismissed most or all of them. Certainly there are people making outrageous claims that could never be true. There are also—on occasion—people who make outrageous claims that are true. The “trick” is to identify which is which.

Outrageous success usually requires outrageous claims. For example, the Wright Brothers made an outrageous claim—they could build an airplane. Henry Ford made an outrageous claim—he would build an automobile that the masses could afford. These men, and countless others like them, made claims that were considered outrageous at one time. But their claims were true and they proved it.

So, the fact that something sounds outrageous or too good to be true is not a valid reason to reject it out of hand. And that brings me to the real point of this email.

Growth, in any form, requires pushing boundaries. It means venturing into unchartered territory, doing something new, challenging the status quo. Physically, our growth from a helpless little baby into an adult happens automatically. But our success in business and in life is not automatic. It is a consequence of the choices we make.

If you want to grow your business you must push boundaries. You must try new things—at a minimum things that are new to you. And sometimes this means embracing ideas that seem outrageous or too good to be true.

As an example, years ago the late Richard Kaller was a prodigious poster on various Internet forums, including those for painting contractors. He challenged conventional thinking and often made claims that seemed outrageous, such as claiming that painting contractors could and should sell their services for $50 an hour or more. He was regularly and routinely chastised, called a snake-oil salesman (and worse), and subjected to all forms of verbal abuse.

On the surface many of his claims were indeed outrageous. But when I looked below the surface, when I looked at the full context and the reasons for his claims, they made sense. Increasing your prices from $30 an hour to $50 an hour is preposterous if nothing else changes. However, if you consider the full context the claim makes perfect sense. If you understand that customers buy value, that to command a higher price you must offer more value, that you must communicate that value and its benefits to the customer, then you can see that $50 (or more) is not outrageous.

I certainly don’t mean to suggest that every claim is valid and warrants protracted consideration. But to reject ideas out-of-hand simply because they are new and challenge our thinking can be very limiting. Sometimes what seems too good to be true just requires a new perspective.

Silence can lead to sales

It is often said that in negotiations “he who speaks first, loses.” The idea is that once you give away your position, the other party can begin to chip away at it and get more concessions.

This adage isn’t literally and always true. Good negotiating skills, as well as a clear idea of your goals, can make speaking first beneficial. For example, if you want $1,000 for your service, but initially ask for $1,100, you have “wiggle” room to offer concessions and still get what you want.

Sales is as much about listening as it is about talking, and perhaps more so. While our goal is to sell our service, we should also be trying to create win-win situations. This requires listening to the other party to understand their goals and desires. It means understanding their motivations and the results they are seeking.

While we all want to tout our service, sometimes the best way to do this is to keep our mouth shut. Sometimes, if we do more listening than talking we will wind up with the gold. This is true beyond negotiating a price.

To propose a job that meets the customer’s needs and expectations, you must first understand those needs and expectations. And you can’t do that if your jaw is flapping.

How to eliminate low-priced competition

Over the years I have had the pleasure (and sometimes the displeasure) of getting to know a lot of contractors. No matter where these contractors live, or their particular trade, they voice the same complaints, such as low-priced competition, insufficient leads, and the difficulty of finding good help. I am not going to address those particular complaints in this post, but rather the attitude contractors can take regarding them.

It is easy to complain. But complaining seldom does any good in and of itself. Complaining doesn’t change the actions that give rise to the source of the complaint.

Take low-priced competition for example. This has probably been a problem since the first caveman began offering his services, and it is likely to always be a problem. Complaining about it won’t change that fact. We simply aren’t going to change the attitude or the actions of discount contractors. We can however, change our attitude and actions and thereby reduce or eliminate low-priced competition as a concern.

To illustrate, consider Rolls Royce and Hyundai. Both make automobiles, and in a certain sense, Hyundai is a low-priced competitor to Rolls Royce—their automobiles are much less expensive. But these two manufacturers have vastly different markets, and I seriously doubt that Rolls Royce pays any attention to Hyundai’s pricing. It simply isn’t a concern because Rolls Royce offers much more value to its customers.

Contractors can take the same approach. We can compete on price, or we can compete on value. Which we choose depends on our attitude.

Many contractors firmly believe that clients focus on nothing but price. This is usually a self-fulfilling prophecy, as those contractors do little to offer more value. They look just like their competitors, and as a result, give the client no reason to pay more money.

But a contractor with a different attitude—a contractor who is value-oriented—recognizes the fact that a higher price demands greater value. Such a contractor does not complain about that over which he has no control—the pricing of his “competitors”—but instead seeks to distance himself from them and thereby eliminate them as true competition.

If you find yourself complaining about low-priced competition, you might do well to honestly assess your business and your attitude. You may not be offering enough value, communicating the benefits of that value, or both. And that is something that you can change.

Why it is wrong to be a sales bully

High pressure sales tactics have been unpopular for several years. Yet, some die hards hold on to the idea that if you can’t join them, beat them. They seem to think that if they talk long enough and loud enough they can sell ice to Eskimos, or in our context, paint jobs to anyone.

I’ve never been a fan of such tactics. I don’t like it done to me, so I’m not going to do it to someone else. Seth Godin writes about these sales bullies:

Sales bullies describe their approach as ethical, because, after all, it’s in the best interest of the prospect to say yes. It’s okay to be a sales bully when you’re trying to get someone to take their TB medicine, so it must be okay to be a sales bully to get them to sign this contract.

Personally, I’ve never had to be a bully to get someone to take their TB medicine. I’ve never known anyone on TB medicine. Besides, if it takes bullying to get someone to take TB medicine, I would likely find better things to do with my time.

But the real point is that sales bullies try to justify their tactics by claiming to know what is best for the client. In some cases this might be true. For example, I’ve had customers who insist on using oil on their exterior siding. I know this is wrong and will ultimately create more problems. But rather than attempt to bully them, I simply walk away and refuse to submit a bid.

In general, it is presumptuous to assume that one knows the client’s needs better than the client. And it’s always wrong to be a bully about it.

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