Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Last week, I was in Florida to teach my estimating and sales system. One of the attendees has been estimating by the “eye-ball” method for twenty years. When Mike (not his real name) entered the training room, he made it pretty clear that he thought he was wasting his time.

By the end of the two-day session, Mike was one of the most vocal in praising the training. It is possible to teach an old dog new tricks. But one’s success in doing so depends on the dog, and the tricks one is trying to teach.

In Mike’s case, he was willing to keep an open mind and consider something new. Though he was skeptical at first, he was willing to listen and consider what I was saying. He could see how my system could help him sell more paint jobs.

Too often, contractors view sales as a necessary evil. It is something that we have to do to get jobs. And when that is our attitude, we often do little more than throw a number at the customer and hope that some stick.

In truth, sales is little more than playing the role of a consultant. We should be educating our customers about what is required to achieve the results they want and why our company can provide those results.

To accomplish this, we must first determine what the customer really wants or needs. We must ask questions and then listen to the answers. Only then can we propose a scope of work and products that will satisfy the customer.

Contractors often lament the fact that may customers think that anyone can paint. But many contractors approach sales with this same mentality. They treat every customer as the same and don’t spend the time to discover what a particular customer wants or needs.

Professional painters know that a lot more is involved in a quality job than slapping paint
on the walls. Professional salesmen know that customers don’t always want or need exactly the same thing. If we are selling paint jobs, we must integrate these two facts.

If we treat our customers all the same, they have no reason to view us differently than our competition. And when we look the same as our competition, price becomes the deciding issue. But when we treat our customers differently than the competition—when we spend the time to learn what they really want and need—then they view us differently than the competition. And when we look different, value becomes the deciding issue.

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