“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” – Tony Robbins
Are your Ducks in a Row?
Preparing for the first meeting involves a bit of research and preparation.
- Will you walk up the driveway empty handed?
- Will you have a big box of product samples like a Kirby vacuum salesman?
- Do you know anything about the customer?
- Do you know anything about the neighborhood?
- Do you know anything about their tastes?
Do you have everything you might need in the meeting at your fingertips or at least in your car?
What Does The Average Contractor Do?
Most contractors show up late, talk too much, come across as arrogant, answer texts during the meeting, (since their phone volume is on), and tell the customer that they will come back with a price. (about half the time they don’t bother.) The meeting might last 15 minutes, which is fine if you are prepared, but not quite enough time to make a connection.
This isn’t an excuse for winging it since we know you are the master of sales– It means that even though the bar is low, that you should prepare well for the meeting.
You have already researched your clients and know a little about them before the meeting. Remember, people love to talk about themselves. Letting them do that endears you to the client. Ask them about what they do.
What do people expect to see when you arrive?
There are a few strategies that may work for one person and not another. There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to appearance.
I know a guy that shows up at rich people’s homes in ripped jeans and Pj’s hanging out of the holes… Yeah, Paul Lafrance can get away with that all day long. And for a client to meet with him they have to fork over a cool $1000. Being a recognizable HGTV Star might just play in his favor.
I can’t even get away with growing facial hair! As an experiment I tried growing a beard for a few months– sales ratio was cut to 25% of what it was. I understand some guys can get away with it– but it sure didn’t work for me.
Generally, you should be dressed about as well as clients or maybe just a nudge better. Company shirts are a great way to look more professional.
It really depends on your clientele– if they are low-end customers in an inexpensive neighborhood– jeans and a tee shirt will be fine. Mid to high end, maybe ditch the jeans and put on a shirt with a collar. Upscale projects… maybe put on a jacket and dress shoes.
Vehicles–A Debatable Issue
This is something most builders don’t consider.
If your vehicle looks rough–park at a distance. If your truck leaks oil–don’t park in their driveway. It’s that simple. A newer small car is really suitable for most estimates or consultations. Doing lots of miles every year I use a small Toyota for consultations. Gas is expensive. Cost is another consideration since fuel comes directly from the profit line.
Now, here’s something to think about. Lots of guys are driving high-end trucks these days and this might bite them once in a while. Your vehicle should not be more impressive than that of your customer. It if is– park at a distance. I know people trying to sell decks in a brand new Escalades. Some people may find that impressive, thinking “He must be the best”, while others may think, “Will my money buy him the next one?”
Your choice of vehicle will not jive with every potential customer. Drive what you like and can afford.
People are most comfortable when you look relatable to them.
Coming to the door with 2 suitcases is a bad idea. Two burly men arriving with big bags will look like double the trouble.
Somebody clean shaven with a tidy appearance carrying a clipboard or even better a file folder with sketch pad inside is even better. Leave the samples in the car with blank agreements and fetch them if you need.
Perception. If you are moving crates into their home– the Extreme example I know, but it might cause them to feel,”OMG, what have we gotten ourselves in for?”
If you bring a big briefcase with you I guarantee you will leave it behind 1 in 4 times, because you will have tucked it in beside your chair or set off to the side. You certainly won’t be opening up your briefcase on the table– too obstructive.
Leaving something behind just makes you look scattered.
I assemble a folder with some design sheets, (captioned sketch templates), a design agreement and possibly will have a blank agreement tucked in behind a few sheets of blank paper. What I do is fairly repetitive, though it is custom work.
If you are a plumber or electrician or more of a commodity business, you will have a triplicate agreement and you will be filling it out during your initial meeting.
Have a few business cards with you– and obviously, you will need a phone or camera.
Aside from that, all you really need is a pair of ears and everything above.
You may need your phone to take photographs, or to show inspiring images, but that’s it.
I did a consultation with 2 clients and both were in Real Estate. Each of them spent about half the time we met on their phones texting and or stepped away from the table to answer a call. This job had so many misunderstandings and grief that in hindsight, it just wasn’t worth doing.
The flip side of this situation is you sitting at the table looking at your phone during lulls in the conversation.
Take photographs, but, put it on Airplane mode and only take it out to show them images of products and options.
Don’t even place it on the table– that says to the clients that “I don’t respect you!”
Put it away!!
Tech: What is coming?
The future will only streamline this process. Rather than paper, we will have apps that will turn us into artists. Agreements will be online and they will sign it on their phone. Same for change orders and approvals. Encrypted and available to all parties, these forms will make things easy. No scary agreements on legal paper. Revise the drawing, revise the agreement simultaneously and the change orders will automatically be attached.
The better question is when will they make building code, open and accessible and adaptable? Sorry, for the tangent, but that is really what I am waiting for. A comments box in an online building code app!
How will your Clients Perceive You?
First impressions are actually something that you can control.
Stand up straight, smile and greet them with warmth. Done!
Ask questions, lots of questions, even what you perceive as dumb questions then “SHUT UP”. Listen to their answers, really listen. Let them speak and let that lead you to your next question.
You have already qualified the client on the phone if you did your job. This is a visit to build a relationship with people. That involves mutual respect. You have 1 mouth, and 2 ears– use them accordingly.
What is your Goal for the First Meeting?
In my business, selling a design, whether 2D or 3D is the goal. If you are a plumber or an electrician you want to walk away with an agreement. If you are pricing a kitchen or an addition you likely want to sell the design or get a retainer. If you are a consultant you are there to give value–since you are getting paid for the time.
Share information, as much as they want. This will help you be seen as an expert–but make sure their eyes don’t glaze over.
If they are smiling with their eyes as you leave, and you almost think you have left too soon you have done well. Leave them wanting more. Make it so that they can’t wait for the next meeting.
Whether the first meeting is part of a process, or, your end goal, depends entirely on your business type.
The important thing is that you have a clearly defined goal that you will work towards in the all-important first meeting.
Most contractors go to an initial meeting for their own benefit. Getting the sale is their only consideration. This leaves the customer out of the equation. Make this “All About The Customer” for maximum result. Give value, make them smile, entertain them with inspiring stories. Sales are about relationship building and emotions.