11 Oct We Give Clients What They Want – Even Though it’s not always what they originally asked for
By Mike Gambino
I work in a strange industry, an industry perhaps unlike any other.
Often we encounter people that not only aren’t sure exactly what it is we do, but also aren’t sure they even want or need what we offer. This is pretty much unlike any other shopping/buying experience.
As an example, consider a typical purchasing encounter that people might go through.
Customer: “I want to buy a (car, watch, piece of art, bottle of wine).”
Salesman: “OK. Do you have your eye on anything in particular?”
Customer: “Well, I’ve been doing some research and I really like this (car, watch, piece of art, bottle of wine).”
Salesman: “That’s an excellent choice and a great (car, watch, piece of art, bottle of wine). All of my other clients that went with that have really enjoyed their purchase. Do you have any specific questions?”
Customer: “Well, can I get it in (blue, gold, a custom frame, this vintage)?”
Salesman: “I’m sure we can accommodate you. The price would be $X; was that in your budget?”
Customer: “Yes, I’ve done my research and already pretty much know what this (car, watch, piece of art, bottle of wine) was going to cost. I’d just like to discuss some options and see how that would affect the final price.”
In this, and most shopping instances, the customer knows exactly what they want, they have an idea what the options are, and a general idea of what it costs.
Contrast that with a more typical landscape lighting design/build prospect encounter that we typically face.
Customer: “What is it that you people do?”
GLL: “Well, we design and install custom high performance low energy LEd landscape and Garden lighting systems on home and business owners properties.
Customer: “Oh. OK. Well, I think I might want to buy a custom built landscape lighting system.”
GLL: “OK. Let me ask; have you seen anything in particular that you liked?”
Customer: “No. In fact, I have absolutely no idea about this stuff. None. Like zero. I’m not even sure I actually want to buy. My cousin’s, friend’s, neighbor’s lawn guy said something about it, so I figured I should look into maybe. Honestly, I’m pretty happy with my system right now. I just thought I’d see what is out there.”
GLL: “OK. Well, there are quite a few options available; let me show you some different things. So I can better determine which system might be right for you, do you have any idea what your budget might be?”
Customer: “Look, I have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what this stuff costs. Could be a $100, could be, I don’t know, $1,000. But if I tell you my budget, then you’re just going to give me something that costs exactly that, whether that’s what I need or not. If I tell you $5,000 then you’re going to give me a system that costs $5,000, aren’t you?”
GLL: “Probably and most likely even more. But some of that will depend on your property and your (viewing, control) needs and performance goals. But with a budget in mind, I’ll be able to give you the best system that your $5,000 can buy instead of just guessing what your budget might be and then grossly over or undershooting it.”
Customer: “Well, I don’t want to spend no $5,000, I can tell you that much. Maybe you just need to work up a few different options, like good, better and best.”
GLL: “Well, that’s really three times the work for me and still might end up missing the target. Are you looking for ‘best’?”
Customer: “I don’t need any top-of-the-line system, like Disneyland or anything. I just want something good. You know. Good fixtures that look nice. But I’m not trying to create some kinda exotic resort in my house. I just want something good.”
GLL: “OK. Give me just a moment to walk around your property aimlessly and without direction and (beat my head against your garage door for five straight minutes while I question my faith in humanity) gather some thoughts and information and then I’ll show you some different things.”
Customer: “OK. Oh, and while you’re out there, I’m probably going to be looking up prices on the Internet of all the things that you might show me…”
The only way that I can possibly put myself into the “I have no idea” mindset of one of our clueless prospects is if I were going shopping for, a bunch of high-speed centrifuges, or avionic turbine blades or something. How much do they cost? Which speed or alloy options do I need? Why the hell am I even considering buying them?!? Exactly.
So, how can you help people that are so far outside of their element that they might as well be shopping for the most obscure, unknown thing you can think of?
I Try to put Myself in their shoes.
I Empathize with them. How would you want the centrifuge salesman to help you make a purchase? Would you want to be given a doctoral thesis presentation on the history and multiple uses of centrifuge technology, or just the information needed to make an informed purchasing decision? And when you found someone that you trusted with your centrifuge buying needs, wouldn’t you want to reward that person with your business?
Remember, I am the landscape lighting expert.
Some of the people that come to us – even when they are directly asking for what may seem like complex information – are not looking to be techno-babbled with some kind Mr. Wizard type of answer. Sometimes we have so much information at our disposal that we might start rattling off specs and facts and figures that will likely come across as “A Brief History of Landscape and Garden Lighting”. Sure, they might leave thinking, “Wow, that guy sure knew a lot,” but they probably won’t leave armed with the information needed to make a decision or with the feeling that you understand their wants or needs. Explain things in large concepts and ideas, painting in big brush strokes that are easy to understand.
Ask leading questions.
With the right questions, you can help them to arrive at the system that is right for them. This not only gets – and keeps – them involved in the process it makes them feel like they are actually the ones choosing the system. “Why do you want outdoor lighting?” “Would you say you spend most time viewing the outdoors at night from inside the home?” “Where would you normally be primarily viewing it from?, Secondarily?” “How do you picture the system looking?” “What is going to be the most important thing; the performance, the look or the budget?” When they feel like they have had a hand in selecting the system, they will feel more invested in it.
Don’t give them an encyclopedic information dump.
I have actually caught myself , on occasion, starting a sentence with, “Well, to understand that, first we need to go back and figure out electrically how i’m going to make this work in your space…” Sure, some people may want that kind of information – and if so, great; make sure you always know more than your client! – but most people’s eyes will quickly glaze over and don’t much care about the technical aspects of the install. Remember, they are coming to you to buy something fun! They aren’t looking for a college level education on Landscape Lighting. This is the kind of information overload that results in people saying when you leave, “Wow! I’m even more confused now than when he came in!” That’s a fail. Focus on just providing the information necessary to educate them to make the right decision.
Make sure they understand.
Ever been in class and the instructor spent minutes going over something that you totally didn’t get and then asked, “Any questions?” Did you raise your hand? Probably not. Because no one wants to look like they’re slow and not getting it. So, if you think that you might have lost them, ask them in a way that makes it easier for them to say they need more info. I’ll usually say something like, “I might not have explained that very well; did you understand what I was talking about?” This puts the blame on you, not them, making it easier for them to ask you to explain it again.
Asking for the sale.
When you’ve finished, don’t be afraid to ask for the sale. Sometimes, people are ready to be closed and they just want you to take their hand and help lead them into the Promised Land. Something gentle like, “Well, this really seems like the perfect system for you. If I’ve answered all of your questions, are you ready to move forward and we can pick a date to come out and do the installation so you can start enjoying this awesome system?”. Sure, you might get the, “Well, I need to think about it…” but you’ll also get more dates on your install calendar.
Sometimes people don’t even know what it is they want; it’s our job to help them figure it out. And once we do, we’ll probably have a customer for life. In fact most of our clients get something totally different than what they initially asked us for and they are absolutely totally over the moon satisfied with the results only because they didn’t know what they didn’t know.
This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mikeis a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 29 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to www.Gambinolighting.com . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .
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