Aaron J. Crowley

Stone Industry Consultant

There are two types of customers: The first wants to know what you charge because they are merely shopping for the best price.  The other wants information from a source they can trust because they genuinely intend to buy.

We’ll call the first customer the “Price Shopper-Company Hopper” and the second the “Trust or Bust-Value is a Must” buyer.

Failing to recognize the difference is to waste precious time educating the price-shopper while offering discounts to the trust-value buyer, who wants a reliable source they can trust and who is willing to pay full price to get it!  Neither of them get what they’re looking for and neither do you in the form of closed sales and higher profits.

Whether you’re an owner/operator fabricator or a showroom sales wiz, understanding this difference will help you to help your customers help you help them. 

Huh?

Yes, you need to help your customers divulge information about themselves, which in turn helps you decide how (or if) you can help them, which is giving them what they want…as quickly as possible.

Clear as slurry in a sump pit on a busy day?

Excellent!  You can turn this principle into a practice that impacts your sales and your bottom line today!

First, you need to decide which of these types of clients you either “want” to do business with or are uniquely suited to serve.  

If it’s your intent to cater to both (which is tricky) you need to truly posses products and services that are distinct enough that they can’t be confused during the sales process and the delivery. But for the sake of conversation lets say you’ve decided not to cater to the price-shopper.

Second, you need to develop open-ended questions (questions that don’t illicit a “yes” or “no” answer) that will expose what kind of customer you’re dealing with.  

This is crucial, as some people will hide their true intentions because they are seeking a stronger negotiating position, while others simply can’t tell us because they’re not familiar enough with the product or service to know.  

A great first question is, “Can you tell me a little bit about your granite project?” If they tell you they are updating the laminate counters in their rental condo, they have already given you a lot of information. A great follow up question could be, “How many quotes do you plan to get?”  If they respond by telling us you’re the 6th person they’ve called, they’re probably “company-hopping” and a low price may be the determining factor.  

At this point you could cut to the chase, asking, “How much are you hoping to pay for your granite counters?”  This is where the price shopper will generally tip his hand. 

In a matter of moments you have helped your prospective customer to help us understand what it is they are looking for without actually asking them what they’re looking for.  And with that information, you can help them find what they want, which is the third step!

Third, you need to determine your response.  

If you’ve decided that you won’t do business with customers whose main objective is finding what you’ll charge so they can use it to beat the other guy up on price, you can put on your best Gray Poupon-snobby guy accent and respond with, “Sir if you have to ask what it costs, you probably can’t afford us” and hang up.  

Or, you could politely give them the name of the low-cost producer down the street and truly help them find what they’re looking for.

Either way, you have “helped them to help you help them.”  They will go on their merry way, and you are left with more time to spend helping and selling the customers you want to do business with – which will be the subject of next month’s installment.

Aaron Crowley is a stone shop owner, author, speaker, and consultant to mid-size stone companies. You may contact him at