- THE MAGAZINE
OK, campers, in my May ICS column, we analyzed a few big reasons why hard-working carpet cleaners “crash and burn” emotionally and/or financially in business. Remember this burn-out can happen even if you are booked solid and apparently quite successful in business. We focused on avoiding common carpet cleaner mistakes:
1. Ignorance of the true cost of doing business and failure to analyze your financial reports: Inevitably, any organization (including your business) gets bloated over time. Your mission is to focus like a hawk on your financial reports (even if you don’t want to!) and especially on the percentages. Plus the second big mistake is…
2. Not focusing on what is coming down the pipeline: Financial reports inevitably are one or two months behind the curve. You need a weekly Flash Report that tells you what happened last week and what is coming at you in the weeks ahead! Remember though that all the financial analysis in the world won’t help if you don’t have anything to analyze! In other words, your business needs to make money! And probably a lot more money than you thought before you completed steps Nos. 1 and 2 above! So our third reason far too many carpet cleaners crash and burn is…
3. Fear of charging what is needed to survive and prosper: OK, so thanks to an intensive (even brutal!) analysis of your books and weekly Flash Sheet you now know the total monthly income you need to survive and make a profit. (That is why you went into business in the first place, isn’t it? To make a handsome profit, right?)
So you calculate the pro-rated square footage price you need to charge and panic strikes! This per-foot price is likely double or triple the going price advertised in your area! You are convinced there is zero chance that customers will pay the amount you need to charge! And so the ugly fear of doubt worms its way into your mind.
Listen carefully here: People will pay more for your services. But they will not pay you more money unless you ask for more money! Got it?
Please remember you are not your customer! For example, you personally might never pay $583.46 to have your carpets cleaned and protector reapplied. Yet, to your customer, that might be chump change! It’s worth noting that if you had quoted less than this $583.46 your client would have paid it. However, many studies show that, all other things being equal, customers are happier with a higher priced service because of the higher “attached value” it has. Go figure!
Once again, you will be amazed at what people will pay if you confidently ask for their business after a professional pre-inspection. Remember that a pre-inspection should be much more than just running a tape measure. You must build a relationship while impressing the customer with your professional credibility, as some 80% of how customers choose a carpet cleaner is based on emotional factors!
Once you have your pre-inspection script down pat, try this: Next week boost your prices to new customers by 50%! Do a professional pre-inspection, gain your customer’s confidence and then calmly state, “Mrs. Jones, the price to have everything we tested cleaned and the protector reapplied will be $583.46.”
NOTE: Many of my SFS graduates have told me they have quit the time-honored industry practice of timidly giving the lowest cleaning-only price and then trying to add on protector. Instead, they confidently quote one price that includes protector.
You’ll be surprised how many will say, “OK. Let’s do it!” A few will even reply, “Is that all? I thought it would be much more!” Uh-oh! But just imagine how much worse you would feel if you had not mustered up the courage to charge more!
Now I know you are thinking, it is easy for Steve to say, “Ask for more money. But Steve doesn’t have to pay my mortgage!” I agree. That is why I suggest a way to retreat to safer, lower-priced ground if you hit price resistance.
I know not many people tell you to your face that your prices are high. Remember that people (and especially women) will seldom be this adversarial. And no one likes to admit they aren’t a big spender!
Instead, people who think you are charging too much will use “smoke screen objections.” For example, my guess is you hear these fairly often. “Let me check with my husband and I’ll get back to you…” or “I should run this by my boss…” or “I’ll need to get approval from our condo Board of Directors…” But what they are really thinking is, “This price seems expensive. I better check around!”
Now if you meekly walk away after any of these common smoke screen objections, you will never get the job! And even worse you will not tap into the downstream referral income these lost prospects would have sent you. So “take the battle to the enemy” when you hit these stalling tactics! Here is how to do it…
When you get hit with any objection, simply reply: “I understand. But while we’re here together let me ask you, does the way I have my recommendations written meet your projected budget?” Let’s analyze this deceptively simple, yet incredibly effective strategy word for word:
1. “I understand.” Always make this “I understand” phrase your first two words after any objection/complaint. When you “understand” you are disarming your customer by sympathizing with them and finding common ground.
2. “while we’re here together…” People really do want to make the deal happen while you are together right then. All of us dislike pending stuff and the get it done message of “while we’re here together” is sub-consciously very appealing.
3. “does the way I have my recommendations written…” Your silent message? You may be willing to rewrite your proposal. It is a very positive moment of truth for your prospect when you display flexibility in giving them “the cleaning they need at the price they can afford.” NOTE: When you use the phrase “my recommendations” instead of “proposal” or (even worse “presentation”) you are positioning yourself as a professional consultant instead of a slimy salesperson!
4. “… meet your projected budget?” When hit with the too much objection (either hidden or in-your-face), you can come across as attacking your prospect as in, “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you know quality costs? And I have bills to pay…” Big mistake! The customer does not want to hear you whining about your bills or your cost of doing business! Instead, depersonalize this potentially traumatic topic by referring to the sensitive price issue in a business-like manner: “…does the way I have my recommendations written meet your projected budget?” Remember, every business has a budget.
Now the magic customer reply you are hoping for is “Well, your recommendations are a bit more than I had planned for…”
Now you have smoked out their hidden objection! Isn’t it more productive to meet this issue head-on while you are there face-to-face with your potential customer? The alternative is for you to go futilely wait for your phone to ring while your prospect dials your competitors!
But now instead of you sounding defensive and/or questioning your customer’s judgment or financial wherewithal, you have changed this into a simple budgetary equation. Your customer and you now have a shared business challenge and working together the two of you can solve it!
Remember, this does not mean you will discount your services. But once your prospect utters those wonderful words, “Well, your price is a bit more than I was expecting,” you can interview them to discover their priorities.
Quite simply you are morphing yourself into a consultant role here. Very likely you can substantially cut the amount of work/time required for the job and then slightly reduce your price too. And isn’t half a loaf better than none? Think about it…
You have already spent a pro-rated part of your marketing budget to make your phone ring with this customer. You have also invested an hour or more of your time driving to the job and pre-inspecting it. And if you budge even a little bit, many times you’ll get this slightly reduced job plus all the client’s downstream referrals too!
So muster up the courage to charge more. As I tell every SFS class, “All things being equal it is better to have much more money than not enough money!” And yes, far too many quality carpet cleaners don’t charge enough and this is a major reason why they crash and burn! Don’t let this happen to you!
In my final Part III of Avoiding the “Crash and Burn” Phenomenon, which will appear in the August issue of ICS, we’ll examine why and how to focus on the more important things!
Want the pre-inspection scripts I spent 20 years fine-tuning? Just write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll e-mail you my “Carpet Cleaning Pre-inspections that Sell” special report at no charge!