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Face to Face: Bringing the Customer to You

May 13, 2002
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The volume and variety of exhibitors make the hook crucial to success at any show.


I'm always amazed at the hoops cleaners jump through to avoid selling themselves to potential customers. Call it what you will: fear of rejection, intimidation or laziness. The fact is most of us would rather be beaten with a lead pipe than make a "sales call."

There is no more powerful way to sell your services than face to face. Your prospect will make their carpet-cleaning buying decision based on emotional factors, including how they feel about you and your employees. Most customers could care less about methods or equipment or chemicals; they just want to trust you.

Of course, it is not just fear and sloth keeping you from selling face to face. You are busy. There is a huge time investment involved in meeting a prospect, and you may not even get the job.

But imagine a sales call where the prospect comes to you. Home shows (also called trade shows or exhibitions) are an incredible chance to sell to your customers. But if you are going to put on a show, you need to do it right.

Don't Do It On The Cheap

This is your big chance to make a lasting impression on possibly thousands of prospects. Do you want to be remembered-assuming they remember you at all-as a discouraged carpet cleaner slouching in his chair and staring off into space? Or would you rather be seen as the owner/operator of a vigorous, successful company that loves making cheerleaders out of its customers? (note: I banned chairs in our booth. People want to see action, so be sure to staff your space with enough employees. Bring in extra people and give each booth worker a 20-minute break every two hours. This is grueling work.)

Use a Hook

Home show attendees are overwhelmed with sensory impressions and move fast between exhibits. You need to "hook them" long enough to get them thinking about focusing on your information. Hooks can include employees handing out discount coupons in the aisle, free giveaways, drawings for merchandise or free carpet cleaning.

Put on a Show

Once you have your prospect's attention, it is time to show them what you do. Help your customer develop a picture of what you will be doing in their home. The biggest problem in marketing any service is that the prospect usually cannot see it before hand. Home shows offer a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate your services and cleaning abilities.

We would rent outside space at home shows, set up a truckmount and advertise free rug- and entrance mat cleaning (one year we cleaned more than 800 area rugs over a two-day period). This endeared us to show visitors and, more importantly, there were always 50 to 100 people watching as we performed the resurrection of some of the filthiest examples of fiber textiles known to man.

If your home show does not offer outside space, set up a portable extractor and let kids spill an assortment of nasty substances on different upholstered cushions. "Go on son, dump that ketchup on there." "Spill the coffee cup!" "Haven't you always wanted to do that?" "Is this your mom? Sorry, ma'am. Son, don't try this at home!" Once the substances are spilled, clean them off. Lots of laughs and fun all around, but a powerful show is put on at the same time. Do not forget to have framed photos of your people, plant and equipment at your booth, as well as before-and-after shots of cleaned areas. Keep a three-ring binder available in the booth with copies of your certifications, complimentary customer letters, comment cards and, of course, more photos.

Give Them Something

The most common, and probably the best, way to be remembered by show attendees is a coupon with some sort of savings attached. I've seen $10-off coupons redeemed five or 10 years later. Did I care? Of course not! That measly little $10 coupon kept me in that homeowner's mind for years.

Get Their Name and Follow Up

Keep a clipboard for those customers who want work done right away. Do not put off calling them. Following the points above, these immediate jobs should easily cover your initial home show investment. You can encourage longer-range work by offering a drawing for free carpet cleaning and including a box to check if they would like a "free residential carpet cleaning inspection." Many of these people will not follow through; you must. Pay someone to call them at home in the evenings to schedule the cleaning inspection.

The investment in an annual home show may be your single largest marketing expense, and the one with the greatest return. So get out there and sell face to face by letting the prospect come to you!

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