Seven Steps to Win Over the "Value Shopper"

May 17, 2010
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Listen to the client when building your proposal


“We are becoming a nation of hagglers.”
- Heard on a recent news analysis

My mother was a woman before her time. As a young boy in the early 60s, I was continually mortified as she would ask store clerks everywhere, “Will this item be on sale any time soon?” “What if I buy two? Can you give me a better deal then?” “So, is this your best price?”

When I begged her to stop the constant “negotiating,” she always answered me the same way: “Steven, it never hurts to ask.”

You know what? Mom got some great deals because she “asked!”

Thanks to some major cultural and financial shifts, many American consumers today have now become “value shoppers.” This new focus on value has little to do with customer’s actual income or net worth. Rather, even among well-off home owners it is now fashionable to “ask for a better deal.” My mom would feel so vindicated!

So how should you respond to this new breed of price-haggling client? Above all else, don’t get your feelings hurt, and don’t get mad! Too many times a carpet cleaner will react emotionally and dump a homeowner into the “price shopper” category when in fact, with a little massaging, they very likely will develop into an excellent client.

Another trap that many carpet cleaners fall into is justifying their pricing structure. Pay strict attention here: your customer doesn’t care about how your fuel costs/workers’ compensation/chemical prices/employee’s wages and/or the price of a Starbuck’s soy latte have all recently skyrocketed in price!

Finally, be sure to avoid is comparing your company or techniques to the competition. The homeowner doesn’t want to hear about how you clean at 400 psi while B&S cleaners use low-pressure extractors. Nor do they want to be subjected to your rant about your high quality versus the competition’s bad quality, sleazy business practices and/or marginal technicians (all of which may be true, but your prospect will view these tactics as defensive posturing on your part!).

Here is the good news: when a client asks you for a better (lower) price, they in fact are saying, “I want to buy from you! All we have to do now is negotiate a bit.” If your prospect doesn’t want to do business with you, they will dump you and the conversation very quickly.

By following this seven-step “negotiating script” you will move your prospect from haggling to buying. So just what does the customer want from you?

1. Empathize

Remember that “value shopping” is a new concept for your clients too. Many people are tentative, even embarrassed, when asking you for a better deal. So immediately reach out to the customer with a “common ground” response, e.g. “I understand, Mrs. Jones. We’re all trying to get the most ‘bang for the buck’ today. So let’s review the proposal…” At this point you are going to…

2. Morph Into a Consultant

Your customer thought they were asking you to drop your prices. You, on the other hand, are going to “deliberately misunderstand the client” and start analyzing how to change the job specs to justify giving them a lower price. The philosophy you want to convey here is, “My prices are fixed, but let’s see how we can achieve ‘the clean you need at a price you can afford.’” (Heck, that isn’t a bad selling statement to remember!) You will start the process when you give the prospect the…

3. "Illusion of Control"

The homeowner doesn’t want to be in full control of their carpet cleaning. If they did, they would have been down at the local Ace Hardware store renting a Rug Doctor!

However, your prospective customer wants to feel in control, both in the job scope and the pricing. By you consulting with the customer and then building an “affordable job” around what she shares with you, she will feel validated and in control, which will lead to her booking the job with you! The homeowner receives this all-important Illusion of Control when you…

4. Interview the Client

So many times a carpet cleaner will emotionally “draw a line in the sand” on the job price by adopting a defensive, even hostile posture when the customer just wants to feel listened to and in control.

Give your customer control by interviewing them using “Valid Business Questions” such as, “What areas are the biggest priorities for you?” “Where do you have the most traffic?” or “What (or where) are the worst spots and stains in your home?”

The longer you can keep the homeowner actively involved in answering these VBQs the better, because you want to …

5. Benefit From the ROI Principle

Basic business psychology tells us that the longer you keep the customer involved in the sales process using VBQs, the more likely it is that they will want a “return on their time invested.” And what is the only way they can get a good return? Bingo! By having you do the job! This principle is used extensively by car dealers and real estate agents. After you have thoroughly interviewed the homeowner (and in the process built a professional relationship) you must now …

6. Present Their Alternatives

This “consultant selling” is based on the old sales concept of “You get to choose one of three flavors: me, me or me.” In other words, you take the information and priorities you received in the cleaning interview and massage it into three different price points that give the customer the best appearance possible for her budgeted amount, while still giving you the profit percentage you need.

After reviewing their options, you must now…

7. Ask For the Order

Due to the dreaded fear of rejection, we will keep talking in circles instead of “popping the question!” This is a far too common way of losing the sale.

Remember, if you have followed the six steps above, and if the customer has agreed with and/or given their input on every point, they really have been giving a steady stream of “Yes’s” all along the way! So you have nothing to fear by using the “Three Question Closing the Sale” technique:
  1. “So of these three options, Mrs. Jones, which one best meets your needs?” Shut up and wait for her response.
  2. “Great! Now are we working with any deadlines on getting this work done?” Shut up and wait for her response. If the answer is “No, any day works” you have yourself a yes! On the other hand, if she says, “Well, I’d like it done before my party next Friday…” even better! But if her answer is sort of vague, then move on to…
  3. “Is there a day of the week that is better or worse for you?” Once again (with feeling) SHUT UP and wait for her response. If she replies, “Tuesdays are really full around here” you have yourself a yes! If she says, “No, any day works this week,” it is another yes!
Simply put, the affluent value shopper is here to stay. Even when the prospect can obviously afford your services it has become fashionable to haggle just a bit. This can be especially disconcerting when one of your previously loyal, accept-the-price-without-question clients starts questioning your invoice.

But no worries! Just follow my Seven Steps to Win Over the Value Shopper, and you will merrily continue along your road to success.

(Author’s note: I’ve focused this article on the residential market. But the same value shopper system works great in the price-conscious contract commercial and janitorial market too. In fact, I have a Commercial Carpet Analysis Form free for the downloading. Just go to http://tiny.cc/SFSanalysis)

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