“We're this close to making a deal,” Barry said, holding his hands about an inch apart. “I'm just not happy with the kitchen cabinets.”
It had taken us about six months to get to that inch away from closing a nice sale on trim and millwork for Barry's new house. First he didn't like our pricing. We explained the services we were offering, showed him the quality of the products, and stuck to our guns. He said he needed two weeks to think about it, which we knew was Barry-speak for “I need two weeks to price-shop your list all around town.”
Two weeks later, he realized our pricing was very fair for the quality of millwork he was interested in. His hands got a little closer together.
Then he didn't like our millwork selection. We invested several hours across a few weeks poring over trim profiles and interior door designs. Finally we found products that he and his designer thought were appropriate for the house. His hands got closer still.
Then he didn't like the landscape design. We didn't have anything to do with the landscaping, but somehow it still held up our sale. Eventually the shrub placement and tulip planting issues were resolved, and his hands got very, very close. But then he didn't like the kitchen cabinets.
“I want cabinets like my brother has,” he told us. The problem was that we didn't represent that cabinet line. Barry's salesman, Pete, was so beat up and punch-drunk from the months of working on this deal, he just wanted to close it. He pitched me on buying the cabinets from a rep who would sell them to us even though we didn't carry the line. I let him do it.
Barry's hands came together and the deal was done. Almost. We still had to translate our kitchen layout into the nomenclature of the new cabinet line. Then we had to price it. Custom cabinet pricing books have only one thing in common—they are all as complicated as calculus; beyond that similarity, every one is different.
Then, after we priced it and ordered it, we had to learn the company's shipping procedures. Finally, after the job was installed and we remedied the normal problems and glitches, we had to manage unfamiliar warranty and replacement protocols.
Later Pete estimated that bringing in the new line cost him half the job's profit in time spent learning things about cabinets we probably will never sell again. Additionally, there were some things about the line that Barry was not thrilled with. Since we were not familiar with the product, we could not educate him on the differences between his brother's cabinets and ours.
It is management's job to research and select product lines and then champion the sale of those lines. Jumping into unknown products to meet the whim of a single customer ultimately does a disservice to the company and the customer. I have a friend in the business who is fond of saying: “Pick a team and stick with it.” The truth of that statement certainly hit home after we had finished the job for Barry.