Have you ever wondered why your competitors continually land business and you are not offered a chance to bid on a job? Why, when you do submit the lowest price among your competitors, you still don't get the job? Why some builders do not purchase all their needed products from you?
The answer can be as simple as the lack of a good relationship with your customer. To remedy that, I recommend "Entertainment Selling," particularly a simple and cost-effective tactic I call the Casino Trip, to take price off the table.
I borrowed the phrase "Casino Trip" from the legalized gaming industry, where it's common for casino operators to pile people onto buses, give them a few dollars and a meal, and haul them off to a casino for a day, hoping the folks will spend big dollars. I suggested a variation of this to a roofing distributor I met recently who said he was having trouble because most of his orders came down to price only. Let's call this roofing distributor Joe.
Joe spends long hours at his office, doing take-offs and quoting jobs. But while Joe is working in the business, his competitors are obviously working on the business.
I urged Joe to escape the office and spend some time entertaining key and potential customers. Joe was fortunate in that he had a roofing manufacturing plant about three hours away. I suggested he rent a van and take a group of roofers to the plant one afternoon, have dinner, and then tour the facility. This trip should continue into the next morning to make sure the manufacturer can provide education about the products.
I also suggested to Joe that if his customers golf, plan tee times and enhance the trip. I strongly believe that more business takes place in a golf cart than in a board room or at a sales counter.
(As I am writing this, Jason Roberson, one of our employees, suggested enriching the experience through "Cross Pollination." That is, if you have two champion customers and three prospects, put them in a van and let the two champions sell the prospects on your business. Another great idea indeed.)
It does not have to all be educational. Some other events you might want to consider include hunting or fishing trips where you take a group of builders out of their busy environment for a couple of days and allow them to relax. But I still like to get the vendors involved, because without the vendors we would not be able to sell the products.
One great example of a dealer vendor relationship can be found here. The list of entertainment possibilities are limitless. I often wonder about the lumber dealer who took his key customer and a prospect to the Super Bowl. I wonder how another competitor can compete against the bonding that took place.
Find out what your prospects enjoy and do it. What about a dinner party? How about another sporting event or play? Or a simple 5 o'clock visit to a local watering hole to discuss projects?
Let the emotion of the event help you sell. Hunting and fishing are exciting sports because of the emotion of the hunt or emotion of pulling up the unknown (fish, that is). I believe the nature of hunting of fishing and the ability of the dealer to route the builder on a journey, usually in a place unfamiliar to the builder, builds trust with the dealer and puts the relationship on equal footing. It takes pressure off of the professional relationship.
Keep in mind, thought, that you should take a customer somewhere that is comfortable for them. Don't take a non-golfer golfing and do not take a person that is prone to seasickness out to sea. This will backfire on you, and you will have been better off just bonding at the coffee pot at work.
If you have a hunting lodge, camp, beach house, mountain home, or other getaway spot, use it to entertain and entertain your way to profits. Get a vendor involved, share the costs, and take price off of the table.
Chris Rader is a consultant based in Lafayette, La. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.