Let’s Start With Company A. I was sitting opposite a window and door salesman scoping our new house remodel projects. After I clearly stated, "please do not pressure-sell me," he assured me that he is merely there to educate and present "the best option" for my home. The conversation continues, and I sit through the "why" and the "what" of their company service offerings. However, there is one thing that struck me as odd. He could tell me why other products are inferior, but he only could give me what I already read off their website when probed on his products' specs.
(Important for later: $32,000 list price > $24,250 with discount > $19,750 with another specific discount - "High pressured sale close")
The doorbell rings and the salesman introduces himself. I run through where we are, why he is there, and what I am NOT looking to do. Reassurances of no gimmicks or pressured sales tactics and a light banter about why the previous company wasn't a good one ensues. From go, I felt I am just a human with a laser pointer toying with an unknowing cat. Since the empathetic side of me overrides my aggressive, short nature, I let him continue. Since my fiance was not there for the beginning, here are the quick notes:
After she shows up, we recap, but suddenly the pitch turns. Vinyl is on the table, the benefits of why we should buy vinyl, and explaining why we should buy what he had just pitched. Odd. So, why are you reading this? Simply put, as a company that sells a product or service, conviction, transparency, and consistency are essential to building and maintaining every customer relationship.
As a representative for a company, you should have a strong belief in what you are selling. Let me be clear on one thing—conviction in your product, not lack thereof in a competitor. You should know your product inside and out, what makes it unique, and know specifically what the advantages are that aren't found on your website. For a buyer like me, I don't need a scripted "off-the-page" reading. I do my research. Now, wow me or don't, the sale is up to you.
Too often, the default for a salesperson is to speak to why their competitor's product lacks in quality and why their warranty is lacking. Still, most, if not all, companies hold similar guarantees and promises in their sector to remain competitive. So, why do you really sell your product? As an aside, I quit Angie's List for this reason. I knew I could make a sweet, sweet commission off my clients who were sold overpriced advertising, and I was to renew it with a premium every year, or I would lose my job. I knew it didn't work and their dollars were better spent on direct to consumer advertising. When I realized I didn't believe in it, I quit.
(Note: I left for Kick's Digital Marketing (then Fight For Small), and I've been here for seven years. I might believe in what we're doing here 😎.)
Those long-winded details of the second company serve a purpose, I promise. In the beginning, I mentioned that each room in our home is unique, and I couldn't put vinyl windows in our den or bar, which prompted his declaration of "I would never sell you vinyl for this home." Fast forward to the end of the conversation, where we are being steered toward Simonton by Ply Gem. I get it now. Working at Angie's List, Ply Gem was a significant player in advertising, offering vendors incentives to push their product.
As it turns out, Ply Gem is exclusive to this vendor, and further research after our consultation produced evidence that their sales team receives incentives to sell their product. I wouldn't say his pitch was tactical, but he did something I often see in the marketplace. If a buyer looks for quality, most of the time, they have a hard time choking down the price point. So, when a prominent manufacturer provides incentives to sell inferior products, they can swoop in to entice the sale with a lower price. In the end, the salesperson gains more commission by selling a product that costs less at the expense of quality for the buyer.
The same lack of transparency was also present in our first consultation. Remember the price note at the beginning of this article? Well, my sister had the same company come and quote their home — eight windows and two doors for $14,000 flat. When I analyzed my interaction with my sister on the phone later, she brought up my home. Compared to her house, ours is triple the size, twice the cost, and sits at the front of a "prestigious" neighborhood. I quote this because foolish developers throw fancy brick pillars on each side of the street, and suddenly, their homes are exclusive when in fact they’ve simply made the homes targets for predatory salespeople.
When challenged on the "why," the salesman defaulted to, "you're getting a better product." False, it’s the same product. To combat this, "she didn't get a warranty." False. Same warranty. Keep digging the hole, buddy. "She didn't use our installers." Wrong again. By the end of his visit in my home, he tried to pull his mistakes back by matching and mirroring anything and everything he could to become the friendly salesman. My cameras, my guitars, down to the Phillips Hue lights in my home, all in an attempt to make it seem like I was more than a quota filler. In the end, predatory selling like this will make your company known for deceptive sales and disingenuous salespeople.
In a world where we pivot on a whim, finding those who remain consistent is a challenge. I am speaking not only of quality or service, but in personality and brand. What does this mean? Let’s use Indigofera Jeans as an example. After being introduced to them at James Dant in Irvington, I learned about the brand. What makes their company unique? Their commitment to quality. Sure, many companies can say this, but to stand behind it is a different trait altogether.
When I buy clothes, I opt for high-quality products because mass-produced clothing is a big issue for the world. Why buy a throwaway Hanes when I can buy a thicker, quality-made white shirt that will last more than two washes? When it comes to denim, I buy selvage. It lasts longer, takes on unique traits, and each pair is unique to how you wear them. I don't bat an eye at a $200 pair of jeans because I know this is equivalent to four-to-five Levi's that last a fraction of the lifespan. I digress.
I walked into the closet to grab my trusty Indigiofera Nash. Low and behold, a split seam where the waistline meets the pant. I thought, "f^&k, really? What a waste." Except, knowing Indigofera is about quality, I slid in their DM and let them know this happened. Within an hour, one of their makers messaged back, telling me, "I will check to see if we have your size in stock and if not, take them back to Tommy, and we will credit him for the swap." I was stunned. Not only were they taking a loss on their bottom line, but it was over a year since I purchased them.
If you open my closet, you will see ten or so Indigofera shirts and a few jeans pairs. Their commitment to a consistent quality product made me a lifetime subscriber to their brand. When a new release of their always limited run hits the social feed, I don't bat an eye deciding if "the price is worth the product." Nope, they've removed the concern. If the quality and consistency are there, you train your customer never to question or think.
I know it is tough to be all things to everyone. As a company, the bigger you get, the more you sacrifice quality control. You could see this in McDonald's rapid expansion. It was their heart and soul for the McDonald's brothers, their processes, and their product that meant everything to them. Now, despite optimization, McDonald's is known for poor-quality food with an expectation of fudged orders, but damnit if their service ain't fast.
I don't blame companies like Home Depot, Andersen, or the like. I don't frown on McDonald's for its high output of garbage food. I blame us. As the world grows in population, so does demand. Food shortage requires cheaper, faster delivery. Growing housing demands faster builds with cheaper, inferior quality products.
For a business owner, it often comes down to dollars and ‘sense’. Yes, sense. Does it make sense to take a hit on quantity for the sake of maintaining quality? Does it make sense to forego why you started your journey to watch it take on a new skin in an evolving market? Or, do you accept that you cannot be everything to everyone, but you can be what your company set out to be when you check your ego and leave traditional corporate greed off the table.