I LOVE YOUR WORK
The concept of ‘love’ doesn’t have an immediately obvious connection to the nuts and bolts of building, but, in this article, business coach Graeme Owen sheds light on how the two can be intimately connected
What difference would it make to your building business if your clients were to say: “we totally love our renovation/new build!”? What might they tell their friends? What would their testimonials say?
“Love is the way forward for business,” says Kevin Roberts, ex-CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi in his book Lovemarks: the future beyond brands (powerHouse Books, 2004). When customers have a positive emotional response to something, the effect is long-lasting.
When your clients love their build, and their experience of working with you, they are more likely to tell others and more likely to contact you again in the future – both of which should have a hugely positive impact on the success of your business. So, how do you help ensure your customers love your work?
Although your business may be small, your sales are often the largest purchase your client will make – larger than most of the products they will purchase from much bigger companies, maybe in their lifetime.
Further, a single contract can represent a large chunk of your business for any given year. So, respecting your clients for the value they bring you is an important foundation for love.
If you are selling things people need but don’t desire – eg, commodities such as gravel, petrol, basic food items – you don’t need much respect, because there is little emotional attachment. But, as a home builder or renovator, you are selling something of much more importance and emotional investment.
This means you will want to increase the emotional connection between your client and your company by showing respect.
Your clients will make long-term judgements about your company based on whether you deliver on your promises.
When you say “I’ll try and get this to you by Thursday”, they hear “I’ll get this to you by Thursday”. They don’t hear the word try. When you don’t get it done by your try-time, for whatever reason, they will feel let down (unloved).
So, because you want to love your clients, make sure that you only make commitments that you can keep.
You are a professional building advisor and you solve problems others run away from! You know what needs to be done after one quick look – but your client doesn’t.
At the top of their mind is the problems they are having now (either with their current house, or in planning a build). They need to know you are with them.
So, take time to listen to them when they tell you what they want. Ask questions. Before offering any solutions, make sure that you really understand their dilemma. Check that you are on the same page by asking “Are you saying…?” until they reply “Yes”. Then you know that you have really heard them.
Sometimes what your client thinks they want is not always what they really need. If you give them exactly what they ask for, they may not get the best solution. They may not be aware of the possibilities that your professional help can provide.
So, don’t simply jump to quote the first solution. If you have other ideas, show them, even if they cost more – it may provide more options.
I remember planning the extension to our first house. I’d worked on every possibility and figured out the best place to extend. Our builder could have built it, but instead suggested we get a designer involved. Well, that changed everything! It cost more, but the outcome was many times better than my best. We loved our new home and were so grateful our builder had pushed us to consider other options.
So, don’t be afraid to help your clients consider other possibilities.
5.The long term
Build costs are high in New Zealand, and we tend to build to the minimum permissible standard, but the truth is the Building Code delivers the lowest possible quality house that you are legally permitted to build.
Are the cheapest, lowest level of material, fittings and finishings best for your client? It is highly likely they will not be aware of the advantages of certain materials over others. Ask yourself some questions. Would I install these in my own home? Should I warn my client about the maintenance costs of different claddings? Should I tell them about the life expectancy of different hardware?
It may be that building to a higher standard will cost more initially, but deliver a better long-term return for your client. If so, they are likely to love your company.
Here are three things you might be tempted to do, but please don’t:
- Boast about how good you are.
- Say you are better than other builders.
- Disparage your competitors.
When you do that, you are just another desperate salesperson. Rather, show your prospective clients your testimonials and let your
previous clients tell their story about your company.
Better still, introduce your prospective clients to your past clients. If they have been loved, they will shout your praises. A builder I knew would introduce a prospective client to a past client and leave them talking – in one case for an hour! But in (almost) every case, the experience of the past client ‘sold’ the prospective client.
No story spreads quicker than a bad review, especially if there has been any hint of deception. So be meticulously truthful.
Take care about what you say and promise. Take notes of meetings – especially where money is involved – and send your client a copy for confirmation. If you stuff up, own up! You will gain more respect for fronting up and fixing things than trying to cover and hide.
It may not be usual to connect love and building, but builders who integrate love into their construction business are likely to have highly satisfied customers.
Graeme Owen is a builders’ business coach at thesuccessfulbuilder.com. Since 2006, he has helped builders throughout New Zealand get off the tools, make decent money, and get more time in their lives. Grab a copy of his free book: The 15 Minute Sales Call Guaranteed To Increase Your Conversion Rate: thesuccessfulbuilder.com/book-15-min-sales-call or join Trademates and connect with builders who are scaling too: www.facebook.com/groups/TradeMates