I woke up a little after 7:00AM to meet a landscaper who was scheduled to visit my home for an estimate. I woke up at 7:00AM on my day off people! The day before I have to get up even earlier to attend a work function. The contractor called me about 7 minutes to 8:00AM (not sure if he left a message); when I saw the missed call, I called him back. He let me know that he was outside. Though I got out of bed early to prepare for his visit (most contractors love arriving ahead of schedule), I still had to make sure that I was presentable to conduct business. Business.
I walked out of my door about a minute before 8 and saw that he’d already surveyed my property. I am a stickler for first impressions; as a customer experience trained professional, businesswoman and homeowner, my initial assessment of someone I intend to hire is crucial. I walked over to him and extended my right hand and introduced myself (using my first and last name) upon doing so. He replied with pleasantries but was likely taken aback with the formalities. Again, this is a real business transaction. He’s not driving a soft serve ice cream truck through my neighborhood and I flagged him down to buy a cone. This deal, if successful will have ME coming out of pocket for THOUSANDS of dollars to get what I want. What I want.
So I begin by telling him what I want in terms of curb appeal aesthetics; I tell him I want flowers planted and a neater presentation overall. My word choice of flowers is admittedly a misnomer. I am a lover of flowers; I love receiving them, but I have no interest in gardening so, beyond roses, gardenias, tulips, lillies and a few others, I do not know all of the proper terms. And I have no interest in learning them at this time. Which is why I’m outsourcing my gardening and major landscaping needs to a professional. I pick and pay and you plant and prune. That’s the deal.
The guy starts talking about adding more trees to my property which I already told him, I feel my property already has far too many of. Actually, I could sell him some of my trees instead of paying him to add more. Then he asked me what my budget was. Not so fast buddy. I’m a pro at spending money. I have bought four brand new cars in my lifetime thus far; I got so good at buying cars I later felt sorry (only a little bit), for the dealer after the last two car purchases. Experience has taught me to be relentless about getting what I want. Exactly what I want. I had to learn the hard way when the initial two car dealer/sales people had the upperhand which cost me dearly. Never again, I vowed. And I meant it.
The first rule of negotiations is not to show your hand initially. As I previously mentioned, the landscaper had already checked out my property. We’ve already discussed what I want. We’ve reached the point of the consultation where you provide me with an estimate based upon what I’m looking for. Let me handle and assess my budget.
To wrap this tale up which I shared to illustrate the message of this post; I’m not sure that I will hire him. Our meeting closed when I asked for something that was seemingly contrary to his vision or plans. He told me that he’d have “think about it” and get back to me. He also had forgotten my name and had to ask me again, which is off putting to me.
Very good; you do that. Good day and Happy Palm Sunday, sir.
Here is my point. This experience reminded me to remain focused on my intentions and goals, when it comes to interacting with other people. Yes, I was flexible in terms of him offering suggestions about what he recommended for my property. I vetted him before I invited him to meet me at my home; he has credibility and experience to offer a professional opinion. Where the rubber meets the road is when it seems to me that you’re not fully listening and incorporating what I want and asked for in your recommendations. If I tell you that I’m not looking to add more trees to my existing “forest”, stop talking about adding trees and start asking me what kind of flowers I’m looking for. What kind of annuals do you think will work for my home?
Second point. Always listen for what people do not say. Non verbal communication speaks volumes to me. When I bought my current vehicle, they rolled out the red carpet for me. They schmoozed, they complimented, joked and did everything short of kiss the ring to get the sale. Yes, I know it’s a dog and pony show. They were putting on the same performance for each potential buyer with a credit score that would enable him or her to get financed drive out with an overpriced vehicle. I’m a pro at buying and selling; game recognizes game. Treating potential and existing customers well is an operational necessity for any successful business. It’s not optional. No matter how big or small the company is. Never underestimate the power of your voice as a consumer and never give anyone your business who hasn’t earned it first.
I work hard for my money and so do you. Someone who wants to do business with you will work hard to earn your confidence and the privilege of calling you their customer. Trust me.