The first question out of a builder, contractor or big box buyer’s mouth is usually “How much does it cost?” Or simply, “Does it cost more?” Most of the time, you should not answer that question.
When a conversation starts with pricing and you answer it, you just dug a hole for yourself that you have to get out of. Your conversation will now be full of “Yes, buts”. The reasons why your product is better will always be weighed against the added costs more than the benefits.
There is a better way to deal with pricing in building material sales.
The high-end office furniture company, Herman Miller, taught me a real lesson in pricing.
When I first started in business, I furnished my office with whatever I could find that was free or cheap. My staff and I had fun finding chairs and making desks from doors and sawhorses.
A couple years later, we were fortunate enough to have survived and were ready to move to a new office space. It was finally time to get some real office furniture. I had always dreamed of having my offices furnished with Herman Miller products. I was pretty sure I couldn’t afford them, but I thought I would find out.
There are many components to an office such as, tables, files, desks, walls, shelves and chairs. I thought I would simplify the process by focusing on chairs. If a Herman Miller chair costs twice as much, then everything else would probably be twice as much.
I thought with this simple number that I could make a decision whether or not to consider Herman Miller. I picked up the phone and called the Herman Miller dealer. I got a sales rep on the phone and asked her how much the average Herman Miller chair cost. Simple enough, I thought.
She refused to tell me a price. I thought perhaps that there were so many models and options that it made it difficult to give an average price. In an effort to get past this and still get a price, I selected a chair I thought would look good in my office and asked for a price. She still refused to give me a price.
Now I was starting to get angry. No matter what I tried or how I asked, she would not give me a price. I was so frustrated that I was getting ready to call her boss or someone at Herman Miller. Before I took that step, she convinced me to meet with her at my office.
In the meeting, she asked about my business, my staff, my clients and my goals for the new office. We talked about what the workday was like for everyone. How did we move around the office? Who were our competitors and what did their offices look like? How important was the office space in recruiting and retaining staff? What image did I want the office to present to visitors and clients?
Before I knew it, I had forgotten about the price of a chair. I was now focused on the vision she had created in my mind of a more successful company because of Herman Miller. I now not only hoped that I could afford Herman Miller; I found a way.
If more building material companies would take the focus off of pricing, like Herman Miller, they would have a lot more success in keeping the focus off of the lowest price.
Thanks for the following comments. I’d like to hear your feedback and suggestions on how to sell architects.
“Good article. Get them emotionally engaged first, right?”
Director of Wholesale Distribution
ESP Inc. / Low-E Insulation