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Tom: We see a lot of carpet cleaners getting very competitive out there, charging as low as $30 a room. What do you say to that price pressure, where customers are calling you up and saying “What’s your best price?” What are you going to do?
Col Nation: I don’t compete on price.
Tom: How do you not compete on price? I think everyone would like to have the answer to that question! Can you give us an example of how you don’t compete on price?
Col Nation: Okay, when that phone call comes in, right, the customer asks the price question. They don’t know what sort of equipment we’ve got. They don’t know what sort of …
Tom: Okay, well why don’t we just do a bit of a role play?
Col Nation: Sure, sure. Okay.
Tom: I’ll be the customer saying “Hi, I need a quote for carpet cleaning. How much do you charge per room?”
Col Nation: Okay, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?
Col Nation: Sure, okay. What sort of a carpet do you have?
Tom: I’m not sure exactly. It’s a beige coloured carpet.
Col Nation: Beige coloured carpet, that’s great. Okay, do you know if it’s wool or nylon?
Tom: I think it’s wool.
Col Nation: You think it’s wool? Okay, then, yeah. Do you have any particular spots or stains that you’re worried about?
Tom: Yeah, we do. We’ve got a coffee stain near the kitchen, and a red wine stain by the dining room table; and a stain that I have no idea what it is. The kids did something.
Col Nation: Oh, right, okay, so it’s not …
Tom: Sorry, I’m just guessing here, so …
Col Nation: Yeah, that’s fine, that’s exactly what happens, yeah. I’ll say to them “Okay, so you’ve got a few stains, so it’s not just a standard carpet cleaning job that you’re wanting?”
Tom: I guess not, yeah, I need the stain out.
Col Nation: You need the stains out, yeah. There’s the trigger moment.
Col Nation: This is what I call the trigger moment. Why did that customer ring us in the first place? They didn’t ring us because they’ve got thirty bucks they want to spend or a hundred bucks or whatever. They’ve got a problem on their carpet. What’s the problem on your carpet? Your coffee stain, your vomit stain, your whatever stain it might happen to be. It might be that the mother-in-law’s rung and “I’m coming to visit.” “Oh, no, my carpet looks like a pigsty, I need a carpet cleaner, now!”
What’s the first question they ask? “How much is it going to cost?” Why do they ask that question?
Tom: Because that’s all they know how to ask, I guess.
Col Nation: Yeah. They don’t know what sort of equipment we’ve got, they don’t know what sort of chemistry we use. They don’t know the process, they don’t know how long it’s going to take; what have we got to move. So we’ve got to prompt the questions. We’ve got to ask the questions to get them to answer us. Then what we do is we’ll say “Well, okay, from what you’ve been telling me I think it might be a good idea if I pop round and have a look at your carpet so we can get a better idea of what it’s going to take to get that carpet clean. Are you home later on this afternoon?”
Tom: That’s very well done. You’re saying let’s make sure you know what the stains are and how we’re going to get them out. You make it back about the problem.
Col Nation: Yeah.
Tom: Rather than the price.
Col Nation: Yeah, and when we go round to visit that customer that afternoon we can have a look at it, we can discuss it with them. They see that we’re a nice guy and that we’re neatly dressed and that we’re going to do a good job. We bothered to actually go out and have a look.
Col Nation: We’ll get that job. Regardless of the price. The price may come up in the end, and it naturally will. Now, if I gave you a price “Oh, it’s going to be $350 to clean that carpet,” you’re going to get one of two reactions. I’m either going to get “Aah, oh, no, that’s no good, that’s way too dear!” Or, I’m going to get “Yeah, that’s fine.” If they say that’s fine …
Tom: Yeah, you’re either going to get a yes or a no, you haven’t even had chance to find out what’s really going on. They’ve just called the guy just before you and lined his price up, and …
Col Nation: And what’s he given them? He’s just given them a number. We’ve given them a service, and that’s what they’re wanting. They want to know that when you turn up you’re going to deal with all these of sort of issues [inaudible 00:03:49] that they’ve got with their carpet.
Tom: Not just like “Oh, well, I cleaned it but I can’t get that stain out. There’s nothing I can do.” You’re really focusing on helping them fix their problem and understanding what’s going on for them. That’s interesting, you get the whole discussion to get away from price.
Col Nation: Yeah, and price becomes irrelevant. Now, if I gave you a price of three hundred bucks to do whatever, when I turn up for that job guess how much that customer’s going to have in their pocket?
Tom: Three hundred bucks?
Col Nation: No, they’re going to have $500 in their pocket. Guaranteed.
Col Nation: Yeah. Nobody wants to be embarrassed when they pull out their wallet, “Oh, I’ve only got $290, ooh, that’s embarrassing!” No, they’ll have $500 in their pocket, just in case it costs a little bit more for those particular stains.
Tom: Okay, so they’ve always got a little bit more than you think they have.
Col Nation: Yeah, so when we think they’re shopping on prices they’re not always shopping on prices, they’re wanting a problem solved.
Tom: Good point. That’s really valuable advice. Thank you, Col.