Chapter 3 – Sales – Find What the Customer Needs

Before you start a job for a customer, you need to find out exactly what the customer needs and wants. It is important that you understand the difference between needing and wanting something. A customer generally has a pretty good idea of what he wants, but one of your responsibilities as a contractor is to make sure that he also gets what he needs.

Here are some examples of jobs that a customer might want:

* A painter is asked to paint a wall blue.

* A plumber is asked to fix a leak.

* An electrician is asked to repair a short circuit.

In the first example, the painter knows what the customer wants, but does he know what the customer needs?

If the painter asked the customer why he wanted to have the wall painted blue, the painter would find out that the customer wanted to cover up some graffiti sprayed on the wall. With this information, the painter could tell the customer about graffiti-resistant paint. If the customer used it, spray paint could simply be washed off the wall instead of having to continuously repaint it. The customer still gets what he wants, but he also gets what he needs. The painter is going to have a very happy customer.

In the second example, the customer with the leak knows that he wants the leak fixed. He doesn’t know that he has the option of using either plastic or metal parts, and that plastic parts will save him money. It is up to the plumbing contractor to advise the customer of this. They can decide together if the customer needs metal parts or if the less expensive plastic parts can be used. Whatever material is used, the plumber is going to have a happy customer.

In the example of the short circuit, the electrician can simply re-set the circuit breaker, see that the power is back on again, and collect his money. The customer got what he wanted because his power is now back on. But did the customer get what he needed? In this case the electrician should have told the customer that there were too many things plugged into that circuit breaker and that it could blow again. The customer needed another circuit installed. He needed to remove some of things that were on the old circuit breaker and connect them to the new circuit.

It may be that the customer chooses to not follow the electrician’s advice. If the circuit breaker does trip again, it is likely that the customer will now follow the electrician’s advice. It is also likely that he will now want that electrician to do the job. After all, he has already proven that he is a good electrician. He gave the customer good advice, didn’t he?

On the other hand, if the electrician never told the customer what was needed to really fix the problem and if the circuit breaker tripped again, the customer would think that the electrician was not good. He would be an unhappy customer. Even though the electrician had given the customer exactly what he wanted, he hadn’t given the customer what he needed.

So, it is not enough to merely give a customer what he wants; you must give him what he needs as well.

There is a simple way to figure this all out. Just ask yourself what you would do if you were the customer and you wanted a really good job. Then, just tell the customer what you think he should do. Sometimes what you advise will actually cost the customer less. Believe it or not, I have many times advised a customer not to do a job at all.

Sometimes a customer really wants my company to do work that I have advised him against doing. I will do the work for him as long as it is legal and as long as it is safe.

The important thing to remember is that after you do, or occasionally, don’t do a job, you will have made either a happy customer or an unhappy customer.

It is the accumulation of happy customers over the years that will ensure your success as a contractor. Making sure that your customers get both what they need and what they want will make them happy customers. And having happy customers will make you a very happy contractor.