If This Were My Mother’s House

In a recent tele-coaching session with an east coast contractor, I was reminded of a simple idea I stumbled upon 25 years ago when I was a technician and first learning how to sell.
I had just changed a compressor and the customer was complaining about the cost of the compressor change. I smiled. The compressor had failed due to neglect on his part. In four years he had not changed the filters or done any kind of maintenance. That is a lot like someone complaining to their dentist about the cost and pain of root canal when they haven’t brushed their teeth in four years.

I simply said to him, “It seems like a shame. Only the good die young.” With a puzzled look on his face he said, “What?” I explained, “You have nine other units on the roof. They will suffer the same fate of the five ton compressor I just changed in a short period of time. The filters are collapsed, the coils are plugged solid with dirt, and the belts are cracked. It’s just a matter of time….” He was leaning forward. I had his undivided attention. I was on a roll. “Look, it’s your building. You do what you want. However, if this were my mothers building, this is what I would tell her. ‘Mom, you gotta let me clean the coils when they get dirty. You gotta let me change the filters four times a year. You gotta let me replace the belts annually. Whatever it costs you for me to do that will be paid back in lower utility bills and extended equipment life.’” Pausing for effect, I continued, “I gotta go. My pager just went off. I have another call (hey, this was 1984).” He grabbed my arm and said, “Write it up.” I didn’t even know what IT was! “You mean a service agreement for maintenance?” “Yes,” he said, “I’m sold!”

All these years later, as I reflect on why that sale happened, the high points emerge:
 I was authentic and sincere (“If this were my mom’s building…”)
 I was honest (pulling no punches)
 I spoke in the first person (“If it were me…”)
 I was detached (and really busy)
 I was competent technically and he trusted me
 I gave him the dignity of choice (“It’s your building…”)

First person stories that serve as warnings are very effective. Equally effective are third person examples…. “My client on the east coast is a sponge. I met him conducting a sales seminar in Virginia last February. I asked for a volunteer to do some role playing in front of 60 people. He was brave enough to come up and learn publicly. True to form, after sharing a success story this morning by telephone, he asked me to dissect what he did well and what he could improve. I guess that’s why we are working together still. He is a serious student of change. Those are the kind of clients that hire me. They don’t need to be sick to get better!”

The common sense things he did well in his story were simple and anyone can start doing them tomorrow. He claims he used much of what I taught at the seminar to close more business than he ever has. I think he is being kind. He was already really good at his job. This is what I heard in his first person story this morning:
 After knocking on the door, he took a step back allowing space
 He asked if he could come in to take a look at her HVAC equipment
 He explained in simple terms that the compressor had failed and she had a choice: Replace the compressor on an old piece of equipment or replace the unit entirely
 He asked questions and really listened
 He asked how long she was going to be in the house as that might affect her decision
 He asked if SHE was the decision maker and whether or not her husband should be involved in the process
 He asked how she would like the proposal (In person or email)
 He followed up and asked for the sale in two days

HE CLOSED THE SALE! When he asked me what he could improve I told him the story I began with… “If this were my mother’s house….”

When clients ask your opinion, tell them what you think with one caveat. Never “SHOULD” on them. Second person doesn’t work! “You should do this” and “You must do that!” I know I don’t like to be SHOULD on….do you? Tell a story. What if you included your mom?
Nah….that wouldn’t work in your area!

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