How much value do you really communicate to your prospective customers? If it takes you more than fifteen seconds to answer that question, I would like to have a few words with you.

Some months ago, our family had three major home improvements that needed to be completed. Discussed in this article is what each company we called did that increased their perceived value to us as they vied for our business. This translates to what you can do in your green industry business to earn valuable new clients.

The first project was a new roof.

After doing some research and talking to my neighbor who had just had his new roof installed, we decided on American Standard Roofing Company, based in Southfield, Michigan.

Here were some of the many factors that sold us on this company:

• Excellent website that was current

• In business for 36 years, with more than 11,000 customers

• Used dumpsters with rubber wheels to protect our driveway

• Secured all required permits and inspections

• No hidden or other service fees charged

• Used the best quality shingles

• Used industrial magnets to pick up all nails and debris

• Provided a supervisor on every job

• Had a very professional sales presentation

• Gave us their best price up front

• Provided a solid customer satisfaction guarantee

These factors, along with the wellmannered and efficient way I had observed when they installed my neighbor’s roof, sold us on this company. Of course, the installation process was the main factor that turned us into very satisfied customers and a great referral source.

The next major home improvements we needed were a new highefficiency furnace, an air conditioner, a hot water tank and an iPhone-friendly programmable thermostat. I thought we were going to go with the company that had serviced us for years, but something changed our minds.

Although the company we had used to perform annual maintenance and occasional repairs was one of the largest and most heavily advertised in the metro Detroit area, we switched to a small heating and cooling company by the name of Supreme Air Systems in Westland, Michigan.

Why? Here were some of the factors that sold us on this company:

• The owner of the company personally visited our home

• He had a clean professional vehicle

• He wore a uniform with his name on the front of it

• He removed his shoes upon entering our home without being asked

• He called me by name and used it periodically throughout the conversation

• He was extremely personable and knowledgeable

• He promised to show us how to program our new thermostat

• He said he would take care of all paper work and apply for our home energy rebates

• He gave us a very competitive price for purchase, installation and future annual maintenance

• He provided a complimentary air conditioner cover

• He provided a solid customer satisfaction guarantee

So in this case, Little David slew Goliath by providing value in the form of all the little things that added up to the sale.

The last major home improvement we needed was to have the trim and shutters on our home painted. At first, I was thinking of rehiring the company that had previously painted our home 11 years ago. They were fairly priced and did good work with a guarantee.

To be sure, I called on a different company by the name of Certa Pro, where I knew the owner, but had the impression that they were pricey. The owner personally visited, did the measurements, and true to his word, got back to me with an estimate within two days with his very best price.

What was impressive about his estimate is that it included two things the last painting company did not: power washing the entire house, and painting the rain gutters. Of course, this company also had a solid customer satisfaction guarantee.

The estimate was more than we had budgeted for, but—and this is a critical point—he promised to get the job done before the roofers installed the new roof, and to come back after they were finished to touch up anything that was marked up or damaged.

As it turned out, due to the roofers, there was some slight cosmetic damage to one of our cedar shake shingles on the siding and there was another spot where I noticed some peeling paint on the wood trim at the top of our chimney that had not been part of the original quote. This painter gladly went the extra mile to make everything look perfect. Impressive, yes! Worth the extra amount of money we paid? Yes, every cent of it.

So let’s look at what happened with all three of the service providers we used, and how you can adapt some of these concepts in your business.

First, how current is your website?

Is it free from grammatical errors? Does it truly convey the essence of what your company does?

Do you communicate in written, electronic and verbal form, how long your company has been in business and how many customers you have served? In my work with my clients, I find this is an area that gets overlooked far too often.

Do you answer your potential customers’ concerns about specific areas that can, by their nature, be fuzzy or uncertain? Referring back to the example of the roofing company that answered the potential concerns of nails and debris being left on the customer’s driveway, they communicated the fact that their process included industrial magnets to pick up all nails and debris.

American Standard Roofing also communicated that they have a qualified supervisor onsite for every job. How can you communicate something similar to this?

Every one of the three companies I have used as an example had their salesperson or the owner deliver a first-class sales presentation. They were well thought-out, organized and delivered with brochures and supportive materials in a genuinely sincere and convincing manner. How much training do you or your representatives go through? How highly would you rate their and your presentation skills in the areas of being sincerely genuine, competent and clear? Is it time for some refresher training?

It has been said that “Whenever you throw dirt, you lose ground.” With that quote in mind, it is important never to put down a competing business. However, you can point out what most other companies in your business do not do, and show how your company goes above and beyond others, by providing additional service, quality and value.

Finally what kind of a guarantee does your company offer? Is it communicated on your website and in your presentation materials and contract? Remember, just like you or me, your potential customers want to know that they are safe in investing in a company’s services and products.

Go through the added value examples from the three companies I have discussed, and look for how you can communicate similar value to your prospective customers. When you do, you will be on your way to moving the success needle forward on your green industry business.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Borg is an employee performance and customer-experience expert who works with small businesses and organizations in the green industry to improve customer acquisition and retention. To ask him a question or to hire Tom, contact him at: 734- 404-5909 or or www.