We work to make money; the goal is to make more and to keep more. One of the ways to do this is to sell products at a higher price and still win the business. Many contractors have done a great job of doing this by distinguishing themselves as a quality company with a quality brand. These contractors have put much time and effort in working with the high-end customer. These customers demand the best, so in many cases price is no object. Creating a quality company can lead to more prosperous job opportunities.
After the last recession, there has been a “race to the bottom” in the lighting industry. Many contractors and distributor sales staff have lost their confidence in selling a pricier, quality product. In some ways, they believe that if they can’t afford to buy a quality product — then neither can their customer. This isn’t true! Remember, what might be good enough for you may not be good enough for your customer. Couple that with a good economy and consider the stars to be aligned for success.
If you begin a sales pitch with a lower-end product, you may likely be leaving money on the table. I learned years ago that the way a product is presented for sale is extremely important. Once, an elderly gentleman came into the store I was managing, looking for lighting for his walkway and steps. As we spoke, I found out that his steps were surrounded by planter walls, with planters on both sides of the walkway. Using my newly learned sales skills, I directed him to the most expensive copper wall sconce and area lighting that I had in stock. He asked me if I could stop by his home after work to show his wife, and later that night I visited the property. He and his wife lived in a beautiful Tuscan-style estate filled with outdoor sculptures. After showing the couple the effects of the two fixtures, they agreed that these indeed were their choice products to use. Price was no issue. Over time, they ended up purchasing more than $25,000 of high-quality lighting products from the store I managed. It would have been easy to hand him a few lower-priced fixtures that would have sufficed. However, he may not have been back to buy more.
Many contractors today have moved away from the artistry of lighting to become fixture planters. This is a big mistake. The successful lighting contractors have developed their businesses with positive relationships that become customers for life. Their customers rely on them and their choice brand. These customers trust and refer these contractors to their friends and family. Successful lighting contractors have mastered the mechanics, design and salesmanship of their products. They have specific products that they work with and are always open to new technology. When working with their clients they first discuss the application. It’s important to ask the question “Why light?” Is the goal to provide safety, security or beauty?
Educate your customers on the concepts of a true lighting system and the value in quality lighting. This will allow you to lead in with the higher quality product and the added value it can provide to the home. Also, always be prepared to discuss product warranty and wow them with your customer service!
If you are not playing in this space today, how do you get there? Invest in yourself! The first step is to seek out proper training. Your local manufacturer rep can lead you in the right direction. During the winter months there are classes being held at your local distributors, as well as factory-sponsored seminars. The Association of Outdoor Lighting Professionals also has a mentor program, which pairs a new contractor with an experienced one. Take the time to read some books on sales techniques. There is always so much that can be learned. I will leave you with the words of Bill Locklin, the inventor of the 12-volt lighting system. When closing each seminar, Bill would say, “They expect landscape lighting to be expensive; don’t you dare disappoint them!”
Kevin Smith is the national technical support and trainer at Brilliance LED LLC, Carefree, Arizona, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.