Price, price, price. Working in a showroom, price seems to be the greatest concern most of us hear about anymore. After two decades of selling in a showroom, there is a quote I have come to truly believe in. It is a quote I have explained to many customers over the years when their first objection is price and one you may or my not have heard yourself:
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
– Benjamin Franklin
Think about it, the quote is from one of our country's founding fathers – Benjamin Franklin – making it well over 200 years old. So yeah, it would seem even back then people balked about price. See, I have no objection to someone wanting a better price. In our own daily lives, don’t we all want to pay a little less and stretch our dollars a little further? That is not where I feel the real issue is. In my opinion the issue is the consumer public’s perception of what things should cost and the value of the products they look to buy.
How many of us have had customers that were shopping for a product and become confronted with what we felt were unrealistic expectations of what the product should cost? For example, in qualifying a customer you learn they need a brushed nickel widespread faucet and want to spend only about $100. Now at this point alarms are going off in your head and you might even have an inclination to think the customer is cheap or at the very least extremely frugal. Maybe it is less about them being thrifty and more about them being conditioned to their belief of what the product should cost.
I think to be able to address this issue properly, we need to first look at it from for the consumers' perspective. Homeowners are consistently bombarded with commercials and newspaper advertisements from DIY big box stores. They, in turn, see well-known name brands from within our industry offered at low price points and think that must be the going rate for those particular type of products.
While writing this I went to a popular box store website, looked at their weekly local ad for my area and found the following. They offer a chrome single handle centerset faucet for $48. I also found a brushed nickel widespread for $99. Both faucets were from one of the most reputable faucet brands within our industry. This is not to mention also finding other brands exclusive to this box store with even lower prices.
Since the majority of consumers do research online before they buy, how could they not be conditioned to think products should be so inexpensive?
They are getting a constant stream of inexpensive low valued products from not only box stores but also from web-based companies selling similar products. These web-based companies are not as concerned with margins as they do not have brick-and-mortar showrooms to support the overhead that comes with them.
Continuing to put yourself in the customers' shoes, if all you know is product at a certain price point, then that is where you think it actually is. You then go select your products from a reputable showroom only to find that the price is double, triple the amount or even higher than the amount you thought it should be. You are confused because the products are carrying the same name brand you were able to find less expensive elsewhere. What would you think?
Odds are you would think the place is high priced or trying to take advantage of you. That is the hole many of us have to work our way out of right from the start with customers.
As I said earlier, this is not completely the consumer's fault. Much of the fault falls upon the manufacturers themselves. Now I realize the amount of Christmas cards I may have received just drastically changed, but I stand by my statement. In their efforts to increase volume they have also caused confusion among many consumers.
This is not an issue unique to a single manufacturer. but one shared by any who have entered into big box retail. Don't get me wrong – I know how much money it brings each of these companies. But with it has come brand confusion for the customer and headaches for showroom people.
We may not like this landscape we now operate within but as they say, it is what it is. So it falls to us to be the educators. We must better explain the differences in the products we sell versus retail and do so honestly.
For example, if a customers asks you if the toilet you sell is the same as what the big box store sells, what answer would you give? It should always be the honest one! I mean vitreous is vitreous.
You also need to know what the big boxes and online retailers are offering your customers and become the expert on it. Do you recall that Saturday morning PSA we all grew up with that said, “Knowledge is power?" Guess what, they were right. I spend hours of my own personal time checking online sites and shopping each local big box store all to make sure I am the expert and I make certain know what I am talking about.
Here is a Dion real-life example that I have had to explain on more then one occasion:
• A customer will be shopping for a vanity. We look at various price points that I carry and discuss what they have found elsewhere. They ask how is it they can find a similar-looking vanity for $250 while mine is $3500?
• Now as a trained product professional I go over all the solid wood, dovetail construction, Made in the USA info, but I also ask them the following: “Do you have a piece of furniture in your family that was handed down from your grandparents or even great grandparents?”
The answer is always yes. I explain to them what they have is a piece of craftsmanship that was built to last the test of time.
• Then I ask what they feel that piece of furniture is worth or what they think they would have to pay for it brand new today? I promise you that it is like a light bulb gets turned on.
• I continue with the fact that most of the product in our society are built to be disposable after a few years.
• Then I ask them, what do they want in their home?
Now in full disclosure there are times customers are just wanting to get by for a few years opting to go the lesser expensive route. However, more often than not they do care. This is where what we do is so important. We have to recondition the consumer. We have the task of reeducating our customers on the value of not only quality of our product but the value of buying the product from a trusted professional. As the professionals we should also work on being less annoyed by those wanting a lower price and more empathetic of their situation. Now I am not suggesting you will convert everyone, but I think you might be surprised how many you will.
So next time someone comes in wanting something for almost nothing, take a deep breath and get to work educating!