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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Hang-up. Regroup. Call back. Apologize and try again

Posted on September 10, 2010 at 5:48 PM

Almost 3 months ago, I met with this couple in our store. It was one of those meetings that just went SO great I felt like the job was a total lock.


The builder they were using was one that we had done a TON of business with in the past. This was also a builder who was a fa-reak for technology and often suggested upgrades – God bless him! – to customers. (And let me tell you, when the not-profiting-from-this-decision-at-all builder suggests a technology upgrade to the homeowner, that goes down like a teaspoon of sugar.)  In fact, the builder personally escorted them to our showroom and made all the introductions.


As the couple is describing their wants and needs – we only care about listening to the radio and music from our iPod and we definitely want to be able to listen to different things in different areas – it was clear that they were racing headfirst straight into a Niles ZR-6 system. (Actually, two ZR-6 systems since they wanted audio in twelve areas.) So we’re laughing, we’re joking, we’re imagining the great new lifestyle this system is going to provide in their house, they're playing with the demo system in our store, the guy keeps saying he can’t believe how easy it is, etc. “Wow! This is exactly what we want! It’s perfect!”


We were in bed, the champagne had been popped, Michael Buble was playing on the overhead speakers, the lighting was perfect, and I was ready to consummate this deal.


So I worked up a proposal and sent it off. Delivering them literally everything that they had asked for and for under the $15,000 budget they had mentioned.


So a couple of weeks go by and the builder’s wife calls me. She’s talked to the homeowners. They’ve gotten another quote. That is significantly less. They want to go with me because I was so much more knowledgeable and trustworthy, but they need me to lower the price a bit. And by a bit, they mean by a massive amount; close to 50%. As in they wanted the entire project to come in under $15k, not just the house audio. The wiring, all the TV/Tel/Data, the trim out, the security, the home theater AND the 12 rooms of audio. My original quote was $26,300.


At first, I’m kind of pissed. OK, I’m really pissed.  I felt like this deal was such a lock and Johnny knows best, and *this* was the system they needed. Now the builder’s wife – who is also squarely in our camp, God bless her! – tells me about the other quote. It is a bunch of C-rate stuff that is cobbled together from distributor catalogs. Where I had LCD keypads with metadata feedback, they have volume knobs. (The 21st Century audio equivalent to  hammering out a papyrus stock to draft your next memo by firelight.) Where I had nice Niles speakers with lifetime warranties, they had the kind of stuff you’d find at K-Mart if they ever started an in-ceiling speaker line. So I tell her that if they are only interested in the cheapest price and don’t care about performance or service and don’t want ANYTHING like the system we initially discussed, then they should go with the other company because we just weren’t right for them. We weren’t interested in seeing how cheap we could sell things. She said she understood and we hung up.


And I stewed. And I closed my Web browser, opened up Excel and took another look at their quote. And I nipped here. And I tucked there. I went from a 730 speaker to a 710 speaker. Out with the keypads and in with the volume controls. And I came up with a totally acceptable system that with just a hair out of their ballpark.


So I called the builder back and apologized. Said I’d been hasty. Said that we’d still love to be involved in the project and that I had a new proposal that was closer to where they wanted to be – understanding of course that we were going to have to eliminate some (all) of the bells-and-whistles along the way. (Technological casualties in the economic recession.)


The customers approved the new quote (except the security, which, honestly, if someone else was going to undercut my quote by $1000, they can HAVE it!) for $14,100. I did a walk-thru today and we made some changes that brought it to $15,300. All of which was nearly lost in a hot-blooded, Sicilian moment of take it or leave it. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is excuse yourself, take a pause, and then come back to the table. You might not get the giant piece of pie you wanted, but some pie beats no pie any day. Unless you don’t like pie. Then you’re just weird.

Categories: September 2010, CTA

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1 Comment

Reply Ken Briggs, CPD
12:39 PM on September 18, 2010 
We all have to eat some humble pie every now and again. Sometimes going backwards in a new construction job will allow you to come forward before the project closes. If you don't have one, strike up a relationship with Wells Fargo Retail Finance. For about 6 percent you can offer your client 12 mos no interest no down. I did this recently and gave them 12 mos on the remaining installments of the job and the change order to bring the system back to mid-fi respectability.