Bob Janet

I was doing a five-day sales training program for a company located in a very small town in South Carolina. It was one of those small, quaint towns with a population of just over 10,000. It had one road through the town, with only a half dozen traffic lights. I was lodging at the In Town Hotel, the only hotel in the town.

Each evening, as I had my dinner on a very lovely deck attached to the side of the hotel facing the main shopping area, I watched a dozen or so children, ranging in age from six to 12 years old, ride their bikes into town. They would go into a candy store across the street. It was always the candy store on the right side of the cross street. There was also a candy store on the left side of the cross street, but they never went into that store.

Each evening it was the same routine. They would ride up to the front of the candy store on the right side, park their bikes, go into the candy store, and a few minutes later emerge with a white bag of candy.

On my third evening of observing them, I got curious as to why they never shopped at the candy store on the left side of the street. Well, my curiosity got the best of me, and on my final evening at the hotel I went across the street and asked one of them, “Why do you guys always buy your candy from this candy store and not the one across the street?” The young boy replied as he pointed to the candy store across the street, “They take our candy away from us.”

Now my curiosity was at an all-time high, so I went into the candy store in front of me and ordered half a pound of dark chocolate. The lady behind the counter put on one of those plastic gloves and took a small scoop, and she scooped candy onto the scale until the dial went up to one-half pound. She then lifted the scale dish and put my candy into a white bag.

I then went across the street to the candy store the young boy said takes their candy away. As I went up to the counter, a nice lady asked if she could help me. I said, “Please give me one-half of a pound of dark chocolate.” I noticed her price was a cent lower than the other store. She put on her plastic glove and took a large scoop, and she put a large amount of candy on the scale. Then, with her gloved hand, she began to take candy off the scale, taking candy away until the weight got down to one-half of a pound.

My question to contractors is this: Are your customers perceiving you as the one who adds to the value of their purchase or the one who takes the candy away?


Try this exercise to determine how you are perceived. First, have everyone in your business write down how you want to be perceived by your customers. Have everyone do it because you want to make sure you all want to be perceived the same way.

Then, survey your customers to discover how you are perceived. Hire others, such as college students, to do the survey, because your customers will tell you what you want to hear. Have your customers and noncustomers surveyed. If you are not being perceived the way you want, do things to change a customer’s and prospect’s perception.

Here are six perceptions customers react positively to:

1. Businesses that look successful.People like to do business with successful businesses. No one wants to take the chance of buying from a business that may not be there tomorrow.

2. Businesses that look busy.People like to buy from businesses that look busy. When we had sales in our retail businesses, we hired people - usually college students - to walk around the showroom to give the perception something really big was going on.

3. Businesses that look clean.People would rather buy from businesses and business people that look clean and neat. We gave customers the perception of quality in our retread tires by making sure our manufacturing plant was clean enough to eat off the floor.

4. Businesses that look like they care about their customers.Be 100 percent customer-centered. Everything you say and do is about your customer, not you or the business. You should answer the telephone on the first or second ring; return telephone calls and messages quicker than promptly; and greet everyone that comes into the business immediately. Above all, you should solve the customer’s problems, needs, and wants, even if it creates more work for you.

5. Businesses that stay in touch with their customers.Stay in touch with your customers, and they will stay in touch with you when a buying decision is made. It is estimated that your customers are inundated with 2,500 to 3,500 advertising messages a day. They become confused. If you are the seller that has been the constant by staying in touch with them, you will be their seller of choice. Stay in touch with your customers through advertisements, thank you cards, holiday cards, personal cards, and letters, information that will improve their lives and/or business.

6. Businesses that take the fear out of buying.One of the four biggest fears a customer has that causes a customer not to make a purchase is the fear of the loss of money.

And it is so simple to diminish the fear of loss of money. Give your buyers a money-back guarantee, not just the manufacturer’s guarantee. Your competitors are offering the manufacturer’s guarantee.

Be different. Be aggressive. Be the one that gets the sale by giving your personal and your business guarantee.

Publication date:06/25/2007