We’ve all been there. Without fail, our client asks us if we’ll install product they purchased from eBay, Craigslist, or somewhere else online. The motive is always the same: the client doesn’t want to pay full retail for the product, and we still get to install it. What’s the harm? Seems like a victimless crime, right? Wrong.
Each time you agree to let your client provide gear that you are an authorized dealer for, chances are you’re violating your dealer agreement. Read the fine print. It also sends the wrong message to the client. You say “yes,” and it immediately cheapens your credentials as a true professional. You’re afraid to say “no” because you might lose the sale. If the sale is lost over a few points of product margin, that client (or better labeled “prospect”) just did you a favor because you probably weren’t going to make any money on the job anyway.
Let’s say you decide to say “yes” to the client in the spirit of closing the deal. Now you’re installing a product you didn’t sell them, and if it breaks, your client will understand you don’t warranty it, right? Wrong. We’ve had countless scenarios where clients provided their own products and then expected us to warranty issues with them later. It’s incredibly hard to track who provided/bought what in a service scenario, so our behavior, again, is to err on the side of not wanting to make the customer angry. So far, by saying “yes” you’ve made less margin on the original sale, and now you’re bleeding cash servicing a product that you never sold the client.
Why, then, is this so commonplace? Because we’re pleasers, that’s why. We like to make our clients happy and are afraid to say no. Most of our clients don’t hear “no” very often either. Want to know a secret? The right customer—your customer (not someone who tries to squeeze you for all you’re worth)—will respect a good “no.” There’s an art to the “no.”
In fencing, it’s possible to take an opponent’s strike and redirect the energy. It’s called a “parry.” When saying no to a typical high-end client or prospect, it’s best to parry. A good “no” doesn’t actually include the word “no.” It’s a transference of energy from what the client wants to what you want. Here’s an example:
Client: “I see the same universal remote that you proposed for me on Amazon for $200 less. Can’t I just buy it there and have you install it for me?”
CEDIA Pro: “At the end of the day, we want to give you one person to yell at if something goes wrong with your solution. Our solution includes labor, parts, and programming time, which doesn’t show up on Amazon. The solution we specified is only supported and warrantied through authorized dealers. If you buy it online, you’re rolling the dice, and we want to make sure we’re heading off any service issues down the road. In addition, our dealer agreement prohibits us from installing and programming gear not purchased through authorized channels.”
Client: “Gotcha. I didn’t realize all of that. Let’s go for it!”
CEDIA Pro: “Sounds like a plan. Thanks for the business!”
Let’s stop cheapening our industry by agreeing to install gear that’s not purchased through authorized channels. Share this article with your competitors and reinforce your commitment to abiding by your dealer agreements. Our clients will get the message if everyone in the market is on the same page.
Stay frosty and see you in the field.