When Harry Callanhan (played by Clint Eastwood in the 1983 movie “Sudden Impact”) walks in that morning for his cup of Joe, he finds a robbery in progress at the diner. A shootout occurs, and Harry kills all of the bad guys. Or so he thinks. A surviving robber makes for the door and grabs the escaping waitress Loretta. The bad guy points the gun to her head threatening to shoot.
Does Harry flinch? No. Instead he points his own gun at the boy’s face daring him to shoot, saying though clenched teeth in a grouse voice, “Go ahead; make my day.”
Although a little violent for this girl, in the business sense this seems oddly familiar to me lately. I feel as if I have come to a point in my career where I am no longer afraid of what I don’t know. Don’t get me wrong; I surely do not know all there is to know about this industry. (Actually one of my favorite things is knowing that there is always another layer.) But I do know enough to no longer be afraid of the client, the sale, or the potential rejection. I’m not afraid to pull the trigger.
In the last two weeks I have met with a client twice, each for a two-hour session. After the first meeting, he went out and pursued three other quotes from local competitors. At the second meeting when he brought these quotes to me, he requested that I point out flaws in them. He wanted to understand what was out there and why I sold what I did.
Quote 1: A company that specializes in new builds composed this quote. During the building boom, he was connected to the builders that squeezed out new builds quickly. Today, I’ve heard he has scaled back, and the company has shrunk. He’s an older fellow who does not have a succession plan (Flaw 1: who are you going to call in five years?). His office is now over an hour away (Flaw 2), but my very favorite part was that this quote was hand written. That’s right folks, hand written. (Ding, ding, ding—Flaw 3). I told Mr. Client, that I would be a little leery about a tech company that couldn’t use a computer.
Quote 2: The alarm company quote. (Flaw 1, 2, and 3—as far as I’m concerned). I’m sure there are alarm companies that do good work, but how can you pay attention—how can you give your full attention— to both things at once? I just don’t believe the alarm company is doing this out of passion; they’re looking for another buck. “If you would like your drywall guy to install your plumbing, here is your pick,” I mused.
Quote 3: Now this quote was put together by an AV company (finally)—the AV company against which I quote (and win) most often. Finally a solid contender! Except they didn’t listen to the client, so they quoted an “audio only” system with no room for expansion. I had expected more.
I assure you that I did not say one bad thing about any of these companies. It just isn’t the way I do business. I also wasn’t afraid that this client might say no. I was not out to prove to him that I know best. Instead, I explained our advantage. I explained that we sell products that we choose to sell. No higher-ups make the decisions and then tell us what to sell. If we come back from CEDIA with new product lines, then we add them. If we run into issues with a brand that we carry, then we drop them.
I explained that when the lights turn on, the electrician’s job is done. The day we turn the system on, however, our relationship is just beginning. We’re there for the long haul. With a showroom, you know someone will always answer the call. I informed Mr. Client that our clients are clients for life.
And then he gave me the deposit.
My reason for telling you this story is not to point out my stellar sales skills. It is to show that we can all do business in an honest way and win the bid. Had Mr. Client not seen my sincerity, he wouldn’t have signed. If I wasn’t confident in what I was selling and why I was selling it to him, he may have wavered.
Harry didn’t want that waitress to die. It was his unwavering confidence that saved her. He wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger.
Can we be like Harry (in a non-violent way, of course)?
Ask for the sale. Tell the client why you’re the best. Be concise. Be you. A great tag line like, “Go ahead, make my day,” might not hurt either.
Heather L. Sidorowicz is project manager/designer for Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.