Once in a while, I receive calls from consumers seeking advice in their window purchases. First off, I always tell them that I can’t recommend a particular product, but sometimes they are just looking for someone to listen. That’s what a particular widow seemed to want when she called me a few weeks ago.

I have to admit she called at not the best time. I was in production of our biggest issue of the year and had a million things waiting for my attention, but I just couldn’t ignore the stressed voice on the line who wanted someone to talk to about her recent window purchase.

She started out by asking me about the different window types, whether or not she was making a mistake by replacing her wood windows with vinyl, etc. But what was really causing her stress was the purchase she made the night before for $20,000-some in new windows. She told me she was looking at a few different brands and the one she chose was a smaller company as opposed to one of the national manufacturers. This particular dealer gave her a few days should she want to cancel the purchase (thus the reason she called me). She told me how this dealer dropped the price by $3,000 if she signed that day. (I have to admit I’m not sure if this is a common practice—go to dwmmag.com and scroll down to bottom left to take our poll.)

But she didn’t just go with this dealer due to price. She told me he was the best salesperson and took the time to show her demos including the heat escaping through her old glass and what the difference would be with new windows, pointing out the energy savings she would experience.

Still she was stressed which makes sense, given the fact that this is such a huge purchase. I felt so sorry for her throughout the conversation, particularly when she told me she had to take an aspirin because this whole thing was giving her such a headache.

How do you handle consumers with anxiety over their purchases? I’d love to hear from you.

5 Comments

  1. I hear stories like this one and much worse, all the time. I recently heard one that started at 25000 and worked it’s way down to 10,000 before the salesperson left from his first sit with the customer.

    It is fairly normal for customers to negotiate price, but in my opinion, it is not good practice to try and close a sale based solely on price and particularly during the demonstration visit.

    In most cases, these days, our margins are so tight that we can not lower the prices in any event. I have trained our salespeople to consider all costs before quoting a price and give the customers a fair and equitable price. If the customer wants a lower price, we ask them to consider alternatives to the products that can lower the price.

    I remind my staff and many customers that we don’t sell prices but rather excellent service with very knowledgeable people and of course our 31 year history. We recently surveyed a sampling of our customers and discovered that we are doing a great job. My advice to anyone who sells prices is to get some more practical experience so your credibility stands out from your competitors. The customers can read you through what you say, even if they don’t understand the technicals.

    The lady in the story above was enamored by the demonstration, but was still not sure. That salesperson didn’t create credibility, but he was more ambitious than his competitors, however he had to offer a 13% reduction to close the sale. He ran out of canned pitches so he resorted to price.

    Now and then, we lose a sale because of price, but just remember, if you sell prices, those customers have friends with similar characteristics. I prefer to sell to customers who expect real value and guess what, they have friends too.

  2. I like the part where the nice sales guy “gave her a few days should she want to cancel her purchase”. Um, unless I’m mistaken, I think that’s kinda the law. Not sure in what capacity this woman was calling you for advice, but methinks she agonizes over every decision of this nature, and you were one of several people she called for assurances. It’s called “buyer’s remorse”.

  3. @Bob
    Actually, the “cooling off period” varies by state. Some states only allow cooling off periods for door-to-door salesman, which would not count if a salesman is responding to your initial solicitation.

  4. Your admission of unfamiliarity to common retail practices exemplifies the lack of insight and knowledge manufacturers have with their true customers; the contractor. Your ‘widow friend’ probably called you because it is a large sum of money to spend on something so unfamiliar and with limited knowledge, (I have to admit, I’m not sure why she called you, I guess because you write an op/ed column…I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your credentials), she had no idea if she was making a good decision. Contractors need to sell through an educational approach and let the homeowners make a strong and informed decision on how to maximize their return on investment. This results in a stronger close, lower recisions and more referrals. This widow might not of turned to such an unreliable source had she been more informed. By the way, it would of been interesting to hear your advice to her.

  5. In a conversation about a “high priced” window company, with a Canadian government official who is extremely knowledgeable about the inner workings of our industry, I was describing the methods of a particular retail sales company. I told him,

    1. They charge twice the price (or more) then the market.
    2. They get this by selling a product brand that is hard to find, making apples to apples comparisons difficult for the consumer.
    3. They will spend hours performing a great in home presentation and putting on an fantastic show.
    4. They offer spot discounts for getting a signature that day. of course, they charge so much to begin with, they can easily afford to cut a massive discount and still charge more than the market norm. (They do this to avoid comparison shopping as much as possible. This company hates cooling off periods!)
    5. Interestingly enough, they generally deliver good product and respond well to service requests as they can’t afford to have a bad reputation.

    My only issue with the company in question was that they charged so much for their products and services.

    His answer? “Perhaps they’re selling at the right price and the rest of you are Wal-mart.”

    I’ve given this a lot of thought and the truth is, our industry is stupid on pricing and margins. Go get a picture framed. Buy a frame with four pieces of extruded aluminum, a piece of clear glass, some cardboard and paper etc. Pay $50 to $100 for the privilege. Buy a certified window with two pieces of thermal glass, testing, warranties, complicated moving pieces…. you get the idea. Pay as little as $99 or less.

    I suspect that the company in question that the consumer was dealing with was a lot like the one in my example. By industry standards, she will probably pay too much. On the other hand, she’ll probably be satisfied, as long as she doesn’t comparison shop with her neighbors later!

    In regard to your questions about how to handle the call. I’ve learned that it is often a mistake to offer more info then what is asked. Wood or vinyl? Easy. Each has benefits and drawbacks. Have a FAQ available or a link to one that gives both minus the sales pitch either way. Make the referal and thank the customer for considering you and your magazine as her industry source.

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