How to sell your cake and eat it too.

You walk into a hair salon. You sit down in the chair. The stylist asks what she can do for you today. There are two main responses that rule the roost in the spectrum of expectation. Either you say “I don’t know, fix it” or you whip out your smart phone and show a doctored picture of a model with fabulous yet unrealistically natural hair. Which customer is better, the unknown or the exact? As a salesman, you have the same responsibility as the stylist. It is your job to ensure that the customer leaves happy with the outcome and satisfied with their purchase.

In a world of Pinterest photos and home magazines, the evolution of outdoor design has simplified, yet expectations have magnified into something extremely specific. Just a few left swipes can lead homeowners into locating a picture that resonates with their style, budget and space. Here are a few things to consider when selling a deck package to a homeowner or contractor.

1. Capture the vision. The number one rule of meeting an end user’s expectation is, get ready for this wisdom, understand the end user’s expectation. Whether this comes in the form of conversation or pictures, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Verbally clarifying what you think you hear or see validates the customer and creates learning opportunities.

2. Get realistic. Even the best cut won’t change the texture of your hair. Get up close and personal with the parameters of the project. Know the products inside and out and how they work together. Get comfortable with the perks and the flaws (news flash - every product has both). Application and maintenance should play a major role in the conversation and decision-making process. Will the deck be in constant sun, are there planters, is it low to the ground, does it lack ventilation? You should proactively be thinking about what obstacles the design presents that may cause a conflict down the road for the homeowner. The best way to avoid a problem is to consider it early on in the design process.

3. Offer solutions to potential problems. Be the expert that knows what “haircuts” won’t work long term. Guide them to success from start to finish. In the world of outdoor living, that encompasses everything from design all the way to upkeep. When considering treated lumber, applications and retentions matter. Deck patterns matter. Grades matter. Maintenance matters. Present options that match their short and long-term expectations.

4. Don’t guess. Pretending to be an expert in everything sets all parties up for failure. Know your limitations and when to ask for help. Set up a three-way call with a vendor or shoot a quick email with a question. There are industry experts at your fingertips. Utilize their experience and knowledge!

5. Let the end user have final say. Guidance is crucial but ultimately it is up to the homeowner to voice their final decision. Presenting products should be a lot like presenting facts. Stick to the pros and cons and avoid sharing personal preference unless they specifically ask for your opinion.

The old expression “have your cake and eat it too” is one that is often thrown around in sales. Most of the time customers want the best product or “stylist” on the market and turn around to beat you up for the cheapest price. Overcome the price battle by creating a unique value equation through customer service that enhances their overall experience. Here’s the bottom line: you can only meet or exceed expectations when you know what they are. Do such a good job selling the cake that they invite you over to eat it too.