Wait. Don’t close the sale?
You’re a house cleaner and you have someone who wants to hire you.
You have bills to pay.
They live close by so the commute is reasonable.
They have a house that is clean and has been well maintained. This will be an easy job.
They are willing to pay your quoted rates.
Perfect match made in Heaven right? Not so fast.
I’m all for house cleaners walking into the perfect scenario, picking up an account and becoming fast friends. I want for you to have lifetime working relationships with your clients. So why the caution?
The Sale That is Too Good To Be True
Sometimes things that are too good to be true – are in fact, too good to be true.
Now I don’t have a cynical bone in my body – but having cleaned houses for a couple of decades I have learned to read the writing on the wall.
Closing every sale is not always a good idea. And I don’t mean because you’re no good at closing the deal. There are plenty of reasons why salespeople don’t close more sales. I’m talking about a client wanting to hire you – and you refuse their business.
Landing the Sale is Detective Work
As the business owner, you have to decide if this client will help or hurt your business long term.
It’s like going grocery shopping when you are hungry. You go into the store and you start tossing things into your cart. Without reading the labels you don’t know how many calories or saturated fats the food you’re buying has. You are just looking at the price on the shelf. “Can I afford it? Yep.” And since you’re in a hurry, in the cart, it goes.
But the real price of the food is not how much it costs at the check-out counter – it’s the cost of your health after you eat it. If this food makes you lethargic, obese or at risk for a cardiac arrest – the price just went up.
The same rules apply when booking a client for repeat business. If the client is toxic and you go back week after week that takes a toll on your physical health and the health of your business. Stop trying to close the sale until your detective work is complete.
Why I Won’t Close A Sale
I went to bid a job. The homeowner was a pleasant lady with all the lavish things money could buy. And she kept them in her tidy home.
As we walked from room to room, I listened to the stories of how she acquired these precious items. Many of them were priceless and irreplaceable.
I asked her if any of her trinkets or baubles had ever broken in the care of a house cleaner. She told me about the time she took a house cleaner to small claims court for breaking an expensive vase. The house cleaner was underinsured and didn’t have the thousands of dollars out of pocket to replace the vase. The house cleaner offered to barter house cleaning to pay for the vase but the homeowner chose a legal action instead.
She told me about the house cleaner that stole a valuable gadget. And another house cleaner that misplaced a piece of jewelry while cleaning.
Of course, she Tweeted and Facebooked her dramatic rants using names of the house cleaners and the companies they worked for.
She prided herself on “driving those lousy cleaners out of business.”
Let me check – Nope. I don’t want to clean for this lady. When the job estimate was over she asked me for a price. “No price offered or paid would make us a good fit for each other. I’m going to decline the opportunity to be your house cleaner. But it was a pleasure meeting you.”
I am not a fortune teller and I don’t have a crystal ball. But I’m leery if a prospect tells me they enjoy abusing the relationships with previous house cleaners. It’s a pretty good guess they will abuse me or my team as well.
Talking is not Selling
It’s easy when you arrive at a prospects house to feel anxiety. You are not a salesperson by trade and you’re nervous. So the door opens and you just start talking. In fact, you puke facts and stories about previous accounts. And then because you want the sale so bad, you promise the sun, the stars, and the moon.
You want the sales presentation to end so you can go back to doing what you do best – which is clean houses.
I call this approach “Quicksand Selling”.
You sink so fast that by the time you realize you’re in too deep – you can’t get out. You can prevent quicksand selling by talking less.
Talking is not selling – it’s usually just a waste of time. Your time.
Instead, ask questions. Listen. Repeat. Ask questions. Listen. Repeat. Let the customer do the talking.
Think of Yourself as a Detective, Not a Salesperson
When you go to bid a job, look for clues. Ask questions. If you’re in an over saturated market of house cleaners, yet someone is calling you out of the blue – why?
How did they find out about you? Was it an outstanding advertisement you mailed them? Or were you referred to them from a happy client? Or did they hear that you under charge and are a push over?
Keep your ears open for far-fetched stories that don’t add up.
If a house is 6,000 square feet and the homeowner tells you the last house cleaner did a deep clean on the whole house in three hours – they’re lying.
This type of knowledge comes with experience. The first few houses you bid – you’re not going to know how long it takes to clean a 6,000 sq ft house. And you’ll drive yourself mad trying to outshine the invisible house cleaner you heard about that could.
The question is this. Why isn’t that house cleaner still here?
This Transaction Doesn’t Have a #41
Another house I bid a job for was a lady who complained that she’d gone through 40 house cleaners in the past.
“Can you believe I’ve found 40 house cleaners who suck at house cleaning?”
“Wait. Please don’t make me answer that question. The rain cloud is following you, Mame.”
Happy people attract happy people. When they meet a cleaning technician on neutral ground – they look for the best in them. They expect the relationship to work out. They look for things the service provider did right. And they praise the cleaner on those things.
The house cleaner, in turn, feels appreciated and goes out of their way to please the happy client.
The happy client delighted with the service they receive leave their new maid tips, and send them referrals. They boost the business of the house cleaner on social media by sharing ratings, reviews, and recommendations.
The reverse is true for miserable people. They attract miserable people. They look for the worst in the people they’ve purchased services from. It’s a never ending stream of complaints, unhappiness, vague requests, unrealistic demands, and disappointment. If you can pick up on a miserable person during the sales process, you can eliminate a bunch of hassle later on.
When you walk into a situation with a racked up a body count of 40 house cleaners who suck- don’t close the sale. Turn and walk away. Nobody wins by you being number #41.
Closing the Sale Can Damage Your Reputation
For twenty-five years I’ve been recommending and referring house cleaners. People call me, and if we don’t service the area they live in, I give them a referral to someone else. It’s a win-win for everybody.
Recently a woman called me to come clean. Our conversation ended with the phone call. I never went to her house to bid the job in person. It was the way she answered my questions on the phone that raised so many red flags I told here we weren’t a good fit for each other.
She called me back. This time, she waived the clearance prices she was originally seeking. She’d settle for my full going rate. Again I told her no.
A few days later she called again. This time she had done some research. The rumors are true – my company has an excellent reputation. Just what she needs because no one else can live up to her high expectations. “We are in fact a perfect fit for each other.”
I Was Polite but Declined Her Emotional Manipulation
She called me back. This time with a threat to my reputation via social media and the Better Business Bureau if I didn’t take her on as a client. Again I said no.
A week went by. And when I answered the phone this time she wanted a referral for another house cleaner. “Obviously you don’t know how to run a business if you’re turning down good paying customers.”
What I do know is this: Good house cleaners are hard to find. And I know quite a few. Some of them really need another client – but not one like this. The house cleaners I’ve referred over the years work hard for the customers I’ve sent them. They take pride in their work. And it’s a reflection on me and my business.
When I match a house cleaner with an account who is a jerk – that is also a reflection on me and my business. I’m not going to do that to my friends in the industry who work so hard to make me look good.
Closing The Wrong Sale Can Wreck Your Health
Not having customers can wreck your mental, financial, and physical health. The stress alone can drive you back into a 9 to 5 job. But negotiating the wrong kind of sale just so you can have money coming in is a really bad idea.
The side effects of working with bullies are these:
- No peace of mind
- Nothing is ever good enough – and often requires a costly do-over.
- It wastes time and resources troubleshooting the client’s demands.
- Company morale plummets
- Confidence in employees suffers
- Physical stress, (body aches, joint pain, headaches, anxiety)
- Emotional stress (defensiveness, anger, judgment, vindication)
- Financial stress (employees cancel, call in sick, refuse to help, quit)
- Reputation Management – damage control through court cases, media and social media can be a huge waste of time and expense.
How Do You Know When To Say Yes to a Sale?
Every time you bid a house you will get better at it. As your experience grows, you have new information that will help you filter out the problematic customers from the ones you can manage.
If you’re new and not sure where the boundaries are when bidding houses – create your own 1 -10 scales.
#1 is Annoying
In real life, a #1 is like wanting cereal for breakfast and then realizing you’re out of milk. Whatever. You’ll have to eat something else.
Note to self: Pick up milk on the way home.
Even the best customers are going to fall in the range #1 – #4 at times. Especially when your working relationship is new. But once you’ve built mutual respect and you know what to expect from each other – it’s all good. You’ll be able to troubleshoot #1 – #4 type scenarios in advance and can prevent mishaps.
When bidding a job, if you decide this prospect will fall into the #1 – #4 range = Yes, let’s do this!
A #5 Is a Nuisance in a Different Way
In real life, a #5 is like getting locked out of your house. Man, it’s an inconvenience, it wastes time and you wish it didn’t happen. But if you stand back and look at the big picture – the weather was nice. Nobody got hurt. And after you have your Mom bring you a spare key – you get back in. No biggie.
Note to self: Hide spare key under the deck in back yard.
Most customers fall in the #5 – #8 range. Weird stuff happens that you wish didn’t. They leave you to do lists. Or tell you how to do your job. They might forget to pay you. Or one day they adopt five dogs that you now have to clean up after.
This is the range where you learn the most about your business. Every time something strange happens – you adapt and make sure it doesn’t happen with all your other clients.
When bidding a job, if you decide this prospect will fall into the #5 – #8 range = Yes, let’s make this work!
A #10 Is a Series of Unforeseen Challenges
A #10 on the scale in real life is like having your unmarried teenage daughter who still lives at home tell you she’s pregnant. Sure, there are elements of that will turn into a joy – but the challenges ahead will be monumental for everyone involved.
Note to self: Brace for impact.
Client’s that fall in the #9 – #10 range will consume the bulk of your time and energy and will challenge you in ways you can’t imagine. I’m not saying run from them – I’m saying brace for impact. It will never be easy with these clients.
When bidding a job, if you decide this prospect will fall into the #9 – #10 range = Not so fast. Yes, but with contingencies. Yes, let’s give it a trial period. Not a good fit for each other. Walk away.
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