NECA TransmissionsNotes from the front lines of the electrical contracting industry

Having Our Cake and Eating It Too

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 by John M Grau

The neighborhood where I live has a community listserv. We can all post notices of items for sale or enter into discussions on whether we need more sidewalks. One interesting group of postings asks for recommendations on service providers. A couple examples:

• “Looking for a roofer who does good work at a reasonable price”

• “I need a low-cost handyman that does excellent work”

There’s a consistent theme. Most people want top-quality work at the lowest rate possible. What’s considered good work and low cost are subjective standards, of course. But as one marketing professional once told me, “We want what we want, and we expect to get it.”

Electrical contractors performing service work are often on the selling side of this equation. It’s a situation that can easily lead to dissatisfaction and disappointment for both the buyer and the service provider. But it doesn’t have to.

NECA contractors justifiably promote themselves as being the best but often struggle with the question of whether the customer really wants quality or just a cheap price. The answer is, they want both.

While a few buyers may only be satisfied with a deal that drives the vendor into bankruptcy, most just want to know that they haven’t been taken for a ride. And most will be happy to repeat business with a service provider who gives them a good return on investment – also known as a “bargain.” They might even recommend that provider on the neighborhood listserv.

It’s incumbent upon the seller to fully explain the value proposition behind what he or she does. That’s why energy audits start with a thorough examination of the customer’s electric bill; a qualified electrical contractor can show the customer how a proposed energy retrofit can slash their power costs. That’s why savvy contractors sell lighting upgrades on the basis of energy-cost savings, increased security and safety, improved productivity in offices and factories, and a whole host of other benefits. The concept extends to just about every electrical contracting service imaginable.

You’re not just selling the time and material involved in installing a piece of equipment. You’re performing a service that will provide long-term benefits and make the customer’s life better. It’s hard to put a precise price tag on that in some cases, but you should be able to explain the benefits and value of your services in every case.

I’m often tempted to start a discussion on the neighborhood listserv about why people think they can get quality work without paying for it. On the other hand, I never saw the value in keeping the cake. I’d rather just eat it. But a smart, qualified cake contractor with good communication skills might just convince me otherwise.

About NECA Transmissions

NECA Transmissions is a collaborative effort from CEO John Grau and NECA staff to provide insight and feedback on key issues from the front lines of the electrical contracting industry.

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