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Can Your Customers Perceive the Value of Your Brand and Service?

May 15, 2020
People buy based on the value that is important to them, what they perceive as important.

I was in a fight with General Motors and Ford Motor Company in 1980. The fight wasn’t exactly, or directly, with Detroit, but with two of their dealerships. I suppose I could be more specific and say my fight was not even with those car dealers, but with some sleazy salesmen — I mean, some of my “esteemed competition.” Because I was also a “sleazy” car salesman, back in the day. More on that later.

In 1980, I told my dad I’d had enough of crawling through attics. For those of you who live above the Mason/Dixon line, you know that attics up north had 2 feet of pink itchy fiberglass in them. It was my job to crawl through on my belly, digging down and looking for the top of a wall, so I could drill a hole and drop down a wire for some teenage girl’s new steam roller curler set. It hurts me, pains me, to even think about it today. I hate fiberglass insulation more than just about anything in the working environment. I guess that’s why I spray foam every chance I get.

Anyway, feeling footloose and fancy free, I forsook the family business and fled to get a job in sales, and landed right smack at Bob Sellers Dodge Datsun in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Like many of you, I was a voracious student of all things self-help, of all things about how to sell and of successful people. In my search for why I couldn’t bring home the Uniroyal tire bacon, I stumbled across a guy by the name of Joe Girard, world record holder for selling more cars as a car salesman than any person in the history of automobiles.

I quickly bought all of Joe’s tapes and his book, and for wow factor, he sent me an added bonus, a gift I cherish to this day, a glossy 8x10 framed and personally autographed picture of himself. I placed it smack dab on my desk at Bob Sellers Dodge Datsun and became the highest grossing salesman of the year.

Now as a bonus for those of you that have read this far, I’m ready to give out my silver tuna, and if any of you do like I did and leave those dirty dusty attics for the glitz and glamour of a car dealership, what I’m about to spill will make your day.

Cars & Quality
I was over my head, upside-down in love with the car of my dreams. Before I sold cars, I bought a car, two cars actually, that put me in hock for what seemed like forever. A 1974 Audi 100, for which I paid too much, and the 1978 Champaign Edition Volkswagen Rabbit that I traded it for. I said all of that to say that the VW Rabbit with its 4-speed manual transmission shifted like a smooth stick of warm butter. It was a joy to drive. But when I joined the sales team at Bob Sellers Dodge Datsun, I quickly realized that those Dodge Omni’s had the worst shifting transmission I had ever been exposed to in an automobile. The reason was mainly that the stick shift came out of the floor and was about 2 feet long. It had way too much flex in it and it took quite a push or pull to convince it to change gears. When I took a customer on a test drive, it was the one thing that made me cringe every time the customer attempted to find another gear.

But —although I personally knew that a Volkswagen Rabbit was a much finer piece of machinery, I quickly realized that my prospective customer did not have that information. So, here’s what I did.

What I realized was that value is not proven. It is perceived.Value is only valuable when the customer accepts (perceives) in his/her mind that it exists.

Now first, before I reveal this secret to being an essential person of very high value, I need you to promise me that you won’t judge me too harshly. After all, I was just a young salesman with two kids and a wife, who needed a paycheck. I was paid by 100% commission.

What I realized was that value is not proven. It is perceived. Value is only valuable when the customer accepts (perceives) in his/her mind that it exists.

Are you ready? Don’t judge me, now. Here’s what I did. You see, it was the policy of almost every car dealership in 1980 that the salesperson drove the car first, then handed it over to the customer. Part of the reason for this was that at over 20 degrees below zero in North Dakota, someone had to make sure the car would start and drive it until it warmed up enough not to quit when the customer tried it. So, when I took a prospect out for a test drive in a 1980 Dodge Omni 4 cylinder 4-speed, I would make this comment. And by making this comment, I was very simply placing a perception opportunity into my prospect’s brain. “Mr. Customer, one of the things you will notice is that this Dodge Omni is just plain fun to drive; this transmission shifts like a warm stick of butter; I could drive it all day.”  Now this wasn’t a really big lie, and in fact, if you had never driven a Volkswagen Rabbit, you too, might smile when you drive the lovely Dodge Omni. Anyway, and get ready for this, because it is a big deal. Almost every time, when I turned the car over to the prospect (men almost always drove before their wives if they were both on the ride), the guy, after going through first, second, third, and finally fourth gear, would turn to his wife and say these sweet words: “Wow, this thing shifts like butter. I just love it.”

I wasn’t really a bad guy, just a salesman who knew that if those sleazy guys at the Ford or Chevy dealerships got their hands on my prospects, they would bleed them dry.

You will be happy to know that I sold more 1980 Dodge Omnis than any of my fellow salesmen.

Value Perception Results in Happy Customer
So, what’s your idea? Your competitor can try to “prove” that whatever brand he sells is better than what you have. He/she can “prove” that their company is bigger, better, stronger, and whatever the heck they have is better than whatever the heck you have. But you, yes you, can strategically place those lovely perceptions of value in your prospect’s mind, and they will open their eyes to what value really is.

The perception of value is what will eventually make your customer happy for the long haul, and it comes from you. A Sears siding salesman did such a good job of placing perceptions of value in my mind that to this day, I still wish I had bought from him. I just couldn’t afford him at the time. His best price was $16,000 when the other three were all under $10,000. But boy, for years, every time I looked at my “cheaper” siding, I thought of him.

Am I saying to fool the prospect or try some cheap, sleazy sales tool? Nope, not at all. I was, even back then, ethical, honest, and caring. But I knew what my weak points were, so I placed them in the finest light I could.

Value is determined by things like quality, design, efficiency, cost, and durability. But people buy based on the value that is important to them, what they perceive as important.

A Volkswagen Rabbit may have been better engineered in 1980, but that doesn’t mean it had greater perceived value to buyers in North Dakota. What’s important to your prospect? Work with that.

By the way, I traveled 1,500 miles to spend time with Ali Reda two years ago. Ali is the only man to beat Joe Girard’s record of personally selling over 1,400 cars in one year. Read his book, and tell him I sent you.

Pricing enthusiast Rodney Koop is the founder and CEO of The New Flat Rate, a home service menu-selling system designed to put profit directly into the hands of plumbing, electrical, and HVAC contractors. Call Rodney anytime, at 706-581-0622
About the Author

Rodney Koop | Founder/CEO

Rodney Koop is the founder and CEO of The New Flat Rate. The New Flat Rate is described as the #1 Pricing System, providing menus for HVAC, plumbing and electrical flat rate service companies, that takes the pressure off the technicians and automatically does the selling.