October 15, 2014
By Dave Braun
LO President

Dave Braun You can dispute the old adage, “First impressions are everything.” And, you may have a valid argument.

However, I recently I had a firsthand experience that proved to me first impressions certainly do mean a lot.

I have a crack in the foundation of my basement, which has caused an irritating leak. My wife, doing due diligence on our behalf, called a number of waterproofing companies to scheduled visits for quotes.

I happened to be home for lunch during one such visit and saw one competing “fix it” company car pull into the drive. The car was rusted, old and dented, with one tire that looked like it wouldn’t make it back to wherever the gentleman had started from. My first thought was, “If this guy isn’t conscientious enough to take care of his own vehicle, or worse doesn’t care enough to take care of his own things, how is he going to care about OUR things?”

My reaction was visceral and immediate. The car had no decal, no logo, and nothing to indicate that this man was anything but a fly-by-night tradesman.  

When I opened the door to greet the representative, I was again struck by a physical indication of his lack of fastidiousness. His shirt, dirty and worn, had a company logo so faded that it was barely legible. I asked for a business card. He had none. He said his contact information was on the website.

Next, we headed downstairs for him to make his assessment. After he took a look around the basement, I asked for a pamphlet for more detailed information about how the work is performed. He looked blankly at me first and then said, “The information is on our website.”

We made our way back upstairs into the kitchen and I asked him to write a formal quote, which he seemed rather displeased about, but reluctantly scribbled out. I then said, “When I speak with your competitors, what information should I be asking them?”

He said, “None. You should go with me. You see the quote there, it’s the lowest you’ll get. We’ve been in business a long time.”

“Okay,” I countered, “but what sets you apart from your competition, other than the fact that you’re the least expensive?” His answer had nothing to do with why I should choose him, but rather he said, “I thought I was coming here to DO the work. I’ll be speaking with my company about that.”

I thanked him for coming and said that we were going to do some thinking about what he had presented.

I thought about how deeply it matters to customers how we make them feel before we shake hands. It would have meant a great deal to me for this salesman to have presented a professional image. Had he arrived with a new shirt, in a vehicle with a company logo (ideally an industry certified logo) at the very least, I wouldn’t have been immediately skeptical.

Even though I’m certain he was the lowest price and could probably do an OK job, I had lost confidence in his company and its ability to back up the work. There’s a reason that top, trusted companies have branding and invest in ensuring that employees reflect their brand vision. The cost incurred to provide workers with a crisp and clean shirt, pales in comparison to the unknown value of the lost work.

In this hyper-competitive world, we, as members of Landscape Ontario have the professional advantage. You likely have nice shirts, fresh business cards and glossy pamphlets, which puts you at an advantage. I challenge you then, to think about what else you can do or say to make it nearly impossible for your potential customer not to choose YOU.
Dave Braun may be reached at dbraun@landscapeontario.com.