Nothing warms the heart of a salesperson like hearing, “we need to get other bids.” It makes you feel like you’re in a beauty pageant and have just been laughed out of the swimsuit competition.

But it’s a legitimate response from a homeowner . . . or is it? I mean, they’re really getting other bids, right? Or are they just trying to make you squirm? It’s a good idea to find out for sure before we slam-dunk ‘em with the finest rebukes to “other bids” you’ve ever seen.

To determine whether customers are really “looking at other bids,” ask the following questions on these topics:
Brand disclosure. “It makes sense to look around before you make a final decision. May I ask what other brands you're considering that you feel might be able to meet your needs?”

Fact-finding. “I encourage you to gather as much information as possible. I'd be interested to hear what you find out. Do you mind if I call later this week to talk about what you learn?”

After they’ve found facts. “Since you've had a chance to check out your other options, do you mind sharing with me your unbiased opinion on the other products or companies?” Or, “Is there something in particular you are looking for that the others have not offered?”

Missing item. “Is there a particular area that you feel could be served better by someone else?”

Current provider insight. “Is one of the companies your current service provider?” If the customer says yes, ask, “Is there a reason you are considering not using them again?” Or, “Have they ever let you down?” Or even, “If there was one thing they could do better, what would that be?”

Overlooked apology. “I sincerely apologize. Obviously, I missed something or failed to meet your expectations. Again, I am sorry. Price aside, if you don’t mind me asking, what is it specifically that you are looking for by getting another quote?”

Painful realization. “Can I mention something you may not want to hear?” Let the customer give you the OK to go ahead, then say, “If you’re willing to consider hiring other companies to install a new system that should last 10 years or more, and you haven’t heard back from them, or are still waiting for their quote, where do you think they will be when you have a ‘free’ warranty call? How about on the Fourth of July or Christmas Eve? Is a company that shows up when you want and need them important to you?”

Quality and value versus cheapness. “That’s a normal reaction, and we do encourage comparison. But you must be sure that when comparing, everything is equal: such as high quality equipment, solid dealer, reputation, or a long warranty. My company lets you know exactly what you’re getting and know exactly how much it will cost.
“Lesser quality, cheaper equipment and installation can conceal the higher cost of operation and maintenance. We know that you can get a bid as low as you want, but the lower it is, the higher the true cost of cooling and heating may be.

"Mr. and Mrs. Prospect, my purpose here tonight has been to give you the information needed to make an intelligent comparison. I’ve tried to cover everything in sufficient detail so that you can make an intelligent decision. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them, right here for you.”

The “Other Company” Reverse. “You seem to be pretty confident about going with ABC Company. May I ask why you haven't already made the decision? What’s holding you back?”

The “Other Company” Reverse, #2. “You seem comfortable with ABC Company already, and it appears you have already made your decision. May I ask what were you hoping I could do for you, that they are not?”

Competitive Bid Sampling. “If you could go through the comparative process without having to take the time out of your schedule, would that be of interest to you?” If the customer answers yes, pull out copies of competitors’ proposals and a comparison. “Good, we can do that right now . . ."

Competitive bid sampling is one of the best ways to save your prospects time; to look like the most credible, helpful, informative, above-board salesperson they’ve met; and to close more sales. It enables you to cut the crud about “who offers what for how much” and get right down to business.

To be successful at this, get proposal forms from your competitors bidding on the same exact system. Prices, warranties, the works. Pick the ones (of course) that compare positively to yours wherein your warranty, specs, installation techniques, and other benefits are clear. You’ll be absolutely amazed at how well this works.

Here’s what to say: “You’d said you were going to shop around, and I don’t blame you. That’s why we’ve already done it,” (Open to your bid samples), “and we took bids that ranged in time from ‘no shows’ we waited an hour for, to those who were late and took over 2 hours! In fact, just taking bids took us a total of nine hours. So if you want to save some time, here’s what we found. . .”

Be extremely careful NOT to “bad mouth” your competition or you’ll lose every hint of credibility you’re out to gain. Merely present with a positive spin, such as, “This bid confused me. I think it includes a parts warranty, but says nothing about labor, which of course we offer.” Or, “This company is good, but pretty small. That makes it hard to get them on holidays, which is of course when your system will break! That’s why we offer 24 hour service 7 days a week.”

If your prospects are serious, they will be openly amazed that you’ve done this amount of work to save them time, while “translating” the jargon of other bids. This puts you squarely in the advisor role of selling, which is an enviable position to say the least. (Advisors outsell “salespeople” four-to-one. You’ll find that this method dramatically improves the chances of closing someone who wanted to “shop around.”

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. Readers can get a free marketing newsletter and a free 16-page report called “Get More Leads in Less Time” by faxing their letterhead with the request to 334/262-1115 or emailing to moreleads@hudsonink.com. You can also call Hudson, Ink at 800/489-9099 for help or visit www.hudsonink.com for other free marketing articles and reports.