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What I Learned from Eddy the Kitchen Guy - PPA Today

What I Learned from Eddy the Kitchen Guy


How having my kitchen remodeled revamped my sales strategy

By Mariah Ashley

Selling. Yuck. Just the thought of it makes my skin crawl. I have no idea how to close a deal. I'm not sure if it's in the bag. I regularly take no for an answer.

For me, selling is a mysterious art form that dapples in shadiness and deception. Yet, here I am, in the business of selling photography. Over the years I've pondered over how to develop a sales strategy that wouldn't make my client's skin crawl. I've never come up with one. Instead I wing it and hope for generous clients with money to burn.

Until now.

I just decided to remodel my kitchen and met... Eddy. Eddy the kitchen guy. Eddy my unknowing mentor.

Eddy does a bazillion dollars in business remodeling kitchens. His company averages 15 kitchen remodels a month. A quick calculation of (15 jobs per month) x (a conservative estimate of $40,000 per job) x (12 months a year) = about $7,200,000 in remodels. Given this number, I think we can all agree that Eddy probably knows a thing or two about sales.

Here's the interesting part though, Eddy has never made my skin crawl. Not once. Not even an itch.

In fact, Eddy taught me how to covey this message, without actually saying these words:

"I am a serious business person. I will treat you with respect. I am trying to sell you something that I believe in and I believe you want. I will not take advantage of you or deceive you because my reputation is important to me and my work stands on its own. I know that you will be happy with my work and my product. You will not regret if you choosing to work with me."

Pretty powerful huh? Wouldn't it be great if you could just say that to a potential client and close the deal every time? Unfortunately it doesn't work that way, you have to make your clients feel the message not hear it.

After secretly studying Eddy I have come up with eight ways that he made me feel ready to fork over the cash. Not only did I feel ready but I felt excited to give him my money and 100% confident in my decision. I intend to implement every last one of these steps into my own business because it doesn't matter if you are selling countertops or wall portraits, the principles are the same.

1. Treat Everyone Like a V.I.P.

Eddy came to visit my humble abode in person. He spent about two hours chatting with us, and for a good portion of the time we were not talking about my kitchen. Eddy has a big friendly personality so we chatted about our families and had some laughs. Eddy told us about his business and how he has done remodels for the likes of Buddy, (Providence's very own infamous Mayor) to regular blue collar home remodels like ours (my words not his). I appreciate that Eddy spent so much time getting to know us and valued our job seemingly as much as the fancier jobs that he does.

At one point he said, "There's a reason I don't send an employee to meet with you. I come out here in person and spend the time talking with you because I want your job."

Smart move Eddy, you just made me feel like a V.I.P.

Following Eddy's example, I will remind myself to treat all of my clients like V.I.P.'s, even if they are not buying the big package because the middle package clients are my bread and butter.

2. Be an Observer

As interesting a conversationalist as I believe I am, Eddy was strategically making many small observations about me while we chatted. He turned those observations into suggestions to make me feel understood and in turn to sell his vision.


For instance, Eddy said, "From your hairstyle and your clothing I can see that you are artsy. I think you'd probably like a more modern, clean look with some eclectic touches thrown in."

Bingo! I thought. Eddy totally gets me!

My children were home, so Eddy also got to meet my son who is 16. When we started talking about the scope of the project, Eddy threw this gem in, "Well, you'll be paying for college soon so we'll want to keep this reasonable." Yes Eddy! We want it to be nice but we can't break the bank!

And finally he said, "I can see you actually use your kitchen and like to cook." Why is that Eddy? Because there are crumbs everywhere and my stove is filthy? Thanks for noticing, but actually you are right. I love to cook and we are in the kitchen all time. Now I'm thinking, remodeling this kitchen is a priority and we should have a quality remodel because it gets so much use. The kitchen is literally the heart of our home. Oh Eddy, you totally get my wants and needs!

Like Eddy, I can make my own observations about my clients. Were they late or on time? Chatty or aloof? What was their body language? What kind of coat, handbag, shoes were they wearing? What is their overall style? Who came with them? What does all of this information say about them and what they need?

3. Present Yourself as the Expert

Eddy knows about kitchens, I do not. There is a lot of information online, not to mention those addictive and unrealistic remodeling shows on HGTV. This leads some to think they are kitchen remodeling experts. To steer us around our preconceived notions and toward a better product, Eddy used a lot of these phrases:

"In my years of experience... Because I've done this so many times... What I find really works..." And the all-powerful, "To Avoid Inevitable Problems Later..." I really began to trust Eddy the more he offered his expertise in a non-confrontational way. He was able to steer me away from a porous countertop and coax my husband into under cabinet lighting.

I will present myself as the expert instead of being frustrated by clients' requests that I know to be disastrous. I will gently remind them that we've tried everything in the past and actually know what works best. I will create an atmosphere that is informative and teach my clients what they need to know to make better decisions. I will use anecdotes to illustrate my point; lord knows I have plenty of those!

4. Invest the Time

We are visiting Eddy later today to officially contract him to remodel our kitchen. This will be our fifth visit and not because we are high maintenance, that's just his process. We had our initial meeting with Eddy, a meeting with the designer, a meeting to choose countertop, a pricing meeting and now finally a meeting to book it. I think we've spent about 6 hours in meetings with Eddy and his team in total. I already feel like I have invested a lot of my time and personal energy into this project with Eddy and I haven't even hired him officially. As much as I know I should probably shop around, because of the time invested with Eddy I feel I have already bought in before I actually have.

I will find ways to stretch out the Snap experience for my clients so they feel I have invested time in them and want to invest with me. I have restructured our process to include phone conversations, an in-person consultation, a separate sales meeting and a planning meeting to make my clients feel invested.

5. Explain the Process in DETAIL

Eddy repeatedly walked us through the process of the remodel. "Here's what happens first, this is what we do next, this step is saved for last, here is what we need from you, here is what you can expect of us, etc."

The process of having our kitchen torn apart, which seemed overwhelming enough for me not to want to do it at all, was broken down into very easy-to-understand steps. I was able to wrap my mind around the scope of the project.

This made me think: We've been to hundreds of weddings and seen it all, but our clients have not. We know exactly what goes into producing the photography for the wedding from start to finish, and when you break it down it's a lot of steps, most of which our clients know nothing about. There are a million little things that we do for our clients without any praise or acknowledgement. We just do it because we want to provide a quality product and service. These are the intangibles that are part of the value of what we do but not really possible to "sell."

Or are they?

Eddy provided us with a very detailed list of each and every service he would provide. There were tons of small items that I would never have known about or thought to ask about. For instance; "Remove existing molding around the kitchen window and replace with a more design appropriate style molding."

Wow Eddy! You just blew my mind. I didn't think there was anything wrong with my molding, but now that you say so, it does look outdated and totally will not match my cabinets. This is just a simple detail that Eddy included, but had he not told us I wouldn't have known how much he goes the extra mile to make his work perfect. I think this small detail singlehandedly sold my husband on the remodel.

Thanks to Eddy, I have created my own list of details for my clients that explain in detail the Snap Process from start to finish.

6. Care about Quality and Talk about it... A Lot

Quality does not go out of style. People will always be willing to pay for quality. Eddy talked about the virtues of semi-custom cabinetry, proper lighting, and countertop choice over and over and over again. When his proposal came in several thousand dollars over our budget what do you think I was not willing to compromise on? Semi-Custom Cabinetry, Granite Countertop, and Proper Lighting. I was willing to give up some of the bells and whistles but not the quality of the bones of the kitchen.

If the products you sell are top quality you should and must brag about it... repeatedly.

7. Do Not Apologize For Your Prices

Don't tiptoe around the price. Just rip that band aid off nice and quick. When I went into see Eddy for our pricing meeting I wanted to know the number and he gave it to me, without blinking. Then he said, "This is my number. I don't know your number. Do you have a budget? How close are we to it?" It was refreshing to be asked, and have an opportunity to openly discuss my number. Eddy's number was initially disappointing and a little scary but a few minutes into the conversation he was able to offer some ideas about bringing the cost closer to our budget. He did not offer a discount; instead he offered alternatives to make it more affordable.

I will be more confident when delivering my number, and then open a conversation about budget to give my clients a way to justify their investment.

8. Above All, Enthusiasm

Eddy's enthusiasm for making our kitchen beautiful never faltered. His eyes light up with the word backsplash. Positive energy and passion for your craft is contagious. Eddy's certainly was. He had spoken so enthusiastically about his vision for our remodel that when it came time to axe the aforementioned bells and whistles to save on cost we just couldn't bring ourselves to do it.

We couldn't justify slicing up Eddy's vision to save ourselves a few dollars in the grand scheme of our investment. We went from justifying the price to justifying how to keep the vision intact. My husband, Mr. Practical, Mr. Frugal himself could not part with Eddy's backsplash and so, we bought the big package. My mind is blown and yours would be too if you knew my husband.

From now on, when I am inspired I will share my thoughts with my client and paint them a verbal picture of my vision for their day and for their albums and framing. You cannot judge a skeptic by his cover, beneath the pair of non-fashion jeans and sensible shoes may be a person dying for a fancy backsplash wedding album. I will approach every sales session as if the sky is the limit.

I can't wait to see how Eddy's mentoring effects my own sales numbers. I'm not anticipating a seven-million-dollar year but it will be fascinating to see what difference these gems make in our bottom line. Stay with me to find out, and updates on the remodel too of course!

About the author:

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for winter.jpgMariah Ashley is co-owner of Snap! Photography in Rhode Island. She is blonde, loves to bake fruit pies, wears flip flops way past the summer season, should have been born in the 50s, paints and writes when the mood strikes her, is mother to Jacques and Vianne, vacations on Block Island, is vegan, never has proper or stylish outerwear, fears frogs and toads but loves turtles, has really skinny legs, personal Style- Bohemian Chic, wants to own a VW van,  grew up on a cranberry farm and is happiest when snorkeling is happiest when sipping a rum punch under a palm tree.


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This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on January 13, 2015 10:47 PM.

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