How you sold me at triple price

SunsetI’ve been in the market for an arborist – a tree professional that can take care of some dead wood and pruning in my yard on some very old trees. I’m far more capable when it comes to pruning databases than I am dogwoods, so I solicited bids from local arborists.

Three contractors came by the house and did their sales pitches. As with all things, I pay attention not just to the pitch content but how well trained the salesman is. Here’s what I got.

Contractor #1: Came by the house, presented me with a very direct, upfront list of what he’d do. Prune here, trim there, cut down some saplings – all very efficient. He presented his credentials, demonstrated a certificate of insurance, and gave me a price quote with no hassle: $697.

Contractor #2: Came by the house, apologized immediately and in advance for being a poor speaker and a poor salesman. Said he’s been working in landscaping for years, but just can’t speak well. He gave a brief overview of his services, what he’d do, and gave a $600 price quote which he said was firm no matter how much the scope of work changed. He made an additional point that no matter what other price we were quoted by competitors, he’d match or beat it.

Contractor #3: Came by the house and asked what we wanted, what we were trying to achieve. Asked whether we were looking for more sunlight, hazard reduction, etc. Noticed and pointed out some spots of rot on two of our trees that other contractors had missed and said that while there wouldn’t be a big impact for at least 10 years, eventually the rot would cause trouble down the road. Went into the front yard, which we griped about because the town’s trees on the sidewalk are never trimmed. Contractor mentioned that the law about trees is abundantly clear: if it hangs over your property, you have the right to trim or prune it without asking permission even if the trunk is on someone else’s property. He did a great upsell to his day rate, unlimited trees for $1900, and then explained how the trees would look in 1, 5, 10, and 30 years. He also said his insurance company would send us the coverage policy and paperwork with the written quote, which he’s not allowed to touch due to the possibility of fraudulent insurance.

If I were motivated solely by price, contractor #2 would have won easily. However, while price was definitely a factor, quality of work and expertise outweighed it. Contractor #3 won my business even at triple the price because he demonstrated expertise above and beyond just pruning trees – knowledge of the law and botany, expertise that indicates to me that he really knows what he’s doing.

Why is this so powerful that it justifies such a premium price tag? Unlike commodity widgets or generic chewing gum, trees and landscaping are very long term projects. There’s no undo with a chainsaw – once you do the work, it’s done. I was unwilling to leave my yard – which I value greatly – to the lowest bidder because, as in many things in life, you get what you pay for. I’m ready, willing, and able to pay for expertise if you can demonstrate your mastery before asking for the sale.

If your first instinct as a salesperson is to cut prices and focus only on the money, you will alienate the premium buyer who is willing to pay more in order to get more. Start with demonstrating service and expertise before the sale and you may make the sale without price ever becoming an objection.


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