Blink: First Impressions Set the Tone
Welcome back to the Executive Report, the twice-monthly article series updating you on metal roofing, sales, marketing, and installation. Our last report covered the difference between chasing the cheapest product and providing a premium product to your customers. Many contractors and customers want cheaper, not better, but like the old adage says, “you get what you pay for.” As a salesperson, you create more profit for your business and sell a better product to the customer by differentiating your offering from the competition.
In June, we took a look at Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. He provided insight from a fresh look at the old battle between underdog and favorite. His theory: David’s stature didn’t handicap him, instead giving him an edge against the overwhelming force of Goliath. The giant’s size and heavy armor limited his freedom of movement. But, just like David, the metal roofing industry’s small size enables advantages, like flexibility and success with specific audiences.
In another Gladwell book, Blink, he proposes that quick decisions matter just as much as slow, deliberate ones. “There are moments…when our snap judgments and first impressions can offer a much better means of making sense of the world”, says Gladwell. We make these choices all the time, taking advantage of our unconscious mind. For example, we meet new people and hear new ideas, often analyzing them without thinking about it. And while these background thought processes are viewed as inferior or inaccessible, Gladwell believes they can be instrumental to success.
How does this affect you and your business? We’ve spoken about first impressions before, but this takes things to a new level. We explored the impact a clear website can have on new customers, but other things matter too. It can be salespeople on the phone, a Google review, a social media post, or even a trusted person’s opinion. We can either improve or affect all of these things, directly altering our first impression for the better. Websites can be simpler with better visuals, phone calls can be straightforward and honest, social media can showcase beautiful pictures of finished jobs and happy customers, word of mouth can come from excellent work and mutual respect, and Google reviews can be replied to with their problem solved.
One example of a powerful first impression is the Aeron office chair. Before the Aeron, the stereotypical desk chair was large, cushy, and leather. Comfort was king, not good posture or proper support. The Aeron aimed to change the idea of a desk chair, but the bizarre design turned people away. The mesh back and rigid plastic construction looked odd and uncomfortable, so customers weren’t interested, and the chair sold poorly until it built up a cult following. Now used by major companies worldwide, the Aeron is an iconic office chair (I’m sitting in one as I write this). Gladwell explains this journey from weird to widespread as, “office chairs in people’s minds had a certain aesthetic,” and once people got over their first impressions, it flourished.
Metal roofing is similar; right now, it may seem different to people, complex and expensive. But, we can create a positive first impression, differentiate it from the competition, and appeal to people who will take the time to understand its benefits. If we can generate a positive initial experience, prospects will be open to hearing our pitch. This foundation gives us a strong position as they take time to compare their options.
In Blink, the value of quick decisions is realized, but in our industry, we value people who take their time and research their options. So, can we have it both ways? It turns out that early observations can pave the way for positive feelings, which influence later decisions. If we succeed in winning people over early, then we can feel secure about being a favorite later in the decision-making process.
Todd Miller has spent his entire career in the metal building products manufacturing industry. He is president of Isaiah Industries, an organization recognized as one of the world’s leading metal roofing manufacturers. Todd is currently Vice President of the MRA (Metal Roofing Association) and a Past Chair of MCA (Metal Construction Association). Through his website, he strives to raise the bar on standards and practices to provide property owners with the best possible products for successful roofing projects.
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