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Joe Arenella: Improve Your Discovery

Founder of SignTracker, Joe Arenella offers some tips and advice on learning to approach sales as a discovery process to gain even happier clients

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The sale is in the discovery, not in the delivery!

Discovery is about uncovering problems, not just about offering a quote and proper discovery allows you to fix two big issues:
#1 - Commodity pricing - if clients think they are just buying a sign then it’s all about price, but if you’re able to show how signs create more trust in their brand, a more professional look, or even draw more attention to their business then we're talking a whole different currency!
#2 – ‘Bad clients’ - 90% of what you might think are ‘bad clients’ are just people that assume they know how signs should be done. They have their own ideas about how your processes should work, and most of the time it’s because they just don’t understand. If you’re able to educate them about what it actually takes to deliver effective signage they will trust your solutions. That means less friction, better relationships, and a whole lot of repeat business!
Let’s take a look at how to fix these problems through some Critical Areas of Discovery:
1. Educate your client
Most clients have no idea what goes into making a sign, or what type of sign is best for their business. This creates a great opportunity for you to begin to build trust by educating them about the process and helping them see what could work for them.

Believe it or not, clients want you to do this! All they want is to feel they are making the best investment possible.
When you initially sit down with your client, take the time to listen and understand their goals, who they are trying to reach, and what message they are trying to convey. Help them understand how their brand, colours, and messaging will translate into an effective sign. 

If they are building an apartment complex, is it important for the brand to be on every sign, or just the main entry sign? If you are wrapping a fleet of trucks, how do you communicate their services effectively at 70 miles per hour? 
Once you have a pretty good idea of their goals and their budget, don’t be afraid to ask for a deposit to get started. Typically, if you have to do a site survey, landlord criteria research, and initial designs (three revisions at most) that is about 10% of the cost of the total project. If the client feels you are “all-in” when it comes to solving their problems they will trust in your expertise and want to work with you over someone just interested in closing the deal.  
2. Find what they really want
What the client thinks they want, is never what they REALLY want. After 20 years in the business, I’ve seen this in every project I’ve done. It’s your job to uncover that, that’s how you make way more money too.
This is the stage of discovery where all the opportunities can be uncovered, especially if you are motivated to ensure the client’s success. I love this stage of the project because it requires both expertise and creativity. What can be done to solve the client’s problems, and is there more that you can do to make it even better than they expected?
I did a project a few years back in downtown Austin. During the initial interview, the client said they wanted to have a huge set of channel letters that could be seen blocks away. The building was over 20 stories high, so it was going to require lane closure, multiple cranes, engineering, and the construction of bracing for the roof mounts.  

After researching what was allowed, we discovered they could have two signs on the building because they took up the majority of the building’s office space. 

We made a quick call to the client, and they were excited. It went from a $75,000 (£60,100) project to $125,000 (£100,000). But wait, it gets better.

They were so happy about getting two signs approved, they asked if we knew a reliable vendor to do wall coverings. Of course, I said, “we do that!” We partnered up with a few vendors and sold $200,000 (£160,000) worth of digitally printed wall graphics. 

If I had just approached this by giving them what they thought they wanted – a single sign, I would have missed out on a huge opportunity.  This relationship lasted years, and we ended up doing projects all over the US, from New York City to San Francisco. Not all your clients are going to have unlimited budgets, but if your focus is to help them succeed, they will want to work with you again and again. 

3. Change Your Approach (Forever)
Learning to approach sales as discovery might feel a little different, but you will build a much better client base, and create more profitable job opportunities. Clients that know you are reliable and motivated to help and will become more like a trusted partner than a client.
I am convinced that focusing on your customers’ happiness will create a better company culture for your team as well. They won’t just be sign-makers, they will become part of your customers’ success story. That is a little bit more motivating than just slapping a sign on the wall! So go out and solve some problems, and okay, sell a few signs while you’re at it.

Joe Arenella founded two sign shops before launching SignTracker, a software program that helps sign shop owners track their jobs, quote more consistently, and provide their team a birds-eye view into what’s going on in the shop. 

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