Recently I decided after a failed attempt at installing gutters on the front of my house, to leave it to the pros. Before I have to turn in my man card, allow me to explain!

Here’s what happened.

My dad came over to help, we measured everything out, installed the gutters on a half inch slope every 10 feet. The seams were caulked. Everything looked perfect. To say I was excited for our first rain was an understatement.

The rain came and my freshly installed gutters worked like a dream. The water poured out of that downspout beautifully and I was a happy man.

Then winter came.

For those of you who don’t know what it is like to live in West Michigan during the winter, let me just say, it isn’t for the faint of heart. The fact that we border Lake Michigan means every year we get what is called “lake effect snow” which means we get more snow than other parts of the midwest because of the lake. Annually we average 100 inches of snow fall. 

The problem is, I had chosen to save money on my gutter project and had chosen the cheap plastic gutters. Let’s just say, the 100 inches of snow accumulation absolutely destroyed my gutters in one season. The snow came, it weight down the gutters. Then it started to melt and ice formed which weighed it down even more.

So much for that half inch slope.

What we needed was not the cheap plastic gutters, we needed the seamless, heavy duty aluminum gutters installed by the pros. So we brought in two different companies to price it out.

The first company, let’s call them Gutters R Us, came to our door after measuring our house and asked if I had a minute to go over the quote. Unassumingly, she sat down on the stairs of our front porch with her pad of paper and pencil to go over the numbers. I, of course, invited her inside and to our kitchen table to which she gratefully accepted.

The second company, let’s call them We Sell Gutters, came to the door after measuring our house. I opened the door and without even an invitation came right in, and went straight to the kitchen table. “Make yourselves at home” I said under my breath as I followed them in.

Gutters R Us’ presentation was a pad of paper, a pencil, a calculator and a lady scratching some notes down as she figured out her estimate. She asked me a few questions about what I was looking for, what was important to me. She highlighted the differences between a couple different types of gutters, but when I told her what I was looking for, she accepted it and remained focused on that product.

Gutters R Us figured out the estimate, showed it to me, asked if I was ready to book. I told her I was doing a little price shopping and I would get back with her. She said “that’s perfectly fine, a lot of people do that. Just let me know when you’re ready. I’m booking a few weeks out at this point but I’d love to get you in before winter hits.” And she was out! The whole thing took less than 5 minutes.

We Sell Gutters, after reaching the kitchen table, pulled out an iPad and began their presentation. It started with the first slide saying what year they were established and a brief history of the company. This was followed by them saying “I’m sure you’ve heard our ads on the radio?” (I hadn’t).

Then they went through the various licenses and insurances they had, along with their credentials. They talked about how long they’d been in the industry. They talked about their recognitions, their positive Google and Facebook reviews, and on and on.

After a good 15 minute rundown of their company, We Sell Gutters finally got to why they were there, the gutters. They spent the next 15 minutes telling me why their gutters and their installation process was the best in the industry.

At the end of it all, they said, can you think of any reason why you wouldn’t go with us to install your gutters? 

This experience was an interesting lesson in sales for me. You see, being in marketing I often think about presentation, branding and sales. What I think is important to the client, can be drastically different to what is actually important to the client. 

Gutters R Us understood I simply wanted some seamless gutters and I just needed a quote. Nothing else mattered to me other than my selection and the price.

As the customer, there are certain assumptions I make about a company that will only meet expectations. What I mean is, I assume when I hire a gutter company, that their technicians will be properly licensed and insured. If they are a legitimate gutter business I assume they will do the job adequately and not place gutters on my house crookedly. I assume they know how to protect themselves against the adversities of being on a ladder and possibly coming into contact with lead paint.

You see, We Sell Gutters were trying to sell me on the things I already assumed any gutter business would offer. If you want to impress a client and establish value, you have to explain a benefit that exceeds their baseline expectation, and if you can’t do that, you better simply have the best price.

The way to establish value is to either communicate benefits beyond what’s expected, or simply cost less. 

Hats off to We Sell Gutters for trying, but at almost 3x the cost of Gutters R Us, they simply failed at communicating any real value beyond what I expected of them. 

In addition, they spoke about themselves for 44 out of the 45 minutes they were at my kitchen table. If you want to communicate value, you need to understand what the client is actually looking for. What need is the client hoping you will meet? What challenge is the client hoping you can help them overcome? If they had asked me those things, they would have known about my difficulty with the snowfall and they would have addressed that in the presentation. “These gutters are built to withstand the harshest of Michigan’s winters so you’ll never have to deal with sagging gutters like you had in the past” — THAT would have spoken to me. 

If you want to communicate value, you have to understand what challenge the client is facing that they are looking to have you help them overcome. This comes first from simply listening.

Talk less about yourself and find out from them why they invited you into their house.

Needless to say, we went with Gutters R Us.