By Khris Berry
If you are nervous about discussing pricing with new or existing clients, you may have developed a “Value-Based Relationship” with your clients.
Sandy is a successful groomer who works in a popular local grooming shop. The phone rings regularly and she enjoys a stable schedule with a high level of return clientele. Like most groomers, she has a rise and fall in her yearly business; busier at the holidays and good weather with lulls during other months.
In the big picture, Sandy and her grooming shop are both successful in their industry. Like most groomers, there are times when Sandy’s grooming shop must navigate financial negotiations with clients. Most commonly, these include when a new client calls to request a price quote, or when Sandy’s shop finds it necessary to impose a price increase or if her regular client requires significantly more work. These financial negotiations can strike fear and dread in the heart of the most seasoned groomer and grooming business professional.
One of the first questions I ask groomers who are dreadful of discussing price with their clients is “Why?” If you are nervous about discussing pricing with new or existing clients, you may have developed a “Value–Based Relationship” with your clients.
To understand and identify if you have value–based relationships with your clients, let’s begin by examining your client base and your typical client. Mrs. Jones has a toy poodle who you have groomed for 9 years named Princess. You have seen Princess month after month through seasons and change in both of your lives. You have Princess’s haircut memorized and can execute it in your sleep. Mrs. Jones comes regularly and often mentions she is on a fixed income. When you increase your prices due to cost–of–living, inflation, rising expenses or changing conditions in the industry, you are reluctant to pass those increases through to Mrs. Jones. Perhaps you have reasoned that she is on a fixed income; perhaps you have tried to raise her price and she has lamented that she will need to find another groomer; perhaps you have not increased her price, reasoning that the haircut is simple and doesn’t really take that much time. Any of these reasons would indicate that you, in fact, have a value–based relationship with Mrs. Jones.
When a new client calls your salon requesting information about your services, are they requesting pricing first? Or are they asking your specialty, education or safety record? If they are requesting price first and foremost, they are seeking a value–based relationship with a Pet Service provider. It’s likely they have been conditioned in the past either by other Pet Service providers or the Pet Service Market in your area.
Groomers who negotiate discounts, offer refunds and generally are willing to offer their services at a less than living wage rate, or at a rate which does not allow a grooming business to remain stable and viable, often find themselves in a financial negotiation with clients which resembles a full hostage situation. They have no recourse to fall back on if they do not meet the client demands. And they live in fear of losing the client.
If you are reading this and nodding your head in agreement, or you have clients like Mrs. Jones in your customer base, let’s discuss how to begin to define your Groomer/Client relationship based upon factors other than value. This is a scary concept for many Pet Groomers for several reasons. Breaking the value–based relationship cycle is liberating in many ways, but perhaps the best benefit is having the latitude to choose which principle you want to build your new client relationship upon.
Identify what principles you personally offer your clients. Do you offer clean and sanitary conditions? Do you have an exemplary safety record? Do you provide specialty services such as technically difficult breed profiles, hand stripping or exquisite scissor skills? Are your hours and location convenient? Is your salon all–inclusive or serve spa–like services? Any of these could be a principle which your clients can learn to associate with your services.
When you eliminate value–based discussions with your clients, you have more latitude to direct your business and career to a comfortable, profitable place. When clients assign worth to your unique skill set or offering, you begin to develop relationships that your clients will value more deeply.
Many groomers brag about their return customers, that their schedule is full for many months in advance or that their phone rings constantly. We service an industry with an ever–shrinking workforce and an ever–growing client base. However, many of those same groomers are still fearful of imposing necessary cost–of–living increases or balancing their business margins to realize a profit because they are held prisoner by value–based mindsets.
Changing relationships with your clientele takes time and skill. You have to lead your customers to a new mindset and begin dialog with them that will include what you are good at, what you are offering them and what you value in your own career. Learning to educate your customers about the services and teaching them to assign importance to things other than the cost of your services is invaluable. Change their minds and you change your work destiny. ✂