Affluent clients are different from homeowners in other income brackets, and not just because they can afford to hire anyone they choose. Their expectations are higher, and it takes some finesse to sell them on using a particular company.
For SilverLining Interiors, a New York firm that specializes in apartment renovations, getting “face time” with potential clients is crucial. SilverLining participates in charity events, such as a show house for the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club, a group that raises money for schools in the South Bronx. They also try to meet with prospects weekly to show the company’s portfolio, says Josh Wiener, president, adding that most of the firm’s business is generated by referrals from architects, designers or past clients.
It’s all about relationships, says Deborah Malone, president of JP Malone Construction, a custom builder and remodeler in Scottsdale, Ariz. “We’ve started doing cross-marketing with other high-end businesses that have nothing to do with construction. For example, we’re partners with a company that does turf installation — the little putting courses for homes.” If a homeowner wants a putting course or a shelter for a swimming pool, Malone gets the referral for the pool shelter.
JP Malone recently hired a golf pro at a local course to act as a salesperson. The pro donned a JP Malone golf shirt, armed himself with company brochures and coached a foursome of prospective clients through the course.
Just as golf is practically a religion in Scottsdale, horse shows and steeplechases are a mecca for the wealthy residents of Philadelphia’s Main Line. HP Builders of West Chester, Pa., meets past customers and prospects on their own turf by purchasing sponsorships and hosting tailgate parties at these events.
Much of Benvenuti and Stein’s business comes from real-estate agents. “We have a very good reputation,” says Geno Benvenuti, president of the Evanston, Ill.-based company. “When a home we’ve remodeled goes on the market, our name is included in the ad.”
The company regularly holds wine tastings and cooking demonstrations at its Winnetka, Ill., design center.
“We’ll invite 16 to 24 people to these events,” says Benvenuti. “We always mix past clients with potential clients.” Sometimes the company captures new clients by catering a dinner party at a home it just finished remodeling. The homeowners invite 16 of their closest friends. One or two couples from Benvenuti and Stein are also present. “Our best salespeople are our previous clients, plain and simple,” he says.
Wiener advises against using the hard-sell approach with affluent clients. “If you start to push too hard, they see you as desperate. I think you have to be a little soft-sell, to imply that you’ll do fine with them or without them.”
HP Builders President Terry Keenan prefers to match his style to the client’s. “If a client is laid back, we’re laid back, especially in the sales cycle. You could call it mirroring their behavior and not putting too much pressure on them. I don’t make my problems their problems; I build their trust.”