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5 Valuable Lessons Tech Businesses Can Learn from Garage Sales

5 Valuable Lessons Tech Businesses Can Learn from Garage Sales

Tuesday, March 14, 2017/Categories: business-tips

Holding a garage or yard sale is lot like running a small tech business – if only for a day. To put on a successful garage sale, you need to be able to:

  • Market the event.
  • Price items to sell.
  • Make visitors want to buy.

Let's take a look at five business lessons you can learn from having a garage sale.

1. Value Requires Context

People are quick to form opinions about how much something is worth, so you need to be able to back up your pricing.

At your garage sale, a visitor may think a pile of books is worth only a few dollars. But once you explain that many are valuable first editions, the buyer can better understand their value.

That lesson applies to your IT services, too. When talking to a potential customer, know that they are sizing you up, trying to determine your value to them. Be ready to show them why you are worth every penny before price even comes up.

Apply the lesson: "The best way to communicate the value of your service is by telling a story," says Jason Parks, owner of (@TheMediaCaptain), a digital marketing agency. "We have plenty of success stories ready to share for each industry. For example, one customer, a commercial roofing company, invested $12,000 in digital marketing in 2016, and generated over $250,000 in sales from being in the top position on Google."

That's a pretty compelling story! By demonstrating what his firm did for another client, Parks shows his value to future clients.

"The discussion with prospects should always be about value, not about fees," says Drew Stevens (@DrewStevensPhD), CEO of the . "If the discussion is not about value, then you have surrendered control of the discussion and the result will never be on the terms you'd prefer."

By the time the discussion shifts to pricing, you want potential customers to see you for what you are: a skilled professional performing valuable work.

2. Pricing Is a Balancing Act

At a yard sale, people may underprice items because they're afraid nobody will pay what they're actually worth. In their mind, it's better to get a little money than none at all.

Many tech business owners also price their services too low. This could be for a variety of reasons, including the assumption that it's not worth charging much for something that comes easily to them. But remember, just because it's easy for you doesn't mean it's easy for someone else. That's why someone hires you – because they can't do it themselves.

"Basketball comes naturally to LeBron James, and he loves the sport, but he doesn't do it for free," says Parks. "In business, you are judged based on what someone is willing to pay you."

Apply the lesson: Don't be afraid to set your prices higher than you think you should. This can be especially challenging for businesses that are trying to build up a client base. However, it's important to establish your worth from the outset by setting your prices fairly.

"You can't compromise on making a living," says Melissa Dailey, SEO specialist and founder of (@ucancultureleap). "Starting too low will hurt you later on when you have potential clients referred to you by existing clients. They will wonder why you are charging them more than their friend. From the start, you should set a fair hourly wage for yourself, estimate the length of time required, and bid the project accordingly."

For more on price setting, read "Setting Prices for a Profitable IT Business."

3. Presentation Matters

The way items are presented at a garage sale impacts how people perceive them. A well organized display with the most attractive items up front can draw people to the sale.

The same applies for your tech business. Instead of trying to get passersby to stop and buy your old record collection, you want to get the attention of prospective clients through:

  • A well designed website.
  • SEO.
  • SEM.
  • Active social media accounts.

Apply the lesson: "It's important to be easily found and to look as professional as possible when you are found," says Dailey. "Social media marketing is a great way to interact with potential clients and increase brand awareness. For example, your company should definitely have a Facebook page. Facebook is heavily used for local business searches and makes it possible for users to view customer reviews, photos of products, or the result of completed services. What's more, any business without a Facebook page, or with an inactive Facebook page, may be viewed as less reliable or nonexistent."

You can also get prospects' attention online with customer testimonials.

"Video testimonials are key," says Parks. "It tells a story and is more compelling than a standard PowerPoint. Tell your story through a video testimonial and make sure to include other key points in the video that will relate to new prospective clients."

4. Bargaining Will Happen

One of the hallmarks of yard sales is haggling over prices. Bargaining is also common in business, and you need to be ready for it. Just like yard sale shoppers, some customers may ask you for a price break because they enjoy wheeling and dealing or they're on a tight budget.

But should you be willing to lower your prices if someone asks?

"Absolutely," says Parks. "If you are trying to charge $1,000 for your time and [your customer] isn't willing to pay that much, try to negotiate. Their budget might be $800, and you can cut back an hour or two of your time and still accomplish similar goals for the client. If you weren't willing to negotiate, you would have just left $800 on the table. Instead, you are making $200 less than what you wanted, and you have more time to get new business."

Apply the lesson: Know what your basement price is for profitability, and be ready to offer trials, bundles, and other incentives to land customers. That way, when a customer asks for a discount, you can give it to them without hurting your bottom line. For example, you could try offering an "early payment discount" for your services that actually equals your full price. (On the flip side, those who pay late get "full price," or your real price plus a penalty.) 

"Each of my clients has a unique need, method, and budget," says Dailey. "There can't be one set price for any task. I find that offering the best, most practical marketing strategy within a client's budget keeps both of us happy."

Just make sure you aren't giving away too much. Read "3 IT Sales Tips to Help You Avoid Becoming a Free Consultant" to avoid lowering your prices too far.

5. Relationships Lead to Sales

The sale is always about the relationship. You've probably been to a garage sale where there is some unfriendly person leering from a lawn chair. That doesn't encourage anyone to buy. In fact, that person may lose potential sales because of their standoffish behavior, no matter how many great deals there might be.

It's the same when it comes to running a small business. If you come across as intimidating or a know-it-all, it can turn customers away.

Apply the lesson: Show that you are friendly, knowledgeable, and approachable, and customers will be happy to work with you. In fact, you may need a bigger garage!

For more pointers, check out "Don’t Call it Marketing (Call it Relationship Building)."

About the Contributors

Melissa Dailey

Melissa Daily is an SEO and marketing specialist from Seattle. One day she quit her full-time job and hit New York City the next day. Freelance work has supported her world travels ever since. You can learn more about her services, read freelancing tips, or follow her travels by visiting her website

Jason Parks

Jason Parks is a proud Buckeye and the owner of The Media Captain, a digital marketing agency based in Columbus, Ohio. Jason has been featured in the New York Times, the Huffington Post, Inc., Yahoo News, Search Engine Watch, The Columbus Dispatch, and Jason has assisted in launching successful digital campaigns for Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies and medium- and small-sized businesses that have gained national attention.

Drew Stevens

Dr. Drew Stevens is CEO of the award-winning Stevens Consulting Group, focusing on business growth strategies in sales and marketing for startups and large organizations. Dr. Drew is a highly acclaimed keynote speaker, bestselling author, and a regular media correspondent and the author of several successful sales process books, including Split Second Selling and Selling the Norm.

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