A Book Report

Selling the Invisible

by Jamie Dunsing, owner

Years ago, a home inspector friend of mine gave me a book. He told me that if I wanted to take my business to the next level, I would have to provide exceptional customer service. His opinion was that the general public sees a home inspection as a commodity. That is, buying a home inspection is like buying a gallon of milk. People assume all things are equal, therefore, the lowest priced inspector is the best deal, right?  WRONG! We are not McDonalds, a dry cleaner, or a long distance provider. We need to differentiate ourselves from our competition.

The book that I am describing is Selling The Invisible- A Field Guide to Modern Marketing, by Harry Beckwith. This book is appropriate for those who want to grow their business, charge higher fees, or generally become the pre-eminent home inspection company in their area.

The book is a small (5” x 8”) hardback that is separated into short chapters. The 250 pages are separated into over 125 chapters that can be read during those short lulls during a home inspector’s day. Waiting for a client to arrive at the inspection, read a couple of chapters. Caught by a freight train, read a few chapters. Frankly, I found it hard to put the book down and found myself folding pages over and marking sections to read over. I suspect that most home inspectors will find the book to be an easy read.

What’s it all about?

The book describes little ways to change what you are doing to make your business better. Maybe you are already doing most things right- this book will validate those ideas. Before I read this book my company surveyed clients after the inspection. However, based on some recommendations from Mr. Beckwith we changed the way we surveyed clients. The better feedback made us provide a better product.

The book points out the little things that customers notice. Things such as how you answer the telephone, how you deliver your message, and how you tell people why they should buy from you rather than the competition are discussed. This book makes you think. I frequently read sections of the book to help re-focus my company’s plan.

An Example

One chapter, titled Thanks, goes like this:

“We tell someone we cannot thank them enough. We’re right; we can’t. Keep thanking. Few things feel more gratifying than gratitude- and few services express their gratitude as much as they should. How many notes of thanks did you sent last year? A suggestion: Send twice as many this year.  Keep thanking.”

I began sending thank you notes out about 2 years ago. I send them to other inspectors, past clients, real estate agents, and anyone who refers business to me. Funny thing- I get phone calls thanking me for the thank you notes! I also get more referrals. Mr. Beckwith is right. Keep thanking.

Why Better Service?

Recently, I switched accountants. The main reason was the lack of service I was getting from my previous company. His fees were reasonable and I never found a math error. Fact is, he made me bring things to him when I could just as easily email them. He refused to acknowledge that my time is valuable. I would have paid to have someone from his office pick up the work. However, he never even offered. The new accountant not only allows me to email, drop off or pick up my work, but he also allows me to review things on-line. I much prefer this method and it saves him postage too! It’s this simple: the old accountant lost about $3,500 worth of business from me alone. I wonder how many others he has lost?

I am convinced that there are two basic ways to succeed in this business. Build a better mouse trap, or provide better service.  I have not found the better mousetrap yet, so I am relying on better customer service. Occasionally hand delivering reports, following up to make sure that client’s questions are answered, using the best technology available, returning to inspect snow covered roofs- at no extra charge- are just some simple ways that I try to provide the best service available. This book will give you hundreds of ideas on how to provide better service, and ideas that will put money in your pocket.

This book will have you looking critically at other service businesses. After all, attorneys, accountants, auto mechanics and lawn services are all a form of a service business.

Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith is available online at Amazon.com or at larger bookstores.

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