It was at the beginning of my second year here in Orlando after having moved from Texas in '87 (after OPEC ruined the economies of the gas producing states).
I had taken over a very large luxury home and we were discussing the details of the plans on site when out of nowhere...
...this older car drives into the sandscape and in the middle of a very hot August day a bedraggled fellow gets out and asks who was in charge -- and then inquires if we were interested in seeing his natural stone product.
Well, we hadn't thought about even using stone as the owner (a Disney PR exec) had raided Disney's Italy and France pavilion warehouses and pulled out the fiberglass moldings that were being prepared now for much of the exterior detailing. I was about three quarters through the re-design --see below the original elevation plan and how I 'embellished' it by adding turrets and redesigning many of the details:
above: before below: after
The stranger opened his trunk and pulled out sample after sample of beautiful Mexican canterra, a type of volcanic stone that could be had in strawberry to chocolate coloration and even in a veined marble imitation that with a gloss finish looked like the most expensive honey-colored marble costing three or four times.
The owner was intrigued and showed him our plans and asked for some ballpark numbers. We used yellow marker to identify all the places we thought stone would look great and work well. In a couple of days, Anthony Tattersfield came back with a solid bid and walked away from negotiations with a $240,000.00 contract for carved and flat stone. Anthony had no office at that time, no staff, and no marketing materials. It was just their product and him. Their successful office and showroom now are in the Miami area, catering to upscale builders, interior designers, and custom clients.
I thought about this story because of the recent discussions about face to face marketing and client contact. This man was the co-owner of the company. He had connections in Mexico and coordinated everything from full-size prototype drawings to shipping, importing, and execution on site. The product looked good, the cost seemed quite reasonable, and the final installation was dazzling.
We had never heard of his company. I can't remember even if he had references on hand. Having just moved from Texas, I had seen this stone being applied in Austin and recommended it. He was knowledgeable, frank, seemed honest and personable. The owner took a risk and the result was outstanding with very little negative issues. The man was paid as product came in. I received a second commission shortly after this house was underway and the same stone was used not only on the exterior but interior. The second owner kept buying the beautiful canterra as it came in on palettes.
1. The fastest way to get in front of someone for consideration is to actually meet them face to face. If you are just starting a business or may be relying too much on other marketing methods with little traction, go to their home or office and knock on the door! A personal intro and meeting, even impromptu, bypasses days, weeks, or months of marketing by other means and makes you real, and a fresh contender. You must be polite and not pushy though.
2. Be prepared to explain your product or service quickly and show examples of what you can provide to solve your potential client's immediate or future need. Do a bit of research to find out what are the unique business features of your prospect and play to them. Sell to them.
3. Persistency can't be underestimated. If you have made calls, sent emails and mailed brochures, but with no response -- just walk in their office and ask to meet them. Wait even until they show up. I have heard several stories like this that ended very very well. The people who you try to contact DO remember your name - they just may not need you at the moment you contact them. Do not be obnoxious but push forward.
4. A good personality helps. Congeniality is important. While having a decent car or appropriate clothes are a great back up, you can do what needs to be done if you are simply a great 'people person'. Practice these skills. If you don't have them, never mind. With experience, you will get them. No one is the perfect salesperson or professional rep at the beginning. Study mannerisms, body language, talking skills, etc.
5. Necessity is the mother of motivation. Often great gains are made when you MUST make a sale to stay above water. There is no alternative. In this case, I could sense that the stone company was trying to get a footing in Central Florida and needed to sell product. The co-owner was acting as the marketing rep. In a small office, YOU are everything! You wear all the hats. And YOU must get the work, so you have to plan and ACT.
6. Timing is everything. You may try several times to contact someone until the moment is perfect. Cold calling (a solid marketing move, but not touted of late for some reason) can land new projects, accounts/clients if your call is timely! My own first major project was a consequence of very nervous cold calling for just a couple of days. It takes more time and effort to meet someone in person but if you have done the research and the timing is good, you should be on their mind. More here.
7. Do you have a great product or service? If yes, then you need to find the people most interested in working with you. And you should have a solid presentation covering all the reasons your prospect would profit from your association. It's about them more than about your curriculum vitae. Name dropping works, but be careful about how their competition is compared or presented.
Now, just a few bits of information about columns, arches, and moldings. Do you know that nearly the entire exterior walls, frilly details, Victorian moldings, fish scale roofs, turrets, etc. at today's modern them parks are created out of plastic. Yes, plastic. It is called FRP: fiber reinforced plastic. It is used because it does not rot or break down like wood; it is cheaper to simulate stone this way; it is far less expensive to put up and fasten. It simply lasts longer, even in harsh climates.
We had FRP moldings used in this custom luxury home in Orlando. They were used more on the exterior but many interior beams, door surrounds, medallions and other trim were executed in FRP. Now, this material is not good for paving but can simulate nearly any stone product including columns.
In the aerial shot below you can see the canterra pattern on the pool deck in shades of rose and brown:
Canterra was used for the double stair railings, column capitals, and trim around the base of the columns. Also see the stone details mixed with the FRP in this close-up:
All the round Corinthian columns at the bottom of the photo are hand carved in stone. The columns on the turrets, the trim, and base around each are in FRP. These could have been further faux painted to look more like stone or stucco. The small paired twisted columns are FRP. Under the left turret is a panel over a window cast in concrete. The front door surround was cast onsite also in concrete using a screed cut from a pattern I drew. The medallions in the upper turrets and at the center panel in between are FRP, as is the entire eave detail under the roof facia. You can spot them in the Italian pavilion in EPCOT next time you go. I had specified FRP for the 'S' brackets at top center but costs started to rise and we had those done in powder coated aluminum. The exterior walls were wood framed with a stucco veneer. The roof was a ceramic tile. To see how the Italians would have done this in the 1650's click here. For a few more interesting details click here.
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