by Lane Mangum, VP Business Services of The Concrete Countertop Institute
As you talk to more and more people, you will develop your own style and wording for your answers. And you should always tailor your answers to that particular client’s concerns or needs. However, you will hear the same questions about concrete countertops over and over again.
Q: How does concrete compare to granite?
A: “Concrete is very similar to granite in terms of physical properties. It’s a hard, durable countertop surface, and it weighs about the same as granite. It is templated and installed just like granite. It’s very practical in the kitchen. The main difference is the look. Concrete has a more natural, matte look, and it is completely customizable. It really fills a void in countertop looks. What other types of countertop materials are you considering?”
This answer first reassures the customer by saying that concrete is similar to a familiar product that they are comfortable with. It doesn’t badmouth granite. It just talks about a product differentiation that I chose to emphasize for this client: customizability.
Of course you should tailor the answer to whatever the client has already told you their concerns are. If they are really worried about color matching, you should emphasize that with concrete you can do custom colors.
If they are really worried about staining, you should point out how practical your product is with respect to staining, and in the meantime educate them about how red wine and olive oil can stain granite.
This particular answer also talks about how the look is different from granite. If this client has already said they think granite is too shiny and formal, then saying concrete is more matte and natural-looking is good. If not, you would want to leave that part out.
Q: I’ve heard that concrete countertops stain and require a lot of maintenance.
If your countertops stain and require periodic resealing (which they should not):
A: “That is something you hear about concrete countertops, and I understand your concern. Concrete countertops actually behave similar to granite in this regard. Granite countertops are also porous and have to be sealed and maintained. Most people don’t realize this, because granite is usually too dark and patterned to show stains. Sealing your countertops is like waxing your car. If you follow a few simple maintenance steps, your countertops will stay in tiptop shape. Here is our owner’s guide, so you can see what’s required.” Then show them the owner’s guide and ask, “Does that address your question? What other concerns do you have?”
Again, this answer reassures the client that concrete countertops are similar to a familiar, accepted product. It doesn’t minimize their concern, but it points out that resealing countertops is no worse than waxing your car.
If your countertops are stain-resistant and do not require periodic resealing:
A: “Concrete countertops actually behave similar to granite in this regard. Granite countertops are also porous and have to be sealed and maintained. Most people don’t realize this, because granite is usually too dark and patterned to show stains. Food, acids and oil will not stain your countertop if wiped up immediately, and if left on for a longer period of time, they will cause only a light spot whose appearance can be minimized with a touch-up kit. What kind of countertops do you have now? What do you like or dislike about them as far as practical properties?”
With this answer, you are comparing concrete countertops to a familiar and accepted type of countertop, and you are reassuring them that any staining that does occur can be minimized.
Q: Do I need extra reinforcement for my cabinets to hold the weight of the concrete?
A: “No, concrete weighs about the same as granite on a per square foot basis. Any cabinet will be fine. What color and style are your cabinets going to be?”
Q: I’ve heard that concrete countertops can crack.
A: “Properly made concrete countertops will not develop structural cracks. In fact, my countertops are warranted against it. Concrete is an interesting material. The stresses inside the concrete actually result in tiny microcracks. I use special fibers in my concrete mix to form a matrix that almost always prevents the microcracks from reaching the surface. It’s possible that a hairline crack still develops, though. This is purely cosmetic – just part of the natural, handmade character of concrete countertops. What do you think of a more natural look that can show some color variation, and even potentially a little tiny hairline crack?”
Q: What happens if the countertop chips?
A: “Your countertop is not likely to chip unless you take a hammer to it. But seriously, it is possible to get little chips on edges or corners if you drop something right on the edge of the countertop. Chips in concrete can be repaired. They won’t look exactly the same, but since the concrete is not uniform anyway, the repair will blend in. Are you rough on your countertops? What are your other performance concerns?”
Q: How much do your countertops cost?
A: If you’ve included the square foot price in the guide, you can give them a range, but I like to qualify the answer with saying it depends on more than square footage, and then try to lead into the next step of giving them an estimate.
If you’ve found out that they are working with a designer:
A: “The cost depends on the square footage, what type of sink you have, backsplashes, edging. I’ll be happy to work with your designer to get you a quote. Do you want me to call her to get a drawing of the kitchen?”
A: “The cost depends on the square footage, what type of sink you have, backsplashes, edging. Do you have a sketch of your kitchen yet? I’d be happy to give you an estimate on the whole project.” Then you try to get them to set up a meeting, or at least to agree to fax you the sketch.
If they push for pricing:
A: “Our countertops start at $80 per square foot, and …(same answer as above)…”
Q: Why are concrete countertops so expensive? It’s just concrete.
A: “The materials are cheap – just sand and cement. It’s the craftsmanship and work that go into it. It’s like the reason a violin costs more than a wooden pallet – the same material, but different levels of craftsmanship. Concrete countertops are really the highest-end possible countertops, because they’re made completely from scratch custom and personalized for you. What are your ideas for personal accents for your concrete countertops, or how you’d like to tie them into the overall look of your kitchen?”
In each of these answers, I’ve tried to lead into another open-ended question to keep the conversation going towards the next step goal. Many of your answers will depend on what the client has expressed as their needs or concerns, and your lead-in questions will depend on how the conversation has flowed. Just remember, you’re having a conversation and informing the potential client about how concrete countertops might (or might not) be right for them. Usually the type of people who are interested in concrete countertops will spot hard-selling techniques and distrust them. Just try to keep the conversation open, friendly and informative, address the client’s concerns, and push the sale along by establishing next steps.
The bottom line is this: If you’re going to have a successful business relationship with a client, you need to be absolutely crystal clear on what their desires are, and how you plan to meet those desires. You need to be honest: if they have unrealistic expectations, do NOT assure them that you can make it work, but rather educate them as to what exactly you will be able to do and what you CAN’T do. And always have a contract.
I will talk more in the next article about the importance of having a contract.