Selling Effectively in a New Environment

As the economy sluggishly recovers, many remodelers are seeing some things open up. My real estate agent friends are already claiming there’s no inventory out there and are actively marketing for listings. Although comments like these are positive, the past four to five years have really had a profound and lasting effect on our businesses. There are some new fundamentals we must acknowledge so we can sell effectively to our clients in this new environment. So, what does the landscape look like now?

First, people are spending their own money. Therefore, people today are happy to do more research versus the “go for it” attitude in the mid-2000s when home equity loans were easy to come by and homes were used like ATMs. Second, the Web has forced us to deal with transparency, not just with our brands on the Web, but also in terms of pricing and options for projects. Our clients can know more about gutter warmers than we do — and some do. Third, clients today like to buy versus being sold, and they are inclined to minimize their risk. Fourth, clients are overwhelmed with daily life and the sheer number of options in remodeling available to them today.

When I speak about sales, there are two key things I like to mention. One is that by embracing and working on sales, you can improve your business. It doesn’t necessarily mean more volume, but rather more of what you want to do and more predictability. What would your business be like if you were able to get more of the projects you wanted to get? The second is that our prospects think we are all the same as remodelers. We are a commodity, which explains why getting numbers (collecting estimates) is so important to consumers instead of evaluating companies on the important merits we bring to their project, like our experience and advice or our ability to provide a predictable, successful and less stressful outcome. With all of this in mind, here are some sales concepts for the times:

Be an advisor, not a bidder. If we simply meet prospects, prepare an estimate for them and present it, we are bidders. We also have given our prospects only one opportunity to say yes or no. Instead, make yourself an advisor. Provide them with a decision making process and give them multiple options early in your sales process. The prospects won’t ask you for this, mind you; you have to proactively do it. Always give them three budget ranges early in the sales process (i.e. pull and replace, semi-custom and custom). They will see you as someone who cares about their money and also will understand they can work with you regardless of their budget. Notice I said to give budget ranges, not estimates — estimates are reserved for clients.

Be a connector and influencer versus being a product expert. With the Internet, you can be forgiven for not being on top of every product out there. Today it is much more important to be the company who has the clout to bring in the right players to a project and let them provide their expertise on your behalf. Where it makes sense, try bringing in your supply and trade specialists on sales calls. Not only will they be able to present their product or service well, but the prospect will see you as a company who has the clout to get them there. This is especially powerful for small firms to show their bench depth.

Sell risk avoidance. It takes some practice to do it right, but learning how to educate your prospects about risks with remodeling is powerful, and it’s on their minds. Again, however, they will not bring it up. Advising prospects about how your firm focuses on mitigating project risk is going to make you unique. Don’t forget also to address risks prospects may have depending on the type of company they hire as well. Remember prospects think we are a commodity, and it’s important we help them understand the risk they are taking with a low bid number.

The new normal gives good firms more things to sell and ways to differentiate themselves. Happy selling!