Mike Damora is vice president of sales and marketing at K&B Home Remodelers, in Succasunna, N.J. Reach him at madamora@kbhomesnj.com. Follow him on Twitter @madamora.

How's Your Sales Team Holding Up?

Systems are methodical, dependable, and scalable. But they're not all alike. 

July 09, 2018

Ever wonder why companies such as Power Home Remodeling, Window Nation, and Renewal by Andersen manage to sell so many home improvement jobs? They have a sales system, one that everybody learns. Their systems are non-negotiable. If you sell for those companies, you do it their way or take the highway.

Whatever Works

If you’ve ever tried to sell a home improvement project without a sales system, you know why they require it. Roofing, siding, and windows don’t come with vocal chords. Someone has to demonstrate and explain. That’s why we hire salespeople. But a salesforce without a system is every man for himself, using whatever seems to work in the moment.

There is, however, one exception: If you’re a one-man band, installing by day and selling by night, and you’re sitting in front of the homeowner as the guy that’s actually doing the work, that’s powerful. It remains powerful when you’ve grown to the point that you have a few people working for you, but you, the owner, still sell.

It’s powerful because it’s authentic. People believe that the guy who does the work knows what he’s talking about. In selling, the owner has a credibility that’s hard to replicate. But there two problems with that. One is that if he gets hit by a beer truck, the company’s sales stop. The other problem is that, as the company grows, the owner has to find someone else to do the selling. Now you have to hire a salesperson and either trust his common sense and “sales skills” or teach him a system.

Teachable Process

Every sales system that works consists of steps—four, or ten, or twelve—that take the conversation toward a conclusion. You know where each step begins and ends, all the way up to the close. That’s the beauty of a sales system. It’s scalable, so you could take any neophyte who’s open to being trained and teach him. And all the systems used in home improvement teach that the close is the most important thing.

In companies where I worked, we taught a ten-step system. New hires were sent to a classroom for four hours a day. They studied and took tests. At night we sent them out with a veteran salesperson. With training and work, that neophyte would absorb the system.

Salespeople who learn this way have a shelf life. One day they wake up and say to themselves, "Hey, this isn’t fun anymore." Human nature takes hold. They get bored and impatient and start taking shortcuts. The second they do, their numbers drop. You look at their numbers dropping and after two or three weeks, you schedule a ride-along. When you’re riding with them, you can see immediately which steps they’re skipping (another beauty of having a system). Sometimes the guy gets right back on course. But not always.

The bigger problem with those old systems is that they’re a form of prey. You’re teaching people a method designed to funnel a prospect into buying. Even if he doesn’t immediately see through it, the owner senses this and raises objections. The sharp salesperson’s always ready.

Systems like that are designed to draw the true believers, the people willing to wholly subscribe. It’s like a cult religion: the ones who do the best are the ones who embrace it without question. Managing people engaged in this is all about praise and rebuke. They’re either superstars, or they’re schmucks—which, when you think about it, are just two different forms of manipulation.

Advice And A Price

About 10 years ago we stopped selling that way. We use a system, but it’s a system that reflects the way we now go to market. Our leads are inbound, which means people come to us because they need something. Once we’re in the home, we can get right to the matter at hand, allowing us to eliminate some of those steps.

For instance, say you’re in the home with a nebulous lead—someone who signed on for a sweepstakes or a contest without knowing it would translate to a sales appointment. An essential step would be to create need by pointing out problems and convincing the prospect to take action. Today, we skip the “needs assessment.” They know they have a need, or they wouldn’t be calling.

We’ve also dispensed with the company story. I assume when an Internet lead comes in that the prospect has done their homework; they’ve been to the website and read our reviews. Whatever I tell them about us is probably redundant.

Homeowners don’t really care about your company anyway. They care about their house, their time, and that they’re treated with respect. I’m there to provide advice, service, and a price. I base the advice on data, and a lot of that’s drawn from technology such as Hover and EagleView. I’m there to share that data, and use it to design a solution with pricing options.

The figures I quote aren’t arbitrary. They’re based on line-item pricing where the cost of everything that goes into that job is broken out in the proposal and scope of work. I still want to wow them, but with our reputation and our design rather than smoke and mirrors. Today, that’s how a lot of homeowners want to do business. Visit a dozen home improvement websites and see how many promise a “no-pressure” sales visit.

The world is a different place, and we’ve simply adapted. So if I’m looking for a salesperson, I want someone who is tech savvy and a good communicator. True believers? I’ll pass.

You still have to sell the benefits of the product or project to the customers. And if you understand the project you designed, and why it’s right for the house, you don’t need to convince yourself. You know. And if the prospect knows that you know, they’ll take you as seriously as they would the company owner.

If you sell for Power or Window Nation, you better be prepared for objections. “I want to think about it.” “I need to shop around.” “Your price is too much.” 

Any way you look at it, you need a sales system. But can that salesperson ever be as authentic as an owner who sells? They can come damn close. You just have to teach them to communicate the benefits of the product to the customer.

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