14 Steps to the Close

Deck America’s in-home sales strategy is a bit different from other remodelers. Dan Betts, president of the Woodbridge, Va.-based company, has put together a 14-step method that spells out exactly how its sales agents should tackle the sales call.

September 21, 2000
Rod Sutton''s Editorial Archives

Deck America''s in-home sales strategy is a bit different from other remodelers. Dan Betts, president of the Woodbridge, Va.-based company, has put together a 14-step method that spells out exactly how its sales agents should tackle the sales call.

1) Prepare for arrival. Recognizing that 80 percent of the sale is attitude, Deck America emphasizes preparation. "The more information you know about a prospect, the better you can tailor your presentation," says Vice President Steve Wilson. "Being observant can give you clues as to their buying motives, needs and personality type." Sales agents must arrive 15 minutes early, look around the neighborhood, and evaluate the customer''s house. Examples: Value of other homes in the area and Value of the prospect''s car.

2) Appearance. First impressions must be one of "friendly professionalism," the company says. Wilson says sales agents are advised to knock on the door, not ring the doorbell. "We knock so not to take a chance on waking any sleeping children," Wilson says. "Little things can ultimately determine if a sale is made or missed." Deck America qualifies the appointment, making sure everyone is there and confirming the prospect''s interest in a deck. If not, sales agents must "bow out in such a manner that we are able to get back in at a later time," Wilson says.

3) Warm up. Sales agents look around the inside of the house for clues to buying motive and personality, ask general questions, and locate the place for the sales presentation (usually the kitchen). "Rarely will someone purchase from an individual they do not feel comfortable with," Wilson says of the purpose for the warm up.

4) Layering. The natural follow up to warm up, Wilson says, is layering, or the method of gaining deeper insight into the client. The agent takes a look at the outside of the house, measures, takes pictures and keeps a conversation going with the client that helps him to understand the prospect''s buying style, buying motives, budget and objections. "A key ingredient is to focus on the ''Four Major Buying Motives,''" Wilson says. "They are fear, pride, imitation, gain. It is believed that the motivation for any purchase comes from one or more of these emotions."

5) Measuring the job. Deck America specifies exactly what to measure and how. "The more exacting we are in the measurements and design, paying attention to the smallest detail, the more professional we appear to the prospect," Wilson says. The goal of this step is to bring back the best information for use by the production and installation departments.

6) Presentation. Deck America''s sales presentation is modeled after television Infomercials: high-energy, client-centered. A full product presentation follows structured, although not canned, procedures, and is supported by high-quality materials, including a mini deck. "A properly done presentation will have the prospect involved, answering questions, making comments, and handling samples," Wilson says. All objections are answered prior to discussion of price.

7) Proof sources. Resources such as photography, articles, licenses and educational data are separated from the presentation book and used selectively to match client needs. "We are able to use only the proof sources that we fell are necessary, based on the buying motives and questions of a particular prospect," Wilson says. These sources substantiate points made during the presentation.

8) Mini deck. This scale model of the Deck America deck system is key to the presentation. "We try to get them to plan the patio furniture," Wilson says of using the deck as a tool. "If you have them buying the furniture, they have theoretically already purchased the deck."

9) Price qualifying. Price qualifying eliminates sticker shock by showing that decks are an investment in the house. Sales agents draw in proof sources and show how a monthly payment schedule is an affordable option.

10) Trial closes. "Always be closing" means each step must be closed before moving on, with the sales agent asking buying questions throughout the presentation. "The key is to not accept wishy washy, vague answers," Wilson says. "We need to get solid yes or no commitments from the prospect."

11) Value selling. The benefits of the deck, including construction, warranty and workmanship, emphasized at this point enable Deck America to explain why its decks are "the best value on the market today," Wilson says.

12) Price presentation. A critical time in the presentation, price is never broken down or itemized. Monthly payments are shown separately from the total, focusing the customer on the lower number. "This is a very critical time in the sales process," Wilson says. "We offer few options; this enables us to use an either-or close." Deck America even has a system for writing and pronouncing the numbers.

13) Closing. Deck America wants the contract. Throughout the presentation, the sales approach has been the "assumptive sale." The sales agent assumes the client is going to buy the deck and has been using phrases such as "Where were you thinking about putting the grill on your new deck?" An effective presentation results in a prospect desiring to place the order, Wilson says. Using a method called ''funneling,'' sales agents narrow objections down. "You do this by making a statement after the first objection is given. ''Other than that, are there any other reasons why you would not want to place your order today?'' This eliminates solving one objection only to receive another, repeating itself over and over again."

14) Button up. In addition to wrapping up loose ends, such as going over the contract in detail, the sales agent "sells the sale." Understanding the four reasons customers cancel--buyer''s remorse, the excitement wears off, third-party influence, or not really being sold in the first place--the agent can understand how to properly button up the sale.

Rod Sutton is the Editor-in-Chief for Professional Remodeler. Please email him with any comments or questions regarding his column.

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