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How to Sell: Just the Facts

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How to Sell: Just the Facts

Today’s time-strapped homeowner doesn’t have time for show-and-tell or the patience for high-pressure selling

October 5, 2016

I’ve been selling home improvement for about 35 years. A sales appointment today goes far differently from the way it did 10 years ago.

Ten years ago, you went out to the house to put on a show. Today, you won’t get far trying to do that. It’s not that people have changed, it’s that what they know has changed. For instance, they ask different questions. Ten years ago they wanted to know if you were licensed and insured. Today, I wouldn’t even be there if they didn’t already know that.

Few people have the time or the patience to throw darts at the wall, hoping to hit the right contractor. They want to find a company that can resolve the problem in a way that’s completely professional. They want to buy a job, they don’t want to be sold one.

That’s why reviews matter so much. If other people are saying that your company does what it says it will do, homeowners believe it. If you make that claim in the course of your presentation, it’s just hot air.

Let’s Talk About Your Roof

You may think this is more true for Millennials, and it is, but it almost doesn’t matter anymore whether it’s Gen X or Gen Y or Baby Boomers or even their parents. We live in a society where people have little time or attention to spare. Remember petting the goldfish? Forget about that. Yes, you still have to get people to like you because they’re not going to trust you if they don’t like you. But when I walk in the door for a sales appointment, I’m not visually ransacking the house for trophies, diplomas, or an aquarium; I’m here to talk about your roof. If we have some side conversations, it’s because those are interests we genuinely share.

I was out at a house the other day. The homeowner, a retired engineer in his 80s, lives in the house with his children and grandchildren. He had pain—a leaking roof qualifies as pain—but he also had a chip on his shoulder when it comes to contractors. He’d lived in the house more than 40 years and had been raked over the coals by one contractor and been in some disputes with others.

I notice the house has a large, well-sectioned garden and I’m interested in how he can manage that with so many deer around, but I’m not going to ask. Instead, I measure the roof using Pictometry. I show him the precise measurements. He nods. He knows the measurements. We go to the back of the house where there’s a semi-flat roof that's about a fifth of the total roof surface. It’s slightly sloped and the previous contractor installed rolled roofing there. I measure the pitch—he knows that, too—and I tell him that the pitch is sufficient to install shingles, which not only look better but will last longer. Generally, I find that a rolled roof is not the best choice for a residential situation.

What’s the Plan?

I also tell the homeowner that he has ventilation issues. There’s no ventilation going into his attic and that's contributing to moisture build-up that makes it necessary, at this point, to replace the plywood along with the roofing material. He’s going to need soffit and fascia and some venting to get airflow up there, or at some point he’ll have to replace not just the plywood but the framing as well. I explain all of this. None of the other contractors he’s spoken with have discussed it, he says.

Because he understands the physics of a building—but also because he’s done his research—nobody is going to snow this guy. And because he’s done that research, he’s only interested in finding a contractor who can address the challenges of the house with fact-based solutions. He wants to talk to someone who has a plan and is competent to do this job, rather than someone who simply came out to sell him a roof.

So he knows about the plywood, the ventilation, the soffit and fascia, and the extra shingles are not about me trying to upsell him. This is what an integrated roofing system requires. Yes, you could slap a roof on his house, but the underlying problems—the moisture build-up—would still be there.

I didn’t come out to the house to entertain. I came to deliver data. Facts are what the homeowner is after. It’s why transparency is so important in the sale. We give prospects line-item pricing and they know everything they’re going to get in the job they buy. We tell them we have a lifetime workmanship warranty—meaning we guarantee the job as long as that owner is in the house. Since his kids live there, and expect to inherit the home, I indicate that we’ll list them on the warranty registration as well, and I tell him that if there’s any problem, he only needs to call one number and someone will always be there to answer that call.

So when all this was done, with the plan in place, I complimented him on the garden. It turns out his wife planted it. He showed me the barriers she’d erected to keep out the deer and woodchucks. Today I get an email from him. Can we come out on Tuesday with the paperwork and move forward?


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