Do you remember when the iPad came out? Some home improvement companies quickly junked their old pitch book and loaded the sales presentation onto the tablet computer. Skeptics were quick to point out all the reasons for not doing that: It was distracting to homeowners; it took the salesperson’s eye off the ball of building rapport and anticipating objections; it wasn’t warm and fuzzy.
Today there aren’t too many salespeople who don’t go into the house with their presentation on a tablet. If you’re still using the old paper pitch book and touchy-feely sales techniques, how much fun is it to come in behind someone who sells with an iPad? You look like you just stepped out of 1975.
Meanwhile a lot of other technology has come into industry use.You’ve got CRM systems to track leads and jobs from inquiry through to completion. You’ve got digital measuring tools, like RoofScope and Eagleview, providing aerial measurements and takeoffs. You’ve got Hover, measuring from pictures snapped on the ground with a phone. You’ve got visualization tools, such as Renoworks, and design software, such as Chief Architect and SoftPlan. Manufacturers have introduced their own custom visualization tools so contractors can help homeowners choose products and develop a design.
A lot of these tools have been out for years but only just recently have they begun to gain widespread acceptance. Contractors aren’t usually thrilled about new tech tools. They don’t like change, and technology isn’t something they find all that fascinating to begin with. And then there’s the expense and, even more than that, there’s getting your company to use that new tech tool in your day-to-day operation.
Contractors aren’t big tech enthusiasts for a few reasons. For one thing, we’re busy people. We’ve got leads to generate, appointments to run, jobs to install, companies to manage. Another reason is that tech tools often promise more than they can deliver. How do you know that taking on a new tech tool will be worth the time and expense? Plus, there’s skepticism because plenty of innovative technological products for contractors have been introduced that never went anywhere..
Embracing a new technology requires some level of risk, commitment and tech smarts. Even tools that confer an obvious, immediate advantage—like Eagleview, introduced ten years ago—caught on only slowly. They’re viewed with indifference until at a certain point the company using the tool appears to have a competitive advantage. Then people climb onboard. Once enough of them do, there’s no turning back.
Most contractors fall into one of three categories when it comes to technology. The early adopters are the ones who are interested in technology, use it in other areas besides business, are not intimidated by it, and understand fully the competitive advantages well-implemented technology can give a company in the market. They’re proactively seeking it.
Then there are what I call the Wait and See people. They’re a little intimidated by technology but they get what it can potentially do for business efficiencies. They think it’d be tough to implement and they’re not totally sure consumers will buy it. They have yet to feel the pain of being put at a competitive disadvantage for not having that new technology, and the minute they do feel that pain, they’re all in. But for the moment, risk outweighs reward.
And then you have the Old School. They don’t know much about it and they’re not all that interested in finding out. Why bother with CRM when writing everything in Magic Marker on the white board has always worked? Any kind of change upsets them, and they often don’t even know they’re falling behind.
In The Loop
In the past, a contractor could pretty much blow off technology. But there’s a difference between now and ten years ago. Ten years ago technological tools were a competitive advantage but not essential. You could avoid them and still be in business. Most homeowners didn’t expect a contracting company to be technology driven. How complicated does nailing shingles on a roof need to be, right?
What changed is not theproduct—that re-roofing job—but the consumer homeowner as he or she experiences all the ways most businesses are run today.
Tens of thousands of companies sell roofing, siding, or window replacement jobs, but only a minority can track leads, produce a quick, accurate estimate, work with homeowners to develop the exact design they want, then deliver the project on time and on budget. That’s the kind of company that will soon dominate the market.
Ten years ago, homeowners weren’t able to research and pre-shop contractors like they can today. How you operate and the quality of the experience your company delivers is now public information and the public wants to know. Reviews are so important that there’s a company now that will help you get them. They’ll upload your customer database and reach out to your customers for reviews.
So what if you’re not tied into any of this? If you find yourself outside but want to be in the loop, start with a CRM system to track information so that you can create business reports and have key data immediately at hand. There’s a bunch of good CRM software products out there. Find one that works with your budget and that’s scalable so it allows you to grow. If you’re intimidated, get a system with a short learning curve and appoint someone to be in charge of implementing it.
And consider this: Who would’ve thought that you could go to the supermarket or the drugstore and buy what you need without ever seeing a clerk? Or that cars would drive themselves? That’s the world today. It’s accelerating, not slowing down. And like it or not, that’s the world you and your business now compete in.