The home improvement/remodeling business is front-end loaded with perceptions of why consumers buy or don’t buy. Issues such as the economy, the uncertainty of the times, homeowners being reluctant to commit, and consumers being more price-conscious probably head the list.
So how did some of the largest, most successful companies in the industry increase their sales and profitability last year?
Closely tied to these faulty perceptions are the attitudes and biases about marketing and sales practices of many that own/run small-to-moderate-sized home improvement companies. There are diverse groups when it comes to defining how home improvement projects should be marketed and presented to consumers.
Two groups with different concepts
One group believes that reliance on their credentials—knowledge of remodeling products—coupled with design capabilities and capable project managers, installers, and subcontractors are sufficient reasons for customers to select their company’s proposal. Many in this group believe that a smart response to economic slowdown or buyer procrastination lies with “cutting corners,” including reducing quality and meeting or beating price competition. The latter usually leads to many problems in maintaining a profitable business balanced with customer satisfaction.
Moreover, this group believes that selling practices and aggressive sales practices are detrimental to their credibility and are diametrically opposed to the image they created for their business.
The second group believes that a strong counterbalance to economic conditions, price competition, or consumer reluctance can be solved with extensive and diverse marketing, coupled with aggressive and sometimes questionable selling techniques. Both groups reinforce their beliefs and continue the practices they have established while bemoaning what they do not fully understand rather than searching for the truth.
Neither group would question that the marketplace has changed. The customer base includes many younger buyers interested in upgrades, more economical maintenance, and energy-saving improvements.
Older buyers are often responding to safety, security, and ease-of-use products. The availability of financing, diversity of advertising options, and expansion of competition all contribute to the growth and expansion of this billion-dollar industry.
In short, the customer has changed, products and product availability has changed, and with it buyer habits and methods of decision-making have changed.
So the question for both groups is, how do you plan to change?
Opening your mind to change
Many companies are deluded or simply misunderstand the selling process, frequently assessing it as an art form, manipulation, chicanery, or worse. The dictionary contains numerous definitions, some as simple as “exchanging property, goods, or service for money” or “to establish faith, confidence, or belief in certain products or structures.” Further on in the definition there are phrases such as “a trick or hoax” and “to cheat or dupe.”
SALES: A MODERN DEFINITION
“Whenever an interaction between two or more parties takes place for the purpose of establishing new ideas, exchanging goods or services, or the development of a relationship, some form of selling will occur and the skills of the communicator will determine the outcome.”
--Dave Yoho, The Science of Successful In-Home Selling
The fact is it isn’t the numerous definitions that cause the confusion, rather the various ways in which some companies tend to interpret methods of communication, or to devise methods to convince others, change mindsets, or promote the sale of their goods and services without first examining the thinking and communication techniques of their counterpart—the customer.
Recently, we produced a 90-minute virtual sales webinar entitled, “Open Your Mind To Close More Sales.” Over 900 companies plus their salespeople (estimated between 3,500 and 4,000 participants) registered. Through a sampling of their questions and our answers, we offer you “school for thought” on the two groups defined earlier.
How do you design a sales system that is effective and doesn’t corrupt your credibility?
The prospect/customer is the key ingredient in a sound sales methodology. How the prospect thinks and feels has to be the major consideration in the development of a sales system or that system will eventually fail.
You cannot design a sales system without first studying the habits, the language, the attitudes, and the practices of those to whom you wish to sell your products or services. Only then can a selling method be designed as “methodology,” which is the orderly arrangement of facts and data so as to respond to the habits, practices, and values of those to whom you wish to sell.
We’ve never given importance to what you call “the walk around” or searching for “needs.” Are most companies weak in this area?
Great sales training has more to do with understanding your customer than having your customer understand you. All too frequently salespeople are measured by their ability to talk. This skill has to be balanced with the ability to ask questions then being patient with the answer from your customer, often asking another question to get more clarity. This is called processing, and if done correctly it leaves a distinct impression on your prospect that the questions are being asked to ascertain more about what they desire as an outcome if they select your company and your product. Salespeople who do not sufficiently discover unstated “needs” miss sales and blame it on someone other than himself or herself.
You frequently use the word “methodology” in describing sales training. What does that mean?
Methodology is defined as the branch of logic concerned with applying the principles of reasoning to practical and philosophical inquiry. Think of it this way: “a method by which to accomplish a task.” The second part of the word (ology) implies logic. Simply defined, a methodology requires a presentation that logically reaches the customer at their level of understanding while responding to both their needs and their value system.
How does a sound sales system relate to “step selling”?
Step selling requires that all the steps in your selling process be handled individually and in a coordinate order. Our company first introduced this premise in 1962 before 1,000 sales and management executives at a seminar in New York City.
As related to selling home improvements/remodeling in the home it became six selling steps:
- Sell (resell) the appointment (the value of the visit)
- Sell your way into the prospect’s presence (all interested parties with sufficient time to complete all the steps)
- Sell yourself (be a great listener and ask questions)
- Sell your company (promote five unique company practices)
- Sell your product (present it as a response to their needs)
- Sell your price (the total offer concept)
Some companies create eight or nine steps. Some have created “sub-steps.” No matter, step selling enables the prospect to understand sequentially what the salesperson is trying to explain. It becomes teachable when each step is broken down as to “purpose.” As an example, selling yourself does not mean talking about yourself, it means doing/saying things properly and asking exploratory questions which makes the prospect want to listen further. Also, it builds rapport (trust, credibility).
What are some of the guidelines and cautions in developing and refining a sales training program?
To simplify the answer, here are just six issues:
- A major caution, much of what is considered sales training is based on the personal philosophy or the history of an individual. This training usually has minimal “long range” value. Instead, adopt practices that can be taught easily and can be measured effectively.
- Stop telling; selling is not an art form. It requires a lot of listening. Listening itself requires a great deal of practice. Teach yourself and your salespeople to answer questions, and when receiving a response, write it down and comment on it by saying, “I see” or “I understand” or “Run that by me one more time.”
- Listening and processing information equates with helping and caring in the mind of the customer.
- Get to know your prospect early on and understand his/her value system and needs prior to presenting your company and product.
- Creative selling occurs when the buyer is convinced it is their decision to buy. Notice that people most frequently say, “I bought this from…” then they name a company or a salesperson. They seldom say, “Joe Smith sold this to me.”
- A sound sales methodology requires scripting as a teaching platform. Many companies and their salespeople resist this concept, although they tend to accept it when they see great acting or well-rehearsed announcers delivering a commercial. A reminder: It only sounds like a script if you haven’t practiced it. Once you practice a scripted presentation, it reaches the customer better and produces better results.
Why is such an importance placed on scripting?
First, if the scripting is based on how the prospect thinks and feels the message is better received. It also ensures the steps are being followed correctly, and it aids salespeople from succumbing to their natural aversions (what they will go out of their way to avoid).
Some of the more simple aversions are: being put into new or different situations, possibility of rejection, and anticipating failure and attracting contradictions.
Selling remains an individual accomplishment. Some do well if they have a great personality or they are charismatic. Others who are not, become “more so” when they follow a script. Scripting truly aids even the most skilled salesperson in being more effective.
Who benefits most from structured selling?
Everyone. The prospect/customer benefits by having a better understanding of what the presentation is all about. The company benefits because they ensure that all customers are given the same story about their product, its benefits, warranties, and protections. Most of all the salesperson benefits because abundant case history has proven that structured salespeople sell more (usually with the same number of leads).
How does “selling” the product differ from “telling” the prospect about the product/service?
In most buy/sell relationships the customer defines “wants.” They want to know more about the product, what it looks like, and above all they want the price. Telling usually responds to wants. The proper sales presentation enables salespeople to uncover needs. People don’t buy the product or service you sell, they buy what that product or service will do for them. Through structured selling you can determine needs.
What role does emotion play in a sales presentation?
A great deal. Many decisions to buy are based on emotion, contradicting the belief that logical arguments and statistical presentations by themselves satisfy the customer. The majority of purchases your customer makes such as a car, rug, furniture, appliance, and even their home all represent a finished product with little need to create mind pictures. Home improvement projects on the other hand require that you use pictures and “word pictures” to create an image that responds to the prospect’s feelings, which were developed during needs assessment (i.e. how they would like this to “look” when completed or what they would like to see as an outcome of their decision).
Prospects are stimulated by word pictures accompanied by the energy and enthusiasm provided by the presenter.
There is no such thing as a cold, rational, dispassionate homeowner who buys solely on merit, although they frequently state their preference for such. Usually, they are prompted and motivated by a number of emotional prods, all of which are built into the salesperson’s application of the sales methodology. PR
Dave Yoho is the president of Dave Yoho Associates, Fairfax, Va., founded his consulting company in 1962. It is the oldest, largest, and most successful consulting company in the industry. They also produce the best selling recorded (CD) series “The Science of Successful In-Home Selling” and the web-based video training series “Super Sales Training.” Visit www.daveyoho.com or call 703.591.2490. For more information on presentation development and additional information on sales presentations, consult the blog www.daveyoho.com/wordpress.