Homeowners who are trying to fix a broken kitchen layout without spending their life savings have a tough challenge. That’s why they’ve called a remodeler. Yet so many remodelers start conversations with potential clients by going straight to the solution—I hear it weekly: “Mrs. Homeowner, what were you thinking of having done?”
It is no surprise that these salespeople never understand the true nature of the homeowner’s problem, and so often waste their efforts.
I suggest asking about the homeowner’s problem first—“What’s wrong with the kitchen as it is?”—and then dig deeper into the true issue before making recommendations.
Is removing a load bearing wall really the best way to “open up the space”? Does relocating the dishwasher truly address the issue of workflow? Does the homeowner really have to have the project completed in 10 weeks, or do they just have special food requirements and temporary cooking needs? The homeowner may have his or her heart set on changing walls and workflows, but that isn’t always the best approach to solving their complex problem at a price point that they are willing to pay.
Digging deeper is actually one of the easier skills for a remodeling salesperson to learn. Prompts can include, “Can you be more specific?” and “Help me to understand what makes you unhappy with this space.” Be careful interpreting their intent. When they say “entertain,” does that mean four people or 20? When they try to summarize their needs by telling you, “The flow in this kitchen doesn’t work,” look at each word in the sentence and consider its meaning. “Could you describe what you mean by flow?” And, “This kitchen… Hmmm, it sounds like you’ve had a flow that worked in another kitchen somewhere?” Or, “Help me understand what makes you feel that it isn’t working.”
Another theme I regularly emphasize is the personal impacts in a remodeling project. The motivation to remodel is more a function of what the homeowners are experiencing, not the project itself. It’s personal. Don’t be afraid to ask about how the cook is affected in the kitchen, or the host in the living room.
Finally, take notes. Like it or not, talking with homeowners about their living space is a lot like family counseling. It is personal and therefore your job to show you care and understand. Taking notes and writing down their issues makes them feel heard and important. While you are writing, they are thinking through the problem. You’ll know you are getting good at this when your 10-second questions elicit five-minute answers.
Once you get a deeper grasp of the homeowner’s personal impact with their space, you are very likely to find that what they are asking for is not the best (or most cost effective) solution. Many of my clients say they see a higher closing ratio when they ultimately recommend something different than what the homeowners originally wanted.