Exterior/Replacement: 6 ideas for improving business now

Actionable tips that you can put in place today for an immediate payoff

January 10, 2012

Is your phone ringing less? Are your competitors playing the game of “I will have the lowest price”? Do your customers want more, yet are willing to pay less? For many home improvement professionals, the answers to these questions are unfortunately yes, yes and yes. What follows are some ideas to combat these realities.

1. Get rid of your stinkin’ thinkin’

The first step is to stop believing what you read in newspapers or hear on the radio/TV/press (heavily slanted opinions from newscasters mostly negative). The economy has changed and will probably remain in a state of flux for the foreseeable future.

Some markets are more complicated than others, but even in many difficult markets, companies like yours are thriving. These companies have used creativity and positive thinking to seek and find pockets of business which do exist.

2. Utilize your database

Call back every prospect who didn’t buy. Tell them you’d like to reevaluate the project and look for cost-saving options (don’t cut your price, utilize ‘cost-reducing techniques’).

Call your old customers (completed jobs). Solicit additional work, and ask for recommendations and referrals. On all new, original contacts, ask for phone numbers (including their cell phone) and email addresses. Make this a data pool and a source for prospecting.

Don’t knock it until you try it. One of our clients sells more than $10 million annually and brings in 10 percent of his business using this method.

3. Program your company to get more referrals

Companies like referrals; many brag about the amount of “referral business” they sell, so why don’t you get more? You’re probably not asking for them.

Getting more referrals requires a program introduced by the contractor/salesperson right after the sale is made. Utilize a printed program, a small book of referral cards, and request email and phone numbers of the referred party.

Use reminders when you complete the job — follow up in 30-, 60- and 90-day intervals. Keep the referral/prospect supplied with information of value to them (not just about you or your business). Create a strong script for email and telephone follow-up. Also check out Proximo Marketing on our blog.

4. Hang ‘em

Knock on the door (or have someone do it) of the neighbors of the job you’ve recently finished — minimum of five houses on each side of your completed job and ten across the street. If they are not home — hang ‘em.

This is a door hanger, which briefly describes the product(s) being installed on a neighbor’s house. It requests phone, email or fax responses. In this format you can extend the range to a larger number of neighbors, perhaps an entire development.

Hang ‘em is phase one, which can be followed by direct mail, direct solicitation or both. The next step (beyond direct mail) would be personal contact. Here the salesperson or a canvasser makes a house call to get a specific appointment. If your salespeople are reluctant to take on this task, hire canvassers.

Don’t give up after the first pass through this neighborhood. Thirty days later repeat the process with another hang ‘em and a direct mail postcard a few days later.

5. Little stuff — easy to do

Park your trucks or vans in high traffic areas — put a “take one” box with a flyer describing your services on the side of the vehicle.

Also – ask everyone you meet these two questions:

• Do you know anyone considering having (your product or service) for their home?

• Do you know anyone who had considered (product or service) and have decided to delay it (an opportunity to evaluate the project)?

Also, network at your church, synagogue, YMCA or club. Let them know you are looking for new business. Hand out a business card or small pamphlet to everyone you meet. It’s an inexpensive way to keep your name in circulation. Put at the bottom “Call us today”.

Also, create a joint venture. Four or five companies jointly hold a home improvement seminar at a church, synagogue, YMCA, club, school, etc. Answer questions relating to home projects, maintenance, and upkeep. All companies give a minor donation to the venue and a small percentage on any revenue generated. Be instructive, helpful, show samples and examples (use PowerPoint or tablet PC presentation).

Also, network with those who sell other products/services (exchange lists for this purpose).

6. Learn more about modern selling techniques

If you don’t come from a sales background, there is no better time to learn. If you do come from a sales background, it’s a good time to “stuff” what you know.

Selling is a science not an art. Stop offering “free estimates.” Everybody uses that cliché (an estimate is a guess).

Offer free consultation on products, services or projects being considered. Then offer “an accurate written proposal on what the investment will be.” Have those answering the phones become scripted as opposed to using “free dialogue.” Respond to each inquiry, request for information or project opportunity by email within the hour of which the incoming call is received. Follow up on all presentations not sold within 24 hours. Buy a jingle or holiday tune (the sources are abundant) and forward it with your next email to prospects, past customers, etc. Stay in touch.

In Summation: The marketplace has changed. Many of your prospects are younger and have abundant sources of information at their command via the internet. The sub-prime mortgage market has diminished, so change the manner in which you sell your “big ticket” items. Rework your old leads; there is a gold mine in your database.

And remember, this industry was born in tough times. The inroads for many of the products you sell were made by canvassing and beating the drum for products that the public knew little about.

Brian Smith is a senior account executive with Dave Yoho Associates (www.DaveYoho.com), the oldest, largest and most successful consulting group serving the home improvement industry.

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