Exterior/Replacement: Sell is a four-letter word

Selling the right way is all about delivering what the customer needs in the exterior/replacement business

January 04, 2011

The one call close, the two step close, hard sell, soft sell, step selling, negotiation vs. one price, “price drop” closing, high pressure, low pressure, bids, proposals, estimates, what does it all mean? Mostly misunderstood jargon or mumbo-jumbo.
Selling is one of the least understood practices of communication.  Within this industry it is even more so. Many people are deluded or simply misunderstand the selling process, frequently assessing it as manipulation, chicanery or worse. Webster’s latest dictionary contains over 50 defintions, some as simple as: “Exchange property, goods or service for money” or “To establish faith, confidence or belief in.” Then, within the same group of definitions are phrases such as “A trick or hoax” and “To cheat or dupe.”
In fact, it isn’t the numerous definitions that cause the confusion, rather the various ways in which we humans devise methods of communication in an effort to convince others, change mind-sets or promote the sale of goods and services.
Today’s customer is besieged by hundreds of exhortations each day, to buy, try, consider, to write or call for information without obligation. Yours may be one of them.
These prospects are bombarded with information, some factual, some not. So when you and they meet face to face, it is important that you understand the way they think and feel, and what their values are.  We call this “customer satisfaction selling.”
Today’s average customer is younger by 10 to 12 years from their counterpart of a decade ago. The baby boomer generation, while still part of the prospect base, is now 60 (or more) years of age. The newer “Gen X” prospect is younger, well informed and frequently lives in a dual income household. They are Internet information oriented and are often more savvy about home improvement projects than their forbearers.
So if your sales methods, or the lack thereof, were developed a decade ago you might be wise to do some research to find out how to close more sales in a shorter cycle, all while reducing your rate of rescission.
As part of our company’s research we examine hundreds of salespeople and surveyed thousands of buyers to arrive at this simple interpretation:

“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/salesperson will determine the outcome.”

In the sale of home improvement products and services, the concept can be described as a problem solving discussion between a contractor/salesperson and a prospect that leads towards a meeting of minds that deepens the dependence of each on the other.  Despite your intuition, you may be doing things that fail this purpose. Presenting ideas before you do a needs assessment, quoting prices in ball park figures, believing that a price break will compensate for weak or poor presentation,  and giving prices over the phone or failing to ask for the order in a non-offensive manner, all are malfunctions in the selling process.
Closing the sale is neither magical nor mystical. It is a process. A science by which you introduce your product or service to others in a manner which convinces them that your offer meets their needs better than that of others. Closing the sale is the natural conclusion to the satisfactory completion of each step of a sound sales methodology. All steps are built on understanding the values of your prospects.
It is universally agreed that if you develop rapport with a prospect you have a better opportunity to have your ideas and proposals valued. Yet rapport is purely a state of mind which begins with feelings.  So how much do you as an individual know about what prospects like or what will cause them to respond more positively to your presentation? Our surveys indicate that prospects most frequently purchased products or services from home improvement companies based on the following perceptions:
• The credibility of the contractor/salesperson
• Rapport between the customer and the contractor/salesperson
• Consideration of the prospect’s value system
• A unique quality product/service tailored to their needs
• A product/service which was superior to most other options
• The project’s value equaled or exceeded the price quoted
• The ease and simplicity of the purchase system
• The contractor was a knowledgeable specialist
• The contractor/salesperson showed an interest in doing business with the prospect – and asked for the order (possibly more than once)
Now, consider the prospect who contacted the company and came away with a feeling such as:
• The contractor/salesperson was so interested in talking about himself or his company, he asked little about our values or long range goals.
• He had loads of pictures and brochures, most of which were more important to him than to us
• He kept reminding us how busy he was almost as if he was doing us a favor in considering our project
• Once he gave us a price, he started to tell us about certain options or discounts he could offer, it seemed apparent that there may have been little or no credibility in the original proposal and price.
• He never really asked us to make a decision to have his company do our job.
If the word sell or the actions of some salespeople are reprehensible to you, be cautious.  In your effort to produce best practices you may overlook the selling concepts that build rapport rapidly, eliminate many price objections and make it easy for the prospect to say yes to you.

Brian Smith is a Senior Account Executive with Dave Yoho Associates and is featured on the best-selling recorded series – The Science of Successful In-Home Selling. For more information call (703) 591-2490.

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