Most remodelers have worked very hard to build a business based largely on referrals. Why? There are many reasons: (1) It doesn't cost much to get referral business; (2) Most referrals buy; (3) They typically don't shop as much for others bids; (4) They are more willing to accept your price; and (5) It takes less work to close the sale. Who doesn't want more customers like this? So what's the challenge with a 100 percent referral business? Referrals are not a bad thing —it's when they become our only lead source that it becomes an issue. And, this is where selling skills come into play.
I have found the professional sales skills and systems needed to sell media-generated leads are low, or non-existent, in the majority of companies. Yet, in light of this, most have great success with referrals.
When sales are slow and you need to generate more media-produced leads, the closing ratio drops tremendously. In some cases it can go from a 90 percent closing ratio (leads to sales) to 10 percent or lower. That hurts because it takes more time, the cost to acquire new sales skyrockets, the attitudes of the team decrease and the general manager/owner's job becomes more difficult.
So what are the solutions?
- Stabilize your business for different growth and economic cycles by having a greater mix of media-generated jobs to referral jobs. If your business is 10 percent media and 90 percent referrals today, look at moving to a 30/70 or 40/60 mix.
- Utilize a proven professional selling system designed for your niche. Some great programs in which you can invest and customize are the SPIN Selling system (Situational, Problem, Implication and Need payoff questions) and the Sandler Selling System. There are many other great programs available. Or, you can hire an industry sales trainer to offer training support.
- Invest time in training weekly so you become proficient using the system and get great results consistently.
- Additionally, all the industry consultants I have collaborated with agree you must have a minimum 50–67 percent markup for general contracting and a 100 percent or greater markup for specialty remodeling to have a business versus a job.
The bottom line is it takes systems and sharp skills to sell media-generated leads well and at strong margins.
When I first started in sales 20-plus years ago, my sales manager taught me a simple yet powerful formula for success: Attitude + Activity + Skill = Success in Sales.
ATTITUDE: We have to believe in the product and company we are selling because belief transfers and creates confidence in prospective clients. We also have to be optimistic and upbeat because consumers don't buy from pessimistic and depressed people. We must guard our attitude and belief that our product and service are worth our clients investment.
ACTIVITY: Selling is a numbers game. What are the numbers in your company? I recommend, at a minimum, you analyze leads to qualify leads, qualified leads to proposals/design retainers, and proposals/design retainers to closed jobs. Then you can structure the amount of activity needed to achieve your sales numbers per salesperson.
SKILLS: You will need a system and coach to improve your skill to close a higher percentage of media-generated leads. With time, effort and sacrifice, you will significantly increase your closing ratio. If you're down at the 10 percent ratio of media leads to sold jobs, then you could double or triple your results.
One of the most beneficial sales skills is to learn how to truly qualify leads. This single skill could give you and your sales team a quantum leap. Here are some of the questions you should think about: Is the prospective client truly motivated to buy now? Do they have the money to buy? Can you deliver the type of project they want for the budget they have? Or, can you successfully reframe their expectations given their budget? If so, that will likely lead to a purchase with your company.
This is one of the major differences between a good salesperson and a great salesperson. Qualifying is always a little uncomfortable even for great salespeople, yet it becomes easier with experience.
In any economy, one commodity we never buy back is our time. When it comes to sales we must maximize its use. Apply discipline and sell skillfully by attracting, qualifying and closing confidently. Remember, the sales success formula is Attitude + Activity + Skill!
|Doug Dwyer is president and chief stewarding officer of DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen by Worldwide, one of the nation's largest remodeling franchises. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.|