The New School for Sales

A memorized pitch book and seven canned closes, performed back-to-back, won’t cut it with many of today’s homeowners

July 09, 2015
old-school car salesman--how not to sell in the modern age

The phone is ringing and there’s no shortage of work. We have lots of leads and I’m actually looking to hire a salesperson. But not just any salesperson.

In the past, when I looked for new salespeople, I wrote an ad that would appeal to the Gotta Want It type. The one who’s hungry for success and would follow the system no matter what. Selling on commission isn’t an easy way to make a living, and only a certain type of person can do it.

My perfect candidate then might’ve been someone fresh out of rehab and newly divorced. Someone looking to make a point. He’d put all his energy into the rebirth.

We taught a 10-step system. Entry, warmup, creation of need. We taught all that and how to demo a window, or price a siding or roofing job, plus a few simple closing techniques.  My guy would memorize the pitch book. Then he would sit on the living room sofa, or at the kitchen table, and start at Page One. “We are XYZ Home Improvement and we’ve been in business …”

He’d go in the house and be a killer. He wanted success so badly that he tracked down all the books and tapes by the great sales gurus like Tom Hopkins, Bryan Tracy, and Zig Ziglar and could quote their material by heart. I wanted the guy who refused to take no for an answer.

Are You Authentic?

Today if Bryan Tracy himself knocked on the door I wouldn’t hire him. Instead, I want someone with construction knowledge, someone with a background in installation. Not everyone who applies will know construction, but I at least want someone willing to learn it.

I’m looking for someone who understands applications, how windows, siding, and roofing actually work. Someone who knows what he’s talking about when it comes to, say, the way proper attic ventilation extends the life of the roof or how R-value and U-factor determine the amount of energy that that window will save.

I want someone who’s a good listener. That would be the person who can pay attention to what homeowners are saying about what’s going on with the house so that he can suggest the appropriate solution.

And I want someone who's tech savvy and computer literate—for us, that's like knowing how to speak English.

Today, that’s a killer salesman. He’s the one closing business.

Someone who understands the physics of a residential building and the building envelope; who can go in the home and use software to demonstrate to homeowners different options in colors, products, accessories, and systems.

Start With Needs

Homeowners today, especially those under 40, don’t want to be sold. Maybe they never did and were just afraid to say no. I’ve learned to build my presentation around the needs analysis. I put together a straightforward and honest assessment of what’s going on in the house so that I can get the homeowners involved in the products that are right for them—as opposed to just selling them whatever it is that the company offers.

That’s a huge difference from the way home improvement selling happened in the past. But then again, maybe it’s not. Maybe we just weren’t getting it. I think it was Zig Ziglar who said: “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Damora is vice president of sales and marketing at K&B Home Remodelers, in Succasunna, N.J. Reach him at Follow him on Twitter @madamora.



  1. Give credit to the photo - it is Ernie Kovacs one of our times' greatest comedians

  2. Ernest Edward "Ernie" Kovacs was an American comedian, actor, and writer. Kovacs' uninhibited, often ad-libbed, and visually experimental comedic style came to influence numerous television comedians


You're correct, it is Ernie Kovacs and his famous used-car salesman routine. 

You are correct, today's millenial homeowner wants the facts not the fluff. They don't want to hear the sizzle of the steak just give them a good knife & a fork and let them get to work on it. Most don't want to hear "but Mrs. Jones it's ONLY $65.00 per month", they want a fair price for the overall project.  They've already researched the internet to death and already Googled the company & the salesman, checked out your reviews & looked at your LinkedIn profile. They want to know what you know about construction and the PROCESS that your company will take to give them the project of their dreams within their budget.
Today it's about consultive  selling - more questioning and problem solving than pushing products that you have on the shelf. 

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