I have three kids who were all born four years apart in the month of September. I’d love to be able to say that was planned, but it wasn’t. Now, at the ages of five, nine, and 13, their attitudes and personalities remind me of three types of customers who call contractors for estimates.
The 13-year-old—my lone son—is a lot like the homeowner who knows everything. This customer has already done all their research online. They’ve scoured your website (and your competitors') and read all the reviews. They know the R-values and the U-values of your products better than most of your salespeople do. They don’t believe they need a presentation because they have all the answers. They just want a price as quickly as possible.
But if you listen to them and ask the right questions about things they hadn’t considered, they’re likely to open up and give you the time you need to share knowledge and help them make an informed decision. This is very similar to what it takes to have a meaningful conversation with a teenager.
Skipping past my middle child for a moment, next we have the 5-year-old. She’s easily impressed with every shiny new object she gets her hands on, much like the client whose main concern is aesthetics and may be easily swayed by an offer that’s probably too good to be true.
They don’t care that much about how it’s going to be installed or who's going to do the work. They’re not as concerned with the details of the service after the sale. They just want something with the bells and whistles to keep up with the Joneses–and to feel like they’re getting an unbelievable deal. These homeowners are a lot like my 5-year-old when she’s unboxing a half dozen L.O.L. Surprise dolls she’ll forget about a few hours later.
The successful contractor will get out ahead of their competitors and make changes before they have to.
Finally, we’ve reached the 9-year-old. She’s still impressed with shiny and new things, but she has questions and wants more value out of the toys she gets. She wants dolls that have backstories, that can be upgraded in the future with accessories, and that won’t need to be replaced anytime soon. She’s not as short-sighted as the 5-year-old, and not as sure of her knowledge as the 13-year-old. These are the kinds of customers who want to spend time with experts like you asking questions about your company and products.
Of course, this is all an oversimplification but the point is this: every potential customer has unique expectations and the most successful contractors have a plan in place to handle just about any of them.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Just as one sales technique does not fit all prospects, neither does one sales process. Advances in technology have allowed most home improvement companies to meet the demands of customers who don’t want them in their homes for a traditional face-to-face sales call.
I know a roofing and siding contractor on the east coast who, during Covid, ran all sales calls completely virtual and now has no plans to go back to any of his old ways. He claims the company’s closing percentage is on par with previous in-home sales efforts.
A window and door contractor I’ve spoken to recently cited that approximately 10% of his customers request virtual meetings. Rather than push back and risk losing the sale, he accommodates them by having a salesperson present products and pricing over a Google Meeting. His closing rate on those sales presentations is virtually—see what I did there—the same as the company’s in-home closing percentage, although they still prefer to work with customers in the home.
For the contractors I know who remain steadfast in providing a two-visit sales process, many of them have become more flexible with the second visit and are willing to schedule it as a virtual meeting when the customer requests it. After all, the most successful businesses are the ones that respond to change the quickest.
As home improvement sales return to a slower pre-pandemic growth rate over the next few years, the companies that continue to adapt the fastest to evolving customer demands will grow the most. The successful contractor will get out ahead of their competitors and make changes before they have to.
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