Ten Common Mistakes Impede Sales, Cause Snafus
By focusing on a few common mistakes and devising some strategies to deal with them, remodelers can improve their sales and avoid some of the headaches of working with clients, Jerry Harris, of Case Handyman & Remodeling in the Tidewater, Va. market, said at the Oct. 9-12 Remodeling Show in Las Vegas.
“As sales people we are most of the time our own worst enemies, making the same mistakes over and over,” Harris said.
Harris laid out these top 10 mistakes, in no particular order, and provided tips on how to avoid them:
- Not showing enough enthusiasm. “Sales appointments are emotional events and clients make buying decisions based on how they feel,” he said. Which is why a Monday morning appointment at 8:00 a.m., when few people are capable of working up much enthusiasm, is probably not a good idea.
A remodeler can be well on the way to closing a sale when “the client feels your confidence and they know you know what you are talking about,” said Harris. “The way you can lose the sale is losing control because the client throws you a curve ball. Recognize it’s happening.”
“The worst nightmare,” he said, “is the cell phone ringing when you’re on the way to an appointment and talking on it at a time when you should be focusing” on your upcoming meeting. “Turn it off 10 minutes before the appointment so you can get your thoughts together,” he advised. “And start grinning, even if it hurts.”
- One-legged appointments. Make sure that all of the people who will be involved in making decisions about the remodeling job — from spouses to children and parents — are present for the appointment so that you can avoid having a client tell you that “I’ve got to talk to my husband or I’ve got to talk to my wife.” Ask when everyone will be at home for an appointment, and only meet with one person if there is no other choice.
- Leaving with nothing. Every sales person should know their closing ratio, but “don’t make it your comfort zone” and don’t take the approach that there are ‘x’ amount of leads and you can leave a certain percentage of them on the table. “Every client counts,” Harris said. “Always be closing.” In a design/build job, get a design contract. Tell the client, “I’m going to work this up and get back to you.”
- Staying in the crowd. When you look and sound like all of the other remodelers in your market, the client will think that finding a remodeler is all about the price. “Communicate differences, not similarities, from the competition, about the way you run your jobs, the people you hire,” he advised. “Don’t talk about ‘quality’ work. Then it only makes sense to pick the cheapest.” Also, “at your desk, write down the differences for your company, even if it’s just one or two things you believe in about your company and your goals. Now you are giving the client something to choose. It’s about you. People buy because they believe, trust.”
- Not using pen and paper. “Never walk into an appointment without a pad of paper and a pen,” Harris said. “You can’t remember everything they say,” and when they see you writing things down, “they’ll be telling you all kinds of things…The client thinks you’re listening, and that makes you look smart.”
When you are talking to the client, “always use a visual. Don’t worry if it’s chicken scratch, they will be following along” more closely than if you are just verbally expounding on a design. And when leaving, “take everything along with you. They didn’t pay for it, and don’t give them a chance to redesign it.”
- Selling the dream. Going along with a client’s dream without injecting some professional advice most of the time leads to an unrealistic design that never goes to contract and never gets built. Relying heavily on what they see on the Internet, it can take years for clients to come to a decision about the job they want, and when they do they are unlikely to know the cost.
“Talk about different products and alternatives,” Harris said. “Move them to something realistic. Somewhere the issue of money will pop up, and now you are on the road to selling something and guiding people through the project. Tell them, ‘We can do this instead of that, and save you some money.” Give the client a range and present realistic numbers. If the numbers don’t add up, ask them what they are willing to sacrifice. If you tell them, “I can do the job for $100,000, but I have to take the cabinets out,” they will definitely feel that you are taking something away from them, and that’s why it is highly advisable to work this out up front rather than becoming embroiled in making tradeoffs during the job.
- Curbside qualifying. Prejudging clients who appear not to have the financial wherewithal to afford your services “snatches money from your pocket,” Harris said. If you don’t approach the client with an open mind, “you won’t be able to have a clear idea of what’s going on. Let your process define the client and whether they are appropriate. They’ll tell you if they think the job isn’t worth it.”
Most memorable are the sales “we have to work for, to be really professional and really sell,” he said. Harris recalled selling a $21,000 job in which the client unexpectedly returned with $7,000 in cash to make the one-third down upfront deposit.
- Ignoring the warning signs of impending doom. “Some folks don’t want you to make money, and they are always the nicest,” the types who will ask if you want some supper, he said. “It gets a bit tough in the sale, you start to feel something’s not right, but you keep going, you are too much invested, when maybe you should stop.”
“You have to decide who is the right client for your company,” Harris said. “If you think it’s going to be bad, it’s going to be bad. You have to have the fortitude to walk away, and it’s tough.”
- Mouth open, ears shut. “Clients do not want to hear about you, they don’t care. You’re in their home and this is about them.” Do 80% of the listening and 20% of the talking, he advised. “Take notes; you’re not talking when you’re writing,” and ask questions, one at a time. Use open-ended questions to obtain information, and closed questions, requiring a “yes” or “no,” to gain control.
- Not asking for the job. The sales process is “like running the marathon,” he said. “We assume that just because we are the greatest and have taken care of everything they need, we’ve got the job.” Harris advised closing “every chance you get,” starting on the telephone when arranging the first appointment. “Ask for the business at every opportunity, it shows your desire for the work,” he said.
“You want to move people in the right direction and shouldn’t be waiting until the very end to talk about business,” he said. “Be conscious of closing from the time you get the lead.” There are actually 200 or 300 “closing” points over the course of making a sale, he said. “If you are having problems getting the client to make the decision, you have to ask the question, ‘Can I have your business.’”
New Master-Level Designation for Remodelers Available Soon
Starting in February, Certified Graduate Remodelers (CGR) can attain further recognition for their commitment to educational excellence and longevity in the remodeling industry by earning the Graduate Master Remodeler (GMR) designation — the master level of the current CGR designation.
For more information, visit www.nahb.org/GMRinfo or e-mail GMRinfo@nahb.com.