Probably the biggest topic in sales is closing the sale. Unfortunately, much of the sales advice out there amounts to tricks to close the sale.
We often look for ways to sell better, close better, outsell the competition or handle the unfair competition. We are often afraid to be viewed as a salesman or as so many clients have said to me: “I don’t want to seem desperate.” So instead of desperation, instead of feeling like the tin man or a used car salesman, we have to change our view of sales and what we can do for our customers. Before we can change our viewpoint, we need to first ask why we are doing what we are doing and what we are trying to achieve.
If the answer is simply and only that you want to make a lot of money, I suggest you figure out how to rob a bank – without getting caught, of course. Yes, we all want to make money and the more the better, but there must be much more to it. I believe that we all have one thing in common – that we want to help people. It doesn’t matter whether you want to help people by improving their homes, building better homes or in my case, helping improve businesses.
There is a very important element that goes with this desire to help and that is, that we must care for or about our customers. Caring is what differentiates us from many of our competitors. Caring is often what sets us apart from the individual or company that is only interested in a one-shot sale, done at the cheapest price with the lowest acceptable quality. Caring is what makes people want to refer us and makes them want to continue to do business with us.
In addition to caring, we must deliver what was promised. It is superlative delivery that shows that you care and it is superlative delivery that sets you apart from you competitors. Focusing on caring, follow-through and quality will not only set you apart from your competitors, it will engender a sense of integrity for you and your organization.
In his writings on sales, author L. Ron Hubbard advised as follows. “Produce in abundance and try to give better than expected quality. Deliver and get paid for it, for sure, but deliver better than was ordered and more. Always try to write a better story than was expected; always try to deliver a better job than was ordered. Always try to – and deliver – a better result than what was hoped for.”
Proposals – You Can’t Live with Them, You Can’t Live without Them
In order to get to the close, we first need to create a proposal that will show our prospects that we understand their needs and wants – and that will engender confidence that we can and will deliver the home improvement that they desire.
By understanding the differences between proposals, estimates and bids, we can create proposals that are more likely to help us sell the job.
With all the estimating and bidding complaints I get from contractors, it seems to me that rather than being a positive experience, the whole subject of bidding, estimating and creating proposals is often the bane of existence for professional remodelers. I have had clients tell me that when they hear that a prospect is going to get “three bids”, they don’t want to have anything to do with it. So why is this, what do these terms really mean and what can we do to survive in spite of what often seems to be impossible odds?
Let’s first start understanding some terms and let’s look at what we can do to handle the confusion that goes with getting projects.
- Bidding usually implies that the price is most important. That means if you are bidding you are competing based on price. Rather than trying to close the sales based on price you would be better off focusing on the advantages to your client of working with you and your company. To do that you should clearly identify those differences which will benefit your potential client.
- There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding surrounding the whole topic of estimates and estimating. It starts with the offer for a free estimate and homeowners’ idea that an estimate means the price for the job, rather than a rough idea of what a project may cost. It then evolves into the potential client expecting additional free services including a complete design or design analysis, a project plan and the calculation of the exact price for the job. Anyone who has gone through this knows that it is a very time consuming process with limited payback. To make matters worse you are often doing it blind-folded because you don’t have any idea of what the prospect’s budget is for the project.
Rather than focusing on bidding and estimating I recommend that you focus on the prospect, their needs for their remodeling project and how you can best meet those needs. This will show them that you care. Find out what is most important to your prospect in choosing a contractor. If it is the price, you will at least know where you stand and you can determine whether or not to pursue their project. If they want to work with a professional remodeler who will do a quality remodeling project then you should help them to see how you are different and how those differences will be beneficial to them.
Once these preliminary steps are in place, you can then focus on moving forward and closing the sale. Once your prospect has been shown that you are the best, most caring remodeler that they can hire, closing the sale becomes easier.
Lorraine Hart is the president and senior consultant for Ideal Consulting Services. Ideal has been providing business consulting, coaching and training to small businesses in the construction industry since 1992. She is a national member of NARI and contributor to its national blog. She is also a regular contributor to the Texas Home and Garden blog and the coordinator and editor of the weekly home articles for the Houston Chronicle. Lorraine can be reached at 832-569-5079 or http://www.idealconsulting.net.