Sal Ferro is president and co-owner of Alure, a Long Island company that generates its sales from windows, siding, roofing, kitchens and baths, and basement finishing. The company expects to sell $32 million worth of home improvements this year, up from $25 million last year, with repeat and referral business of 60% to 68% among its three divisions.
Replacement Contractor: What's the most important factor in Alure's growth: the products you're selling, your marketing, or your sales process?
Sal Ferro: It's a combination. Our sales process works because of our marketing and our marketing works because of our sales process. Our approach to selling is based on building value, then relationships. That creates a circle of repeat/referral business.
RC: In what ways has the national DNC list affected Alure?
S.F.: We've always been focused on marketing to our existing customer base through mailings, parties, seminars, and some after-the-fact phone calls. What I tell my salespeople is that the business is changing. There's an aggressive telemarketing/living room approach and then there's ours, which is soft sell, relationship-focused. Other people are being forced to move toward our side of the line, and we need to be more on our toes.
RC: Why is your repeat/referral rate so high?
S.F.: If you exceed customer expectations, they'll call you back without any marketing efforts whatsoever. But we do brochure mailings, newsletters, and open houses and cocktail parties for networking. And we call each client within two months of final payment and do extensive phone surveys asking what their next project will be. We store that information in a database and follow up with a phone call. We have a constant climate of promoting and networking.
RC: Where do self-generated leads fit into the equation? What kind of culture does a company need to have to make that work?
S.F.: You have to have an inclusive company culture, where people want to be part of the process and nobody is afraid to do something. At Alure, selling is not just going into a home and closing. It involves generating leads, being part of the production process, staying in touch with your client. [Salespeople] sign a sales agreement where if they aren't part of the process, they're not earning their full commission, and self-gen is part of the process.
RC: How do you ensure that Alure customers have a pleasant experience, the kind they want to tell other people about?
S.F.: We hire the best installers. We don't chintz on production people. We keep the scope clear and simple. We do jobs we're good at. And we don't work for the wrong people.