Scenario one: The lead is a window lead, but the house could obviously also use a siding face-lift. Scenario two: The appointment concerns a re-roofing job, but a quick inspection of that well-shaded roof and its clogged downspouts shows that gutter protection — an additional $3,000 — would save the homeowner time, trouble, and the risk (of falling) involved in cleaning gutters.
Opportunity to extend a single product sale into other realms happens far more often than most salespeople realize, says Tony Hoty, an industry sales and marketing consultant who has worked with many home improvement companies. Many salespeople, he says, run their single-product lead “with blinders on.” Few actively seek the opportunity of additional work, even if it's fairly obvious.
DO YOU DO ROOFING? Combining a job with the one you're there to sell takes more work these days than it ever did. It's tough to finance anything more than $25,000. And if credit's available customers may not want to take on additional debt. Even in the best of times, says Ken Moeslein, CEO of Legacy Remodel, a Pittsburgh home improvement company, many salespeople shy away from asking for additional work. “They're afraid they're going to lose the window job they're there for,” he says. “They're happy to get something. And they just want to get the heck out of Dodge.”
Moeslein, who founded the company as Swing Line Windows more than 20 years ago, says he was often asked whether or not Swing Line did other types of jobs. That's how his company went from a single-line operation to one with a menu of products and services, including siding, decks, gutter protection, and, most recently, design/build such as kitchens and additions. Today 20% of its jobs are some combination of these.
Prospects at Atlanta home improvement company Exovations would probably not have to ask whether the company did more than siding, roofing, and windows. Exterior jobs in some kind of combination are Exovations' specialty (see “Share the Vision,” below) and always have been. Siding and windows, what company president Roone Unger calls “our burger and fries,” are the most popular combination, followed by gutters and gutter protection. A whole-house paint job typically follows a fiber-cement re-siding project.
In most cases, Unger says, one job flows from the other, and it helps that Exovations has an architect in its office who can design an entirely new exterior. Even if people are thinking only about replacing windows, the design enables them to see how new windows would work with siding or roofing to change the whole look and feel of the home. “Most of the time [the home] needs more done,” Unger says. If it's a roofing job, for instance, there may well be rotten fascia boards that need replacing. And when homeowners are aware of it, “they want to contract with one company that can do it all.”
OPPORTUNITIES In many cases homeowners aren't aware of the need for the other work. Or, if they do know they're going to need another job done now, or soon, they may be reluctant to bring it up because they don't know what it might cost or they don't want to spend the money. Here's how to sell more than what the sales rep came out for:
- Trained for more. If your salespeople are trained to sell one product, say windows, they're unlikely to suggest replacing that dingy siding or the roof that's within a year or two of failing because they don't know how to measure a roofing or siding job and they'd have to call the office to have someone else come do it. “If you're a window guy and you've never measured a house for siding, you have to almost reset for a later date,” Hoty says.
The first step in selling combination jobs is to have sales reps trained to estimate and sell multiple products. Say roofing, siding, windows, and gutter protection. Unger says regular monthly product-knowledge presentations by vendors enable Exovations salespeople to know those products well enough to estimate and sell them.
- Scouting party. Get there at least 15 minutes early so you can drive the neighborhood. “That allows you to do two things,” Moeslein says. “You can see what the mentality is around there, what people are typically investing in their houses. The other thing is you can park a few doors away from the house and check it out. You might notice a bad roof, or a crappy front door. So you're prepared, when you go in, if the opportunity presents itself.”
- What's missing here? Say they don't bring it up? Regardless of what you're called out to the house to discuss, turn the conversation at some point to what it is the home “looks like it needs most,” Hoty says. That's easier to do if your salesperson does a written needs assessment based on a survey that asks prospects questions such as what they'd like to have done in the home, budget for the project, how long they plan to remain there, and future projects they may have in mind. Capizzi Home Improvement, in Cotuit, Mass., for instance, asks prospects what they most liked or disliked about past experiences in hiring contractors, then promises that what they liked will be the standard and what they didn't like will not be repeated. “It's all about them,” owner Tom Capizzi says.
- Finesse first. Approach with subtlety, tact, and some caution. One fairly natural approach is to point out that “we've seen a lot of siding in need of being replaced at other homes in the neighborhood,” Hoty says. That avoids making homeowners seem somehow responsible for the unsightly condition of what's on the walls now. Another way is to ask what homeowners want to achieve by, say, replacing their windows, or by re-siding. Are they looking for energy efficiency? A fresh look? Reduced maintenance?
When prospects tell you their real reason for wanting the work done, that sets the stage for suggesting other types of work that accomplish the same thing. The tack not to take is to simply begin reeling off a list of all the work your company can do, without ever establishing rapport. “Don't get greedy,” Moeslein says. “If a homeowner says, for instance, that the house needs an exterior face-lift, you don't want to try to sell them a $60,000 job in two hours. What I would do is ask them to prioritize, and then we break up the bid and focus on what their priority is.”
- Sample this. Prospects should already know — from your website, your appointment setter, and other sources — that your company installs not only windows, but roofing, siding, gutters, doors. So if that prospect suddenly asks whether or not your company does siding, or roofing, or doors, and the answer is yes, you'll need to not only be able to measure the job but to have the equipment and samples needed for them to make a product selection or at least to get started in making those selections. Then you can arrange to meet them at the showroom so they can finalize the deal there. Make it a seamless transition from the job they called about to the job they also need.
- Package deal. For homeowners, the value of the second job is convenience: the ability to get everything done at one time by one company they trust. You can sweeten the deal by offering an incentive, equal to at least what it would have cost you to get an appointment for that second job. If your marketing cost is 10%, then 10% is a reasonable discount. “People are always under the impression that they're going to get a better deal from a one-stop shop,” Hoty says. “They prefer to have one point of contact.”
Capizzi Home Improvement runs frequent 10%-off promotions on jobs. So if the company salesperson sees a job that needs to be done, he can suggest that now's a great time to do it, since the company is offering a discount on specific types of jobs within a specific time frame.