Everybody has a story. Or at least they better if they want to sell home improvement products. “I think the company story is more important than ever,” says Rick Grosso, industry consultant and sales trainer.

In an era when politicians and corporate executives are routinely indicted and where the quiet neighbor down the street may turn out to have a secret life, “the number one ingredient in the sale is trust,” Grosso says. “If you have the right kind of credentials, the company story will establish that you're solid and reputable, and it can make a huge difference in the buying decision.”

Feet First Many multi-step selling systems used by home improvement operations include the company story as a component. One purpose, for instance, is to establish in the prospect's mind a sense of your company's stability, reliability, and competence, thus positioning against come-andgo competitors.

Grosso advises putting the company story up front in your sales presentation, right behind the introduction and needs analysis. Many contractors agree.

Martin Bomba, president of South Texas Siding and Window World, San Antonio, jumps into his company's credentials fast because, “the bottom line is that if they don't buy you and your company, it really doesn't matter what product you're selling.” Bomba calls his company's story of more than 30 years in business “invaluable.” Customers, he says, tell him so. “It builds confidence in the customer. They like the fact that they're dealing with a company that has that kind of longevity.”

Track Record Fred Finn, co-owner of Euro-Tech, Bensenville, Ill., emphasizes his company's more than 9,000 installations, 14 years in business, and record of zero unsatisfied complaints with the Better Business Bureau and Illinois Attorney General's office. He makes sure homeowners understand the advantage of working with his company. Finn tells his company's story, looks for acknowledgement and asks: “Would you want to settle for less?”

Even companies too new to have a substantial track record can build trust by telling the right kind of story. Grosso suggests such companies can offer a stronger warranty than would typically be the case in that market and back it up with a guarantee of 100% homeowner satisfaction. Or they can emphasize craftsmanship or installation techniques that set them apart and support those claims with customer testimonials.

Finn says that if a contractor knows how to sell, he'll emphasize his company's strengths and minimize its weaknesses. But no matter how good your company story may be, it won't have much value, “unless you know how to sell,” he adds.