Presentation book essentials include publicity, insurance, and professional credentials.
Presentation book essentials include publicity, insurance, and professional credentials.

Every home improvement company organizes its presentation book differently depending on what it sells, its company history, etc. The best use their book to structure the sales presentation.

A sales rep for Exterior Innovations in Savannah, Ga., for instance, starts his presentation with the company story, moves to product features and benefits, then — with the book open — segues into product warranty, before-and-after pictures, and reference letters. Of all that, pictures, carry the greatest weight. “If you go out to measure and come back and the homeowner's sitting looking at the pictures, you have the deal,” says company president Clark Brockman.

Other items to include? Insurance certificates. Because Pennsylvania does not require a contractor to be licensed, Swing Line Windows in Pittsburgh not only includes insurance certificates but copies of articles about contractors who have done lousy work. The point? Customers should “not presume that every contractor is alike and all are good,” president Ken Moeslein explains.

Chapter and Verse How and when to use the book is also open to interpretation. Bring it out too early and you'll intimidate prospects, Moeslein warns. He suggests going to the book after a successful warm-up, where it seems appropriate to share company and product information.

Although many companies view presentation books as their “bible,” the book can become worse than useless if reps simply preach from it. Some contractors allow ad-libbing, others want reps to stick to the script. A better approach, Brockman says, is to use the pitch book pages as cues. “It's a book of short stories, and you tell all your stories for each page,” he says. For example, on the page that describes the company's insurance, Brockman will talk about a woman who lost her house because of an accident involving an uninsured contractor. In doing so, he also lays the groundwork for answering possible future questions about Exterior's pricing compared with that of competitors.

Bragging Rights The presentation book for Mr. Rogers Windows, Renewal by Andersen, Chesapeake, Va., begins with a price section, showing pictures of windows from magazines such as Southern Living, with prices around $1,300, and clips from newspaper ads offering windows for $199 installed. That opens the door to a conversation about product differences. The next section shows photos of station wagons with windows strapped on top, juxtaposed with shots of Mr. Rogers' showroom, service van, and uniformed crews laying dropcloths. “We're showing them that we're different and better,” salesman Ashley Hamrick says.

What gets Hamrick excited, though, is the section that shows that Andersen named Mr. Rogers the best in customer service of all 94 Renewal by Andersen affiliates for 2001 through 2004. It also includes the survey that customers receive from Andersen corporate two weeks after installation. Andersen uses the survey to evaluate the service offered by affiliates. “That,” Hamrick says, “is the strongest part of my presentation.”