Credit: Photo: Heim

Mark Kaufman, owner of Mark Kaufman Roofing Contractor, in Englewood, Fla., is up against a lot of competitors, and most of them sell a re-roofing job cheaper than his company does.

Which is why Kaufman walks around the house with prospects, pointing out, for instance, that it might be a good idea to extend the ridge vent that stops 10 feet from the end of the house or to fix a wobbly downspout. Not long ago while walking with a couple around their house, he mentioned re-working an aluminum soffit to prevent squirrels from entering the attic. By coincidence, squirrels had gotten in not long before.

Are prospects impressed? Usually they are. And, while Kaufman measures the roof, he leaves homeowners with brochures and color charts for shingles to help them make an educated decision about the products they are buying.

Ask the Expert

A needs assessment may seem like a luxury to time-strapped homeowners, but their home is their major investment, and they want to know. Kaufman says that walking the premises with prospects makes him the expert, someone knowledgeable enough to help solve their problems. And "a lot of times another roofer won't do this."

Brian Brock, sales manager at Hullco Exteriors, in Chattanooga, Tenn., says that company salespeople, on arriving for their appointment, direct prospects to a 20-question survey that Hullco put together, with questions culled from many other surveys.

Next step? A window-by-window walk-around assessing each opening. The difference between spending a minute at each window versus just whipping out the measuring tape is big, Brock says. Together with the survey, the idea is to build rapport, uncover problems (that your product then becomes the solution to), and to introduce particular benefits in response to features prospects might be looking for in a product.

Sales Is Courtship

Hullco Exteriors refined its procedure because, Brock says, often when a salesperson arrives, there's an awkwardness about what should happen next. "Some people will just open up and answer questions without even being asked," he notes. Others are tongue-tied. The survey "reveals their concerns," and the walk-around "opens dialogue so we can probe deeper." It also structures the sales call while building trust.

A changing customer, Brock says, forces home improvement companies to "use a professional selling model based on customer need and finding the pain versus going in and pounding [their] chest and saying, 'If you don't buy in the next 10 minutes, the price goes up.'"