In a recent sales meeting our team was discussing the "needs analysis" or "survey" portion of our in-home sales process. As we walked through the sales team's reservations, concerns, and experiences with our survey questions, we began to reword our line of questioning. This eventually led us to evaluate our overall process in the home. Originally our sales process included a step called the "warm-up."

Most home improvement companies have a warm-up phase in their sales process where the salesperson sets out to build rapport and endear themselves to the homeowner. As I began to think about it, a big question was raised: Is warming up a step? Really? Do we have to "script" our ability to read a prospect and build rapport? Can you really train or insert a step that involves caring about the customer's interests?

Warming Up For Warm Bodies

As I pondered this, I began to think about how our industry has evolved. Before, it seemed as though many companies hired warm bodies and taught them a script and a selling system. If the sales rep followed the script and the system, he or she could close 30% to 40% of the deals. If the salesperson had a bad month, it's assumed they must not have followed the system.

These days, our industry cannot rely on product-oriented peddlers to present our products. The reality is that three large glass companies make all the glass and have various private labels for the same product(s). Everyone is using "virgin" vinyl, and the days of mechanically fastened sashes are over. With all of that said, none of us are the only, end-all product. I'm not saying that the product's features are not important, nor am I saying that having a selling system and process is null. My point is that we can no longer force our way in with claims about "exclusive" features and quote a sales training guide verbatim to wow homeowners.

Today customers have tons of access to information. Almost every prospect has researched on the Internet, watches Home & Garden TV, and has ideas galore. They have a thorough understanding of low-E. And they certainly don't want to be "sold."

This doesn't mean that we have to tuck our tail between our legs and not sell our products. What it means is that the game has changed and we must reinvent how we present ourselves and our company. It also means that we have to demonstrate how our product can fill the customer's need.

Today, our sales process includes the following steps:

  1. Greeting/"What to expect"
  2. Project assessment (questions)
  3. Project assessment (measure/evaluation)
  4. Company story/installation
  5. Product demonstration
  6. Summary (pre-close)
  7. Recommendation (price/close)
  8. Post-close (what to expect, wrap-up, etc.)

To Win The Sale, Sell Solutions

The new sales process must be focused at the front-end of the sale. We have to tell the homeowner what to expect, and ask lots of questions probing and looking for problems to which we can offer a solution. The company with the solution wins. Not the cheapest company, nor the one that has the product featuring all sorts of "bells and whistles," but the company whose salesperson genuinely listens, that's who wins. We have to sell the hole not the drill bit, the steak not the sizzle, and the benefit not just a list of features.

The challenge is to start training our sales teams to ask better questions and to become consultants. Our customers have changed, our competition has changed, and we must continue to reinvent our way of doing business.

?Brian Brock is the sales manager for Hullco Exteriors, a window and siding company in Chattanooga, Tenn.