Here’s an example of something that happens a lot in home improvement sales: Someone’s in a house selling a window job, and the homeowner says, “Can you enlarge that opening?” She wants a bigger window where the opening is now. The salesperson goes into the price book. Hey, why not? He wants to make the customer happy and close the deal. 

What he doesn’t notice, for example, are the electrical outlets on either side of the existing opening that now have to be moved. Or that these are plaster walls. Or maybe he does notice them but doesn’t mention it. 

The installer gets there three weeks later and he’s furious at the salesperson and the company. His whole day just got derailed and he’s not going to make any money. And because he’s not trained to restrain himself, he badmouths the salesperson and the company to the homeowner. 

Who’s at Fault? 

This kind of mess doesn’t happen where I work. That’s because the owner began his home improvement career as an installer. He’s aware of the need to sell what can actually be put on or in the house. He also knows how widespread this practice of over-promising at the point of the sale is and how damaging it is for all concerned: salesperson, installer, and homeowner. 

What happens is that the salesperson will never get a referral or repeat business from that homeowner; the installer will do a half-hearted job; and the homeowner will be left thinking that the company is incompetent all the way down the line. 

Here’s how to avoid it: Train salespeople in installation basics. 

That doesn’t mean that they need to know how to install, but they should have a hands-on sense of the way it’s done. Many home improvement companies teach a new salesperson their selling system in two or three weeks. Then that newbie is off and running. He might know something about the product—enough to explain how it works—but little or nothing about the nuances or practicalities of installing it. Why not make that training cycle a few days longer and send the sales trainee out with a crew? 

We started doing that 10 years ago. It makes life so much simpler. First, a lot of problems simply go away. Second, the salesperson can now talk authoritatively about the product and the job, instead of winging it.

Talk the Talk

For instance, when a salesperson goes in the house to sell, he or she should know construction terminology. This is a stool, this is an apron, this is molding. He or she should be able to explain the job like an installer. If the homeowner knows something about roofing, siding, or windows, and the salesperson doesn’t but is bluffing his way through, he comes across like an idiot. On the other hand, if a knowledgeable salesperson says something like: “Let me tell you how our windows are installed” followed by a 45-second explanation, he adds huge credibility to his presentation. 

The Simple Truth

You get more jobs by telling the truth than you ever will by omitting it. She wants to enlarge the opening? Explain that that has to be done by code. It may take a new header and stud braces on either side of the existing opening, and the electrical outlets may have to be moved. Moving electrical outlets takes an electrician—and I haven’t found one yet who works cheap. 

Be honest about the problems involved. That homeowner might be talking to a competitor tomorrow night who will tell her that it’s no problem at all to enlarge that window opening. Who at that point do you think she’ll believe? 

It’s fear of not getting the sale that creates installation disconnects. Address the issues up front, and not only will you get the sale but you’ll probably get it for more money and have a customer pleased enough to refer you.