Last spring, a homeowner hired our company for a roofing and siding job. The customer had already engaged a window and door firm—a competitor—to replace the windows.
I had been seeing news reports and reading items online about investigations into the window company’s practices. More than two dozen homeowners had filed complaints saying that the company had taken their deposit check, cashed it immediately, and failed to show up to install.
Did I say something to the owner? You bet I did.
There’s a longstanding and unfortunate culture in home improvement selling that gives the salesperson permission to say or do anything to get the order. But more and more homeowners are aware of it and suspicious of home improvement salespeople because of it.
A signature element of that culture is bad-mouthing the competition. It’s a regrettable practice. It’s also habit-forming. The homeowner’s mention of a competitor triggers a knee-jerk response by salespeople, who immediately start to run through a litany of the competition’s sins, real and invented. I’ve had homeowners tell me that in interviewing home improvement companies for a project, virtually all the salespeople did was talk about the other companies.
What Do You Know About…
Here’s what I’ve learned: The best way to address the issue of the competition is to stay away from it. Talk about your company, your product, your service, and your reputation. Talk about what you offer. Keep your eye on the prize.
Of course, sometimes the customer raises the subject. That could be because they honestly want to know what you think about a company they’re considering. It could also be because they’re testing your integrity. If they bring it up, I’ve learned to politely explain that I’m there to talk about our company, not theirs. If they persist, I suggest that they do an online search and read the competitor’s reviews.
Sometimes you’ll also need to be ready to respond to what the customer has heard about your company from competitors. For instance, the company that I work for incorporated a year ago. Frequently homeowners will say, “I heard from (such-and-such competitor) that you’ve only been in business a year.”
My response is yes, that’s technically true. Then I point out that our owner ran his own installation company for 13 years and that I’ve been in home improvement for 32 years.
If the customer wants to know what I think about that competitor, I take it right back to us. “Well, from everything I’ve heard they’re a good company and they do good work. But where I think we have an advantage is that we don’t use subcontractors, our guys are trained by us to do the work we do, they show up in our trucks wearing our shirts…”
The company that was engaged to install the windows, for instance, “has been the target of numerous criminal investigations,” according to the website of the Warwick (PA) Township police department.
So when the homeowner told me that she planned to use this company for her windows, I said, “Well, the window they sell is a good window, but I have to ask you, have you been on the Internet or heard anything? I’m not trying to bad mouth anybody, but I don’t want to see you put money down and then lose it.”
The company closed on June 9 and the owner was arrested and charged with theft by deception and passing bad checks.
What They Say
Salespeople don’t do themselves any favors in bad mouthing competitors. A sale is a lot more likely to happen when homeowners like and trust you than when you spend an hour of their time discrediting the competition.
What homeowners want from a home improvement company salesperson’s visit is good, accurate information. Not gossip. Not slander. The thing that will impress them most is your professionalism.