So you’ve spent the last hour talking about what a great product the great company you work for sells. But nothing seems to click with the homeowner. Your prospect crosses his legs, folds his arms, looks out the window. You’re not surprised when he says he needs to see three more contractors.

Questions feed the sales presentation, and the one who leads the questioning controls the conversation. The answers your prospect gives also enable you to tailor the proposal to exactly what the homeowner wants and needs. You want them to talk more than you talk. But at some point it’s your turn.

Specific and Relevant

Now you can either bore your prospect to the point where you lose the sale or engage him in a way that builds on the information you’ve already delivered.

Everything you need is embodied in one simple acronym: Fast. It means: facts, analogies, stories, trends.

Take facts. You can say: “We do a lot of siding jobs around here.” Ho-hum. Or you can say: “We did 91 siding jobs in this town in 2012.” Which sticks? Instead of tossing out a statement that’s true but vague, make it specific and relevant and put it in context.
Analogies let you compare situations that are similar but different. We try to tie it in to what the prospect does for a living. So he or she is a physician. I can say: “Our company is a member of the National Roofing Contractors Association.” Who cares? But how about: “Would you go to a doctor who wasn’t a member of the American Medical Association?”

Stories & Trends

Stories are the big one. Even badly told stories tend to stick. Say you’re talking about siding colors and the homeowner, having no frame of reference, feels paralyzed to make a decision. Tell a story about another customer in a similar situation and how he/she selected a color. Make your prospect part of the story by using the second person. “Can you imagine?” “You should’ve seen how happy she was when it all came together.”

Trends give you a chance to put what you’re suggesting in a larger context. Say you’re selling a roof and you suggest changing out soffit vents to improve ventilation. “Those vents have been there 20 years and I never had a problem,” the homeowner says. Well, 20 years ago most roofing contractors didn’t think a lot about attic ventilation. Today the good ones think about it a lot.

Remember, you’re talking to the customer at 7 p.m. and he or she has already put in a long day. All he knows is that the house needs a new roof or new siding. He’s not going to listen to a 45 minute lecture. Show him, in terms he understands, that this is an important decision, and he’ll begin to take ownership of the project. The next thought, in his mind, is that you’re the best one to help him make that decision. —Tom Shallcross is sales manager at Opal Enterprises in Naperville, Ill. Reach him at