January 2005 Table of Contents

Featured Articles
Three Strikes

Specialty contractors today face an increasing number of prospects who insist upon getting three estimates before they make a decision. More and more, the public has been brainwashed by often well-intentioned organizations that tell them the smart consumer always gets at least three bids. If you're the first or second contractor in the door, your challenge in closing the sale can be tough. Read more

Jobsite Wall Flashing Details

Proper flashing ensures that water that leaks behind siding drains to the outside, keeping framing and interior finishes dry. Read more

Product Roundup

When Patricia Keljik lost her high-tech job in the dot-com implosion of 1999, a friend suggested she work with him selling windows at a big box retailer. She resisted, until he told her something shocking: The huge replacement window industry was still paper based at the onset of the new millennium. Intrigued, Keljik took the job and paid attention to the unique needs of the window sales force. After six months, she put together a development team, and they created SalesBuddy, a software program that records specifications at the point of sale on a Pocket PC, allowing the salesperson or installer to record observations, enter measurements, and select different product lines at the client's home. Read more

Sunny Days

Robert Reichek remembers what sunrooms looked like when he got into the business 20 years ago: Not much. "Mobile home add-ons," says the owner of Four Seasons Sunrooms of San Luis Obispo, Calif. Larry Chavez Jr., owner of Sunrooms Plus, a Four Seasons franchise in New Mexico and Arizona, says the sunroom of old was a "cheap plastic product on the back of the house." Consumers often viewed them as unsightly -- a leaky eyesore. Read more

Net Profit

Thinking about a new car? If you're like many people, the first thing to do is enter the make and model in a search engine such as Google. Shopping for books, clothes, electronics, sporting goods, or home improvement items? A 2002 report by research firm Vertis says 57% of Americans have access to the Internet at home, and half of those with access buy such products on the Web. Read more

Numbers Game Numbers Game

The year 2000 should have been a celebratory year for Marc Sylvain. Sales at his company, Sylvain Contracting in Plaistow, N.H., had more than doubled to $980,000, mostly on the strength of his having hired a salesperson. But the up-tick in volume couldn't reverse a procession of annual losses that the company had racked up since 1986, the year it was founded. Sylvain Contracting, which specializes in the installation of replacement windows, vinyl siding, and sunrooms, lost $137,000 in 2000. Read more

Party On

When EnergySwing Windows, in the Pittsburgh suburb of Murraysville, threw its first customer appreciation event, Don Darragh felt like he'd time traveled back to his wedding day. The company's sizzlingly successful barbecue "felt like magic," says Darragh, vice president and sales manager at EnergySwing. Throughout the event, people approached him to shake his hand and offer congratulations. Read more

The Final Question

A wrong hire is costly, frustrating, and often damaging to morale. Screen out potential problem hires in the interviewing process. Read more

Don't Disqualify Yourself

Beware of generic sales training programs that advise you not to be "an unpaid consultant." Sure, salespeople love to hear that they shouldn't waste time on non-buyers. But that's a gimmick that can send you right into a sales slump. Read more

Go-To Guys

Grow too fast and it's easy to get in trouble. Double the number of jobs in a year, add a new product line or even two of them, and suddenly you're managing a whole different company -- one that's not just bigger but more complicated. Scaling up alone may not provide the tools or controls you need. Read more

I'm Listening

Ever since he opened the doors at Bee Windows in Indianapolis 23 years ago, co-owner George Faerber has put his home phone number on every single contract. Faerber knows that other home improvement company owners probably think he's crazy, but the practice has paid off in several ways, he says. Read more

Sharper Image

When was the last time you updated your corporate identity? Chances are it's been a while. "Most people wait until they have a problem before they start taking a look at their marketing materials," says David Alpert, president of Continuum Marketing in Great Falls, Va. Read more

The Lead Challenge

When outbound telemarketing became pass� for most companies, many intensified their use of print ads, direct mail, TV, radio, and events. This saturated some ad mediums and created more competition for the same home improvement prospect. Read more

Just Ask

For most home improvement companies, referrals are the best leads. But most owners would say they don't get as many referrals as they'd like, or even as many as they deserve given the high-quality work they do. Satisfied customers are essential but not enough. Read more

The Expert Approach

Conventional wisdom suggests that, at some point in the sales call, it's best to step away and measure, leaving clients to arrive at some consensus about the purchase. Bert Lebhar, owner of Atlantic Roofing, in Baltimore, favors a different approach. He suggests that at that mid-point in the presentation, when the salesperson goes to measure, he take the client along. Hand them the tape. Have them write the figures down. Get them involved, Lebhar says. Read more

Measure Of a Man

While having lunch at The Remodeling Show, I overheard two sales-people comparing notes. Both worked for full-service companies. Both had been selling for about five years. One averaged a million dollars a year in sales; the other about $750,000. The one selling a million assumed he was the better salesperson; the salesperson doing the lesser amount simply ate up his every word. Read more

Fashion Statement Fashion Statement

Randy Dorsing doesn't claim image is everything, but the sales manager for A Cut Above in Portland, Ore., does believe that the way salespeople and crew members look makes a huge difference in how they're perceived. So, for the past five years, all company employees have worn clothes that prominently feature A Cut Above's logo. Read more

Riding the Rails Riding the Rails

Composite rail systems are slow to catch up to the quick growth of composite deck planks. Read more

Roofer Beware

Pity poor Florida. August and September 2004 saw four deadly hurricanes within six weeks, resulting in billions of dollars' worth of damage to homes and businesses and an ongoing, critical need for experienced, licensed construction professionals, especially roofers. But if you're an out-of-state roofing contractor, be aware of strict state requirements for working in Florida before you start packing up your tools. Read more

Hot Buttons

With oil prices gushing past the $50 per barrel mark and gasoline retailing for more than $2 per gallon, you might imagine consumers would be fearful that home energy costs would go through the roof, or at least out the windows. Not always, say window dealers in different parts of the country. Homeowners have many priorities when shopping for windows, energy savings being among the most important but not always topping the list. Read more

Warp Speed

Fiber-cement siding doesn't warp, but it is flexible enough to distort if the studs to which it is being attached are bowed. To prevent a wavy appearance, Phil Birner of Amazing Siding in Houston says his installers strip the walls back to the studs and try to correct the problem at its source. Alternatively, they apply rigid foam behind the siding to help flatten the wall. Read more

What's in Store?

Andrew Remm is executive vice president of Home Service Solutions, an organization that recruits and manages home improvement contractors for SFI programs in retail chains such as Sam's Clubs. Read more

Make Your Market Make Your Market

Wondering how the economy might affect your business this year? If you were counting on a roaring revival to lift sales, think again. Read more

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