Reprinted with permission of Michael Stone, who has more than three decades of experience in the building and remodeling industry. His new book, Profitable Sales, A Contractor's Guide was released in May of 2007. He also wrote the book Markup and Profit; A Contractor's Guide, published by Craftsman Book Co. Michael offers Coaching and Consulting services for construction companies throughout the U.S., as well as audio and CD programs for business management, and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached by phone at 1-888-944-0044 or at his website, www.markupandprofit.com
It is easy to waste time when you are selling. But it is possible to take control of the sales situation and make sure the time you spend has the opportunity to be profitable. Consider these options.
1. Call and confirm your appointment on the day of a sales call. Call two to four hours before your appointment and make sure they are expecting you. The phone is the way to go; faxes or E-mails often don't get delivered on time. Nothing will ruin your attitude faster or waste more time than driving to an appointment and finding no one home. A 30 second phone call can save an hour or more of wasted time.
2. Be on time to all appointments. This is one of the Cardinal Rules. Your first promise to your customer when you set an appointment is that you will be on time. If you break your first promise, how can they trust you?
Arriving on time will get you off on the right foot with your potential customer and get you to the contract quicker. Being on time can separate you from the competition. Your customer will appreciate that you respect their time and almost always will reciprocate.
If you are late to an appointment more than once a month, it is time to clean up your act. No, you're not too busy. You are just disorganized, and that can be fixed.
3. Focus on listening to the customer. I hear from contractors all the time complaining that they don't have any business. When I question them about their sales procedures, it is amazing the lengths that some folks will go to try and impress the potential customer. They talk about themselves, their company, all of their past jobs, who they know, what organizations they belong to, etc.
Those things are important at the right time, but the customer needs to buy you first. They want someone who is willing to listen to them and build the job they want built. You need to listen and learn what the job is about, and they learn how well you can listen and meet their needs.
Talking about you or your company doesn't get the job done. Stay focused on the customer, and getting the contract.
4. Don't make drawings or sketches for customers unless you are paid. A quick one-page sketch of the proposed project is fine to insure you are on the same page as your customer. Several pages of sketches, or worse a draft of the floor plan with elevations before you have a commitment is a waste of time. If you do drawings or sketches without a commitment (a signed design agreement), you are going to spend a lot of time this year working for free.
5. Don't give away your ideas, either. It's amazing the number of contractors that are quick to tell the customer how to do their jobs, or jump right in with different solutions to a problem, before they find out what the customer really wants or needs. Ask questions and let the customer do the talking. Keep your ideas to yourself until you can turn that knowledge to your advantage. You should be paid for what you know the same as for drawings or estimates.
6. Don't take your customers out to make selections. Make up a selection list for your customers for their job. Compile a 3-ring binder, complete with products or services, names, addresses, phone numbers and maps. When it is time for the customer to make selections, send them on their way with your blessing. Unless you need to spend time standing in a showroom, let the customer make the selections and spend your time focusing on the next sale.
7. Don't itemize estimates unless you are paid for it. Provide "firm price quotations". It should be a lump sum figure, and if necessary, it should include allowances for specific items of work or product that will go into the job. If customers ask for itemization, tell them that you charge for itemization at the rate of $75.00 an hour, minimum of 4 hours. Get paid for what you do.
8. Ask for the order when you provide the firm price quotation. It is unbelievable how many sales people will spend hours with a customer, talking about everything, but never asking them to buy. Ask for the order at every opportunity. And if they want to buy before you have given them all the information that you think is necessary, put a cork on it and let them buy. Remember, you are going out to see the customer for one reason and only one reason; to get the order. Ask for it.
9. The biggest time waster - sending quotes or sketches by mail, fax or e-mail. Sales people who send quotes rather than making a presentation in person are afraid to be told "No". Get used to the idea, my friend, if you are in sales, you are going to be told "No". Top sales people get told "No" 2 out of 3 times. It is part of the business. If you can't handle being told "No", you need to find something else to do.
If the customer asks (or in some cases, tells) you to send your quote by mail, fax or e-mail, tell them "No". Plain and simple, if they won't spend the time to review your proposal with you, they are not worth your time to fuss with. The reality is they have asked you to do this because they don't want to do one of two things. They either don't want to make a decision or they don't want to tell you "No". Insist that your customer be willing to spend an hour to review your proposal and make a decision, or pass on the opportunity.
Copyright 2007 by Construction Programs and Results. All Rights Reserved. No part of this content may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, nor may any part be stored in a database or other electronic retrieval system, or any other website, without the prior written permission of CPR.
Michael Stone has more than three decades of experience in the building and remodeling industry. His new book, Profitable Sales, A Contractor's Guide was released in May of 2007. He also wrote the book Markup and Profit; A Contractor's Guide, published by Craftsman Book Co. Michael offers Coaching and Consulting services for construction companies throughout the U.S., as well as audio and CD programs for business management, and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached by phone at 1-888-944-0044 or at his website, www.markupandprofit.com