Selling can be a truly misunderstood skill. Contracting has suffered from the “tin men” image and many contractors mistakenly think you have to cheat or misinform people to be a successful salesperson.
Selling is nothing more than good communication. You have something to offer the customer. Selling is your ability to communicate and help the customer make the correct choice.
With today’s bombardment of information, knowing what to buy can be very difficult for the consumer. Your ability to communicate with consumers and help them make the correct choice is very important. I have serious doubts whether a few words in an article can make you a better salesperson but the following checklist offers some tips you can use:
“If it were my house, I would ...” The customer called you because you are the expert. Giving him options and talking with him as if it were your house makes sense. This is particularly useful when applied by technicians and field people.
Good, better, best offerings. One of the best ways to educate the consumer is to offer more than one choice. This is like one contractor giving the customer three bids. Naturally, if you offer choices, the customer is going to want to know what is included with each of those choices. This gives you more chances to talk about your products and services.
Ask probing questions. Too many contractors and technicians offer their advice instead of asking questions. This is one of the most difficult skills for service technicians to master. Many individuals are simply not comfortable asking questions. The best way to start is with a qualifying statement such as, “So that we can better serve you, I would like to obtain some basic information.” Then proceed with a series of questions that focus on lifestyle:
How long have you lived in the house?
How long do you plan to continue living in the house?
Does anyone living in the house have any special health or living requirements?
Is the house vacant during the day or is someone home most of the time?
The more you find out about your customer, the more likely you can design a system that will meet his needs. The more the customer talks, the more the customer buys.
If you go to the doctor, the doctor first asks you a series of questions that gather information and offer insight into the problem. If the doctor does not ask such questions, he is thought to have a poor bedside manner. You will find that contractors too can benefit from having a good bedside manner.
Listen for buying signals. Customers will give you hints. Listen to them. My wife and I had a new heating system installed. I called two contractors I know. Being the smart husband and not wanting to make the final decision by myself, I let my wife talk to them. During the conversation, my wife mentioned the need for more storage space. The contractor suggested that a package unit could be used and the old equipment area left vacant for a closet. That contractor got the job. Most people will not tell you directly what they need but will hint at the truth. Asking questions and, better yet, answering questions with a question, is a great way to encourage the customer to talk while gathering the information you need.
Think of the cat and dog hunting. The cat is a great hunter because he stalks, watches, listens. The dog makes a lot of noise, runs around aimlessly and catches little. Sell like a cat, not a dog. Learn to listen, watch your customer’s body language. Encourage your customer to talk.
Emotionally involve your customer. Selling is more than talking and listening. Show customers the job and unit they have now. Explain what you are going to do. Let them look at brochures. Bring a thermostat so they can touch and feel it.
Learn to negotiate without taking it personally. Too many contractors equate a customer trying to obtain a lower price with the customer not believing his workmanship is of value. Some customers simply want to get a good deal and will test you. Negotiating is a skill you must learn and, like any other skill, will take practice. Some standard comebacks are: When the customer says that the price is too high, agree with him with a comment such as, “Yes, everything that is any good today seems to cost a lot,” and continue like it never happened.
When the customer offers less money, consider playing good guy/bad guy with a statement like, “I would love to lower my price but I just gave all my guys a raise because it is hard to keep good people.” Offer a reason or “bad guy” back to them.
Consider offering the quality close: “At Acme Heating and Air, we decided it was better to charge a little more than to deal with the problems that cutting corners causes. We have been in business in this neighborhood for 14 years and would like to do your work.”
Everyone in the company sells. The sale begins with the initial phone call. Was the receptionist or dispatcher helpful? Did the person calling get the impression your organization is successful, professional and the company to solve his problem?
All too often the person answering the phone wears a lot of hats and he must be reminded that customer interaction is the most important part of his job. What about field people? Foremen, technicians and installers should all see themselves as salespeople. They should be uniformed, courteous and schooled in day-to-day service basics. Have you trained your service people? Do they feel comfortable talking to the customer?
Selling today is more important than ever. We are in a very transient society. Many of us do not even know our neighbors. A contractor can no longer rely merely on his good reputation and name to pass through a neighborhood.
Today’s contractor must be able to communicate the company’s services. If you cannot clearly communicate why you are the best choice, customers will always pick price.