I interact with scores of remodelers, distributors, manufacturers, and vendors. All report a recent surge in inquiries and requests for quotes for projects and/or materials. They also tell me that sales are picking up slightly, but that many of the homeowners requesting quotes are not buying. This offers a huge opportunity for remodelers and the supply chain. The uptick in inquiries indicates a growing interest and consumer motivation to remodel. Though these consumers may not be ready to sign a contract today, they will eventually remodel. The question is when.
Buyers can’t, and won’t, sit still forever. They want to improve their living environments and their lives. The challenge is getting them to commit to spending the money to do so. Some have the money but are wary of spending it in an uncertain economy, or they lack the confidence to move forward. Others may want to go forward but are unable to borrow the money they need.
As I write this article, we are nearing what some are calling the most critical midterm election of our country’s history. Although this article won’t be published until after the election, I predict new leadership on both sides of the aisle will replace incumbents, bringing different views, goals, experiences, and ideas to move our economy forward.
Regardless of their party, these new leaders will likely be more fiscally conservative than what we have seen in recent years. More women will be in leadership positions. Also, although put off by the Democratic leadership before the election, there will eventually be a vote on the Bush tax credits. I believe the outcome of this vote will be critical to fostering small-business growth and giving owners the confidence to spend money and hire employees. If small-business owners gain confidence, more people will return to work, banks will be more likely to lend, and consumers will eventually be more confident about borrowing and spending money — and it’s likely they will spend some of that money on remodeling.
Opportunity Knocks Again
Hopefully, the election results will stimulate economic improvements and the new leadership will demand strategies and policies that protect and enhance economic improvements and consumer confidence. If you see this happening, don’t just try to attract new business, be sure to ask for the business of those who have interacted with you but have not yet purchased. You’ve already paid for and earned these leads and done most of the work required to close the sale. Rather than selling, estimating, and preparing proposals for new prospects, reach out to past prospects and recoup your investment. After Sept. 11, I did this in my business, and the results were great.
Send out “second-chance mailings” to past prospects to see if they completed the project and if they have not, let them know that you’re still very interested in working with them. Many of these homeowners may be afraid to call you back because they didn’t buy from you. Others may have completed the project but were disappointed with the remodeler or the results. Sending them a mailing, in addition to positive economic news, might just be the spark they need to move forward. Or, for quicker results, call them and ask for their business.
If you add up all the dollars in the quotes and proposals you did not sell during the past two years, you’ll probably find that that total sum represents at least two to three times last year’s sales volume. Capturing just a small percentage of this work may make the difference for your business success in 2010.
In 2011, you might also be pleasantly surprised that you fill up the first quarter, which is typically the slowest sales period for most remodelers. With the pent-up demand for new leadership in Washington — and if the new leadership brings positive results for small business — I predict that the suppressed demand for remodeling will soon turn into current demand for remodelers and their services. Don’t let your pent-up disappointments and frustration with the recession prevent you from capturing the opportunities that may now be in front of you.
—Shawn McCadden founded, operated, and sold a successful design/build company. A co-founder of the Residential Design/Build Institute and former director of education for a national K&B remodeling franchise, Shawn speaks at industry events and consults with remodeling companies. firstname.lastname@example.org.