For all the complexity inherent in green remodeling, ignorance may be bliss when it comes to successfully selling its benefits to homeowners.

Kristen Speights

In his funny and provocative presentation, sales and leadership trainer Michael Hoffman underscored some fundamentals of successful selling that are just as applicable to green remodeling as to any other significant purchase. Phrased bluntly, "You don't know jack" about why individual homeowners want to go green, Hoffman said.

To understand prospective clients' motivations ? and to build value for your green remodeling proposition - you must ask good questions, listen carefully to their answers, and match their wants and needs to the specific benefits you can provide, preferably using their own words gleaned from the conversation.

The One-Percenters

Borrowing from the practices of the top "one-percenters" of sales, Hoffman observed that "the smartest thing a salesperson can do is to walk into someone's house saying 'I don't know'" what that individual wants in their home. If you're not careful, he said, your ideas about why homeowners want a green remodel will get in the way of your sale. "Before you start telling about your stuff, ask about their stuff," he said.

Besides the simple matter of connecting with homeowners on an emotional level, this probing-and-listening approach simplifies what could otherwise be an overwhelmingly complicated discussion of the many issues involved in green remodeling, Hoffman said.

Rather than unleashing everything you know about green ? or guessing what about it might resonate with the homeowner ? "pick a few cards from your deck" based on what they tell you. "Pull out your best hand," Hoffman said.

Four Basic Steps

Here are some of Hoffman's suggestions for connecting with homeowners on the matter of green remodeling.

Start a conversation. Bonding and rapport begin with your questions. What are you trying to accomplish? What made you give us a call? What don't you like about your home? What do they find valuable about building green, if anything?

Kristen Speights

Dig deeper, and get them thinking. One remodeler told Hoffman that when he's asked, "Do you build green?" his response was: "Well, what does green mean to you?" That's a great response, Hoffman noted, as different people will have vastly different reasons for being interested in green remodeling.

Listen and assess. If your conversation is at the prospect's home, have a "walk-around," Hoffman said. Use that homeowner-guided tour to get real, living details about what they might want or need, such as healthier air for their family, more consistent sleeping temperatures, windows that don't leak air or rattle, or lower utility bills.If energy efficiency is one of your strengths, assess their needs. "Tell me about your HVAC system," you might say. Or ask, "How are your energy bills?"

Capture and sock away for your presentation "power phrases," Hoffman said. By "power phrases," he means the personal wants and needs that your prospective client is hoping you'll solve. For instance, Hoffman recounted his own purchase, years before, of a very expensive cell phone. The salesperson captured phrases such as "being on the road is costing me business," these are "missed opportunities," and "I need to save my marriage" by being more in touch with his wife while traveling. By weaving them into his presentation, Hoffman's reaction was that the salesperson had exactly what he needed.

Listen more, talk less. "Here's a tip: Shut up! They're giving you gold," Hoffman said.

Lead them through a presentation. When you're ready to present, focus on what the prospect finds valuable about green. Emphasize his or her needs, and underscore how what you offer connects with those needs. Don't just focus on the features and benefits, Hoffman warned. Focus on the personal benefits to that person.

Kristen Speights

A key means to making this connection successfully is using the homeowner's words ? his or her power phrases and anecdotes. "Use their words; don't interpret," Hoffman said. "One-percenters add Mr. and Mrs. Jones' own verbiage to the presentation."

Wrapping Up

Hoffman's fourth and final step is to secure the sale. One-sit sales are rare in major remodeling projects, but ending the conversation on a note of mutual agreement - that the two of you should think about doing business together - is a major step toward actually doing just that.

If they're noncommittal or hesitant about the next step, continue to talk. Ask more questions, learn more about them, and help them understand where the two of you may connect. Remember, Hoffman said, "the one-percenters don't know jack."

Learn more about Michael Hoffman at

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