Mark Robert Halper Photography

The current economic situation has resulted in a scarcity of leads, smaller average job size, and an extended sales process. Addressing these issues requires new strategies, and that means putting things into proper perspective. A technique that I have found useful is to compare the client of today with clients of three to five years ago to see what the differences can teach us.

Three to five years ago, your clients were confident; today, they are nervous. Back then, they were spending “other people’s money”; today, credit is tight and they are spending their own hard-earned cash. Your clients used to adopt a “keeping up with the Joneses” disposition; today, they take pride in conservation and are activists about consuming less.

Three to five years ago, you could create a sense of urgency simply by educating homeowners about the effects of seasonal price increases, holiday disruptions, and kids’ vacation schedules; today, instead of building on the excitement of what it will be like to have the project completed, it is all you can do to get people to render a firm decision about a project, whether it’s a yes or a no.

Remodelers today need to invent other ways to move their prospects from “Let me think about it” to “Let’s do it.” In the face of the barrage of bad news in the popular media these days, remodelers need to be the “voice of reason,” the sage and therapist who can guide homeowners through tough decisions.

Here are three strategies that can create a sense of urgency in today’s market:

Become A Contrarian

Whatever you used to do, do the opposite. Three to five years ago, you would “upsell” and your clients were eager to learn about higher-quality options and would get even more excited about moving forward. Today you need to “sell down,” presenting clients with less-expensive options. Most manufacturers have several product lines at different price points, and your prospects will appreciate being given a choice rather than being sold the best of the best.

Focus on The Home, Not the Homeowner

The second way to create a sense of urgency is to focus more on the needs of the house than on the dreams of the client.

As you tour the home discussing the intended project, take note of maintenance and repair issues that need to be addressed now. You may notice peeling paint on the front porch that could lead to rot; poor drainage that may cause some future water problems; or some electrical items that don’t meet code and could be a potential safety hazard.

When you sit down to summarize the scope of work, suggest that these kinds of issues get addressed right away, even if the larger project is still being discussed. Not only will you create work for your team, but your clients will become less nervous as they watch their greatest asset improve.

Stress How, Not What

Focus on how your client buys, not what they buy. Imagine a restaurant that only offered “all you can eat.” While that may be a good value, it may not be what diet-conscious customers want.

Most remodelers offer one way of doing business — for example, they work either on a fixed price or a cost-plus agreement. Instead, suggest that there are many ways to work together, depending on the clients’ risk tolerance and their desire to participate in the process. You will discover that some clients today find this flexibility refreshing. More importantly, it is often just what the doctor ordered to get them off the dime.

If using these three strategies helped to get you one more job out of 10, imagine what that would do not just for your bottom line, but for future leads and overall morale. The stormy waters are a given right now, but how you go about adjusting your course is where success or failure lies. Many remodelers are having successful years by turning away from past thinking.

—Mark Richardson is the author of How Fit Is Your Business? and is co-chairman of Case and The Case Institute of Remodeling;; 301.229.9580.

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