Not all contractors like to sell, but if you’re in the home improvement business you don’t have much choice. After all, you can’t schedule jobs unless someone buys them. Many contractors rely on instinct, experience, and luck in landing new business. Some, on the other hand, use a selling system: a methodical, step-by-step conversation that introduces the company and the product to the homeowner. Such a system, owners and consultants say:  

  • Let’s you sell the value. Without a selling system, “the only way you can compete is price, and that’s going to be a low price,” says well-known sales trainer Rodney Webb, whose consulting business works with 32 home improvement companies in the U.S. and Canada. A system enables the salesperson to tout the company’s quality and reputation, uncover needs, and propose a solution for those needs. 
  • Establishes professionalism.If you’re selling against one-truck operators pitching price, a system where everything is scripted sets your company apart. “The biggest benefit of a selling system,” says Brian Brock, general manager of Hullco Exteriors, a Chattanooga, Tenn., home improvement company, “is that you’re prepared and buttoned up.” A second, he says, is that it “keeps you on track so you don’t forget pertinent information. Otherwise, you may forget a key benefit, and that benefit may be the one that wins the homeowner over.”
  • Makes it possible to tactfully respond to objections. For many, this is the big one. Home improvement salespeople who wing it can find themselves left suddenly speechless by homeowner objections such as “that sounds like a lot of money” or “our neighbor paid substantially less.” Such comments can throw the entire tone of the sales appointment off. On the other hand, if the seller has a means to anticipate objections and respond in a way that eliminates suspicion and allays doubt, then he or she has a far better chance of proceeding with the appointment and moving on to the close.
  • Gets you where you want to go in the conversation. “Without a map, you can’t locate your destination,” says Aaron Magden sales manager for Window Nation, a multi-branch window replacement company based in Maryland. The step-by-step sales system Window Nation trains its salespeople in will take them to “the final conclusion,” i.e., a price on the table that doesn’t induce sticker shock. Sequential steps allow sellers to “gain commitments” as they move through the conversation, “which allows for a smoother transition to the close.” Difficulties arise, Magden says, when salespeople skip steps. He compares it to a recipe: “You miss one simple ingredient and the pie won’t taste like it should.” 
  • Provides a means to plan for growth. “Everybody hopes to own a business and not a job,” says sales and marketing consultant Tony Hoty. “And the path is the math.” When you sell the same way every time, you create a basis to predict how many appointments will convert to actual revenue and can plan for growth. So for instance, if you’re closing one out of every three appointments, you know how many additional leads you need to hit a certain sales target. “If you go strictly on instinct, it makes it far more unpredictable,” Hoty says. If you use a system, he says, “you can budget for the future.”