Mark Robert Halper

One of the most common questions salespeople in the remodeling industry ask me is “How do I create a sense of urgency?” In general terms, these salespeople are asking how to move their prospects from “do nothing” to “do something” mode. We teach specific factors — such as your company’s scheduling availability, pending price increases, and seasonal issues related to weather or labor — in our sales training that can help to push the pendulum toward getting the prospect to proceed with a project. In a strong economy, some of these reasons are all it takes to spur homeowners to act immediately.

In the present economic environment, however, many salespeople find that these reasons don’t work as well. New strategies — what I call the “new sense of urgency” — are required, and need to be practiced and mastered.

The Need, Not the Wish List

The first new strategy is to focus on the “need” not the “fantasy.” Five years ago, fantasy projects and purchases were the norm. A salesperson was, in many ways, an order-taker along for the ride as clients added layer upon layer to their wish list. The real work began with making the fantasy a reality.

Today, however, although your clients still enjoy fantasizing, they are not willing to make the financial commitment. The successful salesperson must be the voice of reason, keeping dreams alive but focusing the sale on immediate needs. For example, a prospect who calls you for a kitchen project and a deck with a hot tub and a gazebo may need to be steered toward doing just the kitchen; the other components can become part of a master plan for future phases of work. By thinking about the project in bite-size pieces, you keep the budget under control and reduce your clients’ fear.

The Home, Not the Owner

The second new strategy is to focus on the house rather than the client. In a strong market, relationship selling is not only more fulfilling but also more effective. The project itself is often secondary to the process of creating a bond with the homeowner. Unfortunately, in today’s market, relationship selling may win you some new friends, but the sale might be put on the backburner.

Although relationship building is still important — I believe most of your prospects are being honest about wanting to work with you — the sense of urgency and, ultimately, the sale, will come from attention paid to the needs of the house. Returning to the kitchen project mentioned above, for example, if during your visit you invest energy into looking at other parts of the house, you may discover peeling paint, rotted wood, inefficient HVAC equipment, or other projects that need to be tackled right away to protect the client’s most important asset.

By widening your lens to include these buying opportunities and encouraging your clients to tackle them first, you are not only giving your clients sound advice but you are one step closer to making the sale.

The Risk, Not the Stuff

A third new strategy that can create a sense of urgency in today’s marketplace is to focus on managing risk. There is a lot of uncertainty in the news these days and, though your clients may not voice their concerns about it outwardly, they are interested in reducing risk. By being proactive and raising the issue, you demonstrate that you recognize their concerns and are prepared to find solutions that remove any remodeling needs from their list of worries.

For example, you might introduce the concept of risk reduction into discussions around specific solutions. Or you might invite comparisons by drawing a parallel between other investments your client might be making and the return on investment they can expect from your product or service. Discussing risk may not be as sexy as talking about design elements or product selections, but it will help make your prospect feel more comfortable. And in this business climate, that leads to sales.

Formulas and established processes are critical to success in anything you do. But it is also important to keep your ear to the ground and adjust your formulas as required by changing circumstances. As I travel around the country speaking to salespeople, I find that between 10% to 20% of them are reporting record years, despite the tough economy. If you can weave in the new strategies described above, you will find yourself among the top group of companies that continue to make it happen.

— Mark Richardson is president of Case Design/Remodel and author of the new book How Fit Is Your Business?