Selling is one of the least understood practices of communication. Many people are deluded or simply misunderstand the selling process, frequently assessing it as manipulation, chicanery, or worse. After years of researching sales in the remodeling industry, and after having examined hundreds of salespeople and surveyed thousands of buyers, I offer this interpretation: Whenever an interaction between two or more parties takes place for the purpose of establishing new ideas, exchanging goods or services, or developing a relationship, some form of selling will occur, and the skills of the communicator will determine the outcome.

Yet in your efforts to distance yourself from the many negative images of selling (a “tin man,” the obnoxious foot-in-the-door salesperson, or the stereotypical pushy car salesperson), you may be too passive in your selling approach and inadvertently avoid doing or saying things that would help the prospect trust you as a helping, caring, purveyor of services.

Be Understanding In remodeling, selling can be described as a problem-solving discussion between a contractor and a prospect that leads toward a meeting of minds that deepens the dependence of each on the other. Despite your intuition, you may be doing things that fail this purpose: Presenting ideas before you do a needs assessment, quoting prices in “ball-park” figures, giving prices over the phone, or even failing to ask for the prospect's business can cause a malfunction in the communication process.

Our surveys indicate that prospects most frequently purchase products or services based on the following:

  • The salesperson's credibility
  • Rapport with the salesperson
  • The salesperson's consideration of the prospect's value system
  • A unique quality product/service tailored to the prospect's needs
  • A product/service superior to most other options
  • The project's value as presented equaled or exceeded the price
  • The ease, simplicity of purchase, and perceived fulfillment
  • The seller (contractor) was a knowledgeable specialist
  • The seller (contractor) showed an interest in doing business with the prospect — and asked for the order

Yet all too often we hear this from prospective clients:

  • The contractor didn't call back at all or in a timely manner.
  • The contractor was so interested in the project that he or she asked little about our values or long-range goals.
  • The contractor kept reminding us how busy he was — as if he was doing us a favor by considering our project.
  • It took three weeks to get the requested references.
  • The contractor never asked us to make a decision to have his company do our job.

Although these things seem simple to remedy, most frequently the contractor will think in first person and will respond to these issues based on his or her own values, not the prospect's values, which increases the chances of a breakdown in communication.

Communication Skills It is universally agreed that if you develop rapport with the prospect, you have a better opportunity to have your ideas and proposals valued. Yet rapport is purely a state of mind that begins with feelings. You can create rapport by asking questions that clarify intent and purpose, by carefully listening to your prospects, and by using more second-person language (you, your) versus first person (I, we, me, my company).

By first building a relationship with prospects, your presentation, design ideas, and quality proposals will be better received. You will increase trust, which will help reduce many price objections and make it easier for prospects to say yes.

—Dave Yoho is president of Dave Yoho Associates, the oldest and largest consulting company in the industry ( His Home Improvement Profit Seminars ( will be held this year in conjunction with the Remodeling Show in October.