I’d been watching people sell home improvement for a few years and figured I was ready. I told the guy I canvassed for that I wanted to run a lead.

Ready is one thing, prepared is another.

I get to the prospect’s house to find the homeowner, a middle-aged guy, cooking soup.

“I need the soffit and fascia fixed,” he says. “I’ve got birds and squirrels coming in up there” — meaning the attic, of course.

I tell him I’ll give him a price for replacing and one for repairing the soffit. I tell him about the company, the work we do. Eventually I get to the walk-around part of my presentation and tell him I’ll be back in a few minutes with the price. My plan was just to throw a number out and see if he’d bite. At the time, I had no idea how to measure up a soffit job.

But suddenly he’s saying no, he wants to come with me.

Lacking Information

We’re out there on the porch and I have my measuring tape. I ask him to hold the tape while I inspect the situation.

“Where’s the soffit?” he says.

I point to the soffit.

“How do you measure it? Inches? Feet? Yards?”

I don’t actually know, but I tell him it’s measured by the foot.

“Is that part of the soffit?” he says, pointing somewhere.

He’s asking all these questions; most of which I couldn’t honestly answer. Here I figured I could wing it.

“You really don’t know how to measure soffit, do you?” he says, back at the kitchen table.

I say, of course I know how.

“How much is it per square foot?” he asks.

I don’t have an answer, so I tell him I’ll work up a number and get back to him.

I leave the house humiliated.

And then I take that humiliation and I do something with it: I decide that nothing like that is ever going to happen again. I make a point of educating myself on soffits, how they are built, what they do, why they’re there. Vented and unvented.

Charm Doesn’t Sell

Many salespeople believe that even if they know a minimal amount about the product they’re selling, they can always get by on charm.

Charm’s not what sells. What sells is the ability to think and feel like a prospect.

The prospect is interested in the product for a reason. Find out what the reason is and go from there. Yes, you can talk too much about your product — we all know people who put homeowners to sleep that way — but you can’t know too much about your product.

This has always been true, but it’s even more true today because chances are good that if all you, the salesperson, know about that product is what’s contained in the manufacturer’s brochure or what you’ve read about it on the website, then your prospect knows at least that much and you’re merely repeating what they already know. And just how confidence-building would that be? —Grant Winstead operates the Success Sales System That Never Fails, designed to help home improvement owners and salespeople close at higher rates and “put more profits in your pocket.” Reach him at grant.winstead62@gmail.com or 703.728.4966.