Think of Tom Rousseau as a surgeon for corporations with a specialty in marketing diseases. REMODELING's parent company hired him a few years ago as executive vice president of strategic marketing services. In that job, he helps our sales team diagnose and cure sales ailments at building product manufacturers. But while Rousseau’s clientele often counts its revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars, his way of looking at trouble in the corporate body can help cure what ails you, too.

Rousseau’s first advice is to stop trying to diagnose yourself with that standard question “What keeps you up at night?” Instead, ask “Where does it hurt when I try to sell my services?” Odds are, Rousseau says, you feel pain in one of four areas:

  • Brand identity: It could be that you’re having trouble selling because customers lack a clear idea of what you do for a living. Does the name of your company accurately tell what your business does? Are you a generalist or do you specialize in just one product or service? And do you make that difference clear? Judging by Michael Stone’s recent column, too many remodelers try to sell themselves as a Jack-of-all-trades.
  • Thought leadership: Do customers regard you as some sort of interchangeable part, or do they understand that you bring special skills and years of knowledge to a job? It’s been shown again and again that the more highly you’re regarded, the higher a premium you can charge. Elsewhere on this website, when Paul Winans answers the question “What’s Your Markup?” he spends much of his time giving a step-by-step guide on how to explain what you do in a way that builds confidence with the customer—and thus enables you to collect that markup. What can you do to show that you know your stuff?
  • Product marketing: What is it about your company that you promote? Is it your expertise? Your free estimates? Your 24-hour always-on-call attitude? Your willingness to take on jobs that others wouldn’t touch? Look at your truck, your signs, your business card, and your website. Do any of them state clearly and memorably what makes you worth hiring?
  • Channel marketing: What do you use to promote yourself? Perhaps you rely on word-of-mouth alone. What would happen to your revenue if you supplemented that sales technique with a Pinterest or Facebook or Houzz page? With signs outside the homes where you do jobs, or appearances at home shows, or advertising, or a newsletter?

Remember, Rousseau cures marketing ills, so if your sales problems are the result of lousy operations or bad products, see a different specialist. But I’m willing to bet that image promotion and marketing lie at the heart of more sales problems than a lot of remodelers would admit. We’re the people who were taught the importance of hard work and a good heart. But we also should remember the lesson implicit in the “Peanuts” cartoon when Charlie Brown trudges home after a defeat asking “How can we lose when we’re so sincere?”

Perhaps the truth, Charlie Brown, is that you didn’t have all that good a pitch.