Photo: Mark Rubens

Homeowners make a lot of decisions when determining what to buy. When what they're buying is a home improvement project, there are tons of decisions, not just for all the products involved, but also they are deciding on your company, the salesperson, making determinations on pricing and timing, and they make all these decisions while comparing what they are hearing and seeing from all the home improvement companies that have been to their home. Every salesperson they encounter is trying to raise the level of perceived value of their total offering in the eyes of the customer. How will you stand out in this customer's mind? I contend that you do this by telling a good story. Every time you sell a project, you are telling a story, not only about your company, but if you do it right, about other companies, as well.

This column will discuss some methods you may find useful when telling your company story. Specifically, I will focus on one concept that is sometimes overlooked: how to layer your company story to include all the products you sell. The three layers to a company story are the manufacturer of the product, the distributor that you as contractor, or the company you work for, buy from, and the home improvement company you work for.

Product Manufacturer: Who manufacturers the product/products you sell? Do you have a story on these manufacturers - why you buy from them and what it means to the homeowner? What’s their quality story? What manufacturing qualifications do they have? How do they warrant their products, etc.?

The book “Differentiate or Die” by Jack Trout has a chapter titled “Heritage is a Differentiating Idea”. In this context heritage means the length of time a company has been in business. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only 25% of new companies remain in business for 15 years or more. This sort of negates the benefit of a life-time warranty, wouldn’t you think? If the manufacturer has a long history, tout it, to further differentiate your story. That brings up another thought: Don’t just tell people how long a company has been in business – show them. Let’s say I represent a company that’s been in business since 1946 (full transparency, I do work for a company that started in 1946). I could tell a potential customer that my company has been in business for 65 years, or I could say that when my company opened the doors, Harry Truman was President of the United States, gas cost 15 cents a gallon and you could buy a loaf of bread for a dime. This will make for a more impactful message that resonates on a deeper level with your customers. That's the basis of a good story.

Distributor: Where you buy the products you sell can also add credibility to your value message. Why have you chosen that specific distributor? What do they do that’s different from others in the market? How does this positively impact your customer? Things like inventory levels, knowledge & experience of the staff, delivery capabilities, service after the sale, trust, relationships, how you get assistance when needed to expedite solutions to issues that arise, are all areas you could explore in delivering a more well-rounded value message of your total offering to your customers. In most instances, you must buy products from one distributor or another in your market, and most of your competition is in the same boat. There is a solid chance that your competitor will never mention where they buy products - add this layer onto your overall message to pack more muscle into your company story.

Local Contracting Company: Most of you probably already have a good story for this portion. For many, it’s probably been the bulk of, if not the complete company story. Things to consider here are, years in business, number of local customers served, certifications or awards, testimonials etc. From the beginning of humankind, we have ran in packs and banded together for safety and survival. That instinct is still very strong today. If it’s good enough for my neighbor, relative, friend, or Facebook connection, then it’s good enough for me. This develops a deeper level of trust and feeling of safety in making a large purchase decision, so consider including this information in your company story.
Strengthen your overall company message by layering all three of these elements into your overall company story. Customers are looking for reason to buy from you as opposed to another home improvement company in the market. The more effective you are at telling your company story helps them see the reasons why you are different. This also lessens the price pressure you will feel when it comes time to ask for the order. So, layer that company story and see if you can close some business!