He’s the second-generation owner of a home improvement business founded by his parents, immigrants from Korea. The business specializes in windows, siding, roofing, kitchens, and baths. He sells as well as manages the sales force. Last year, his own sales topped seven figures.

Up to this point, he’d had no formal sales training and his selling system amounted to show-and-tell, then close on the price. With this strategy, he was closing about one out of every three deals.

He wants more sales for his company, including sales to the growing number of immigrant homeowners in his market. My job, as sales trainer, was to ride with him, evaluate the call, and provide feedback. We agree ahead of time that he’ll take the lead on the appointment and I’ll say nothing—unless I see a need to step in.

On The Call
The lead slip says that it’s a window replacement job. A young man with an accent answers the bell. He invites us in and calls his father down. The father, from Ghana, says that there’s something wrong with the windows. Without asking who else may need to be there, the salesperson jumps right in on the needs assessment. What he doesn’t know—or chooses to ignore—is that there are actually two parties involved in this buying decision: the husband and the wife. The wife is at home, but the salesperson neglects to invite her into the conversation.

Only when I suggest that he do does he invite her into the conversation. She sits down for a few minutes and then, somewhat agitated, she leaves. We step outside to look at and measure the windows. The windows seem fine and the salesperson/sales manager, responding to what seems like a lack of clear purpose on the part of the homeowner, says: “I can’t sell these people.” I tell him that when you convince yourself that you’re not going to get the sale, then you’re not going to get the sale.

Identify The Actual Need
Now we’re back inside and the wife’s re-joined the conversation. She’s got a piece of paper in her hand and she’s talking to her husband and their son in the language of their native Ghana. She’s fired up. Observing all of this, the salesperson says to me that there’s no way anything like a contract is going to come out of this sales call.

I indicate that he needs to find out what the wife’s issue is. He seems reluctant, so I step in. I look at her and say: “Is there a problem?” She says: “Yes,” and hands me the paper.

The paper is a notice from the local homeowners association calling attention to rotted wood around the doors and windows of the house and fixing a deadline date for having these taken care of. If they’re not taken care of, the homeowners will be fined. She takes me out to the back of the house and shows me the rotted wood. They’ve already talked with two contractors and failed to even get a price. Can the company replace it? Of course. Now with the problem identified, we leave with a contract for $5,500.

The growing number of minority or immigrant homeowners in today’s market frequently makes for a different kind of selling environment. More than ever it’s necessary to read between the lines and expect something very different. Why are salespeople who can’t learn to leave their beliefs, expectations, and differences at the door surprised when they lose the sale?

—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 [email protected] or 703.728.4966.