We are not far removed from the era in which it seemed every sales rep could recite from memory Alec Baldwin’s electrifying “Always Be Closing” speech from the 1992 movie Glengarry Glen Ross. A salesman I worked with even used a snippet of it as his answering machine message. Watch the speech on YouTube and you’ll learn several keys to good selling, even as you’re repelled by the amorality of a guy who’s bullwhipping his team to peddle real estate lots of dubious quality to people who can’t afford to buy them.

Home improvement firms have their own reputation issues—remember the aluminum siding salesmen in Tin Men? But for the most part, remodelers’ main problem with sales isn’t that they’re too slick at what they do, it’s that they’re bad at it.

We hear regularly about remodelers who never call back homeowners who are soliciting their services. Too many deals get made without contracts being signed. And surveys indicate that a big share of customers downgrade the service they got because remodelers don’t communicate as well as they should.

That’s all logical; lots of remodelers got into the business because they like to work on projects, not close a sale. But a reason is not an excuse. The bottom line is that selling is the most important thing you do as a remodeling company owner—even more important than doing the actual remodeling work yourself. As you grow from a one-man shop and begin to hire people, odds are that some of the first people you’ll bring in are the carpenters and project managers who will take over the remodeling tasks. Then will come office managers and support staff. Meanwhile, sales is likely to be the responsibility you’ll keep longest. So it makes sense to get good at it.

This issue’s feature package aims to teach you many of the things that are most likely to help you succeed in an art for which you may not have had either training or a natural gift. Use this package to supplement the assets you do already have that will help you succeed. The first of these is the knowledge of remodeling that you brought with you when you started the company; customers need to feel that you know what it’ll take to fix up their house. The second of these is enthusiasm. If you love remodeling (and we presume you do), then showing that joy is a great way to build trust with prospects.

Then add to those built-in qualities the craft of salesmanship. Great sellers don’t just ask questions, they hone those questions into devices that engage customers, putting them into a frame of mind most likely to buy from you. They develop an order of presentation that trial and error has found to produce the best results. They use verbal jiu-jitsu to turn potentially deal-breaking questions like “Can I buy the materials myself?” into opportunities to explain why their approach is best. Above all, they don’t so much make a sale as they establish a relationship with a customer that is strong enough to withstand the craziness that comes standard with major remodeling jobs.

There are many sales models, including the up-and-coming approach championed by social media companies like TaskRabbit and Porch.com to let them pick and schedule the service provider. But even electronic sales have a process.

Of the face-to-face techniques, the “Always Be Closing” approach is the most infamous. Yes, it can succeed in the short term, but it’s deadly if you want to stay in the same business and in the same town for anything longer than a year. Instead, aim to sell yourself as a person who solves problems and fixes dilemmas, someone who makes peoples’ homes not just livable but better. It’s Sales 101 for people who weren’t born to sell.

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