Move customers up a rung or two by emphasizing durability and investment in the home. Mike Bodkins, president of PAPI (Professionally Applied Products Inc.), an exterior remodeling company in Des Moines, La., estimates he upsells siding products 90% of the time. Until last June, most of the siding he sold was vinyl, with an occasional fiber cement installation as part of a larger remodel or new construction. Then Bodkins took on a steel siding franchise, to round the company's product offering out with what he considers the "premium siding." On sales calls, Bodkins moves prospects to steel or upper-end vinyl by pointing out "why I would personally choose the upper-end product." He links that tohomequity and the long-term value of siding as an investment.

Durability: A strong argument

Jim Morando, sales manager of the Acri Company in Milan, Ill., says there's a roughly 125% price difference between the least expensive vinyl siding his company installs and its most expensive vinyl. Convincing clients to go for the upper end is a matter of comparing product quality. That can be tricky.

"A lot of times the value of the product is a real hard thing to transmit, because, let's face it, most vinyl siding looks the same," Morando says. Selling upper-end vinyl products, he says, is a matter of pointing out the relative durability of those lines and grades: more vinyl, less air.

"One of the biggest problems is that after it's on a while, (low cost) vinyl siding will start to wave, and the seams will start to separate." One technique Morando uses is to compare siding to vinyl flooring -- where there is as much as a 300% difference between low-end and high-end product. Upper-price point flooring is impervious to ultraviolet penetration and resists scratching from chairs. "Why should vinyl siding be any different?"

Kaycan Vinyl Siding Consultative selling Michael Houar, owner of Hawaiian Repair and Remodeling on Maui, Hawaii, suggests one good way of upselling is to sell homeowners an "exterior remodel" as opposed to a simple siding job. To do that, Houar shows prospective clients the product and what the house will look like when it's finished. "I show them variegated siding, different combinations of trim -- soffit, fascia, and windows using special-sized corners."

Houar says consultative selling is a much more effective method of upselling vinyl lines. In his case, the price difference between a "bare bones" vinyl siding job on a small house vs. the step-up variegated siding can be anywhere from 20% to 40%, depending on the color and manufacturer. "We don't do many bare bones siding jobs."

To sell up, he suggests the following:

Tell the truth. Be open about your pricing and be prepared to justify cost differences between different products and grades of product.

Talk value. Remind homeowners to consider not only their dollar outlay but what they're getting back in home equity and enhanced resale value.

Build credibility. Houar supplies clients with an extensive list of past clients and projects, some residential, some commercial. "So we immediately let them know we are going to provide a professional service and work in a professional manner."

Listen. Focus on the client's goals. Other than basic shelter, what are they looking for out of their exterior remodel? Use that information to differentiate yourself from competitors.

Houar's system works well for him. "If you take that approach, you may miss a few sales, but you'll have a better quality client, and a higher return on projects."