Written by Ari Greenbaum, Co-founder of conXpros
The contracting business is highly competitive when it comes to winning new customers. We have all experienced our fair share of winning and often, and equal or greater share of losing. My goal in this article is to share some personal experiences and offer suggestions that will prove that the answer to the question above is not only FACT, but we can remove the “should expect” and focus on “You should close the deal on the first visit.” The only fiction is those that believe they NEED multiple visits to win business. When you present yourself, your company, and your service as the absolute best and only option to meet the customer’s needs, the deals start piling up. Here are the rules:
Rule #1: Never be the first company the customer meets!
This is one of the most often ignored rules of successfully closing deals on your first visit. As consumers we are programmed to shop for the best value or deal. Naturally, home owners feel that they need to weigh their options as they would with any important purchase decision. When you are the first estimate or bid they are receiving, it is practically impossible to close the deal. In fact, you are setting yourself up for failure. Understanding that the customer will want to see other options, make sure that they have already seen them when it is your turn to visit. It is much easier to build value and differentiate yourself from your competition when your competitors have already shown their hand.
I have been in customer’s homes as a Heating & Cooling consultant representing the best company and products on the market. Regardless of the report I built with the potential client and how exceptional my presentation, company reputation and product were, I never closed a deal on a first call when I was the first contractor in the door. Of course, there were the occasional surprise deals when I followed up with these customers, but they were a rarity. On the other hand, when I was the second or third pro at the home, my closing rates skyrocketed. The client was able to understand the value I was offering and could feel comfortable with the decisions I guided them to make.
It is essential to set great appointments. This includes 2 critical factors; all parties present and making sure you are not the first appointment. To help ensure that you are meeting after they have met with other companies, you can ask simple questions such as “what days/times are you scheduling your estimates for this project?”. Based on the response, aim to get yourself scheduled at the end of the day or window they are setting up appointments. I suggest taking this one step further and before you head to your scheduled appointment calling the client to check in. You can ask if anything has changed with the project based on other meetings that you could know in advance to make sure you are bringing them the right information/tools/samples. If they indicate that they have not yet met with anyone else, you would be better served making every effort to reschedule your appointment for a time AFTER they have met with others. This takes some fancy footwork, but the rewards are worth it.
Rule #2: Assume the sale
I have seen many people apply the concept of assuming the sale far too late in the process. They typically wait until already in the selling process and “feeling out the client” before gaining the confidence that leads to assumption of a deal. I employ a different approach. Assuming the sale starts before you ring the doorbell. You must approach the appointment with the proper mindset in order to walk out with a signed contract. Providing you are prepared for your presentation, the focus can be on building the rapport with the client, listening to understand their needs, and helping them understand why you are the best and only option to meet their specific needs. Knowing that the customer has already seen other companies should give you the confidence to show them direct contrasts of you and your company vs what they have already seen. Remember, the client wants to hire & get this project done. Assume that they will hire you & give them every reason to make that a reality.
Rule #3: Persistence pays
There are huge differences between persistence and pushy. We have all experienced a pushy sales person at some point in our lives. Was it a pleasant experience? Did you purposely not buy even if you wanted or needed what they were selling? However, when you truly believe and are passionate about what you are selling (I sure hope that you believe in your own company and product/service), to convey that belief and passion to the prospective customer is the key to the art to effective persistence. There are many techniques you can apply to close the deal, but persistence is a core competency of every successful closer. If you have effectively listened and understood the needs and wants of the client, given a masterful presentation of your services, and are competitively priced, what logical reason could prevent the deal from moving forward? It is the client’s job to consider their options and weigh the pros and cons of each. It is your job to move the client past the nervousness of commitment to a yes. Make sure that you have many solutions available for the client’s possible holdups. Payment or financing options, product or material variations, buy now incentivization are all excellent tools to help solve the problems and get the deal done today. Unless there is a truly valid and logical reason to leave that customer’s home without a deal, dig in! Sales is problem solving. Every client has a need and a problem to solve. If they are not saying yes, there is no greater indicator that you have either not yet uncovered their need/problem or offered a valid solution. Giving up removes the likelihood that you will be the one that they hire. You take the control out of your hands and leave it up to a comparison of estimates to sell for you. Stand up for what you believe in & help the client understand why you believe so strongly that you are the best and only option for their hiring needs.
To summarize, set the table for success, assume it & don’t give up until you achieve it. I have experienced the other side of this approach many times, which is what helped solidify my belief in one call closing (check out this fantastic forum string on contractortalk.com for some great tools from other contractors). I have followed up with numerous prospective customers whom I felt were sure fire deals when I left their homes, yet spent countless calls and energies only to realize the harsh reality…. they found someone else. Yes, there were the occasional unicorn client who did buy after a follow up was done, but the numbers did not lie. When approaching the customers like described in this article, I would typically have a deal with 2-3 out of every 5 appointments. However, the follow up approach typically resulted in 1 out of every 10 appointments becoming a client. This data alone should be enough to motivate a one call close mentality, but we are forgetting the additional factors that paint a clear picture. The amount of additional time, energies and frustrations to follow up are tough to put a monetary value on, but you can easily attribute a cost to making multiple visits to a prospective client’s home. How much does it cost you in fuel? How much unneeded wear & tear does that extra trip put on your vehicle? How much does it cost you to visit a customer for a 2nd time when you could be at a new prospective client’s home? The reality is that there is so much to gain beyond simply making more sales with the one call close approach. Think of all of the benefits you and your company can enjoy with results like this. I know it works because of my experiences. You will know it works when you make the choice to apply it. FACT: You will make more sales and more money closing the deal on the first visit!