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The X Factor: Delivering Estimates That Win & Closing The Deal

September 1, 2022

closing the deal



In this episode, Ari Greenbaum interviews Larry Lichterman, owner of 10 Year Paint in Southern California to talk about how you can deliver estimates that win and the processes you can use to secure a deal whether it’s on the first visit or follow-up visits.

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Ari: Welcome to The X Factor, a Home Pros Sales podcast. This is the podcast about all things sales to help Home Improvement Pros generate high-quality leads, and close more deals. I’m your host, Ari Greenbaum and in this podcast, we’ll talk about different tactics, tips, and resources to help you grow your business while interviewing experts in the industry. 

But first, before we get into today’s episode, a little housekeeping, if you could rate us, show us some love on Apple Podcasts, that little purple icon, give us the five-star rating, leave us a review, let us know if you’re enjoying the podcast. We’d love the feedback. 

Now, today, we’re gonna be focusing on an important topic. I mean, I’d say every topic we cover is important. This is one that once most listeners here, I’m assuming are going to tune in with both ears attentively. We’re going to focus on delivering estimates that win and closing the deal. I don’t know a guy out there that’s in Home Improvement sales, that that’s not music to their ears. So I am privileged today to have a super vet in the industry of over more than 35 years of experience in closing deals, also happens to be a value conXpros partner. So I want to introduce Larry Lichterman, owner of 10-year paint out there in Southern California. 

So Larry, introduce yourself, and tell our listeners a little bit about your background, so they understand where you’re coming from. And we’ll just get right on in there

Larry: Morning. As he said, my name’s Larry Lichterman. I’ve been doing this for over 35 years, I owned a company in Los Angeles for many years, retired probably about six years ago, I couldn’t sit home anymore. Just so much stuff I could do. So I decided to go back to work, I brought back a couple of crews and myself and all we really do is with this 10-year paint thing is exteriors. And I do windows as well as roofs but 90% of my business is, either paint or a product in California called texture coating or coating as a nickname for it. It’s like anything else from leads to sales. Everybody has a closing ratio of what works for them or knows the real number. Sometimes we’ve tried to make believe we know the real number, but we really don’t. But to know the real number is what is in my opinion really important.

Ari: To have accountability, someone does have to be you know. That’s important, if not honest numbers, then it’s not real accountability. But, you know, and I work with Larry’s company, and he has an account manager here that has shared that Larry is exceptional at his conversions and, you know, turning people into paying customers not just giving out estimates, you know, going through the motions. So I felt it was perfect to have Larry, join us as a guest for this topic, especially. 

So diving right into that, Larry, you know, as far as delivering an estimate that wins. I mean, I know that’s a very broad topic, and, you know, could go many, many different directions. What does that mean to you? How do you deliver estimates that win? What processes do you use to secure a deal, whether on the first visit or on follow-ups? Everyone has different styles. What works for you?

Larry: Okay, well, more today, in the last few years, it’s become a bit of a what we call a be back business. However, I find out that the more you listen, while you’re in a home, rather than speak at the beginning, usually the better off you are, because everything you’re listening to is hopefully giving you the ammunition to give to the customer their needs of what they want.

I have been through this for a lot of years and the one thing I’ve found out is that people are very fearful of asking for the sale and definitely asking for the money. 

Those are always the two hardest things, I’ve seen guys give the greatest presentations that I’ve ever seen, I mean, much better than I could ever do, or anybody else but when it comes to the end, well, I’m going to leave you this estimate and I’ll follow up with you in three or four days or whatever the stuff is. 

I believe that once you’ve made your presentation of the product that you’re selling, whether it could be air conditioning, or whatever the needs of the customer are, then the biggest thing for a salesperson or a rep in my mind is to shut up. Not say a word. Always listen, because whoever talks first is the one that loses. 

I mean, this is pretty much old-school stuff, but this is what I’ve learned and at least for me at least I don’t know what the fear factor is of asking for the money. 

People expect a number. Okay, they’re not expecting to close the sale because sometimes you might scare him, you know with the number but we all have our way of doing things and my way is, I used to have a friend of mine who since passed away, he told me, he never measured the house, he measured the customer. 

Sometimes you have to the wife is on your side, the husband isn’t. And sometimes vice versa. So it’s the two of you to beat up the wife or the husband.

Ari: Just to understand what you’re sharing. You said you gotta listen, obviously, that’s a critical piece. So sales, in general, is tuning in and listening to your customer and understanding their needs. 

So are you tapering an estimate or how you present an estimate based on the knowledge, you know, what you’re reading, so to speak, and hearing? Therefore, it’s not just a cookie cutter form estimate, I’m gonna hand you here’s what it is.

Are you delivering maybe even in a written version differently than you would otherwise when highlighting certain things? What does that mean for you? Because I know you mentioned everything is different, and listening is critical. 

Larry: Yeah, well, when I put together an estimate, and hopefully it’s never an estimate, hopefully, I’m closing a deal. But when I’m putting together an estimate, or I’m writing things down, I sometimes remember that every business is different. 

I know nothing about air conditioning. But I do know that there are certain things that have to be used, that are very critical in the estimate. Out in California, we have something called Title 24, it’s just a certain spec that has to be met. So when I’m with our business, when we’re putting together an estimate if I see different things that I’m looking at the house that I’ve mentioned to the customer because I always walk the customer, it’s very necessary because I’m doing the exterior to walk the customer around the home, let them point and click what their issues are and then let me figure out what I also think their issues are, whether it’s bad wood, whatever it might be. 

So everything with me that way is fairly detailed and if I’m writing an estimate, it’s $15,000, or $12,000, or whatever the product may be, I’m always inclusive of the work, I don’t put what is $800 the color, we don’t do any of that. But I always put in what we’re doing. 

Ari: So you will have like a detailed summary, so the transparency is a good word and piece that you find critical and universal no matter who you’re giving the estimate to.

Larry: Clear understanding even in my advertising that we use when people pull us up online. I’m in the painting business exterior, but we do other products other than paint for the exterior, I do have products that are known out here for that reason, we do a lot of coating. 

I may have mentioned this to you before. If we’re in a house and we’re in a house demands like $12,000-$15,000, for a coating job, it’s out of the customer’s budget, it’s nowhere near their budget, you find out as you’re going in. I have no problems taking 11 or $12,000 for a paint job, something that will work for them, but everything is based on their needs.

Ari: So you will even adjust the price based on needs? I mean, there’s again, pricing and home improvements. The cost of materials is variable. I mean, we come up out of thin air with the pricing when we felt like it. So you know, at the end of the day, you are tapering that one person across the street based on their needs, like you’re getting quoted for the same job, just use the same numbers 15K while this person is getting quoted 12k. At the end of the day, it’s about meeting that customer’s needs end, as long as you got the room and your margins to play with. That’s part of your estimated delivery. 

Larry: Yeah. And once you go through that, it’s like I was saying earlier, shut up, don’t wait, once you get to the numbers, you really have to get an answer because if you don’t, you’re really going nowhere.

Ari: In my opinion, what do you say? Listen, I mean, are you finding out these details pre-delivery of the estimate? I mean, it’s not when you’re giving a price presentation, but you’re finding out and say a discovery or a needs assessment already. What their budget and you know, not just budget but where the max tolerance is, you know, that window of the sweet spot is you already find that in advance. So you know when you’re presenting, you’re in the sweet spot?

Larry: Yeah, well, I have a saying. I say to people, I said just relax. Don’t worry, it’s under 100,000. So you don’t have anything to worry about. But they sort of get my sense of humor. But when I head down to the price, and where we wind up. When you say the sweet spot, you’ll always get a reaction. Okay, and you want to get that no. Do you really need that? 

No. Because once you get that, no, because you’re always opening up with a little bit big of pricing where you want to be, you know where you’re going to start from, you never know where you’re going to end. But you definitely know what the starting point is. 

So the sweet spot is, I think you may have been mentioning is, to me, when I see the wife, or if because I really tried to pitch a couple, what we call one legger. But if I have a couple, I am always looking for reactions. And I’ve often found out over the years that both of you want the job, of course, but then you get those where the husband is freezing out on you and the wife is warming up to you. So it’s you and the wife to the husband, you’re getting on top of him or if it’s vice versa, you and so when we close a deal or let’s put it this way, we try to close the deal and we’re at that point, okay? You know, that’s when you really got to be quiet. That’s where you really have to listen to their objections. It used to be a very big finance business and not as much anymore. 

Ari: Are you finding financing is not helping to close the deal like it did in the past?

Larry: Exactly in California. Don’t ask me why. But I haven’t sold a finance job. I can’t say in I don’t know, maybe four years.

Ari: You said don’t ask why so I’m not going to ask why. But it’s definitely an interesting question. Because I know the past. I mean, I mean, I’ve even written blogs about it and talked about it so many times in the past, of the value. I’ve been on the other side of the coin, myself, and sold in home and I think I can count on one hand, the number of deals I actually got a check for versus, you know, a signed financing deal. 

So it’s interesting to hear that, that in the past four years, it’s really shifted that way. So what are you doing then to close a deal? Because I mean, at the end of the day, I know you from what we talked about in the past, you prefer a one-call close, you’re in front of them, let’s get the deal signed now and make whatever concessions or whatever it is necessary to get it done. So what are you doing to move them to a finish line? 

Larry: One of the first things I say in a home when I’m in here, and I’m talking to him, once we sit down, I measured the house and gone through the products with them. I look at him very nicely. Let me ask you just a simple question. ‘I have scheduled with my own people. I think you know what’s going to come out of my mouth. 

Ari: Listeners don’t. 

Larry: Basically, all things being equal, if you like the price, when we get done, you believe me? Because my integrity is that important to me? And everything else is correct. And we’re within your timing. Is this something we’re going to do today? And if they say no, I always get that. It’s always no, that’s okay. I can work with it. But it gets them to start thinking.

Ari: Sales are now started, so to speak. Game on. 

Larry: Yeah, that’s it. I mean, because you know, how much gas do you want to spend in a day? To see people I mean, to me, it’s my time against their money. 

Ari: What percentage would you say the deals are you close a rough idea or on that first visit versus having to require a follow up from an estimate? 

Larry: I’m going to say I probably it used to be 20 to 25% closing ratio. Today would be backs and such first-time, first-time close, the reality is about 15%.

Ari: It’s good to give people an idea as well. I mean, not like hey, we’re just closing every deal on the front end, and not closing at a 50-60 % clip and some gotta nuts number to be realistic. What it does for you though, is the value as you said, not having to go and follow back up, chase people down you can spend time on the next potential client and dedicate yourself there. 

Larry: One of the most important things is a follow-up system. In other words, it’s three days this five days, two days. Yeah, and what I do is I send the chocolate chip cookies via the mail, no matter who I sell, or don’t sell, they always get a bag of cookies with a thank you and that kind of thing. Something to remember you by. I used to do Starbucks cards, 

The point is for them is so they never forget you as long as you’re in so you follow up in a couple of days and you say you know am I in the running? 

I take a no as kindly as I take a yes because with leads when we’re buying leads and what I’m getting at with customers it’s very important to keep in contact as we all know that there we get numbers that nobody answers you know and so it’s always very important with the follow-up.

Ari: Not every deal is going to close on the first call and the first appointment and that’s just a reality. I mean, no one in sales no matter how good we are, we know the reality. That’s the case.

So with the follow-ups, you mentioned in a couple of days, is there a set timeframe and you try to control that situation, to some degree versus waiting for them to get back to you? Are there different techniques you use on the follow-up? 

Larry: Before I leave the house, I let them know my biggest saying, I take a no as kindly as I take a yes. If I know I’m involved with estimates and such, I spend my follow-up within two to three days. If you have a question in the interim, please don’t hesitate to call me, pull up my website, and take a look at us, I have given him a referral package when we go into a house, check my referrals, just do your due diligence. My follow-up system is where I burn them off just so you’ll know. I’ll follow up in two days, I’ll follow up in five days and then they get one last call from us. I think seven or eight days. After that, I don’t burn your leads. I wait probably a month and then we burn the leaves, so to speak. I hate to say the old days because I’m 75 years old. 

Ari: The old school is still the new school, in my opinion, everything you’ve shared might be old school stuff, but it’s so applicable now. So it’s all the same. 

Larry: I used to hate the term but we used to slap him around in apps. You know, it was just a different time.

Ari: I don’t think those fly in the PC world today. But I get where you’re coming from. I’ve been in the business a while. 

Larry: Because I had a friend of mine here. And I never forgot him. And he had salespeople. And when he hired a new guy, you give him one lead. And if that person wasn’t home, this is the truth. He made up he’d have that guy state almost sleep out in front of the house to the customer came home. I mean, this is a way he tests them guys to persevere. 

Larry: It’s that way, unfortunately, not that way anymore.

Ari: From what I’m hearing from you, and again, I don’t want to paraphrase ineffectively, but from what it sounds like delivering the estimate is entirely predetermined. It’s all from the start. I mean, you mentioned things such as, like, I build trust with them already. So there’s certain integrity that they understand and a certain honesty and that trust have already built a rapport or beyond the rapport. 

We’re talking trust that’s built so when you’re getting to and you’ve listened to the needs, and when you’re getting to the estimate, but works already been done, is what it sounds like and it started from the word go in terms of how you met them, planting the seeds like you said about how you operate. And then before you even give them an estimate, letting them know, you know, you’re a big boy, you take a no just as well as a yes. Or as graciously. So you know, little things like this. It’s like programming or pre-determining what the delivery is going to be. 

Larry: Making them comfortable. I mean, that’s what it comes out to be like, 

Ari: I feel it. That’s the thing that most people in this business miss. They have a canned presentation, they’ve got a pro, they do all these things. And then they feel that the sale starts when they give a price and they start trying to close. If they even do that, or they just walk away like we said, a lot of people don’t ever get past the no. 

And that’s just a reality. But what people don’t realize is what you’re sharing. And that’s why I think it’s the gem. It’s not about the estimate how you write it. 

It’s not about you know, again, the price, it comes down to everything before that, which is at the end of the day, the sale starts from the moment go. And that’s what I’m hearing.

Larry: Yeah, it’s building quality in what you do. And everybody’s different. Listen, I’ve been thrown out of houses. I can go on and on with stories, but what I’m getting at is, it’s just your approach. 

I think the whole thing with me is making the person that I’m with comfortable. As long as I know, I can get there and they all know I have a sense of humor. So I tried to put some levity into the deal. And I don’t you know, I won’t I have many years ago, I would sit in the house for four hours. I mean, I can I would never get out of the church when they threw me out. 

Ari: I’ve been there and done that. Not for this situation. But when I was first in there, I was on a ride with me kicking me under the table trying to get me out after two and a half hours and I was still debating like a bulldog. So I know what you’re talking about first. 

Larry: As long as you’re sitting there the interest is here. I mean, that’s was always the thing that we never that I never realized when you’re really tired of me.

It’s true because that’s part of reading the customer as well. Hey, when have they burnt this thing in there? It’s not the connection going on. I mean, it’s like bacon is that burnt? You know so

Ari: This is again, it seems so simple, but most people don’t do this and I love what you’re sharing on this because it really is it’s the whole process. It’s not just okay, let me give a winning estimate, and there’s like a special formula for it, that’s gonna get people to say yes, then they say yes, because of what’s critical. It’s been used the term old school before. It’s been around forever, people buy you not the product. I mean, that’s one of the age-old sayings and sales. And so what you’re sharing is, that is exactly what this is just on a detailed version, they’re buying you the connection, and the trust that you’re not really going to hurt them in any way. 

Larry: The number you know, it’s always, you know, it always comes down to the last number, what they’re, what they’re willing to pay, and what they will pay. And, and there’s a difference. Well, that’s a critical point, I want to make sure that people are tuning in, and are really paying attention because that’s something that is unusual. And I have not heard from many people, but it’s obviously winning and doing well for you, is being so tuned in that when you deliver an estimate, you’re not just giving a cookie cutter price that this is what I normally charge, this is what is and then adjust from there, you may be giving a price that’s already a bit adjusted based on the person. And that is I mean, that’s you know, an epiphany kind of moment, for many people I believe is so many people are cookie cutter focused. That’s awesome, awesome, juicy stuff. 

Larry: But you know, and I’m sure in other parts of the country, I mean, as an example of possibly where you are, I don’t know if everybody’s doing a lot of I have a friend of mine in business in your town. But financing, I don’t know if it’s a big deal anymore. I mean, I have so many sources of firemen, servicemen all the way down the road, where we used to just write the deal and get it approved in the house. But I have a feeling this is just my feeling that when people hear financing, that in their mind, it’s a million dollars.

Ari: So if you are using a tool, you’re using it at the end, if someone is maybe not excited about the price, but it’s a solution to help them to be able to accomplish the goal. 

Larry: Exactly. I never offer until financing I’m dead. 

Ari: Do you feel that out as part of your need assessment as well, like you’re trying to find out are they looking to pay cash out of pocket? Are they looking to do this with some assistance? 

Larry: In California, there’s a way to say it to them, it’s illegal to take anything more than a 10% deposit or $1,000 10%, whichever is less. So what I usually do is look, I take a 10% deposit, and I’m waiting to hear the negative, and when I don’t get the negative I go further. I take 40% on start.

Ari: That’s like bait to feel them out and get an idea. 

Larry: Yeah, and then 40% we take on started Mrs. Jones is not when we knock on your door, it’s when we hear balanced Upon completion, I always let you hold the lion’s share. Those are my words, verbatim. I mean, it’s like a tape recorder. But we don’t do much financing anymore. Because and I didn’t mind financing to the point is, I believe that when they hear financing, if I don’t know how your other people are advertising, but 

Ari: It depends on what kind of industry and what they’re selling. That makes big sense, I’m sure.

Larry: I worked the kiss method, I keep it simple, stupid. Everything that I do, and this is just the way I worked in. 

Ari: I mean, there’s nothing that you shared is like crazy, like out there kind of stuff. It’s all as I say, it’s old school, and it makes sense. It’s all stuff that anyone understands building relationships is part of sales should understand. But a lot of people get away from this stuff. And that’s why I think it’s fantastic that you’ve come here and like shared some things that are said, there’s no like grammar, although I do love and most people are not aware of the tapering of a dollar amount that I mean, that’s very, very different from what people are here. 

But everything you’ve shared, I mean, it’s so applicable, because, at the end of the day, it is about building relationships and people forget about that, and focus too much on product, as you shared with one of your colleagues in the past. 

You know, I don’t measure the home, I measure the person. I love those things. I mean, they may be cliche sayings, but it doesn’t matter because they speak volumes about what reality is and what it should be. So this is fantastic. I really do appreciate you coming on here. And, you know, sharing this stuff with folks. And I’m hoping that our listeners take it to heart and apply this stuff and go old school because that’s really what it is. Build a relationship, understand your clients and help them. Help them achieve their goal and get them across the finish line which achieves your goal along the way. 

You help other people get everything they want in life, you’ll have everything you want. So again, is putting the priority on that. And that’s what it sounds like. And then you get all the tools like you said to close and this is awesome. 

I really do appreciate you coming on here, Larry, and sharing these gems to help others succeed. I want to thank our listeners for listening to The X Factor, Home Pro Sales podcast. I do hope it brings you value and hope it helps you take your sales game to the next level. 

Be sure to subscribe so you can catch the next episode, your action items as listeners are wherever you’re listening to this right now. 

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