Turning a profit in today’s construction industry is no accident. This is why it is essential — now more than ever — to practice the strong fundamentals that every successful business is built on. I witnessed a perfect example of such a business this fall and it made me rethink my effort as a decorative concrete professional.
The extraordinary business I’m describing today does not install decorative concrete. In fact, I doubt the owner knows anything about the industry most of you use to make a living.
What this business does do right is practice solid business fundamentals from start to finish.
My story begins with a reluctant, long-overdue visit to my local furniture store. My first impression, exposure I should say, was one of friendliness and appreciation from the moment I walked in. Next, my salesperson knew the product well and asked relevant questions that soon matched my needs, not to mention budget, with the right furniture. The sales presentation left no doubt I was dealing with a professional who worked for a professional company. I walked out more than sold — I left the store satisfied and more than willing to tell anyone willing to listen how well I was treated.
Now, let’s talk about your business for a moment. Are your customers left with the same positive impression as my experience described above? I sure hope so, but just in case, let’s run through three important fundamentals that will separate your business from the competition.
I will be the first to admit that our decorative concrete industry has its share of talented individuals. But let me explain the difference between a customer’s confidence and an installer’s confidence. I would like for each reader to put themselves on the buyer’s side of the table. This buyer could be a homeowner, architect, developer or general contractor.
Each presentation must begin with a level of professionalism beyond what you believe is typical. At this point, your best asset is the ability to listen first and talk second.
Most customers will tell you what they want. Our industry, decorative concrete, is no longer a secret that you need to yell from the rooftop. Your customer may not know the best product or procedure but they do understand many colorful options exist today besides tile, naturally gray concrete and wood.
Whether they ask about it or not, the potential customer is investigating to see if you are the right person for the project.
You will build far more customer confidence by listening than by boring a customer with boatloads of product knowledge or details describing past projects. If you’re listening, really listening, your customer will be left with a sense of professionalism, trust … and confidence.
I’ve had the opportunity to mentor many young decorative concrete contractors over the years, and so many make one common mistake — breaking a promise.
Nothing erodes customer confidence like a broken promise. If you promise a sample, deliver it. If you promise a color chart, drop one off. If you promise a bid date, fulfill it.
Following through on promises is the one reason a customer will pay more for your service over a competitor.
Builders and architects love decorative concrete contractors who make their job easier. I purposely make it a point to communicate with each builder new to our services by first introducing myself and then explaining my goal as someone that uses visual aid and samples to make sure their customer gets exactly what is expected.
Remember, many builders don’t have a decorative concrete subcontractor but do have customers asking about decorative concrete. Why not make the process as simple as possible for a builder who has the potential to send repeat business your way?
I have yet to run into a builder who would refuse to allow my sales team to work with their customer during the front-end process. Most architects and builders would rather have a confident decorative contractor working through the front-end work, since our industry is extremely specialized. I’ve personally practiced this type of teamwork on everyone from billionaires to young new homeowners.
Every employee is in sales
A young man named Patrick worked for my company many years ago. At the time, this guy had all kinds of personal issues and getting him to work on time was an effort. However, the one thing Patrick could do is treat customers just like I was treated at my furniture store. It takes time to develop employees into solid and trusted representations of your company.
I want you to think about this: Everyone working for your company is dependent on new leads and work consistently flowing through your doors.
Make the effort to explain how important it is for each employee to represent the company in a professional manner, ALL THE TIME. I can’t tell you how many customers have complimented our decorative crew, even to the point of referring our company, based on our crew’s professionalism. This is not by accident. We have invested dollars and time to make sure each employee truly understands the personal benefits of such professionalism.
From the person answering the phone to the team member spraying the last coat of sealer, make sure your company makes each customer contact one of confidence, appreciation and professionalism.
Doug Carlton operates Carlton Concrete Inc. in Visalia, Calif. He can be reached at email@example.com.