Making sales is arguably the most fundamental function of business. Maintaining an effective and relevant sales strategy is absolutely critical since it directly impacts your top-line (gross sales) growth more than any other function. Here are seven actions you can implement today to win more decorative concrete jobs and increase sales.
1. Be a consultant, not a pitchman. Booming voices and fast speech may work for cleaning cloths and knives, but you’re selling decorative concrete. It’s a much more involved process than demonstrating how thin you can slice a tomato. Hiring a decorative concrete contractor is more expensive than buying the latest miracle kitchen cleaner. This can complicate things since the crummy economy has forced customers to be more concerned about the bottom line. Remember, there is a big difference between telling and selling.
As the purchasing process becomes more involved, customers benefit more from consultative sales. They use fewer educated guesses and spend more time evaluating all the consequences of a purchase.
Your product affects more people than just the property owner. They have to consider what store customers will think, how the homeowners’ association will respond, how the finish will affect future decisions about property décor, if the kids will slip and fall, or even what the neighbors will say. There is a lot to consider, and presenting yourself as a consultant will help calm clients’ purchase anxiety.
Customers need to trust you. They need to know you’re on their side. Have a dialogue with them about your product. If your customer needs a decorative finish you can’t provide, be upfront with them about it. Be honest with them. Refer them to someone who can. This establishes trust that is critical for customers to hire any type of contractor.
2. Channel your inner plate spinner. Consider the circus clown who spins plates on a stick. One plate. Two plates. Eventually he has six, eight, maybe 10 plates in the air. As he spins one plate, another one slows down. So he runs from plate to plate making sure the spinning doesn’t stop. As he adds more plates, he’s able to spend less time with each one. Eventually, there are too many plates to manage and they all come crashing down.
So it goes with sales. Some believe the more prospects you slam into the sales pipeline, the more jobs you’ll win. This isn’t necessarily the case. Each customer must be managed differently and every minute you spend pursuing one customer is time you can’t spend with another. Reduce the number of opportunities you pursue. Otherwise, you’ll spread yourself too thin to give your customers the attention they need and eventually, you’ll lose them like the overzealous plate spinner.
3. Increase the average dollar value of each job. It takes just about as much effort to win a 500-square-foot job as it does to win a 5,000-square-foot job. Sometimes, it takes more effort. The more revenue you book on each opportunity, the more money you’ll make overall.
4. Increase the percentage of time you spend selling. Just as your propensity to catch a fish is directly proportionate to the amount of time your line is in the water, your likelihood of winning jobs is directly proportionate to the amount of time you spend selling. Prioritize your time and maintain a healthy balance between selling and all your other duties at your business.
5. Utilize the right technology. Computers. Tablets. Smartphones. There is a lot of technology and keeping up with it all can be a full-time job. Not all technology can be advantageous for decorative concrete contractors. I mean, when was the last time you used videoconferencing to sell your customers on a job-site sample? Some technology, however, has proven to be very useful for decorative contractors — necessary even.
For example, “tablet” computers such as the iPad have emerged over the past few years as a popular and useful tool for decorative contractors. They serve as a high-tech brag book. Portable and lightweight, they can be used to easily show your customers high-resolution images of your project portfolio. They are also a relatively convenient medium for communicating with suppliers, customers and employees while on the job.
6. Respect the gatekeepers, but focus on the decision-makers. Picture this: You call a prospective commercial customer about restoring their concrete. The receptionist picks up the phone. She asks who you are and why you’re calling. She may or may not mention who the property manager is, but she definitely says he’s not available. You leave a message. No one calls back. Sound familiar?
It’s easy to call any gatekeeper a Cerebus but respecting them will get you much further, because they can be influencers. Gatekeepers usually have a working relationship with the decision-maker. And if you leave a positive impression with them they are more likely to be an advocate if the decision-maker asks them for advice. Believe me, you don’t want the receptionist telling the property manager you’re difficult to work with. You won’t get far.
Ultimately, you must develop a relationship with the decision-maker. This is usually the homemaker or property manager. Once you discover who this person is, stay in regular contact with them throughout the sales cycle.
7. Stay focused on your targeted customer niche. It’s easy to get distracted by new opportunities. You may bid on a garage floor and notice your customer has a wood deck that needs to be restored. But it’s better to focus on your core and refer noncore opportunities to other contractors for a referral fee.
In his book “Crossing the Chasm,” Geoffrey A. Moore explains how laser focus is necessary when targeting and pursing your customer market. “The key to (winning) over pragmatist customers in advance of broader market acceptance is focusing an overabundance of support into a confined market niche,” he states. “By simplifying the initial challenge, (decorative concrete contractors) can efficiently develop a solid base of references, collateral, and internal procedures and documentation by virtue of a restricted set of market variables.”
For example, one of my Certified NewLook Installers has identified a substantial opportunity in staining precast retaining walls. As he gains more experience with this specific application, his skills increase. When he is presented with an opportunity to stain anything that is not within his targeted niche, he refers it so he can spend more time focusing on what he does best.