Today’s gutter companies, whether focusing on seamless or specialty gutters, are usually started or formed by someone who previously worked in the gutter industry — but for someone else! When taking the step to branch out on their own, these individuals are usually very good technicians, skilled with their hands and have the ability to install gutters with care, quality and precision. They also want to have a share of the American dream of owning their own business. The gutter business is a wonderful business and one that is quite easy to get into. The hard part comes when an individual wants to grow the business to be better and larger.
Unfortunately, growth takes money and profitability to fund that business growth while still having a life outside work! Over the years I have seen so many companies come and go. They end up selling their machines and equipment to the next guy and eventually he ends up selling his machines and equipment to the next guy for the same reasons — not enough profit, the lack of business skills to manage others, the lack of sales skills to sell for a profit (at a price not the “other guy’s price”). The battle over the cheapest price, cheapest materials and cheapest labor leads to poor quality in both installation and service. And when that happens, no one is happy — not the supplier, the business owner or the customer — and none are making a profit.
We have found there are two categories that exist in profitable gutter companies. One is the commercial customer, i.e., production builder, custom builder/remodeler or multi-family builder. The other is the residential customer.
The production or multi-family builder is usually very price-driven and therefore leaves little room for profit to be made by the gutter company. The custom builder/remodeler is more conscious of quality and not as price-driven. The residential customer can be the most profitable and responsive to a good sales presentation, presented well.
When a gutter company hires sales personnel it’s best to assess their strengths and weaknesses, their personalities and their familiarity with the local network of potential commercial accounts. Based on those assessments and intensive sales training, a successful gutter company will split its sales force into Commercial and Residential sales teams, which will increase sales in both areas. No matter whether your customer focus is commercial or residential or both, you must make a great effort to:
1. Sell yourself (how you look, what you drive)
2. Sell your company (differentiation)
3. Sell your product (exclusivity in material and installation) before you ever give a price.
Justifying a higher price is essential. Many times your competitors will have the same products, so it’s imperative you differentiate and demonstrate your products, installation and service to be provided by your company.
We all have similar leads and customers. A typical customer wants to know right away how much it will cost them — by the foot! They’re just interested in getting a price first without knowing why your company is their best choice. Giving them a price right away is NOT what you want to do.
Kinds of Leads:
1. Drive by
• Leave price
• Fax price
• Email price
I suggest you NEVER do this, because competitors will take your “bid” off the front door; you never meet the customer to show them how much better you are; and you WANT to get a personal appointment.
2. One Legger — Single
• Usually meeting with just the wife because the husband asked her to “get a bid on gutters”
• Not a good lead because not all interested parties are present to hear the presentation, so no decision can be made
• However, you can convert this scenario to the “Two Legger” second appointment
3. Two Legger — all interested parties are present
• Appointment made…
• A 10 Step selling presentation
• “Ask for the business”
4. The Commercial
• Drive by — call with the proposal (not so good)
• Do plans take off and could be a 3 bid proposal (not so good)
• The best is to build a winning relationship and comfort level, which will lead to repeat business at a better profit.
We also have found you need to show the customer (especially the residential customer) you can provide a lower price (“good”), a medium price with better options (“better”) and a product with an extended warranty and superior installation (“best”) — all in writing.
10 Step Sales Process Selling to the residential customer
1. The phone call and setting an appointment — use a live person who loves to talk to people
2. The confirmation call — one day prior to appointment
3. The approach to the customer’s house — don’t walk on the grass or park in the driveway — Don’t ring the doorbell, knock softly
4. The warm up with the customer in the house — Paramount importance
5. The walk around/measure and digital camera pictures — get the customer to go with you
6. The kitchen table — that is where decisions are made
7. The Every Time Presentation (about you and your experience)
8. The “Company” sale (who you and your people are)
9. The Presentation of product (Good / Better / Best) Which would you choose? Use a Presentation Book or a Laptop
10. The “Ask for the Sale” — “If I could … would you?” May I put this on the schedule for you? Important to use every time!
It is most important to train yourself and your salespeople to follow a system every time. One that you have developed for your business … take no shortcuts!
Be so good the customer cannot ignore you and wants to meet you on the sidewalk with their checkbook in hand!
Bill Frazier is president and owner of Austin, Texas-based Austin Gutterman, Inc. (www.austingutterman.com) and presenter of the two-day boot camp for gutter business owners. He has 36 years experience in home improvement, gutters and business planning and management.