Never before in the history of the enormous home improvement and remodeling industries have owners of retail businesses seen circumstances similar to what they confront today. Whatever the size of your business—small start-up, multi-million dollar giant, or a $100-million-plus super giant—you are facing imponderable conditions in uncharted waters.
Successful companies that have spent years marketing their brands, with much conscious effort to build profitable organizations, now face issues never even contemplated.
Survive, Then Plan to Thrive
Unquestionably, most companies were not prepared for either the crisis, the rapidity of its expansion, or the toll it has and will take on their business.
In reality, survival depends on the attitude, disciplines and ingenuity of those who own or manage companies. Accordingly, we’ve asked those in the industry who developed, installed and have overseen the use of these ideas to share their concepts with you.
As an example, among our suggestions was the review of a major asset, which exists in every home improvement or remodeling company, irrespective of age or size. The asset we are referring to: unsold leads, those not issued, and those you had difficulty recontacting after a home show or similar event, plus those that were presented to and not sold.
Hundreds of companies immediately decided to utilize this concept. Some had, in the past, utilized rehash (revisit) formats. Many did it poorly or discontinued it. Some claimed it was overzealous for these times, or in poor taste. Here are some examples of how it is working for those companies now in survival mode.
Using Old Data
According to John Pohl, president of Springs Connect, a unique call center specializing in reviving old leads, they have had great success in setting appointments for companies that are offering extra savings to consumers who are willing to do business now. Many using this lead-getting method call it, “buy now, install later.”
His phone reps explain that the company is willing to review their quotes to create an even better win-win relationship. They stress that the company gets to keep people working or get people back to work as soon as the virus situation subsides.
Some companies who had little or no ongoing experience creating or generating sales or marketing programs tried this and found it workable.
Bryan Wakefield, a senior account executive with Dave Yoho Associates (DYA), reports that many firms are embracing the idea of virtual selling and are being proactive with making changes to their scripting in an effort to serve their markets. The primary focus for most is contacting previous customers and rehash prospects to generate business over the phone and/or via video conferencing.
One of Wakefield’s clients, a basement-waterproofing company in Kansas, really embraced video conferencing. Most of their prospects have an immediate need. His staff calls them, conducts a needs-assessment over the phone, and arranges to drop off a “kit” that is designed to allow the customer to take measurements and pictures and document exactly what is going on in the basement. The kit is retrieved by his staff and from the results, a virtual appointment is scheduled via Zoom to get the prospect engaged in getting an estimate and ultimately moving forward.
A caution: I do not suggest, imply or believe that video conferencing will replace a sound sales methodology, nor do I imply that selling an upscale product or service with a high price tag will be an ongoing method for all such sales presentations. However, we do preach survival tactics, and these are working.
Reducing Staffing Levels
Joe Talmon, a senior account executive with DYA, reports companies with senior staffing levels are re-evaluating whether or not they really need all those employees. A close examination of smaller teams that are getting the job done calls into question the necessity of certain positions. The general theme is: It’s time to get lean.
A Few ‘Best Practices’ For Cash Flow
Whatever your practices were in the past, pay attention to the issue of cash flow, or the lack thereof. In good times and with a reliable brand, deposits were not always a prerequisite. Here are some survival suggestions:
- Ask for and expect to receive deposits on all contracts (check your individual state laws), even those being financed. Get progressive payments on all cash jobs. For small add-ons or change orders, collect for these at the time they are negotiated (signed for).
- When preparing a contract, use the phrase, “How much of a deposit can you place with this order?”
- Deposits are considered liabilities in accrual accounting; therefore, deposits are not treated as income and are not taxable until the job is completed.
- Many home improvement finance companies offer plans, enabling progressive payments on large remodeling/home improvement contracts.
- Those who advance commissions to salespeople, upon approval of the contract, should review their current work agreement. You may wish to modify it during this time of crisis.
- Get someone to do an analysis of your last full-year operating statement and balance sheet and have them make recommendations for capital conservation.
Sharpen the Skills of Your Team
DYA senior account executive Rick McIntire says if you’re truly preparing to meet the business environment as the crisis ends, consider reviewing, revising and upgrading the practices of those within your company, particularly sales and marketing personnel.
Review and edit your intake and outbound scripts. Also review and update your presentation scripts to meet current selling conditions, especially virtual-appointment setting and presentation.
Conduct regular role-playing sessions and be personally involved in them. Your involvement sends the message that you believe customer-satisfaction presentations are important and necessary as survival tactics. After each, measure your success factors and start to prepare to thrive when conditions change. Perhaps the most valuable reason to do this is to stop practicing on customers by perfecting it in the classroom.
Turn this into the new normal. One of our clients had me conduct a training session on the basics of virtual-appointment setting, which he used as a launching pad for his new “Tuesday, Thursday Virtual Sales Skills Development Program.” Every Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m., his team meets virtually to role play their virtual presentations. He plans to do the same with standard in-home presentations going forward. We set this up to mirror the in-home consultation as closely as possible using Zoom and screen sharing. After the first day, the owner said he was shocked at how poorly some of his people performed, but the good news was most of those salespeople perceived how poorly they performed and went to work on improving their presentation.
We believe role-playing is the most needed and impactful sales training exercise that any company can engage in. Unfortunately, most don’t like doing it and many owners are too busy to be part of it; this results in it not being taken seriously. Our recommendation is to take advantage of the current circumstances to sharpen the skills in your company and start a new normal.
Now, work at surviving then plan to thrive when this crisis subsides. QR
Dave Yoho Associates is the oldest (since 1962), largest and most successful consulting company representing the remodeling and home improvement industry. The company has a staff of account executives who consult for large and small retailers, manufacturers and service providers. For more information about Dave Yoho Associates, visit www.daveyoho.com.