Virtual Selling

by Kacey Larsen
Remodeling Author

When it comes to selling home improvement projects online, everybody’s talking about it; but so far, I don’t see anybody really doing it. Not in a way that works.

And yet, think about how great it would be to sell at least some portion of your company’s jobs online. The homeowner tracks down all your information, reads your reviews, you or the homeowner plugs in some measurements and uploads some pictures, and now you have an estimate and a proposal and—soon enough—a contract signed online. Like buying a re-roof on Amazon. Except that the homeowner can actually phone your company if he or she has a problem.

Time Has Come

Selling home improvement projects online is coming soon, but there are a few issues that have to be resolved. First, will homeowners make large-ticket purchases for remodeling or contractor services online?

Some will. We know that many millennial homeowners might very well do that. They shop and buy online. But most homeowners are baby boomers or Gen-Xers predominately, and it will be another three to five years before millennials enter the market in a significant way.

That doesn’t mean there are no potential online buyers. What it means is that right now they consist of early adopters. And if you had the right system—the right software—you could sell them. But that’s the problem. There is no right system. The systems I’ve seen have yet to be totally online. Compare that experience to buying on Amazon, where there’s a landing page and you read a few reviews and place your order. That’s not how these work.

Home improvement contractors and remodelers don’t sell a finished product. We sell an idea. The idea is a solution to a problem and typically results from a visit to the house and a conversation with its owner. Part of the point of that conversation—the most important part—is building trust and confidence. The other part is collecting enough information to come up with a solution. Someone’s going to have to take a look at what’s going on, and you still need to talk with a person.

High-Tech Sales Tool

Right now the technology exists to make a certain kind of online buying possible. You photograph the house, use estimating tools such as Hover or Eagleview to put together a proposal, and then forward the proposal to the owner.

To me that’s not really online selling. It’s someone trying to cut the traditional sales process short. It may eliminate the need for a sales call, but what differentiates your company from others? Only price. You’re not really doing anything different than the people who mail a bid and hope for a callback.

Some of these systems try to do this using screen sharing. But the only difference is that the salesperson is sitting in his/her office rather than in the homeowner’s living room.

Someone is still going to have to go out there and inspect, ask the homeowner questions, put a proposal together and then do yet another screen share. If a homeowner doesn’t really want to meet with you, that might be the next best thing. But it’s not true internet selling.

Our System

Buying online requires having all the tech tools in place. You need measuring tools and visualization software so that you can see what the house looks like with beige siding versus green siding. And once the homeowner has moved around and looked at options and made choices, then you build an estimate online and actually make a purchase.

It also requires some way to create the trust and confidence that’s part of the in-home sales process. That’s essential. The idea of online sales is driven by the fact that many people say they don’t have the time for a sales visit or don’t want to sit through the sales process and endless pitches. I get that. But we’re not there yet.

In the last year and a half, CCN has made significant investments in developing an online buying tool. We’ve produced the technology to measure remotely and incorporated the visualization tools that enable homeowner product selection and 3-D project modeling. With this technology, homeowners can take pictures and upload them to model the exterior, and using visualization tools, select the products and automatically build an estimate based on those selections. The last piece of this puzzle is figuring out how to create the two-way communication online that builds trust and confidence, as well as rapport, so that we don’t need to have a salesperson show up.

The online sales system that we will be introducing will be free to members and consist of an online portal that gives members access. We hope we’re the first to introduce a comprehensive, effective and completely virtual selling system. I’ll be talking a lot more about this in the weeks and months ahead. | QR

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