Tuesday, July 10, 2018

What I Learned About Sales from the Window Guy

Springtime in New England means it is time to plan and execute on some household projects and like every year as a homeowner I have my list.

On top of that list, I wanted to replace a few windows in our family room since it was time and we have been on an energy saving kick.   We finally scored a contractor that will be doing our job next week but it was pretty painful getting there.

The first vendor was introduced to me at a local home show.   It is a reputable company with high quality windows.  The sales person came to my house and was a nice guy and he knew exactly what I wanted,  vinyl sliders with double pane glass to keep the weather at bay.   He did not question me and went ahead and measured my window frames and gave me a rough estimate of cost.   As you should always do, I asked for a written estimate to be sent to my email and the guy said "No Problem, you will get that in a day or so".   A few days went by, then a week, so I called the company using the number the guy gave me and they said that I need to call the guy on his cell phone directly to get a status on my quote, so I did.  I left a message and asked for a response.    I did not receive a response or follow-up to my call and email, so I called the company again to check the status of my quote.  Again, they apologize and said that I need to contact the guy that came to my house for the quote.  At this time, I was like F*** this, I am going with another company.

Lesson #1 - In sales or in any customer focused business, especially a home improvement business, follow-up is essential.  In the world of social media and with so much competition, if you don't follow-up with prospects, you will get a bad rap and people will know about it very quickly.

So I looked through the list of vendors from the Home Show I attended and found another reputable company from Rhode Island that specialized in Custom Built Windows.   I called them to make an appointment to get a quote on vinyl sliders with double pane and they had a tech free on the following Saturday.  Great, we are moving now!   Leading up to that Saturday appointment, I must have gotten 6 calls from different people asking me to confirm my appointment.   I repeatedly mentioned that it is all set and did you talk to the other person that called me?

Lesson #2 - Communicate with your sales team and make sure you are all on the same page.  Nothing is worst than an impression from your customer that your team is scattered and unorganized.

We are still on the same Custom Built Windows vendor from Rhode Island.  So Saturday is here and the guy came right on time for our appointment.  He was well dressed, as if he sold insurance on the side and came to the door with his official PowerPoint presentation and questionnaire.   It was a warm day for April so he can see that he was sweating either due to the weather or nerves.   So I mentioned to him that I had about 20-30 minutes and if he can proceed with getting the window measurements and then provide me a written quote.  He did the measurements and then asked if he can go over the quote with me right there and then.   I was like, cool, we are getting somewhere.   He then proceeded to go through a 40 page presentation on the history of windows and the differences between shutters, wood windows, double pane vs triple pane and why his company is the best company in the business.  The presentation went on for 90 minutes until I cut him short and said, can I have my f**** quote?   He ended up going through all of these numbers as if he was writing up a mortgage, and finally came up with a quote that was astronomically high for vinyl sliders.  I was thinking gee are we paying for his time running through that 90 minute presentation?   I was agitated and asked him to leave since my wife and I were already late for an appointment.   He then feverishly mentioned that "one day sale" if I bought today, he will slash the cost by 40%.   I did not care and asked him to leave.  This was a disaster.

Lesson #3- Where do I start?  First, listen to your customer.  Second, customize your response to what your customer is asking for.  Third, be conscious of your customer's time.  This was probably the same presentation for customers that wanted shutters, sliders or a new roof.   Listen to your customer!

This was not the end of Vendor #2.  For next few weeks, they kept calling me and not leaving messages and until one day I picked up the phone and said to not call me anymore.  They said sure, then guess what, a couple of days later, another person called me from the same company.   I will end this with, see Lesson #2.

Finally, I vented my frustration on a local blog and well-known contractor gave me a call and asked if he can help.   At this point, I was like sure.  A third time is a charm, right?   This guy was very personable and asked what I needed and that he will take care of it.  Long story short, my windows are getting replaced next Monday.

Lesson #4:  Your customers are human, not dollar signs.  Be personable and get to know them and build their trust.   You do that and you will take your business to the next level.

Sales is a tough business.  I understand that being in business myself, but it is art.   The art of listening, being personable and having a great supporting team.  Spend the time achieving those skills and you will be a success!

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