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How Contractors Can Sell Themselves Without Selling Themselves Short

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Thu, Jun 27,2013 @ 06:00 AM

Kim Downs, Wolf


Guest Blogger:  Kim Downs has been focused on building WOLF’s brand and shaping product messages for 17 years. Her integrated approach to program development includes interdepartmental communication as well as common sense strategy resulting in programs that work. She has a steadfast belief that building a marketing plan doesn’t require an unrealistic budget. Kim contends that even small, meaningful steps can do wonders in building a brand.


How Contractors Can Sell Themselves - Without Selling Themselves Short

Home Improvement ShowsLast month Shawn posted a blog warning contractors of the price shopper titled "11 Common Traits of People Who Buy Remodeling On Price". He explained two types of prospects who price shop remodeling; Those who are driven to pay as little as possible and those who simply don’t know what else to consider so they base their decisions solely on the bottom line. 

I think the biggest problem is that consumers just don't know what to expect. HGTV has been a blessing and a curse for our industry. Because of shows that do a major project in 2 days for just $1000, people have gotten the idea that improvements are not only easy...but cheap.

Rather than chastising their ignorance, you need to educate them during your sales process.

Contractors selling on priceUnfortunately, I agree with Shawn when he stated that many contractors are terrible salespeople, so they have to sell on price.  If that’s you, then you really need to ask yourself if you’ve actually invited the “haggler” to contact you.  If your brochure, ad, website or any other selling tool you use promises “Best Prices”, “Affordable Service” or “Small Cost for High Quality”, as Jeff Foxworthy would say…"there’s your sign”.

If this sounds like a lot of the potential customers you talk with, it’s time to get tough.  Not on the prospect…on yourself!  You need to do a better job of selling yourself and not the job.  So how do you sell yourself, without selling yourself short?  The easiest way to do that is with your website.

By the way, if you’re saying to yourself, “Wow, I don’t even have a website,” then that’s an entirely different issue!

Website tips to help you differentiate your business

Tell your story

using your contractor website to help you sellMost people do a bit of research before calling for bids. Make sure your website clearly explains your business philosophy, process, product choices and anything else that will help steer folks away from price shopping. Include lots of pictures. Before / After shots are great…and if they include the homeowners in the “after shot” better yet!  Real people, real project, real happy! 

Let others tell your story

When you buy something on Amazon, do you read the reviews before pushing the “Buy It” button?   You can have the same type of “rating system” on your own website.  Easier yet, add testimonials from the happy customers in your photos.  But be sure to keep it current…and real.  Many people visit a website multiple times before making the first contact.  You want to be certain they see new images and comments when they visit so they know you’re a busy professional with lots of satisfied customers.

Brag a little

Remodeling awardsHave you earned awards or accolades from pertinent associations?  Non-customers and peers giving you kudos speak volumes to a potential customer. Are you a Certified Installer for a particular product?  My company offers perks and real benefits for becoming a certified installer of our products…and it has proven to make a big difference in our Certified WOLF Pro’s sales process. 

Get personal

People do business with people.  You can be professional and still let your clients know a little more about you.  A personal connection can build a level of trust and comfort that goes a long way in building a better working relationship.

Leaving out the dollars makes sense

Steer away from the phrases mentioned above and focus on the quality of your service, your process and the satisfaction of your customers.   If you don’t want your customers to focus on the price, then you shouldn’t!

Watch for Part II

So now that you have your website crafted to sell, you need to understand how to make it an integral part of your sales process.  In a follow up blog to this one, titled “Using Your Website As A Resume To Help You Sell”, I’ll share some suggestions for improving your sales process. 

About WOLF:  WOLF provides kitchen and bath cabinetry and building materials, marketing and sales support and financial services exclusively to independent LBM dealers in 28 states in the Eastern and Midwestern U.S. Since its founding in 1843, York, Pa.-based WOLF has evolved into a sourcing company that offers American-made, WOLF-branded products and other high-quality product lines.  Learn more about WOLF at and


Topics: Sales, Differentiating your Business, Marketing Ideas, Web Site Related, Guest Blogs

Is Your In-Home Presentation Boring and Costing You Sales?

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Thu, Jun 06,2013 @ 06:00 AM

Robert Ritsema of The iPitch


Guest Blogger: Robert Ritsema is the owner/creator of The iPitch, providing iPad based solutions to the building materials industry.  Reach him at or 719.314.5608  (iPad® is a registered trademark of the Apple Corporation)


Is Your In-Home Presentation Boring and Costing You Sales?

ipad presentation for contractors


Death by PowerPoint” and “Powerpoint Hell” are common criticisms of slide-based presentations.  Largely due in part to their creating a state of boredom and fatigue induced by information overload.  Excessive use of text, bullet points and transitions are all leading factors.  Retired Marine Colonel Thomas X. Hammes calls this effect  “hypnotizing chickens”.

Today, flip-book & slide based presentations remain very popular, especially within the home improvement industry. Desire has always been to provide our sales reps with accurate information as well as a structured flow to the presentation; it’s been a key premise/belief for creating sales but it may be costing you sales in the end.

Homeowners today crave information.

Information that leads to confidence and trust with whom they’ve ultimately chosen to complete their project. Yet, they also expect that information to be informative, fun, motivating and maybe even a little addicting as well. 

Contractor pitchbooksYour sales team is no different.  They also desire and expect to interact with content that makes presenting fun and interactive.  Veteran reps (the good ones) make the necessary adjustments within their presentation to do just that.  Largely  in part because flipping through binders and PowerPoint slides may not be enough for many today; and by their very nature, create ineffective presenters, lost sales and revenue.



IPad pitchbook for contractors

 Since it’s launch in 2009, the iPad has been seen as a highly innovative and “game changing” piece of technology for consumers, businesses and educators alike. Its revolutionary operating system allows for the creation of an unmatched user experience.

The “user experience”, however, doesn’t have to mean gimmicky.  Simply presenting information in a way that is “unique and surprising” can be as simple as capitalizing on the iPads native and intuitive gestures. 


Gestures like:

  • Tapping to reveal content - Keep your prospect involved by creating “interactive portals”.  Revealing additional , hidden or more in-depth content.
  • Pinching open for video/photos – Capitalize on your media collateral by embedding them into your presentation for a novel and engaging user experience.
  • Swiping – Move seamlessly throughout your presentation via a navigate-able, customer driven sales rep controlled menu system, a more responsive and interactive way to present.

Thomas Malone, a young Xerox reacher concluded many years ago that “when people actively participate in the learning process, they retain more.”  So creating new ways for your sales reps to engage and interact with your prospects allows for a more unique consumer experience; further enhancing their ability to execute the presentation as well as your consumers ability to internalize and take ownership of your company and products.


A Well Executed Plan.

Capitalizing on the iPad requires more than just showing your presentation, pictures and video.  Take time to consider exactly how and what would change to your sales presentation, communication systems and training programs.


Consider these helpful tips:

1. IPad sales presentations for contractorsTeam Engagement -  Engage all of your department’s leaders. 

2. Create a “Pilot” Program -  For best results, do not consider piloting or testing more than 4 apps at a time.

3. Have a “Launch Event” - Create a fun and informative event; involving the entire organization goes along way to insuring your “changes” are accepted positively.

The iPad has an opportunity to revolutionize the way in which in-home presentations are delivered and business is won.  Your well constructed and executed plan will play a crucial role in its overall success.


Topics: Sales, Technology for Remodelers, Success Strategies, Sales Considerations, Differentiating your Business, Guest Blogs

Contractor Gets Advice From Competitor About Selling At Cheap Prices

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Sun, Jun 02,2013 @ 06:00 AM

Jeff Fierstein is the General Manager at Byers LeafGuard Gutter Systems


Guest Blogger:  Jeff Fierstein is the General Manager at Byers LeafGuard Gutter Systems located in Grass Valley California.  Jeff had posted a comment to a discussion I started at the NARI LinkedIn group The discussion was about a blog I posted titled: “Why Some Contractors Can Raise Their Prices But Most Others Can’t”.  I decided to use his comment as a guest blog, thanks to Jeff for allowing me to share this with you.


Contractor Gets Sage Advice From A Competitor About Selling At Cheap Prices

Advice for contractors about selling

When I was a young man a competitor of mine, several years my senior, named Tommy O’Connell pulled me aside. He pulled a $100.00 bill out of his wallet and told me he always kept that bill in his wallet, “Never sell from an empty wagon” he said. I was young and didn’t much care for Tommy so I thought he was full of crap, but he explained that if you’re broke and need a sale too much, you’ll have a tendency to sell too cheap. That was actually sage advice. In this economy, there are many contractors that are living hand to mouth. Without the skills they require to sell their services at the price they deserve, they resort to “selling” a cheap price. They either don’t understand that to stay in business they need to include a profit, or simply cut corners and provide a sub standard job. This may be a good indication why an overwhelming number of home improvement contractors fail within their first two years of business.


Never sell from an empty wagon“Never sell from an empty wagon”


In our early days, we would bid like crazy, leave bids on the doorstep, and wait for the mailman to come. The only thing that saved us from ourselves was our bid package was detailed enough to outshine the competition who was also waiting for the mailman.


We’ve all heard it, what got us here, isn’t going to get us where we want to go.

Today, the only way we would leave a bid on the doorstep is under duress. Sure there are exceptions to the rule but unless we get a chance to explain our bid in detail and ask for the business, we might as well not bid. We spend a great deal of effort to train our sales force how to build value and ask for the order. We know that there is competition in our field but generally find them easy to outsell at the price we need to be around tomorrow.

For those concerned about selling against contractors that sell too cheaply...


An eagle doesn’t hunt flies

There is an ancient roman proverb that comes to mind; AQVILA NON CAPIT MVSCAS
“An eagle doesn’t hunt flies”


Topics: Sales, Guest Blogs, Opinions from Contractors, Business Planning, Sage Advice

11 Common Traits of People Who Buy On Price

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, May 07,2013 @ 06:00 AM

11 Common Traits of People Who Buy Remodeling On Price

Selling remodeling on price


Consumers who buy remodeling on price typically don’t care about anything else but price; until they become customers.  Then after your remodeling or construction company has them as customers they seem to always want more than they agreed to pay for. 


There are two main types of prospects who buy remodeling on price. 

  • The first is those who are driven to pay as little as possible.   These people typically apply this logic with everything they buy.   They are also much more likely to lie to you, your employees and your subcontractors if it suits their purposes for saving money and or getting more than they paid for.
  • Customers that buy on priceThe second is those who, lacking insight, simply don’t know what else to consider when deciding between contractors so they base their decisions on the bottom line.  These people may actually be willing to pay more when selecting one contractor over another, but the contractor must be a true sales person to help them discover other more important things to consider.  

It also takes a true sales person to distinguish between those who buy on price on purpose and those who buy on price due to a lack of insight.  Most contractors are terrible salespeople, so most contractors have to sell on price.


For those who have been selling on price

My purpose of writing this blog is to provide contractors with some motivation to embrace sales training so they are not destined to sell on price forever.   Check out my list below of the common traits of those who buy your services on price.  If these things are happening to you it’s your own fault.  When you think of yourself as a contractor first and a sales person second, you doom yourself to a career that will probably pay you less than per hour than your employees earn.  If that is already happening you have three choices:

  1. Sales Training for remodelersDecide to do something about it and get some professional sales training and coaching.
  2. Decide to do nothing and recognize that you and your business are commodities
  3. Or, avoid thinking about it and stop reading this blog post before you feel any worse about your situation


People who buy solely base on price have these common traits

I encourage you to use the comments area to add any others you feel should be on the list.

  1. Contractors selling on priceThey see remodeling as a commodity where every contractor and proposal are the same, not a service where one company does things differently than another.
  2. They always seek to get more than they paid for.
  3. They don’t like to give big deposits or commencement payments; they expect the contractor to finance all or most of the job until the final payment.
  4. They lied to you and think it’s just fine to do so.  This often leaves them wary and concerned that you will lie to them as well, creating a need for them to always be suspicious when interacting with you and your team.
  5. These people won’t like discussing change orders at all, won’t pay for change orders at acceptance and or will want to negotiate their cost at final payment.
  6. These people try to get free stuff out of you and your team after you start their job.  If you give in on this they will want more free stuff.  They are also likely to forget about the free stuff you already gave them when you want to charge them for any extras or change orders.
  7. Contractor sales trainingThey will typically dispute your payment schedule, make scheduled progress payments late and delay your final payment as long as they can.
  8. They will only buy from you again if you are the cheapest of the contractors they speak with.
  9. They get closer to their own retirement at your expense and limit your ability to retire.
  10. They will often find some way to blackmail you into reducing the final price.


These people hang out with other people just like them!

selling remodeling on price


Here's one last thing to think about if you sell to people who buy on price; they hang around with other people just like them.   If they refer you they will probably be referring you to other prospects who also buy on price.   When they do so, based on their own experiences working with you, they will often coach the referral on how to lie to you and get stuff for free.   They will also often identify what your business’ weaknesses are so the referral can watch for them and use them to blackmail you into some type of money related concession before they are done with you.



Topics: Sales, Sales Considerations, Earning More Money, Lead Generation, Prequalifying, Customer Relations

Three Thoughts for Contractors by Cowboy Legend Will Rogers

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Apr 16,2013 @ 06:00 AM

Three Thoughts for Contractors by Cowboy Legend Will Rogers

Will Rogers



Will Rogers, who died in a 1935 plane crash, was one of the greatest political sages this country has ever known.  He is well known for his quote:  “Don't squat with your spurs on”.  He also shared many other thought provoking but less popular sayings.   For a little fun I offer these three and what I think they could offer for advice to contractors

“Never miss a good chance to shut up”

Many contractors, me included, have probably had an occasion where we opened our mouths and wished we hadn’t.  Other times we open our mouths, and even though we may not realize it, others we interact with wish we hadn’t! 

Never miss a good chance to shut upHere are a few times when saying nothing might just be the best thing to say:

  • If your customer has already decided to buy, shut up.  Don’t risk giving him/her a reason to change their mind.
  • If you ask your prospect or customer a question, shut up.   Give them time to think and answer the question.  If due to the silence you keep talking or offer them answers to choose from you might not get the real answer.
  • If you have chance to disparage your competition, shut up.  More times than not the person listening to you will begin to think less of you for doing so.  Instead of talking bad about what they do or don’t do, talk about how you do what you do.


“Always drink upstream from the herd”

Will Rogers Quotes


When starting their businesses too many contractors look to what other contractors are doing and assume they should do the same.   The fact is that 9 of 10 contractors typically go out of business within 10 years of getting started.   The odds of copying the right contractor’s strategy are only 1 in 10. 

Here are a few things drinking downstream of other contractors can do to your construction business:

  • Use the wrong labor rates and markup to price your jobs assuming you need to be competitive.
  • Assume because another contractor quoted a price to a prospect you must be able to do it for that price as well.
  • Getting and using legal advice from online contractor discussion groups without consulting legal counsel before you do so.


“If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging”

Contractor Financial problemsA good number of contractors at one time or another find themselves in a financial hole.  Rather than figure out how they got there, they just keep working, often assuming by working harder or longer hours they will eventually get out of the hole.  Unfortunately many of them just dig a deeper hole and eventually the hole is so deep they can’t climb out so they stay in it.  Sometimes the hole can even cave in all around them and bury them and their businesses.  If you want to avoid the most common reasons contractors get into financial trouble check out this previous blog post.


Bonus saying:

Here’s one more from Will Rogers just for fun.  I’ll let you be the one to determine what this means to you!

 “There are three kinds of men:

  1. The ones that learn by reading.

  2. The few who learn by observation.

  3. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.”

 Quotes by Will Rogers


Topics: Business Financials, Margin and Markup, Sales, Fun Stuff, Starting a Business

How Should Remodelers Be Prequalifying and Selling To Gen Y?

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Feb 26,2013 @ 07:41 AM

How Should Remodelers Be Prequalifying and Selling To Generation Y?

Gen Y Sales Process


A recent guest blog posted here at the Design Builders Blog was written by a Generation Y member.   The author, Mark Brown, offered some advice for contractors on how to work with Gen Y employees.   His blog created quite a discussion with over 38 thoughtful comments as of posting this blog from contractors and employees from all generations.   One contractor praised the blog and the discussion but also brought up another very valid consideration for contractors and remodelers: How to sell to Gen Y clients?  The answer to that question is probably a very big conversation and a very involved one as well. 

One thing is for sure.  Trying to force Gen Y to buy remodeling (or anything) the way you have always sold to other generations isn’t going to work.  That said how about bringing the answer down to a few simple but big picture considerations to help get the conversation started and offer some direction.  With a new direction in mind, you can then seek out and get the remodeling sales training you will need to sell to this new customer type.

If you can’t beat Generation Y, why not join them

The members of Gen Y are used to getting information instantly and for free.   Almost every one of them has a smart phone and can Google any subject or topic to find instant answers or information, all at no cost to them.   And they can get that information at any time of the day or night they want it.  That desire and internet content available about anything you can think of has definitely defined how Gen Y does their research and makes their remodeling or home improvement buying decisions. 

For contractors who have always sold to the generations born prior to Gen Y, the idea of providing instant and free information about a remodeling project for some young kid who isn’t ready to buy or make a decision without first checking you and your suggestions out online using social media throws a monkey wrench into any veteran contractor’s long standing selling process.  Those changes probably also all but kill a contractor’s sales closes rates when it comes to Gen Y remodeling and home improvement prospects.

“The reality to recognize is that Gen Y isn’t going to change.   So, contractors need to change how they both market to and sell to Generation Y if they want to do business with them.”


Save yourself a lot of time, give them what they want

How Gen Y makes Remodeling DecisionsIf your construction or remodeling business doesn’t have a web site, stop reading right now or recognize and commit to the fact that you better get one up right away if you want to sell to Gen Y.  Done right, and it must be done right, a contractor’s web site  offers a place to give Generation Y, and any other generation for that matter,  the information they need to work through their decision making process and prequalify your business as a good option for them to consider.  If you’re strategic and you put the right information on your site, you won’t need to waste your time doing live sales calls with someone who would never have bought from you anyway and or who isn't far enough along yet in their decision making process to make any commitments that will include money.


What Information Should a Contractor’s website have on it?

Good question.  It has a lot to do with how Generation Y makes remodeling decisions.  I’ll offer some advice and suggestions on that topic in a follow up blog to be titled “If you don’t or won’t offer Generation Y Prospects what they want they will go away”


Topics: Sales, Success Strategies, Sales Considerations, Differentiating your Business, Social Media for Contractors, Building Relationships, Generation Y, Shawn's Predictions

Prospects Need A New Process For Coming To A Buying Decision

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Mon, Dec 17,2012 @ 06:00 AM

Remodeling Prospects Need A New Process For Coming To A Buying Decision

Make remodeling decisions




Consumers need a new process for coming to a decision.  This definitely includes consumers considering remodeling projects at their homes. They can no longer assume they will increase the value of their home just because they remodel.  Even low price might not be a compelling reason to buy.  They need new reasons to go forward, and it becomes the salesperson’s job to help them find those reasons. 

Every consumer must go through due diligence before making a buying decision and this is further complicated because each one will have a different path; one that is personal to them.  They are journeying into new areas and might not even know how or where to get started.  The new remodeling salesman must be a decision engineer, methodically guiding consumers through their specific emotional and intellectual considerations relative to making a confident buying decision. 

Notice I said guide them

Shortening the remodeling sales cycle


They must feel like the decision and the process they went through was their own and that they didn’t miss anything that should have been considered.   The old school approach of telling or convincing a prospect what to do will no longer work.  Once they come to realize a process for making their decision, the salesman must then become a trusted adviser, with the knowledge and ability to offer appropriate design, product and project delivery options. 


The consumer has come to expect options

LBM Sales Rep helps remodelerManufacturers can and should provided information and education relative to product options, differences and price points.  Retailers selling to remodelers should be getting this information from their distributor and manufacturer reps.  The entire supply chain should be sharing this information with contractors through trade shows, educational events and personal interaction.  

To improve sales and ultimately business results, I suggest remodelers find good retailers to do business with who will provide this information; then attend their offerings and study up.



Topics: New Business Realities, Sales, Project Meetings, Success Strategies, Sales Considerations, Differentiating your Business, Plans and Specifications