I know for many custom building professionals this may be a little patronizing. For others it may be simple but thought provoking. But for all who read this column you will be focused on the subject for at least the next 15 minutes.
I ask this question to thousands of builders and almost all initially answer “yes.” My second question then is, “How many steps are in your sales process?” This is where the puzzled looks begin to appear. Rarely do I get a number right away. In an effort to help this along, my next request is for the builders to write down each step of their sales process (beginning when the client contacts them to right after the sale is made). On the surface this exercise would appear to be a simple request since most builders just said they had a sales process. While many attempt to muddle through and write down their process, most write-ups are pretty messy and not very complete or useful.
So why is having a sales process important, and why is it important to write it down?
First, why have a process? The best way I can communicate the importance of a process is by using other worlds you are very familiar with. Do you know why flying on a plane is so safe (safer than driving a car)? Do you know why a pilot can accurately predict the flying time and pinpoint the destination? It is because the pilot has a process. This process is rigidly followed on every single flight. It takes into account an inspection of the plane and its instruments (on every flight). A written flight plan is created that addresses weather updates, air speed, and air traffic conditions. Not only is this process created and written down in a consistent manner, but it is also logged in for others to see. It is also monitored constantly during the flight to assure the right outcome (safety and timeliness).
There are also many other processes you do that have become more unconscious, such as getting out of bed in the morning. Your process of getting ready for the day has many steps but generally takes only a short amount of time, and you achieve the proper hygiene and readiness for the day. Most have found ways to gain more efficacies though repetition.
Having a sales process allows you to achieve much higher levels of success (better close rates, higher total sales, and more delighted clients). While I can share my sales process, I will suggest you first take inventory and do the following (it may be harder than you think):
1. Write down three non-building processes that you are familiar with. They may be baking cookies or preparing for a sailing race. By using metaphors you will gain a better understanding of the subject of process.
2. What are some benefits to having a process? Make a list (e.g., allows for better results or allows you to communicate or train others).
3. Write down your present sales process (this should be seven to 12 steps). If it is less, then go back and break apart some of the steps to see what is missing. If it is more, then try and combine some into fewer steps. Too many or too few steps make it tough to master.
4. Grade yourself on each step (10 being the best and 1 being the lowest).
5. Focus on the lowest scores. How can you move these scores up from 6 to 7? What are some simple actions you can put into place to improve? For example, if your closing questions are not effective then ask top sales people for their questions. If your follow up is inconsistent then make a checklist to use after each sales call.
6. Know your numbers. Take time to write down some key sales metrics. This may take a little time to develop if you are not in the routine of looking at metrics. Some measuring sticks might be the length of time for a sales appointment, average close rate, average number of days from appointment to close, and average sale per client.
7. Monitor, monitor, monitor. Like the pilot, you need to review sales process improvement and the results regularly. I would recommend a glance every week (10 minutes) and a deep review (45 minutes) every month (mark it on your calendar). This task does not take much time, but if you want to stay on track it is critical.
In closing, I have not given you a specific sales process. I have given you a process to create or unleash your own sales process. If you can make it more conscious, you will develop a higher level of mastery and your sales success will dramatically increase.
Mark Richardson is co-chairman of Case Design/ Remodeling Inc. and the Case Institute of Remodeling. He is a member of the NAHB Remodeling Hall of Fame and a Fellow at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Richardson is the author of the best-selling book, “How Fit is Your Business?,” and a forthcoming book, “Business Themes to Live By.” He can be reached at email@example.com.