Art of the Sale: Product Upgrades, Estimating, and Project Bids

In this second installment of a series on achieving sales success for PRO painting contractors, Archie Bartel offers sales tips and guidelines for contractors trying to improve their sales performance. Bartel, Sherwin-Williams Director of Sales Force Effectiveness, is the former Marketing Director for Residential Repaint at Sherwin-Williams. This article will examine the continued importance of being customer-focused throughout the bid preparation process, product upgrade considerations, and delivering a quote.

The first article in the series (“Introduction and the First Steps”) can be found here.

Just like the introductory phase of the sale, listening skills through the next steps remain the most valuable tool in your sales arsenal as you work toward an agreement with the homeowner.

“As we have seen with our own customer base, homeowner dynamics have changed,” says Bartel. “A contractor’s customer is more informed and doing a lot of research on their own. They’re going to come prepared with challenging questions for contractors.”

The successful customer-focused contractor will not only have answers, but questions of their own to ensure they are fully understanding their customer needs, according to Bartel.

“Our homeowners want things done quickly and they want them done well,” he says. “They may have other concerns that they want you to be aware of, so you’re going to have to listen to those concerns and ask the right questions to address them so you can satisfy their requirements on the job.

“Painting contractors today tend to want to get jobs done quickly, so that you can move on. So in your sales process, on estimating day, typically you’ll want to get in, get out, get them a quote and move on. And then hope that you’ll get selected. But if we take just a little bit of time and slow things down and ask good questions and understand everything that’s important to this customer, you’re going to build trust faster with them.”

It’s here that a consideration of product upgrades can demonstrate how much listening a contractor has done — and how much trust he or she may be building — in the sales process, according to Bartel. While contractors typically see the value and improved profitability that a product upgrade can deliver, the often-used “good-better-best” approach of selling it might not suit the customer.

For example, consider a hypothetical four-room repaint quote. The first two rooms, the contractor has learned, are not high-traffic, high-usage rooms. The third room, however, the dining room, is the site of frequent dinner parties, so the contractor can offer appropriate product solutions to meet that need and add value (and potential profitability) to the quote. Throw in the fact that the hypothetical homeowner is an accomplished cook with a passion for exotic, fragrant foods — something the contractor may have learned by customer-focused listening — and the fourth room, the kitchen, might be prime territory to propose a product upgrade as well.

(For a guided step-by-step reference tool that will help contractors ask the right questions, understand customer needs and provide homeowners with the perfect finish, see the Sherwin-Williams Room-by-Room Paint Selection Guide.)

“In the first two rooms, if I’ve asked all the right questions and truly understand their needs, I might use my base product, SuperPaint,” says Bartel. “You don’t need anything special, and it will look nice and fresh. But in the dining room, Cashmere is going to give them that lush look and designer feel, that element of premium appearance where they do most of their entertaining. In the kitchen though, Harmony, which helps reduce common indoor odors, or Emerald, with its exceptional durability and washability, is going to be the best fit for their needs.

“So it starts with, ‘Let me ask you some questions about what’s important to you in this space.’ Based on what’s important to that homeowner, you as a contractor need to be willing to upgrade them into a different product because that product is going to fit their needs the most. It’s not just the good-better-best system without explaining why it’s better. The ‘best’ system might not be the best system for them.”

Capturing all the details that demonstrate how the contractor has listened is another key element in building customer trust. To that end, the Sherwin-Williams Project Bids tool available via the S-W PRO App is a great way to ensure nothing gets left out, in addition to delivering a professional-looking quote that reflects positively on the contractor.

“It’s amazing in our business how many contractors look like they’re listening, they’re writing notes down, and they miss something on the quote,” says Bartel. “They miss the handrail, or they miss something else. Then it’s up to the homeowner to bring that up before they sign the contract. It delays the process, it’s frustrating for the homeowner to have that responsibility for fact-checking, and they start to question, ‘Are they actually listening? Are they going to do what I told them to do? Is this job going turn out the way they said it would?’

“But with Project Bids, you’re doing it as you’re having the conversation,” he adds. “You’re recording this information digitally and everything you’re recording is populating the final document, so it’s really easy. You can listen and record all at the same time and produce a professional document without any extra steps.

“And you can do it quickly. Speed is really important, but only if it’s speed without sacrificing quality. With Project Bids, you can create your bid before you even leave the job. It’s ‘I’ll have your quote ready in five minutes. I can email you this quote from the driveway.’

“And the next step with you is to follow up on the quote, not send it. My productivity has just increased because I’ve already done that step.”

Next: Color and the Close