Art of the Sale: Discussing Color and the Close

In this third 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 during color discussion and closing the sale.

The first article in the series covered Introduction and the First Steps while the second focused on Product Upgrades, Estimating and Project Bids.

Whether color discussion with a homeowner comes up before or after the close, it’s often not a subject in which a contractor wants to spend a lot of time. There are no upgradeable color propositions that will make a job more profitable, nor is it billable time. Bartel warns, however, that to neglect customer focus during color discussion has its risks.

“Color conversation can come up at a couple different points,” he says. “It usually comes up once you land the job, and it’s typically not part of the estimating process.

“But part of the process that can differentiate you from other contractors is the willingness to help with color. Often painters don’t want to help with color because it’s time consuming and can delay the project start. And that’s productivity. But that’s where it’s important to avoid the how-it-affects-you approach, and instead be thinking about the customer and their needs.”

The trust component Bartel references has grown through the introduction phase of the sale, the product discussion and the submittal of a bid. And color consideration should be simply another layer in a customer-focused approach that builds such trust, Bartel explains. Besides, a smooth color selection process improves productivity, efficiency and profitability.

“A part of your conversation with a homeowner can be, ‘Have you chosen your colors?’ If they have, great, the process is a little easier. If they haven’t, then that’s where you come in as an added service that sets you apart from the competition. It’s, ‘Where have your hiccups been in color selection? Where do you need help? I have some services.’

For contractors who do not employ a designer, are uncomfortable with color discussion, or just don’t see themselves as color experts, Sherwin-Williams offers resources to guide the homeowner (see accompanying article) to a successful color selection experience.

“It’s critical — even if you don’t have a designer on staff or you’re not an expert on color — that you can provide some options to help them. And here’s an opportunity to build your credibility with the customer by naming some brand names that you work with. You can say to your customer, for example, ‘Need help with color selection? We’ll build in some time to leverage digital tools, including our ColorSnap App, that we use with Sherwin-Williams. These tools are ready to help whenever color inspiration strikes. Narrowing down your color choices is now easier.’”

And offering Virtual Color Consultation for Homeowners can provide the one-on-one experience that will ease the process for your customers, according to Bartel.

“So you can offer your customers free online color consultation and connect them with a Sherwin-Williams color expert who will help them with color selection virtually. This is a benefit of doing business with you, because you partner with companies like Sherwin-Williams to ease their pain in this part of the process. You’ll be ready to start their project faster and get it done promptly.”

At this point of the sale, if a contractor has maintained a customer focus throughout introduction, discussion of upgrades, submittal of a bid and discussion of color, the close remains at hand. Internet sleuths will find a variety of general closing tips and lines, but none will be necessary if the contractor has remained and continues to be customer-focused, even while waiting for the phone to ring, according to Bartel. Any questions that come up merit a prompt reply and invite further communication as needed.

“If you can say at this point, ‘You had unique needs, and I’m addressing your unique needs,’ you will truly set yourself apart from the competition. From the customer’s perspective it says, ‘Yeah, you are listening. This whole conversation has been mostly about me, not about you as a painter. And you may cost a little more than the next painter, but the next painter didn’t have genuine concern for my needs.’

“And that mindset carries over. How you interact with them during proposal consideration is critical. That’s the opportunity to set yourself apart and really connect. And if you do, you’re going to close that sale.”

Next: Delivery — the Sale Isn’t Over Yet!