In this fifth and final 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 post-project follow-up that lays a path toward repeat business and referrals.
Many painting contractors commit considerable resources trying to drum up new business, and that’s fine, according to Bartel. But if it’s done at the expense of mining your previous customers for repeat business or word-of-mouth references, you might want to reconsider that approach.
“It’s almost a cliché,” says Bartel. “But it’s a fact: It costs a lot less money and effort to create a repeat customer than to find a new customer. That’s why it’s so valuable to focus on that part of your business.”
Presuming you have a happy customer (and this article will later address possible approaches if you don’t), it’s often valuable to leave one last impression of who performed the services that the homeowner is so pleased with.
“Send a card, a note, an email — maybe if it’s a bigger project, a box of chocolates or a can koozy — saying, ‘Thank you for your business. I hope you enjoy the work that we did and we would love the opportunity to do your next painting project.’ So you’re asking for their business at the same time you’re thanking them and showing that you care.”
Additionally, Bartel suggests, be sure to leave your homeowner customers with documentation you may have used during the process, such as documents developed from Sherwin-Williams Customizable Marketing Materials tool, available in English or Spanish by logging in to your online PRO account. These materials, which include product sell sheets that can be customized with your company name, logo, and contact information, will give homeowners an exact product and color reference should they need touchup a year or two down the road, as well as a reminder of the contractor who performed the service. Using mySW.com also provides you a permanent record of the work you did for that customer.
“So it’s not just a thank you,” says Bartel. “It’s a record of what was actually done, with some of the specifics. What it does is help to keep your name top-of-mind for future services.”
Your happy customers can also help you develop new business by spreading the word. That can happen by sharing their satisfaction with friends and neighbors, or via your social media platform, which has its risks as well as rewards.
“If you’ve provided a personalized experience, customized to a customer’s needs and delivered quality work with an appropriate follow-up, that’s how you ramp up word-of-mouth,” Bartel says. “And leveraging social media and your happy customers can help add to word-of-mouth referral. If you can capture a clip of a customer saying, ‘ABC did a great job,’ terrific, but they have to be willing to do it.
“I’ve seen social media done successfully. It’s a different form of customer review and it’s a way of meeting potential customers in a way they want to be met. It can drive business growth for painting contractors. And it can be helpful in finding new employees.”
The risk in social media lies in less-than-wholly-satisfied customers who are willing to take their issues public. There still may be hope for turning that customer into a lead-generating ally, however.
“There are certainly times that you may just need to cut losses,” says Bartel. “Hopefully those times are very few and far between but there are definitely times when you have to make a business decision. All businesses have to go through that.
“But in most cases, you have to identify what is the real issue with a dissatisfied customer. Is it the quality of work? Is It that they expected something else to be done and it wasn’t done? Did they think that the scope covered other things that they think weren’t covered? You have to go back to your estimating process or your consultation process and see if you asked good, open-ended questions to truly understand what the issues were that needed to be resolved. Did you do what you said you were going to do, and did you communicate well?
“You have to truly take the approach of, ‘I’m trying to understand why you’re unhappy so I can help you.’ And if it’s clear that you’re doing that in a professional, courteous way, truly looking for resolution, more times than not a customer will recognize and appreciate that. They’ll know that this is a company that stands by their word, truly cares about the customer and is someone who can be trusted in the future. And there’s a really good chance you can salvage that relationship and get their business again.”
This article concludes the Art of the Sale series. If Bartel has one major takeaway for contractors to keep top-of-mind throughout the sale process — introduction, estimating, the close, execution and follow-up — it’s the value of listening.
“That needs to be present throughout every stage of the process,” he says. “I really believe the sales process, in any industry, is really pretty simple. Knowing and learning it is easy. It’s the discipline to actually implement it well that can be difficult because we’re in such a fast-paced world.”