Michael O’Grady

This article should really be titled “Miracle Closing Technique for the Estimate-Getting Researcher.” As you will read, it’s really not a miracle at all. It’s more common sense.

There are many kinds of customers, but the most classic might be the we’re-getting-estimates customer. They will call for an estimate. They like to make sure that whoever answers the phone and makes the appointment knows that they’re just starting the process of getting estimates. They mention a bit about the research they’ve already done. They might even give the model numbers of what they’re looking for and talk about the Internet site that they used to bring them to your company.

It has been my experience with husband and wife households that the husband makes the initial call the majority of the time, but don’t be surprised when the wife calls with the same approach. Make the appointment with her and do not make the tragic mistake of suggesting that her husband be there for the appointment, unless she suggests it. Sometimes our male egos, with lessons learned from our parents during a different generation, told us the man of the house makes this decision. That couldn’t be farther from the truth in most households today.

As I learned from Sharon Roberts, a professional speaker and coach on selling to women, a woman has control over her man in ways you can’t even imagine. Of course, on many calls there may not even be a man or a husband in the household. Making no assumptions or generalizations is the best approach.

Now you’ve booked the appointment and it’s time for the estimate. This estimate-getting researcher informs you what order you are on their estimate list. For many years, I handled this estimate similar to many other salespeople in the industry. If I wasn’t the last person to give an estimate, I would do a two-part close. I would spend the first visit gathering information and taking measurements, then I would call back a few days later to book the next appointment, at which time I tried to position myself as the last estimate given. The only flaw with this method is that all the other companies on the customer’s estimate list will be trying to do the same. As a result, the customer would get frustrated when they couldn’t get estimates completed right away. Many times on my second visit, the customer still wouldn’t have all their estimates.

My closing rate on these customers was typically under 20 percent. These results made me begin to think about this in a way that I hadn’t thought about previously. I began to use the do unto others as they want to be done unto them method. I started paying attention to how this estimate-getting researcher, a very process-oriented person, makes decisions. I call this my miracle closing technique for the estimate-getting researcher. The most effective approach to closing the estimate-getting customer is first go meet with whoever booked the appointment. I spend as much time needed in the first appointment gathering information, taking measurements, and whatever engineering needs to be done. At that point, I’ll sit down at the kitchen table, while I calculate my job costs. While I sit with these customers, I tell them stories about other situations in homes I’ve seen that were very similar to their home. I give them a look at my Credibility Book, which is a binder that I created containing many great articles about the company, testimonial letters, certificate of insurance, and customer satisfaction surveys.

These customers, who are used to scheduling second appointments with other companies, are dumbfounded that I can sit there and, in an hour of their time, figure out the job and give them a quote right there on the spot. Often they would say, “All the other companies that came out to give an estimate would have to go back to their office and calculate it all out.” I explained that I would rather sit there and get this done for them right away. I would tell them I know how frustrating a process like this can be and I like to make it easier for them. Using this approach my closing rates skyrocketed, going from less than 20 percent to over 60 percent with this type of person. In fact, many customers would make their buying decision right there in the first sitting. They’d be amazed that I was able to sit there and calculate the job in one sitting. Because I have all the information they needed with the referrals and testimonials, a lot of them would make their decision right then and there.

For the customers that don’t make their decision right away, I make sure they have my email address and my cell phone number. I tell them to make sure they call me while they’re in the process of making the decision. “Please, use me as a consultant,” I say. I emphasize that even if they’re unsure about their decision, they can call me with questions. I will help them in any way I can. Before leaving the house I ask, “When do you think you’ll be in a position to make a decision on this? I don’t want to rush you, but you tell me when it makes sense for me to call.” Whatever the customer’s answer, I ask if it will be alright for me to call them on the date they mentioned to see where they’re at with their decision. The answer is always yes. I’ll say, “Are you sure that’s enough time? I don’t want to be a pest.”

Now this next part is very important. I look them in the eye. I shake their hand. I reiterate, “Are you sure that’s enough time, because I really don’t want to be a pest?” Then I sure as heck remember to call the customer on the date that we agreed on. Typically, what I have found happens is either the customer is very happy that I called on the date that we agreed, but they have not got in the rest of their estimates as proposed. Another thing that can happen is that I call and leave a voicemail and I get no call back. I’ll usually wait a day or two, I’ll make another phone call and throughout the message probably mention something about I hope this is the correct date. I thought I wrote it down, but please don’t feel pressure. I just wanted to see how you’re making out with the decision-making process. Usually the phone call I get back begins with an apology and then the person asks me when we can do the job.

So, to review, the miracle closing technique for the estimate-getting researcher is:

• Go meet with the customer; meet with whoever is there.

• Relax and tell stories of customer successes.

• Gather your information.

• Take your measurements.

• Allow the customer to go through your Credibility Book.

• Provide the estimate in the first sitting.

• Follow up on the date you proposed you would follow up.

Excerpted from the book,Selling at the Kitchen Table: A Contractor’s Guide to Closing the Deal,by Michael O’Grady. The full version of the book is available at www.SellingattheKitchenTable.com.

Publication date:07/04/2011