The next time homeowners walk into your showroom, rather than grumble under your breath, take a moment to consider that they may provide a powerful way to help you build relationships and enhance customer loyalty—with your builder clients. Many dealers believe that homeowners are merely nuisances that take time away from “normal” activities, but more of them should be thinking about how these “interruptions” may actually present unique sales opportunities: Each homeowner that comes into your store is a potential lead you can pass along to your customers, a value-added benefit that could give you additional leverage when it comes time for price negotiations.
Phil, an inside sales representative for a northwest Indiana roofing and siding dealer, views homeowners this way: “We believe that we are part of our customers' sales team. When a homeowner walks into our showroom, we feel that we have to help that customer get answers or else our customer loses a sale.” What's more, “When a homeowner is shopping for materials and has not yet selected a contractor, we consider this a great opportunity to drive the sale to one of our loyal contractor customers. You can't imagine how happy our customers are to get these leads from us.”
Unfortunately, Phil's perspective is not common in the industry. When I ask managers at most organizations what system they have in place for capturing homeowner leads for contractors, most state that they “leave that up to the salesmen” or that the showroom is a “tool for their customers to sell.” Rarely does a manager say that a structured system is in place to proactively capture leads.
When a homeowner enters a showroom, many sales reps will shove a pamphlet into their hands and point the way to a product display. But consider that your vendors (and your own organization) invest millions of dollars in various media sources to generate interest in your products and services. The investment that went into the potential cultivation of that single lead was essentially tossed in the trash.
In some cases, the sales representative provides the homeowner with a list of contractors who can offer an installation quote. The problem with this approach is the contractor may never realize that the recommendation came from you. Even worse, because you've lost control of the sales process, the contractor may end up buying from a competitor. This approach also could damage your existing relationships if the homeowner's request results in a competitive bidding war among your valued installers.
If you stop to consider the total investment involved in handling a homeowner visit, you can certainly recognize the importance of capturing the homeowner's attention and enthusiastic interest and, more importantly, controlling the sales process to that homeowner. In this more controlled sales approach, the salesperson obtains the homeowner's information so that the lead can be carefully delegated to the appropriate contractor. If the homeowner asks for a list of contractors in the area, rather than supply a list of names and numbers, a deft Sales Leader will tell the homeowner, “We have a few that might be a good fit. It would be better if I get your information and contact them directly. This way I can ensure that they are available and, more important, that they will follow up with you in a timely fashion.”
When the salesperson provides the lead, a contractor will be extremely grateful (if they're not, then you gave the lead to the wrong contractor). And, more important, a contractor that periodically receives valuable sales leads from you will be far less likely to apply high pressure negotiating tactics and will more likely become or remain a happy and cooperative client. (How combative would you be with a vendor representative that was regularly providing profitable sales leads to you and your organization?) When handled properly, homeowners provide powerful leverage as you develop relationships with contractors.