When a contractor tells me they hired a guy with the perfect sales personality, it scares me to death. One of the greatest myths regarding sales is that good sales people are blessed with the blarney stone and are talkers. Selling is a skill of listening, not talking. Ever notice the more the customer talks, the more the customer buys. People like to feel understood and know you are listening to them. Listening and connecting with people builds trust. Intelligent introverts can make great salespeople.
Too many people confuse selling with social niceties. Being nice to people is important but will someone really pay a premium for your services because you both like the same sports team or think it is hot outside? I doubt it. Selling is about communicating value to your customer. You can't communicate value until you know what they want.
Spend the first 5-10 minutes of each sales call asking broad questions. Try to find out what is driving the project. Are they going to move? Do they entertain a lot? Do they like to piddle around in the yard or hate yard work? Dig, dig and dig a little more. The more information you gather, the better.
2. You don't listen.
Most of us think of ourselves as not being judgmental, but when it comes to your trade, you are probably more prejudice than you realize. As you walk up the driveway, have you ever thought of what would look nice and started developing ideas? Probably so, and that is prejudice. You have no idea what the customer wants, and here you are working on the project. The more technical, prideful and competent you are in your profession, the more prejudiced you might be. Even if you are correct, you must first listen and educate the customer prior to dumping your ideas on them.
I walked into a hardware store to buy a drill bit. A young man with a trainee badge approached and eagerly took me to the appropriate area to demonstrate a specially tipped bit that could be used hundreds of times before dulling. It was normally $24.99 but was only $18 today. My reply was that I had a $2 hole. He looked at me like I was crazy and reinforced what a good deal this was as I could use it hundreds of times. I replied, not for me, as I only needed to make one hole. People buy drill bits for the kind of holes they need, not the actual drill bit. There is no way to know their need unless you ask.
3. You don't ask.
Most contractors don't want to seem pushy. That is understandable but asking for the order is not pushy, it is just common sense. When you walk into a restaurant, does the waiter ask what would you like to order? Sure he does. When you walk up to a hotel counter, does someone ask if you would like a room? Sure they do. You don't think they are rude or pushy. You went there with that purpose in mind. You are a contractor. People called you because they had a need. Simply ask, "Would you like for us to put you in our schedule?"
The author is president of PROOF Management Consultants and PROSULT Networking Groups. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.