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Irrigation Association of New York

Sales -Selling Yourself First by Tom Armbruster, Hunter Irrigation

As a representative of a major manufacturer in this business, I am fortunate to meet many interesting people, and I see how many different companies go to market with the “wares” that they peddle to the public. I receive many requests for a wide range of marketing materials to help contractors increase their sales, as well as many more comments on what we need to develop to help the contractor “get our name out there.”

If there is one basic, fundamental success thread that seems to bind the above-average, top-earning companies – outside of hard work, dedication and good business sense – it is “identity.” A company’s own identity is the single most powerful image that homeowners will take away from your short time with them during a sales call. We are “feature crazed irrigators,” who need to take a step back and realize that marketing materials supplied by manufacturers are designed to be “support” for the contractors in their efforts to sell themselves.

Ultimately, it still comes down to New York Sprinklers vs. Competition Irrigation for the homeowner dollars ready to land in some sprinkler guy’s bank account. Think of the many different scenarios that could happen when you go on a sales call. You could be the only company they call. Yeah, right. You could be one of two, and the other is the bearded, “sixties throwback” in the converted 1969 VW bus. Surely, your professionalism will get you the job every time. Yeah, keep dreaming!

The fact is that estimates are generally a dog fight among men who pretty much sound like they know what they are doing, pretty much provide some level of professionalism and pretty much seem to offer the same products, services and warranties that everyone else offers. I know, you’re thinking that’s far too broad a generalization, and not understanding of the things that make YOUR company WAY different than all the others.

Believe me, I’m a huge advocate of added offerings, services, presentations, neat appearance, phone manner, clean and maintained vehicles, etc. etc. Getting a solid step up in the “impression” game is 80 percent of the way to closing the sale, and marketing materials organized with a strong message by the contractor is definitely a plus.

What happens when you and three other guys recommend the same basic product? Before you answer, because your “sprinkler upbringing” is going to lead you to the wrong conclusion, I want to look at a very real scenario that happens daily in other home-service businesses.
If ABC Contractors Inc. and XYZ Builders give you an estimate to replace windows, and both recommend Andersen Windows, how are YOU going to decide on the winner? See, with product being the same, it’s now a combination of many factors, including but not limited to price, references, comfort with the company, first impression, appearance and warranty (above and beyond Andersen’s, of course). The key is you are inclined to believe that Andersen is a quality window, and it’s a plus that both contractors are using them. The doublepane, triple-seal, virgin-hardwood, high-UV resistance, and sound-proof qualities of the windows are not factors in your decision between these two guys, because the same product features and benefits are being offered by both. In this case, the contractor focusing on establishing the fact that he’s using a quality product, and is supported by the manufacturer, but then concentrates on HIS company, and all the services HE adds to the mix will tend to make him stronger in the homeowners eyes.

Sales is sales. The worst installer tells them he is the best. The slowest installer says he is the fastest. The worst service company swears he’ll be there 24-7. The guy with one pickup truck and one helper is the biggest installer in New York. The guy who gave an estimate to Donald Trump in 1996 says he “Does all of Donald Trump’s work.”

Anyone can say anything. As flattering and self-serving as it is to me to have you talk about the product I represent, or any of the main manufacturers out there, it is not what will make the sale. How you sell yourself and the solid, tangible offering of services you provide is what will add percentage points to your closing rate. That will eventually relate to higher margins, stronger images and a healthier company.

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