Want to master your sales process as a tradesperson?
You’ve come to the right place! Owning a trade business means that at some point you will have to sell something to someone and make some money. In this case, the product you’re selling is your services and, in a way, yourself.
There are probably many tradespeople in your area offering the exact same services as you, so how do you make sure a homeowner picks you for the job out of all the competition?
In this article you will learn just how important sales actually is for a trade company, and how to win over homeowners.
- The sales process for tradespeople
- The sales cycle
- Get good at selling yourself
- Social media can help you
- How to make a good first impression
- Going above and beyond
- Common mistakes tradespeople make
- 8 ways to build rapport
- Staying in contact with customers
What’s the sales process like for tradespeople?
So what does the sales process look like for tradespeople? There’s two main parts to it.
The first part is building the rapport, building trust and getting a relationship with a potential customer, and the second part is the ‘close’ of the sale, or in other words, asking for the sale. A lot of people find it uncomfortable to flat-out ask for the job, but it is a crucial step of the sales process, especially when you know or suspect a homeowner is deciding between you and someone else. If you don’t ask for it, you are less likely to get the job. But if you show assertiveness, your chances are higher, especially if your competition hasn’t done the same.
This sales process ties into the sales cycle.
The sales cycle
Some people define the sales cycle as the time it takes from starting from nothing to closing a job. There are 7 stages to a sales cycle typically.1
- Prospect for leads: This step is simply finding a prospective customer to sell your services to. For tradesmen, this step is usually done by the homeowners themselves, as they will give you a ring when they need work done on their home. If you’re just starting out, you could network with friends and family to get your first few customers.
- Connect: If you miss your potential customer’s initial call, this is the time where you would ring them back as soon as possible to establish that first point of contact. In this stage, you should aim to build rapport with the customer, maintaining professionalism. Having an established sales process is crucial in this step, as asking targeted questions can make you seem more knowledgeable and stand out above the rest.
- Qualify the lead: This process is initiated in the stage above, but now the goal is to figure out what the client wants from you. Do they want you for a job? Do they just want advice? Is the job big or small? Ask open ended questions, and find out exactly what the homeowner wants.
- Present your service: Once you’ve identified that the customer is in need of your services, you can ask more targeted questions about what job they want done and what the issue is. This is crucial to understanding the customer’s needs, and you can use that to sell yourself to them and prove to them that you not only possess the knowledge needed, but are also the best person for the job. It’s important to appear confident, knowledgeable and assertive, so you get a higher chance of commitment from the customer.
- Overcome customer objections: After you’ve given them a quote or proposal, some customers may raise some concerns. Treat objections like a complaint but not a rejection. The main objection that may come up is typically the price, but it’s important to take on any objections in a calm and professional manner.
- Close the sale: This is the time we’ve all been waiting for! Converting that lead into a customer. In this step, it’s important to ask for the sale flat out. There are different ways to approach this. Pay attention to your prospective customer and how they’ve interacted with you throughout this process. If they seemed confident in the answers you gave to their questions, and seemed overall satisfied with your approach, you can take a more direct route, for example by asking what day they would like you to start the work. If, however, they seemed a bit more hesitant about it all, it might be best going with a more gentle approach and giving them some time.
- Generate referrals: After the job is done and dusted you will hopefully have a very happy customer. This is the time where you ask for a review, testimonial or tell them to recommend you to any friends or family. This will help you grow your business and you will hopefully soon be everyone’s favourite!
How to get good at selling yourself
A CBS News and New York Times poll asked a group of people, “What percent of people in general are trustworthy?” The answer was a mere 30%. However, in the same poll, people were asked a similar question, with one crucial difference, “What percent of people that you know are trustworthy?” The answer was 70%.2
The results of this poll show that, undoubtedly, people trust the people they know and like way more than a stranger. Therefore, it is crucial for a tradesperson to come across as a friendly, honest and open individual to potential customers.
The way you communicate and interact with people has a big influence on how they see you. From first impressions all the way to when they’re getting to know you, people will have a view of you in their head. You want to make sure that view is a good one. People who are excellent communicators and can build rapport make others feel comfortable around them, and for tradespeople, making a homeowner feel at ease around you is a skill that will certainly pay off.
Have a process, a detailed step by step for your sales process. Don’t just fumble around winging it. From answering the phone exactly the same way, to having a set of good open ended questions to ask, to having a certain format for your quotes and proposals. It gives you consistency. And it’s very important to be consistent, so every customer gets the same experience. This will overtime mean you get excellent, consistent reviews, which will lead to even more leads with some pre-established trust. And that makes your job easier in the long term!
An easy way to add to your credibility is through testimonials and trade association memberships. You can include these as part of your sales process to show prospective customers that you are trustworthy and have the knowledge and experience needed for the job.
Remember that every conversation/interaction with your customer is part of the sales process, so you need to remain professional and polite at all times.
The real selling part is building the rapport. For some people, this will also be the hardest to achieve. Whether you struggle with it yourself or have a particularly ‘difficult’ customer, it is important to hone this skill and try your best. You might not close some leads, and that’s okay. It’s just important for you to always present your best self to every customer, and to remain professional. Remember; consistency.
Remember that people like to buy from people they know, like and trust, so if you can build that trust, the scales tip in your favour against anyone else. Have enough conversations with them on the phone that when you meet them in person they feel like they already know you.
Social media can help you
Nowadays social media is a vital component for all businesses, big or small. LinkedIn in particular can help tradespeople build potential relationships and beneficial business connections. You can research a potential customer or business connection on social media and interact with them that way. Having your own profile on LinkedIn will also make you appear more professional and build credibility. You can incorporate this into your sales process by looking up potential customers and getting a feel for them.
Other social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are an excellent way to build an online professional image, so when potential customers look you up they see all your amazing reviews and excellent workmanship. This naturally builds trust with minimal effort from yourself! You don’t have to stick to strictly business either; it’s a good idea to incorporate some ‘human’ element in your social media presence, for example in the form of humorous posts or the occasional personal life update.
As word of mouth is a popular way for tradespeople to get more customers, having a professional online presence will give a person who’s been recommended your services that extra push to give you a ring. Building your social media presence is also a surefire way to make your brand name popular in your target area.
So how do you create a sales process?
To help you build a sales process, consider these questions:3
- Do you have a thought-out process, or like most people do you just wing it each time?
- Do you get back to customers in a timely manner?
- Do you qualify the potential customer and work to be done, or do you drive over only to realise the issue could’ve been sorted over the phone?
- Do you have a set of ready questions to fire at a potential customer to get a thorough feel for what the work is about?
- Are you professional and polite at all times during your interactions with the customer?
- Are your quotes and proposals well-presented or are they scrawled on the back of a scrap piece of paper?
- How do you handle objections?
- Do you follow up your quotes or end up charging extra?
- Have you prepared answers to common questions you may be asked like, “Why should I choose you for the job?”
- Do you follow up and ask for the sale or do you passively leave it up to the customer to decide?
How to make a good first impression
First impressions might not be everything, but when you’re a tradesperson who is hoping to win over a potential customer, it is important to get it right every time. While we can’t control people’s thoughts, you can certainly take some steps to make sure they see you in a positive light from the get go. And some are really simple.
- Show up, and don’t be late: yes, it’s as simple as that. But considering 53.7% of homeowners in a survey4 complained that tradespeople don’t turn up on time, or sometimes even at all, showing you’re a punctual person will certainly leave a very good first impression.
- Dress professionally: show you mean business by turning up in clean, neat clothes. Don’t swear or do anything that will make you look unprofessional, for example start smoking in your customer’s home. Really think about your potential customer; don’t do anything you wouldn’t want done in your home.
- Have an online presence: having a frequently updated website and social media profiles will allow someone to see that you’re an organised business before they even met you in person.
- Don’t go off on a tangent: during the initial stages it’s easy to go off on a tangent and start talking a bit too much about your personal life. Avoid doing that as much as possible as you lose professionalism. Stick to the problem at hand and focus on going through your questions to get a good idea of what the homeowner needs help with. Don’t be afraid, however, to be warm and friendly, and allow the conversation to flow naturally. If you are too rigid you may put some people off.
- Give them a quote/proposal: do it neatly and professionally. Don’t just use a random scrap of paper. Really think about and document how the work is going to go from start to finish and then give your price. A detailed description of the work process will give the impression that you know your stuff, and that’s exactly what you want! You want the customer to give you the job with confidence that you’ll do a good job! It’s also a good idea to follow up with the client and ask for feedback on your proposal after.
- Telling people how good you are isn’t selling: avoid sounding like you’re bragging. Show the potential client you’re a good tradesperson who knows their stuff with a good sales process and professional demeanour.
- Always possess adequate business insurance: this will instil confidence in the customer that you are a trustworthy and safe tradesman, who they can rely on to do the job to a satisfactory standard.
Tip: To make sure you aren’t wasting your time with a potential customer, find out where they are in the buyer’s journey. Don’t go running to their house the moment you get a call; you want to be in front of people who are ready to hire you and get the job done.
Going above and beyond
A great way to show dedication to your customers and build long term relationships is by going above and beyond. Coming and doing the job assigned to you is always expected, so a tradesman doing that bit extra will surely leave a lasting impression on a homeowner, and they are also likely to rave about you in a review too.
According to a new survey conducted by My Job Quote UK5:
As many as 65% of tradesmen have been asked to complete additional small jobs outside of the main job they came to do.
My Job Quote UK
You may have gone to repair a leaking tap or a cracked roof tile, but spending those few extra minutes doing an additional small job here and there will definitely be worth the long term benefits.
Common mistakes tradespeople make that could cost them a customer
So what are some common mistakes that could make homeowners not want to pick you for the job?
- Overcharging: A survey by Rated People determined that this is an issue for 37.8% of homeowners surveyed4. Price is one of the most likely reasons for a tradesperson to get a complaint from a homeowner. When you give your quote or proposal, people usually zone in on the price. You might find this irritating, as you are the expert in your trade and they don’t necessarily know what the job will involve, but it’s always important to take their needs into consideration as well, so try offering competitive and honest prices every time. Even if the homeowner ends up asking for some additional changes at the end that may add to the cost, your way of dealing with these situations is what matters most. It will undoubtedly affect the trust in your relationship with your customers if you handle it incorrectly. Remain honest and transparent; if the additional job is a small one, do it for free. If it’s a larger job, explain honestly before you do the work that it would be extra and why. Most people will understand and appreciate the transparency.
- Not turning up on time: this shows inconsideration on your part, and being labelled inconsiderate is not a first impression we want! In the same survey, 53.7% are annoyed when a tradesperson is late4, and 34.1% of those people also said not turning up on time is one of the things about tradespeople they find the most irritating4. As someone who’s trying to sell themselves and their services, it is extremely important to put the customer and their needs first, to make sure they get a first class service they can tell everyone they know about later. If you do need to be late, be professional and give them a ring; people are generally understanding when they can see someone is being transparent and honest, so it shouldn’t damage the relationship.
- Bad workmanship: the work completed not being up to parr is one of the things labelled as the most annoying among homeowners. It goes without saying that when someone hires you, they expect you to complete the work to a satisfactory standard. Whether it’s repairing a broken roof tile or a complete reroof, doing the job according to the standards expected by the homeowner is extremely important. Otherwise you will end up with a grumpy customer, a bad review, and a bad impression on any people they tell about you! If a homeowner does end up unhappy about some work you have completed for them, ask yourself (and them) why first. Sometimes you may have missed something (we’re all human!), and a growth mindset is great to have at work. Getting annoyed and being unprofessional will do you no favours.
8 ways to build rapport
As we’ve already established, building rapport with customers is one of the most important parts in your sale process. So how exactly can you build rapport with clients?
- Be yourself: when you’re being yourself, you appear more open and honest. People can tell when someone is trying too hard or not engaging. Avoid making your customers feel awkward and just be yourself. You’ll appear more approachable and homeowners will feel more comfortable talking to you.
- Be real: this ties in with ‘don’t try too hard’. Avoid trying to hype up your qualities or exaggerate things. Remember, telling people how good you are isn’t selling. It’s mostly an off putting trait. Relax and keep a positive attitude. Being honest about potential weaknesses will not make you appear less of a quality tradesman, if anything the honesty will make you seem more ‘human’ and likeable.
- Smile! Imagine wanting to hire someone to fix something in your home, and someone turns up to give you a quote looking miserable, cold and distant. Would you think that person wants to be there? Probably not. And you’re more likely to assume they’re going to rush the job to get out of there asap; not exactly the impression you want to give, as you’ll likely not get the job. There’s a delicate balance between being too professional to the point of being cold and being overly friendly. Nail that balance and people will be raving about the warm and friendly tradesperson whose work is professional and excellent. At the end of the day, someone is inviting you, a stranger, inside their home, the least you could do is greet them with a smile! It’s important to note here that you should avoid forcing the friendliness, as it’ll make you seem untrustworthy.
- Show genuine interest: it’s true; people like to talk about themselves. While it’s by no means your job to listen to someone’s life story, a homeowner will appreciate it if you show interest in getting to know them a little as you assess a job. This not only gives you the benefit of building rapport, but you also get to see in the client’s head a little bit and possibly understand more about how they want the job done, as by showing interest in them they’re more likely to share their thoughts with you, including things they may worry about job-wise.
- Find common ground: the quickest way to break the ice is by finding a common interest you both have knowledge about. This ties in with above points; if you’re being yourself and open, you may mention something your customer will perk up at. It could be a common hobby or a TV show you both watched recently, or maybe you both have kids who are similar ages. Finding this common link can help build a quick connection.
- Give a compliment: a genuine compliment can make someone smile or even make their day. It doesn’t have to be anything big, but it’s important for it to be genuine. Don’t just compliment the first thing you see, as it can make the encounter awkward. It’s also important to not overuse this; giving too many compliments can seem disingenuous, or someone may get the wrong idea!
- Be in control of the conversation: you need to make sure you pace yourself, and keep the main focus on what needs to be done; the job! The above points make an excellent guide to building rapport, but without the proper time management, you may end up accidentally talking about your kids so much it becomes unprofessional! Or the prospective customer may have other commitments and may get annoyed if you’ve strayed too much from the job at hand. Make sure you take control of the conversation, and once you feel you’ve chatted enough, refocus both of your attentions on the job you want to be hired for. Make sure to read the person you’re meeting; some people won’t be in the mood for a chit chat or they may not have the time, and therefore may appreciate a more direct conversation focused on the job at hand only.
- Be flexible: as mentioned above, being yourself is important. But it’s also important to be able to adjust your approach and behaviour depending on each client. For example, some people are more playful and will appreciate a funny conversation, while to other people who seem more serious and focused it may appear unprofessional. Don’t change who you are, but be able to tune in with the customer.
Staying in contact with customers
Staying in contact with customers after a job has been completed is a good idea to make sure they don’t forget about you and encourage repeat business. There are many ways of achieving this contact, and our list is by no means exhaustive, but what we have listed below is a few excellent ways to keep in contact.
- Newsletters: sending a newsletter via email to existing customers will ensure they are kept informed about the latest offers. Avoid just doing promotions, and include things that will keep their interest, like advice and tips related to your trade. This will ensure customers are benefiting from the emails, and won’t unsubscribe. A tip here is to also include videos instead of just text, as people are more likely to watch a video than read a load of text.
- Exclusive offers: offers will undoubtedly encourage repeat business. You can advertise them on your newsletter or in person, when you meet a customer for a job. An example could be offering a discount or VIP deal for an upgrade.
- Organise events: depending on your area you might find that organising events and workshops providing people with some knowledge on your trade is a great way to meet people in person and build rapport.
- Start a loyalty programme: who doesn’t love getting a discount or a bonus? Starting a referral or loyalty programme will give customers some extra motivation to tell others about your business, and use your services again themselves.
- Remember special dates: birthdays and other important dates you may know about your customers is a great time to contact them. You may be thinking, how am I supposed to remember everyone’s birthdays? You don’t have to! Thanks to Google Calendar, you can quickly import people’s special dates, so you get notified on the day. You can also add customers on Facebook. While this may take a bit more effort, it is a very personal approach to staying in contact that will definitely leave a lasting impression on your customer. It is an excellent way to build and maintain strong positive relationships.
- Social media: having an online presence is vital, as previously mentioned in this article. A good idea for keeping in contact with clients is to add them to a private group on Facebook. This will allow you to give updates, advertise your current offers and deals, and overall encourage repeat business. It is also a good opportunity for your customers to ask questions, send reviews/testimonials and offer feedback. It’s important to respond to anything negative (like a complaint or constructive criticism) with professionalism, and keep the group strictly about your business.
- Write to customers personally: if newsletters are not your thing, or maybe you’re just starting out as a business and don’t have many customers yet, you can send personal emails. This can be done once every few months and can help nurture those relationships. In this more personal email, you can ask specific questions about each client, and facilitate aftercare. For example, if 3 months ago you did a complete reroof for them, ask them how their roof is doing.
Owning a business means that at some point you will have to sell something to someone and make some money. In this case, the product you’re selling is your services and, in a way, yourself.
The sales process for tradespeople ties into the sale cycle. The sale cycle includes 7 stages: Prospecting the lead, connecting with the lead, qualifying the lead, presenting your service, overcoming customer objections, and lastly, closing the sale.
Some good tips for selling yourself as a tradesperson include making a good first impression, building rapport with your customers, and having an established sales process so you can be consistent, and for every customer to receive the same quality of service.
Linkedin in particular can help tradespeople build potential relationships and beneficial business connections. Having your own profile on LinkedIn will also make you appear more professional and build credibility. Other social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are an excellent way to build an online professional image, so when potential customers look you up they see all your amazing reviews and excellent workmanship.
To help you build a sales process, as yourself questions like, Do you get back to customers in a timely manner? Do you qualify the potential customer and work to be done, or do you drive over only to realise the issue could’ve been sorted over the phone? Do you have a set of ready questions to fire at a potential customer to get a thorough feel for what the work is about? Do you follow up your quotes or end up charging extra?
Show up, and don’t be late, dress professionally, have an online presence, don’t go off on a tangent, give them a quote/proposal, remember that telling people how good you are isn’t selling, always possess adequate business insurance.
Some of the most common mistakes tradespeople make that could cost them a customer include overcharging, not turning up on time, bad workmanship.
Be yourself, don’t try too hard (be real), smile, show genuine interest, find common ground, give a compliment, be in control of the conversation, be flexible.
Newsletters, exclusive offers, organise events, start a loyalty programme, remember special dates, social media, write to them personally (aftercare).