At The Kitchen Table

Originally published: 06.01.08 by Tom Piscitelli


Learn to take advantage of the relaxed atmosphere.

Like a fighter bracing himself for a blow, every time I ask a group of sales folks where they go to prepare their bid, estimate or quote I get set for the responses I know are coming. “Back to the office,” some say. “To my truck,” others offer. Most just sit there blank-faced hoping I won’t ask them personally. 

There are many justifications for not preparing the proposal at the kitchen table: 

• I have to go back to run the computer load calculation. 

• I don’t have pricing. 

• I want to make a professional, typed proposal. 

• They don’t want me there. 

• I have other leads to run. 

Translate all of these to mean the salesperson isn’t prepared and likely not comfortable completing all that needs to be done in front of the customers. Folks, this is opportunity lost. 

Why ask to sit at the kitchen table instead of the living room, dining room or go to your truck and prepare the proposal there? 

Most successful in-home salespeople in any home improvement business will tell you that being at the kitchen table is a bonus. The kitchen is where the family meets and often discusses and makes family decisions. It’s a comfortable place. It’s a place where you can be sitting close to each other and have more personal contact. And you can spread out your work tools and materials. Remaining in the home while you prepare the proposal keeps you engaged with the customer. Going to the car or truck pulls you away from them. 

Why not take the information back to the office and come back later to make a presentation? 

Homeowners invite you into their home because they need something you have to offer. Sometimes the need is urgent, such as a “no heat” during a Minnesota winter, and they want an immediate solution. In most cases you could gather information and come back or mail the proposal, but you are less likely to make the sale. 

Buying something is largely an emotional process that drives people toward making a quick decision. Some people respond to that drive and say yes quickly. Most people take some time to process their thoughts by asking questions— essentially convincing themselves that what they want to do is OK. And there are those people who won’t buy anything quickly. The point is that people make decisions in many ways and it’s our job to appropriately respond to their decisionmaking process. 

The majority of people will want to make a decision sooner than later. This means that they expect you to be prepared to create a proposal that they can consider while you are in the home. If you don’t do this they may become confused and even suspicious about your professionalism. In some cases the homeowner will then decide to call another contractor who might be prepared for the onecall sale and make the sale while you’re at the office running the load calculation. 

There are some exceptions to the onecall- sale process that we’ll discuss later. For now, don’t disappoint your customers by not being prepared. 

If the customer offers you something to eat or drink should you accept?

The short answer is yes, graciously accept. An offer to give you something is a small gesture of concern for your wellbeing. It’s not a big deal if you say “No, thanks.” But it’s just as easy to say, “Sure, some water would be nice, thank you.” Or “Sure, I’d love to try a homemade cookie.” Should you stay for dinner? That’s up to you. Accept alcohol? Not a good idea. Send them a bottle of wine after the sale is made. Better yet, send flowers. 

How do you respond when the customer tells you outright that they aren’t buying right now? 

Hey, it’s their prerogative to buy now, buy later or never buy at all. You can’t control that. But you have been invited there for some reason. They apparently need something you have to offer and it’s highly likely they are going to buy something from somebody someday. No matter what they say up front it may be today or it may be later and so you should act respectfully and proceed as if they are going to buy now…from you. Some will, some won’t — it’s all part of selling. 

What is a photo-testimonial album? 

This is a 1-inch binder with two sections. The first section has plastic sleeve inserts that include 20 to 30 photographs of the kind of work you do. These are usually before-and-after shots and wherever possible the photos should include people (installers, technicians and happy homeowners.) Make sure the photos are “tight” (meaning closely cropped) to show what is most important to most homeowners. If you are bragging abouthow well you seal the ductwork you install, include a close-up shot of neatly applied mastic sealant. 

The second section has 10 to 20 recently dated, preferably handwritten customer testimonials. You get these by returning to the home after every job is completed and asking for them. Your request goes something like this, “Can you tell me what you like most about your new system?” Listen to the customer’s response. Then pull out a sheet of blank paper and a pen and offer it to them with saying, “Would you mind doing me a big favor and writing down a few sentences with what you just said? I’d like to share that with others who may be interested in getting the same benefits you have.” It’s easy—just ask! 

Why ask the customers to look at your photo-testimonial album? 

Because it’s the perfect time-filler during the time you are preparing your proposal. As they turn every page they are becoming convinced that you and your company are the best choice they could possibly make. 

A photo-testimonial album will take about 10 minutes to leaf through — giving your customers even more reasons to see that you are the right person and the right company to choose. 

Many of you have been service technicians and/or installers. You wouldn’t dream of showing up for a job without the proper tools and the skills to use in any situation. I’ll wager you prided yourself on how competent you had become through many hours of practice in your field. Selling requires the same thing. Prepare your tools, practice with them, and continue to practice—forever. There is always room for improvement. Doing so sets the stage for your presentation and proposal—and making the sale. 

Here’s to good selling! 



Articles by Tom Piscitelli

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