July, 2008

Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Build Your Business: More Telephone Sales Techniques


Smart Tips from Carson Dunlop

Welcome to Smart Tips, a monthly ASHI Reporter feature written by one of North America’s most successful home inspection firms, Carson Dunlop & Associates. Each month, we provide sound approaches to strategic business growth that have been field-tested for success by some of the most experienced home inspectors in North America. Whether it’s sales and advertising strategies, tips on making your business more customer-centric or how to evaluate public relations opportunities, our goal is to stimulate your interest to work on your business rather than just in it.

Last month, we looked at the importance of the telephone call as a sales tool and concluded that it was important to close the sale during the first call from a potential client. Let’s look at a few ways to make that happen.
Don’t be a commodity

Many callers just want to know your fee and get off the phone. This is logical because until you tell them differently, they will think all home inspectors are the same. This is especially true if someone has given them three names. The prospect assumes that all three have been screened for quality and are equivalent. Money is a language that everyone can relate to. Price shoppers are simply trying to put your service into this common language so that they can compare apples to apples. There are good apples and bad ones, and it’s up to you to show callers the difference. A good approach is to say to them, “I know price is important to you, but may I please come back to that in a moment?” You then need to explain why you are different from the others. Guaranteeing your service is also a good way to help deal with price shoppers. Not only does it differentiate you from others, but it will get their attention if you tell them, “I am glad you asked about price because if my service doesn’t meet your needs, then there is no charge.”

Engage the caller in conversation

One of the best sales techniques on the phone, and in person, is to draw out information from the caller, to engage the caller in conversation, for the following reasons:

• The more time callers spends talking with you, the more likely it is that they will book with you rather than calling another inspector.

•Because you will be providing information as you answer the questions, callers start to connect with your company. They are already relying on you in the sense that you are equipping them with information they need.

• Help them out by answering questions they didn’t ask, but should have asked. This may be their first time hiring a home inspector. You are the expert who knows what they need. Clients will appreciate that you offered to help rather than just did the minimum.

• Once you have invested time in them and shown interest in them and the property, callers will start feeling somewhat indebted to you and will be more likely to book an inspection rather than call around.

• Demonstrate knowledge of the area or house type. In many cases, you will be familiar with the house and/or the area. You can ask questions that demonstrate your knowledge of local conditions or house issues. You may be able to say, “Are you on the part of Elm Street with the underground stream?” Or, “Is it one of the houses with the sag in the master bedroom floor?”

Reserve an inspection time

The tentative-booking technique is a great way to remove the pressure for the caller, and it often leads to an inspection. You will have to make a business decision about offering the option to cancel with 24 hours’ notice. We have found that the benefit of being able to offer tentative bookings outweighs the downside of cancellations.

The tentative booking draws people in. Once they have booked an inspection, they often drop their plans to call three inspection companies. With these calls, you wrap up the conversation by stating that you’ve made a booking and an inspector will be at the home at 9:00 a.m. on Friday. We recommend you call back the next day to confirm the appointment rather than assume you are doing the inspection unless you hear from them; you may end up arriving at the home and finding no client there.

Know how to answer all of the common objections

Make sure you can answer any objection your prospects raise. The most common objection you may get is the inspection fee. We have discovered that the following three-step process is the best way to answer the “too expensive” objection over the phone:

• In the first step, you break the stalemate created by their price objection. You can’t argue with callers about the fee or whether you are expensive or reasonable, so when callers say you are expensive, agree with them. Agree that you are more expensive than some, but not too expensive.

• For the second step, you should ask permission to explain why your fee is higher than some other inspectors. If you don’t ask permission, you risk turning the discussion back into an adversarial one. You need to get them to say “Yes” or to agree with you on something before moving on.

• Finally, in step three, you convert the discussion. The goal here is to explain the benefits of your service. This is the only way you can create a sense of value relative to your inspection fee. Whether people realize it or not, at first everyone wants value. Very few people buy the least expensive house, car or clothes on the market. They buy what best meets their needs and represents great value. Great value means they would rather have the product or service than the money because the product or service means more to them than the money.

The three-step process should flow seamlessly. You should practice it until you have wording that you are comfortable with.

This article is based on content from “Building Your Home Inspection Business – A guide to marketing, sales, advertising, and public relations,” authored by Carson Dunlop and published by Dearborn Home Inspection. Carson Dunlop also authors the Home Reference Book, Essentials of Home Inspection, the Illustrated Home and, most recently, HORIZON, a unique Web-based reporting system. 

See www.carsondunlop.com or www.dearbornhomeinspection.com for more information.