June, 2008
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Telephone Sales Techniques

GRAHAM CLARKE

Build Your Business with 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 techniques for evaluating public relations opportunities, our goal is to stimulate your interest to work on your business rather than just in it.

The telephone is a relationship tool worthy of special mention because it is such a common point of communication between you and your customers. One of the best and cheapest ways to increase your inspection volume is to refine your telephone sales techniques. This will help you with prospecting and getting appointments, dealing with customer complaints and converting more prospects to customers.

If you get 10 calls from prospective clients, how many of those calls can you convert to deals? You may be one of the lucky ones with a high conversion rate because your referral sources sing your praises. But if you are like most people, you have to work for your deals. Of the people who call, 50 percent may just want to book the inspection. This is an order-taking function, not a sales function. So, effectively, 50 percent of your callers are already converted.

What about the other 50 percent? They are the ones we need to work on. These people have questions. If you convert 50 percent of them into clients, you are doing something right. But many inspection firms convert 70 to 80 percent of inquiries into customers. Of course, the goal is 100 percent. If a few simple techniques can help you increase your conversion rate to 90 percent, that would be a good investment — zero cost, resulting in an increase in business. Some simple sales techniques could double or triple the sales of a new inspection business overnight.

Let’s review the difference between marketing and sales. When someone calls to inquire about your service, your marketing has done its job. Whether through a Yellow Pages™ advertisement, a referral, a Web site or a newspaper or magazine article, the prospect found you and was intrigued enough to call. This is a tremendous commitment! You overcame the prospect’s lack of knowledge about you and a person’s natural inertia. The prospect is calling because he or she has a need and hopes you can satisfy it.

Think of it this way: Someone who calls wants to be sold. No one likes shopping on the telephone for a service. No one likes the time spent, the uncertainty about whether he or she is asking the right questions, the doubt about some of the information being received or the process of making the decision. People who call you about your service want to feel they have called the right place,
a place where people understand and can meet their needs. They want to feel assured that calling you was the best thing they could have done.

Knowing all this, it is easy to convert an inquiry into a sale! All you have to do is reinforce the hunch that made the prospects call. How do you do that? Eight ways follow:

  1. Thank callers for calling.
  2. Show callers you care about what they need.
  3. Ask questions that show you understand what they are going through.
  4. Give some tips that reduce anxiety. Most callers won’t know how long to allow for the inspection, whether they should attend, when they will get their report, whether they should take notes, when to pay you, what your scope of work is and so forth.
  5. Show them that many people have found your service to be exactly what they needed.
  6. Ask them if they have any questions, and keep asking until they say, “No.” Then they will be ready to book the inspection.
  7. Assume they want to book the inspection. Ask for the address and suggest a date and time. Don’t ask, “What would be convenient for you?” This is courteous, but it forces them to make another decision. They may also choose a date or time that does not work for you, which may feel like poor service to them.
  8. Thank them again for calling and reinforce the fact they have made a very good decision. “We look forward to doing a great job for you, Ms. Smith!”

The fact is, as more people get into the inspection business, you will face more competition. When a real estate agent gives a homebuyer a list of three home inspectors to call, you should be ready to sell over the phone. Your goal is to book the inspection on the first call. If you don’t, the caller may book with someone else. The agent may give the client three names to call, and you are the first call. If the caller has not seen a difference  between the inspectors, he or she will book with the last call. Why? Because the last call is on the line already.

It’s more work to end the call and contact someone else. In fact, it’s worse than that because with each successive call, the caller will describe to the next inspector what the one before said, and the next inspector will find a way to trump the previous call.

Finally, the most recent call is always the most vivid for the caller. If you are the first call, it’s unlikely you’ll get called back. That is why you want to close the sale on the first call. Next month, we will give you some tips on how to make this happen.

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.