In sports, knowing and preparing for your competition is paramount. In football, for instance, if you're competing against a strong passing offense, you'll want to study and sharpen your strategies with defensive backs. Or, if you're going up against strong home run hitters in baseball, choosing the right starting pitcher and even adjusting his pitch blend to increase success will be critical.
The principal is the same in residential construction. Knowing your competition is critical to success.
When I ask construction audiences, “Who's you biggest competitor?", almost always the answer is the name of one or two local remodelers or builders that they occasionally go up against. But it's a trick question. Your real competition in this business is the consumer not the other remodeler. It is consumer ignorance, their fears, their overwhelm, and the other priorities in their lives.
I like to draw the analogy to sports or other worlds because it helps folks get it. Just like in football, not all teams are created equal. Some have a strong passing game and some have a strong running game. Today, consumers are not all the same. Some have been through construction before and some have not. Some like to make decisions quickly and some like to savor each selection. Some want more control and involvement, some want to abdicate to you.
While the theme has always been true, COVID escalated things and gave us a new breed of consumer for which you need to adjust your strategies and skills to be successful.
Most of you may not think of yourself as a tour guide, a therapist, a doctor, a marriage counselor, and an investment advisor. But those skills and approaches are as or more important as remodeling and building knowledge and design acumen.
Here are a few tips to help you adapt:
- Make your sales process and presentation about vaporizing ignorance and not just vomiting your projects and story. Help them to understand the alternative paths to their residential construction projects. Educate them to understand the differences in working with an independent architect or a design-build firm. Help them to understand different levels of remodeling a kitchen or bath so they can make a better investment decision.
- Sell the process not the project. You know that success as a contractor is about the relationship and process—but they don’t. They did not call you because they were lonely or wanted a relationship. They have a project or pain that they need relief from. You need to shift your mindset if you want them to be focusing on the right decisions.
- Address their fears proactively. They may not articulate their fears of making mistakes, being disappointed, or paying too much, but they are thinking about these things. By being more vocal about this it will release some of the fears. Be more transparent—trust eases anxiety. By being more masterful on talking about money you can make the narrative about their budget and not your cost or price.
- Take control of the process. This is tough, because today's homeowner wants to control the process. But you need to drive the car, not them. Still, if it's going to be a successful construction experience, you need to make them feel comfortable in the passenger seat. As in sports, the team that controls the game generally wins the game.
- Master creating urgency. With the other priorities in their lives, you need to make your relationship and their project a top priority. The post-COVID consumer has escaped from captivity. They are feral, but by skillfully creating urgency you can get their attention and keep them engaged and on schedule rather than having them cancel or postpone.
All the strategies and skills above have nothing to do with design, construction or building science. They are about people. Try to spend more time training, experimenting, and honing these mindsets and skills and you will see more success.