The “one-call-close”

Jun 22, 2022

It started back in the 60’s with aluminum siding sales. If you had some construction knowledge and didn’t take “no” for an answer, you could make a lot of money. Even Rodney Dangerfield was an aluminum siding salesman! Then in the 70’s, vinyl siding and replacement windows came along. That’s when home improvement sales really soared. Along with the seemingly endless supply of homes needing windows and siding, was an endless supply of money to be made. What we’ve seen since, is a sales culture that is extremely unfriendly to the consumer.

Anyone who has called a home improvement company over the past 20-30 years, was probably subject to a sales process called, “the one call close”. This has become the industry standard. One or two individuals descend on your home and pitch you a product that will change your life. They offer discounts, financing, one-time offers and reductions in pricing that dazzle and delight. They may even stop everything, right at the end of the process, just to make a phone call and see if there are even more discounts, financing, one-time offers and reductions that will bring you around to signing on the dotted line. But… what did you buy? What were the discounts based upon? They were based on thin air. These professional salespeople knew – exactly – the bottom dollar for which they could sell their product when they walked in the door.

My most intimate experience with the one call close was during an ill-fated attempt at selling Home Depot products to homeowners. People were quite surprised at our prices considering the source. They saw Home Depot as a very cost conscious entity and felt very comfortable letting someone in their home from this organization. However, the product and installation we offered had very little to do with Home Depot. All over the country, people were walking around inside Home Depot stores – looking very similar to Home Depot employees – and they’d ask person after person, “what project are you working on today?” This is where we got our leads. When I’d visit a home and review a project with a homeowner, the price I quoted was for “today only” and we weren’t even allowed to follow up with customers. The next day we had a whole new set of appointments and started all over. I must say, even though I’m a very pleasant individual, this was not a pleasant process – for me or for the consumer.

Why would anyone run their business like this? It’s this simple; they don’t have to sell to everybody, they just have to sell to around 20% of the people they see. It’s a numbers game and they know that the numbers will ultimately work out. A salesperson only has to go see 10 customers per week and if they’re really diligent, they can sell 2 or 3 out of 10 – then – if the average sale is $10,000 and the salesperson makes 10% commission, (an industry standard), they’ll make $2-3,000 dollars per week. This is why the company won’t be giving you any pricing over the phone or on their website. You have to sit through the sales pitch or you’ll never know how much their products cost. Also, this allows the company to set their prices much higher. They could never put these prices in a brochure or online because they’re too high. Sticker shock would scare people away.

Even though many, many companies and many, many people do very well with the one-call-close system, the modern consumer is getting smarter and smarter. People do their research. People have a device in the palm of their hand that will school them on the details of any product and its price range. People are beginning to understand that companies actually do have to make a profit to stay in business. The modern consumer understands that businesses cannot sell at or below cost. More and more, they see this as a ridiculous premise. The modern consumer knows that the businesses that run ad after ad stating, “we’re selling below our cost” are either misleading or just greatly deceptive.

Even though I really did not like the aggressiveness and seemingly deceptive process of one-call-close, what were we supposed to do? How were we supposed to sell our product? How much of that process should we share with the consumer? At a trade conference in Iowa, someone very knowledgeable in the industry suggested a book; They Ask, You Answer, by Marcus Sheridan. It was about a pool company that miraculously survived the crash of 2008-2009 – and ultimately thrived. This book set us on another path – transparency. We tried to answer any question that could possibly be asked on our website. People wanted to know our procedures. They wanted to know who would be coming into their homes. They wanted to know how long their project would take. They wanted to know all the available options. They wanted to know approximate pricing on all these options. Our goal with all our online information was to answer all these questions.

I wrote and wrote and wrote. Website content, blog content, Google blog updates, anything that made our website a source for information about our industry and our product. Ultimately, you’ll have to read the book, but we have two blogs that rank between number one and number three in organic searches – anywhere in the US. If you typed in, ‘how much does a walk in shower cost?’ you’d see my smiling face. So how does this help us when someone 1500 miles away emails you – and you only operate within 50 miles from your home base? It helps. It sets us up as “the experts in the industry” and that creates confident customers and a secure business. It makes that first call from the customer an easy call. They’ve already done their research and they want us to come out. It’s not sales… it’s helping them get what they want and need.

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