To HomeShow or Not to HomeShow?
It depends. I think the best way to decide if you should be in a Homeshow this spring is to decide what you want out of it...then you will have your answer.
There are two ways to approach each Homeshow. You can do a hybrid of these but its usually better to stick to just one. We will go through both in detail.
First you can sell and try to close deals at the show. Basically as a contractor you can set up a booth, try to take deposits on projects that you estimate standing right at your booth. It is possible and for every deposit you get you will have a huge success rate for your season. My guess is you will have a very low deposit rate at the show, but everyone of them will be a customer. This will work and you will likely cover the cost of your booth. I am a firm believer that if you can get someone to give you a deposit, take it, but I am not a fan of this style of selling. To me it seems aggressive and money driven and the customers will see this too. Whenever a customer walks into a home show they already have the belief they are going to be pressured into a sale. We have all seen it and we all avoid it. Shake weights, balance boards, frying pans, and special clothes that absorb 100 gallons of water in one squeeze. We don’t believe the salesperson, we step across the aisle, “No thank you!” without even looking, or choose a different aisle to walk down.
Those booths do sell products but it is not the sales style I prefer and I do not recommend it.
The other sales style is to make a point of not selling. I know, it sounds counterintuitive but in an environment where everyone is trying to sell, why not be the booth where they can get a break. We have found the most successful strategy is to just provide information. When the potential customer walks into your booth, they already know you are selling. They knew that the second they saw you there. And when they walk into your booth, you know they are interested in what you are selling. They have likely done some research but they probably don’t know exactly what they want and they likely don’t know what they are going to spend because they do not know what is available or what your capabilities are. This is a great time to provide value. Teach them about what you do and how your service could work for them. If they value what you offer then you can schedule an appointment or discuss prices. In this process you are trying to decide if you want to work with this customer as much as they are deciding if they want to work with you. Now your job is to find out how you can help them. Maybe they do not need a deck for 2 or 3 more years and just started the search, or maybe they are ready to start this spring. Is it valuable to get their information, absolutely, but you do not need to put them on your “call” list if they told you the deck isn't happening for a couple years.
Do not pressure them into letting you come out this spring to measure it up and get them some numbers ”just to see”. Ask if you can follow up in the fall or next spring. This is a great way to build a lead for later on, to get their info and have a hot future lead while assure them you are not a pushy salesperson. The goal of this weekend is to set yourself up for a successful year and scheduling leads that are not ready is a waste of your very valuable time. Your spring will fill up fast so make sure the people you are working with are also ready to work with you. As soon as you do not seem threatening they will let their guard down. Once they are more comfortable with you it is more likely you are going to get them to open up to you.
You are entering into a relationship with this customer and this interaction will set the tone for the whole relationship. If they decide to let you come do an estimate that is just a step in the process of them trusting you. You have multiple barriers to cross before the homeowner decides to give you money.
Our first Homeshow we received nearly 80% of our year's work from that show. It was the most valuable money we spent that year. Since then it is much harder to gauge what portion of our work comes directly from the show but we still have a lot of success in people meeting us, discussing their project and then setting up a follow up with them. I credit this success to our approach of providing value and informing rather than trying to sell. Display some of your work and pick the style of work you want to do or are profitable at. If you have bent one deck board and it took you days to complete resulting in lost revenue, don’t display that. Be honest about your timeline and talents and you will attract great customers. It is likely if you spend the weekend showcasing your talents the people attending that show will see your confidence and believe you are the contractor for them. Do not be pushy, do not “sell” them, teach them about what you do and if they believe what you are teaching them they will ask you on a second date. Show up to that date on time and dress nice. Every detail matters and it all starts with your booth and your attitude at the Homeshow. You will not sell a deck to everyone you meet during the weekend and that is ok, because you are just there to teach people about decks, and some of them are going to hire you.
Have a great Homeshow SEASON!