Tips for Making the Most of In-person Homeowner Consultations

SellingTipsWhile new technologies and online selling tools continue to garner attention in the building industry, it’s important that we do not lose sight of the importance of in-person meetings with potential customers. Sure, a great website or Facebook page might raise awareness for your remodeling or contracting business, however a polished in-home selling approach truly is the key ingredient in sealing the deal.

Through my work at CertainTeed, I have the opportunity to connect with hundreds of remodelers and contractors on an on-going basis and have witnessed some stellar selling techniques. As peak construction season approaches, here are some useful tips and reminders.

Never underestimate first impressions. From the moment you enter the driveway, your appearance and actions are being judged. Arriving in a clean truck and wearing company-branded clothing will help set the stage for a successful meeting.

Make a proper introduction. Begin the discussion by providing background on your company’s history, including your location and years in business. This is also an ideal time to share information on relevant licenses, credentials and insurance documentation.

Let your presentation do the talking. Most manufacturers, including CertainTeed, will equip you with the necessary tools to create an easy-to-understand presentation. A good product sales presentation will speak for itself, eliminating the need for over-the-top sales talk that might turn off a potential customer.

Keep it simple. Too many options might confuse or overwhelm a homeowner. Consider organizing their options in good, better, best categories to simply the decision-making process.

Leverage resources from manufacturers. If you are looking for ways to spruce up your selling technique, get in touch with manufacturer representatives. These product experts can help ensure that you are up to speed on the latest product information, messaging and marketing tools.

Include a step-by-step description of the project. Paint a picture that describes the process from start to finish, and when possible, bring product samples that homeowners can see and touch. Also, by explaining the process from start to finish, you’ll provide homeowners with the added assurance to move forward, while also reinforcing your credibility and expertise.

Keep an eye on the clock. While arriving to an appointment on time is a given, it’s also important to refrain from overstaying your welcome. If possible, confirm the length of the meeting upfront and keep an eye out for restless activity.

Offer references up front. Streamline the selling process and save homeowner time by providing a list of references at your initial meeting. Doing so eliminates extra legwork for the homeowner, while also instilling confidence in your work.

Don’t leave in limbo. Before leaving the appointment, make sure you and the homeowner are in agreement on next steps. Whether you’ll be providing an estimate the next day, placing a follow up phone call next week or beginning the project immediately, establishing a clear set of actions will keep the project running smoothly.

Is there a tried and true selling technique that has worked well for you? If so, we encourage you to share your success stories.

Life Cycle Assessment Tells the True Green Vinyl Siding Story

In a previous blog, Who Says Vinyl Siding Can’t Be Green, I started to discuss the move to manufacturing vinyl siding products with recycled content making it a more sustainable product.  This began a quest to dispel the misconceptions about vinyl siding and the fact that vinyl is a more sustainable cladding solution than brick, stucco or even cedar.

Vinyl siding has long been viewed by some as a product assumed to not be environmentally friendly.  Well, I am here to tell you that following a very long and tedious process of conducting what is called a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) on CertainTeed’s vinyl siding products that vinyl siding is GREEN!  Based on all the elements that go into the LCA such as raw materials, transportation, production, and installation vinyl siding clearly leads the way in sustainability. CertainTeed’s vinyl siding LCA has been accepted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) through the Building for Economic and Environmental Sustainability (BEES) program which is a leader in the credentialing of LCAs.

The LCA provides full public transparency and ensures that manufactures are not engaging in green washing.

The LCA is an analytical tool used to quantify and interpret the flows to-and-from the environment over the entire life cycle of a product, process or service.  It is also referred to as cradle-to-grave analysis. The goal of the LCA is to compare the full range of environmental effects assignable to products and services in order to improve processes, support policy and provide a sound basis for informed decisions.

The term ‘life cycle’ refers to the notion that a fair, holistic assessment requires the assessment of raw material production, manufacture, distribution, use and disposal including all intervening transportation steps necessary or caused by the product’s existence.

Our first step was to create LCA’s for all of our vinyl siding lines.  In all cases, our vinyl siding outperforms alternative cladding products such as brick, stucco, Dryvit Outsulation and even cedar in all of the environmental impact calculations identified in the BEES methodology.

CertainTeed is committed to product stewardship and the LCA, as well as the entire process to complete the LCA because it provides us with information to continue to improve processes to reduce their environmental impact.

CertainTeed will continue the LCA process on all of our siding product lines as a firm commitment to our mission in sustainability.

Aging In Place – A Growing Trend for Baby Boomers in America

Drew Brandt

As we know, independence has always been very important to Americans.  Advances in healthcare enable today’s seniors to enjoy longer, more productive lives and many are choosing to live independently for as long as possible. An American Association of Retired People (AARP) survey indicates that 83 percent of older Americans prefer to “age in place.”

The Journal of Housing for the Elderly defines this as “not having to move from one’s present residence in order to secure necessary support services in response to changing needs.” 

The Aging in Place movement is a growing trend in the housing industry especially as Baby Boomers approach retirement age.  Active adults desire to remain in their homes and while they want their homes to look good, they don’t want to be constrained by maintenance concerns or the high cost of up-keep.

The 2010 Brand Use Study conducted by Hanley Wood, a research and publishing company for the building industry, indicated that nearly 50 percent of aging Americans wish to make modifications to their homes that will reduce its maintenance requirements.

As an outgrowth of this movement, building and design professionals have seen an increase in demand throughout the retired homeowner market for low-maintenance building materials. High on the list of these materials are vinyl, polymer and cellular PVC exterior siding and trim products.  And, while low maintenance is key, ever improving technologies have enabled impressive aesthetic advances for these products, resulting in incredibly realistic appearances.    

Maintaining independence for older Americans will continue to be a high priority as more Baby Boomers reach retirement. Quality materials that look great but require minimal maintenance and help protect a home’s value will encourage more independent Americans to age in place.

Drew Brandt, LEED AP, CGP is Director of Product Marketing, CertainTeed  Siding Products Group

Taking the Inside Outside

The average square footage of a new home is declining for the first time in recent history and there is a growing trend among homeowners to expand their living space to the outdoors. The economic downturn has created what has come to be known as “staycations” in which homeowners, rather than travelling to enjoy their time off, are electing to stay at home.  This means homeowners are utilizing decks, porches and patios as extensions of their living areas and as a means of providing additional but affordable options to their homes. 

According to Kermit Baker, American Institute of Architects, “As households place greater emphasis on using their properties, they are looking for home designs that blur the boundaries between indoor and outdoor features.”

While outdoor living space is generally less expensive to create than interior space it also may mean bringing electrical, plumbing, water, cooking, heating/cooling, lighting, insect control and (of course) landscaping into the equation. The new outdoor area is becoming more complex to construct. It’s not just a matter of “wood bangers” putting up 10’x10’ decks. Today’s remodelers need to be able to accommodate homeowners’ expectations for enhanced outdoor amenities such as exterior kitchens, water features, electricity, and low maintenance building  products.

The data confirms the trend. According to a wide range of research reports including the U.S. Census Bureau, Hanley-Wood Media, the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association and the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard:

  • 45% of new single-family homes have backyard patios (up from 32% in 1992)
  • 75% of new-home buyers said they want or must have a rear patio, while 82% said they want or must have a deck or porch
  •  Half of households with incomes above $75,000 and who own a grill, actually have outdoor rooms
  •  Homeowners are building or replacing 33 million decks per year
  •  60% of new-home buyers remodel within the first six-months of purchase, with decks, yards enhancements and fences near the top of the list

All across the country outdoor living is a trend that is expanding and changing in many exciting ways. The addition of decks and porches is much more cost effective than construction of an additional room on a home and provides flexibility to add additional enclosures at a future time.  In response to this trend, CertainTeed’s “Living Spaces™” suite of exterior products presents designs and solutions to make the most of a home’s outdoor living areas. 

What living space trends are you seeing in your community?

Drew Brandt is Director of Marketing for CertainTeed Siding

Who Says Vinyl Siding Can’t Be Green?

Drew Brandt

Drew Brandt

It has long been a challenge in the building community to identify a cladding product that can be recycled. You can’t recycle brick or wood that has been painted. Aluminum siding can be recycled, but there is not much demand for aluminum siding these days. Vinyl siding is the only cladding product that can be recycled multiple times into new vinyl siding.

As consumers, not only do we need to understand what can be recycled but we need to know where the product is in its life cycle, because many products can’t continue to be recycled into equal quality products. For example, we all recycle plastic bottles but plastic bottles rarely get recycled into plastic bottles, they are typically downcycled into a lower quality product that will eventually be disposed of in a landfill.

In response to market demand for a sustainable vinyl siding product we created a “closed loop” (cradle to cradle) program that enables our CedarBoards™ Insulated siding product to be manufactured with 60 percent recycled content that includes post-consumer vinyl siding (tearoffs and construction scrap).

Using our distributors around the country, we developed a partnership with recyclers who leave bins at our partner distributors.  Contractors can bring old vinyl siding and scraps to the distributors.  This eliminates the tipping fees that the contractor would pay at the landfill.  The scraps and old vinyl are recycled to our specifications and we buy it back from the recyclers.  It’s a win-win-win-win situation.  The contractor can promote that he is recycling materials and he saves on fees. The distributor can sell the fact that he is “green” and has established this program for contractors which gains visibility with potential customers. The recycler has a committed, paying customer for the recycled product, and we are able to bring to market a sustainable vinyl siding product.  This is one way we can control the waste stream.

A plastic product is the best course for our sustainable future because it enables us to have that constant closed loop process.  Since we have already put all the resources into the product the following manufacturing process has minimal environmental impact.  By recycling and re-manufacturing, we are not further depleting natural resources, but are reducing energy consumption and our carbon footprint.

We will be providing life-cycle information on the CedarBoards products later in the year that will illustrate the life-cycle benefits based on science for these products.

Sustainability is not only about the product’s environmental performance, it also includes resource management. Manufacturers need to be developing products that the masses can afford that are environmentally sustainable.

Drew Brandt, LEED AP, CGP is Director of Marketing – New Product Development for CertainTeed Vinyl Siding