We're often asked about the difference between virtual selling and virtual estimating. If you’ve asked the question, “Am I supposed to give the prospect a price right away?,” when conducting a virtual meeting, you’ve asked about the difference too.
There is a difference and, particularly for virtual estimating, you need to be tactful on which one you use. To help home improvement contractors trying virtual sales techniques, we're sharing our advice on how to use them both effectively in this blog post.
Virtual Selling is using tools like text messaging, email, phone calls, and video conferencing (Zoom) to move prospects through the sales process.
During these meetings, the representatives provide detailed information about the company's services and products as well as answer any questions that may arise. This approach allows contractors to quickly qualify leads without going on-site, resulting in a shorter sales cycle and improved efficiency overall.
There are many advantages to virtual selling for home improvement contractors. The most obvious is the time and financial savings of not driving to unqualified appointments.
Additionally, having a consistent customer experience with effective, frequent communication helps to build trust and loyalty among clients. This approach also allows contractors to target prospects in different locations without the need for travel expenses or additional costs associated with onsite visits.
Although virtual selling has many benefits, there are some potential disadvantages as well. We receive the most resistance from contractors who are comfortable with their current process and do not realize what process is best for prospects and their sales team.
Another disadvantage is that you may assume you never need to go onsite for a sales appointment - this will likely still be necessary at some point in the process. You will, however, be able to attend that appointment with much more information so it’s a “closing” meeting versus a “discovery” one.
Virtual Estimating, on the other hand, is a process in which contractors provide customers with estimates for their projects before going onsite. This approach gives customers a better understanding of what it will take to complete the job and how much it will cost. Contractors can also include additional services or products based on the customer's needs and preferences.
You may ask, “Why would you ever estimate virtually?” Seems risky. To some, it makes sense.
For example, we have a cabinet painting contractor who does 100% virtual sales and estimating. He’s familiar enough with his craft to confidently estimate before seeing the project. And he's built his lead flow and overhead structure to "fit" the 100% virtual process. With the time and money he’s saving doing everything virtually, missing a few hundred bucks in an estimate gets washed out in the end.
The advantages of virtual estimating for contractors are clear: reduced overhead costs, more efficient sales process, increased customer accessibility and satisfaction. Staying in contact with prospects during this stage allows contractors to answer questions quickly and address any potential concerns that may arise. Virtual estimating also enables faster turnaround times so that clients receive estimates sooner than they would through traditional methods.
However, virtual estimating also has its drawbacks. Due to the nature of this approach, contractors may have limited opportunities for customer engagement, as they are not able to meet in person with prospects. Additionally, contractors may lack control over the process if they do not use specialized software that allows them to track and monitor progress.
What we've found is that customers who are price hunting will take estimates from contractors and use them to shop around. Therefore, we recommend only estimating virtually after an initial call with a prospect where you can build rapport and get an idea of their seriousness of working with your company. Otherwise, we recommend only providing a price range.
We typically recommend using a blend of virtual selling and virtual estimating. This may take some trial and error as with any sales technique, but you should quickly discover where in the virtual selling process you should estimate virtually. As we explained earlier in this blog, we typically recommend giving a range when virtually estimating until you've been onsite or built rapport. This prevents folks from price hunting and shopping around.
Ultimately, choosing between virtual selling and virtual estimating depends on a contractor's specific needs and circumstances. With the right tools and training, home improvement contractors can take advantage of both approaches to maximize their sales efforts and better serve their customers. If you have any questions about which approach you should use, email email@example.com.
Jeff is an expert on technology in the trades. In his career, he has spent time in commercial and residential contracting, small business consulting, and technology. He is a champion for innovation and is passionate about building technology to help contractors run better businesses. He has an Engineering degree from Purdue University and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Richmond. He is also the Founder and CEO of Groundwork, a video-based sales system for landscaping contractors and other residential trade businesses.