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Transparent Budgeting

The Power of Transparent Budgeting

“Transparency is the antidote to hypocrisy.”

—Britt Merrick


Kitchen and bath designers love the development process and seeing how much the clients love the result of their remodeling projects. We live for the client’s satisfaction and their referrals. However, as we enter 2023, most kitchen and bath sales designers still follow the same approach I was trained on in the late 60s!

Today, there’s a better, faster way to do business with kitchen and bath prospects – focusing on their needs to save time in getting a proposal. After all, most of your clients are double-income households and very busy with work and family obligations. The convenience of saving time is paramount to them.

Discovering your sales process

Competitive sales are adversarial and in need of an antidote.

Competitive sales see a winner and a loser for every transaction. Either you lose, or your customer does. This combative approach to sales makes for aggressive salespeople and remorseful buyers. As you triumphantly close a sale, your client has given into your will. If you didn’t make the sale, the client succeeded in buying what they perceive as a better value from your competitor. No wonder being a salesperson in the 20th century was filled with many emotional ups and downs.

There’s a better way to generate profit for your firm.

The new way of selling will save you and your team time and earn you higher gross profit margins. The old system is fatally flawed. Take a look at the sale designer’s role in it:

  • Perform a needs analysis for their prospect
  • Develop a detailed plan and propose an exact price
  • Present their plan to the prospect
  • Need to overcome objectives if the job isn’t closed after the plan is proposed
  • Chase their prospect until they give up or make the sale

Even in recent years, SEN has learned that most people attending industry seminars admit they still follow a close variation of this sales approach. And how long does it take? Most sales designers put in over 8 1/2 hours of appointments before earning a client commitment.

It’s too much time to put into the process, even if it were a lot more successful than it is.

The biggest reason this traditional sales process isn’t effective in today’s market is that it strips value out of the buying process.

Consumers want to be kept from being sold anything. They want to be informed so they can make a smart decision on whatever they’re in the market to buy.

The selling process is geared towards automation, which quickens and streamlines a prospect’s buying experience. The value a candidate gets from shopping for a kitchen from your firm comes from the knowledge they would have with your sales designer and interacting with the models in your showroom.

Creating value through collaboration

In 1981, I read an article in the Harvard Business Review about the value of tangibilizing the buying experience for the customer. The article talked about how to prove the value of the intangible product through superior service at each step of the buying process.

The author spoke about the effectiveness of giving the client deliverables along the way. Deliverables prove the value of a product that costs the customer thousands of dollars but that they cannot yet enjoy.

Many people buy a kitchen out of need, but it’s difficult for them to fork over the funds it costs for the job to be complete. Tangibilizing the process doesn’t just make your customer feel better about spending money they would instead save but proves your firm’s value to them.

Eight years into my life as a kitchen and bath designer and firm owner, I discovered a new way of selling remodeling projects to my prospects that transformed my operations and produced successful results beyond my wildest dreams.

During my time as a sales designer, I learned certain things about sales that I think are intrinsic to sustaining success.

  • Put your client’s needs ahead of your own, and you’ll get commitments
  • Competition is the way of the past, collaboration is the way of the future. The collaborative mindset is effective for client development because it invites clients’ involvement, empowers them, and builds their trust in you and your firm.
  • The way to differentiate a product or service is through how those products or services are delivered
  • Dealers create value for their clients by issuing deliverables throughout the remodeling process – from plan and purchase to installation
  • Speed kills the competition

The art of the sale through collaboration

Beginning in the mid-1970s, I earned a retainer in 1/3 to 1/2 the time clients had committed using the traditional sales approach.

I was stunned that so many people would retain us without a scale floor plan or a precise estimate. I earned commitments during a two to three-hour conversation with little more than a sketchpad!

I wasn’t taking measurements – I was merely interacting with the prospect –  speaking candidly about prices and drafting a project budget with them on the spot. It’s incredible how prospects responded to pricing when they could see the numbers!

My technique was to offer realistic figures off the top of my head that accounted for cabinetry, countertops, appliances, and installation. In return, I received signed retainer checks in the thousands of dollars, the equivalent of 8% of the low end of the budget range.

“Going for the no” early on saved me a ton of time, and transparent budgeting led me to close 75% of prospects! As a result, I doubled my sales almost overnight. More importantly, because prospects saw I was providing superior service, I was also able to raise my gross profit margin from 35% to 51.5% despite charging 30% to 40% more than my competition!

Instead of a win-lose approach to selling remodeling projects go for the win-win. Today, SEN advocates a Good-Better-Best selling model so prospects quickly get three quotes and create their budget range. In doing so, they feel great about their decision to buy.

You don’t need to sell a kitchen to every prospect who walks through your doors or peruses your website. Owners and sales designers get and keep clients by proving their value. That’s how you start building genuine wealth through your kitchen and bath business.


                                                                                                                        —Ken Peterson, CKD


Master strategic planning, selling more into each job, leveraging technology, Good-Better-Best selling, and other intelligent implementations at one of SEN University’s valued online business courses. Or contact us to attend our in-person schools.