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Sales people are not monsters … not all of them anyway.

After following the thread on salesmanship, I noticed the info given to the person was not really “Salesmanship”. Being “yourself” is a good thing. Of course, “dressing nice” is a good thing, too, but your choice of clothes won’t necessarily get you the customer’s order.

I would like to ask this question first, what is your best tool? My answer will be at the end.

Economic activity around the world depends on sales of one kind or another. Is there anything in your home you did not buy? How about your clothes? Your food? Your vehicle? The list of things you buy goes on and on.

Selling our service is what we first must do to provide our service, so let’s keep our thoughts on “selling.” As a business owner, you are responsible for the success of your company. Bills don’t get paid without having sales invoices generating accounts receivable. If you don’t have accounts, the bills aren’t going to get paid and your business will fail! For sure, the strength of your business depends on your ability to sell the services you provide.

For 20 years, my wife and I ran a successful window cleaning company. At times, we had as many as 12 employees. It was a lot of work keeping work for them. We were in the field for 10 years full time and did office work in the evening. Our commitment to our work eventually led us to a point where we would schedule a full day every week just for making sales estimates. Some weeks, one day of estimating jobs poured over into a second day.

While making those estimates on potential job sites, one thing we did not want to see was the homeowner. GASP! For the most part, our clients were homeowners. Whenever they watched us work we could be sure they would slow down the process of estimating their job. Slow down one job and another one suffers. Are you beginning to figure out what my best tool was and still is?

Back in the office at day’s end, my wonderful bride began dealing with the paper work while I called customers who called needed an estimate, as well as the potential customers identified through our job estimates. It was here where I sought to make good on what so many potential clients judge their decisions: first impressions!

First Impression

The first impression a new customer gets from any sales professional is driven by our initial contact with them. Over the phone, first contacts are substantially improved because you can shine – and shine brightly -- without them ever seeing what you are wearing! A positive approach. A friendly voice. The time to listen. The time to respond. These are the four elements of good first impressions that usually lead to confirmed service invoices.

Using those skills – yep, those four elements are sales skills – my conversations with potential clients first discovers what their need were. Next, I tell them I will be out to do the estimate at no specific time of day – no schedule for the client to worry about – and I always chose a day that strategically offers me the opportunity to work as many estimates in a day as I can. In this way, the customer appreciates the fact they didn’t have to be home for me to accomplish the estimate. Their valuable time will not be compromised solely for the purpose of building a sales estimate, and you give the appearance of being busy even if you are not!

Of course, whenever I approach clients on the phone, I have a few practical questions that need clearing: Any locked gates I’d have to pass? Any vicious animals in the yard? That one always seems to get a laugh, which was a sign that the customer was at ease, our relationship was growing, and an estimate was inevitable.

I know a lot of you are eager to meet your customer on the spot, complete your estimate and leave your estimate in your client’s hand. But do you think about the time it will take for you to take these steps over and over again to deliver the estimate to (hopefully) several clients? Wow! That’s a bunch of time used – perhaps, even time wasted when you find yourself chatting with charmful customers! Completing an estimate without a watchful client behind you also gives you the opportunity to get more work done in a day. On my initial call, I told Ms Smith that I would will call around (such and such time) Wednesday evening.” Again, no waste of the customer’s time on the front end of the job and a specific accounting of when I would discuss the estimate with them … and sell the job!

The bottom line in this exercise is using your time wisely and efficiently. As window cleaners, we don’t get paid if we are not “on the glass.” It’s essential, you see, to organize our time “off the glass” to keep the hours to a minimum when we’re not actually polishing panes. Building a plan like this for estimating jobs is really strategic planning of travel routes to save time.

The Sale

It’s Wednesday evening. I have Ms. Smith’s estimate in front of me. Her home has 63 windows.

“Hello Ms. Smith. It’s Don -- the window cleaner! I have good news for you. You won’t even have to sit down for this ?! To clean all of the windows in your home, including the high dormers, basement, garage -- even the door from the garage to the house -- is $497.00.” That also includes cleaning all of the screens and the window sills and frames. (I arbitrarily picked $8 charge per window.)

What do you do or say next? Think about it before you read on.

Ask for the sale

There are several ways to do this. Assumptive, I have Friday morning or Tuesday afternoon open at this time.

Well Don, ADL gave me an estimate that was quite a bit lower then that. Yes Ms Smith, I suppose everyone knows what his or her work is worth. Let me tell you a little bit about my company. We have been in business for X years. We carry liability, workers comp insurance, and that accounts for a good part of my price. Perhaps you should check with ADL to see if they are fully insured. We belong to several trade organizations, Master Window Cleaners of America, the International Window Cleaning Association and the Association of United Window Cleaners. Our work is absolutely guaranteed. If you find any problems with anything we have done, we will return promptly and make it right. I can also give you several references in your zip code.

Ms Smith I walked around your beautiful home and saw how well kept it is. I also saw a lot of beautiful furniture in front of some of the windows. I am sure you want people in your home that are professional and know how to treat your home. Are mornings or afternoons better for you?

This is just a small example of salesmanship. Did I sound like a terrible human being? Using good sales techniques does not make you a bad person. It just makes you a better sales person, which is what every business needs.

The phone is the best tool. I have taught many people how to clean windows and a lot of them are very good. I have never taught them phone skills for obvious reasons. Building your phone skills will give you more time…something that is always in short supply. For twenty years, it has worked well for us.

I am fond of saying that if you only do what you have always done, then you will only be where you have always been! There are many good books on the market, and the net is full of help.

Don Chute