Construction Leadership Insights

How to Succeed In Construction Sales Even If You Hate Selling: The Power of Good Questions [Part 3 of 3]

How to Succeed In Construction Sales Even If You Hate Selling: The Power of Good Questions [Part 3 of 3]

This is part two of a three-part series on construction selling. Click here for part one. Click here for part two.

Why Do People Buy Things?

One of the keys in a tactical approach is that you have to think about a sale in terms of a weighing scale. The benefits you offer and the reasons why they should do business with you need to outweigh the cost of doing business with you.

So fundamentally, people purchase for two reasons. They purchase because they want pleasure and they purchase because they want to avoid pain.

Now when it comes to construction services which do you think is more important, the avoidance of pain or the pursuit of pleasure? Most construction professionals agree: the avoidance of pain

Here are some pains that people looking to avoid in a construction project:

  • Scheduling delays
  • Missed scope
  • Reworking
  • Poor quality outcomes
  • Cost over-runs

These are roadblocks between where the project is at now and where you would like it to be. And road blocks come with costs.

It’s very important that you have a tactical approach in your construction sales so that you can identify the roadblocks that are holding people back from getting what they want, or help them to avoid the pain that they don’t want.

Use S.P.I.N

So let me share a powerful framework with you. And I take this from the book called “S.P.I.N Selling” which I recommend that you read.

S.P.I.N is an acronym for four things: Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need payoff. We’re not going to dive into a ton of detail here, but I think you’ll find this very, very important.

When you’re going into a conversation with someone where you’re exploring doing work for them, presenting a proposal or trying to figure out what’s going on with the developer/contractor, you have to be able to ask situational questions, problem questions, implication questions, and need payoff questions.

If you’re going to be successful in sales you must become an expert at asking questions. It’s not going to be about the power of your charisma or the shine on your shoes, anything like that. It’s going to be about the quality of the questions that you ask. And you must be able to ask specific types of questions.

So the size of the project or the location of the project for example. If you’re the subcontractor perhaps it means asking who’s the owner that’s working with the GC. These are all situational questions – background and facts.

If you’re dealing with a savvy construction buyer those types of questions are boring. And you should do your homework upfront so that you limit the number of situational questions that you ask. Because what you want to be able to do almost immediately is go from those situational questions to the problem questions.

Craft questions that uncover problems that that person has.

Or problems that they may anticipate around things like schedule or quality or cost or missed scope. Uncover problems and difficulties and dissatisfactions. This is particularly true if you’re walking in on an owner or a developer or a general contractor who is already committed to a construction partner, but you may suspect that there’s issues with that partner and you may suspect that there’s an opportunity for you to win some work from that person.

Once you’ve identified the problems then you want to go on to the next step which is the implication. You may know all about the problems but you need to ask about the implications –  the consequences, the effects of the problem.

You need to ask “What was the impact of that missed scope? What is the impact on you of the poor quality? How have the cost overruns affected your profitability on the project?”

And implication questions are sad questions. So when you find out a problem one of your jobs in sales is to magnify the problem. Not because you’re a sadist, but you need to be able to get that problem-cost scale way down so that they will see the solution that you’re providing as something that is worth it to them.

Ask them in two ways. First, the logical implications in terms of money and time and productivity. And second, the emotional implications in terms of frustration and hassle and failure. If they are pissed off with their current provider, with their current contractor and they don’t want to work with them anymore, you need to find that out.

The next step is the need payoff questions. Questions like this: “What would it mean to you if we could deliver a project that has zero rework? What would it mean to you if we could guarantee a particular cost? If we could improve the quality so that you have a much  happier end user what would that mean to you?”

Those are happy types of questions. They’re helpful and they’re solution oriented. So you not only want to find out the problems, you not only want to explore the pain, but then you want to provide them with the solutions. And specifically the solutions that you provide.

Questions like “How important is it to this client to improve productivity? How helpful would a good design build partner be to them? What would be the impact of improved communication?” These are the types of questions that get people beyond the roadblocks to the end that they’re looking for.

And it helps them to associate you with solving their problems. That’s why you’re there. You’re there to solve problems for them. And then to add value.

Take Action

I’ve got one client who’s a Rainmaker. You know what he does? He gets out there and he meets his clients. He takes them to the basketball games. He goes out and hangs out with them.

Someone asked me “How much persistence is too much?”

A good question.

I always want to keep top of mind of people. And so if I’m thinking about the top five clients that I want to get to know I want to make sure that I’m touching them every 30, 60 or 90 days. And when I’m in touch with them I always want to be adding value in one way or another.

So I don’t want to be showing up and begging for work, but I want to be in relationship with them adding value. Coming up with solutions perhaps to issues they may have or providing them with ideas that may benefit them. So always look to add value and the more value that you add the more you can show up on a more consistent basis.

A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week. Take action.

Have more personal meetings. Meet clients face to face. Get to know people.

Your Next Step

If you or the people who report to you are responsible for sales, you might find the Construction Sales Assessment that I’ve put together extremely useful.

It describes the five traits that successful salespeople in any field consistently display and you can rate yourself on those traits and then complete a short, simple exercise to help you strengthen any of the traits you need to work on.

If you’d like to get the assessment just go to my website:

FREE Downloadable Resource:
Construction Leaders Dashboard

Do you lack focus and forward momentum? The Construction Leaders Dashboard is a simple, powerful tool for construction company leaders. Use it to clarify what you need to do in order to succeed. It includes: Vision, Mission, Values, Edge, Intitiatives, Metrics, Key Relationships,
and Development Opportunities.

To get your copy of the dashboard, click this link