The State of Sales: Why Presentations are Still Important for Home Improvement Pros

Everybody knows that a career in sales is a demanding profession. The work follows a grueling schedule of meeting clients, making presentations and always tracking the progress. And once you close a deal, you’ll have to do it all over again. Throughout your career, you’ll need to continuously prospect for new customers, follow up on leads and nurture existing clients. Results matter in sales—which means that an agent’s paycheck directly depends on their sales performance.

Young woman giving a sales presentation to increase sales performance
Source: Shutterstock

The Current State of Sales

Gone are the days of traditional sales, where a sales rep’s charisma accounts for the bulk of their success. Once upon a time, persuasion was the name of the game. That’s mainly because the sales team controlled the important information, which buyers need to make a purchase decision. In short, traditional sales was all about the seller.

The arrival of the digital age helped turn the tide in favor of the buyer. Thanks to the internet, information became available to anybody with wired connectivity. Buyers can now shop in the open market for the lowest-priced sellers; they can also look up technical specifications for items offered by sales reps. The internet also allowed buyers to check out neutral reviews, real-world tests and how-to demonstrations. By the time they called a salesperson to place their orders, they already completed the needed research.

What’s Changed Recently to Affect Sales Performance?  

The past few years, in particular, have put sales in a more difficult position. In 2020, nobody knew how to handle the Covid-19 pandemic—so governments simply shut society down. With everybody stuck at home, people turned to online ordering or delivery services to get what they needed.

Since so many industries were on hiatus, it became more difficult to manufacture new products or find enough workers to ship existing inventories; demand outstripped supply, which meant higher prices all around. And once inflation became a reality, central banks countered by raising interest rates. This unholy alliance of supply chain problems, limited inventory and high prices made selling even more challenging.

Nearly a year after the world declared the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, selling remains challenging. According to Salesforce, supply chain delays, inflation, politics and confusing regulations all keep buyers cautious about purchases. They’re not buying as much as they should. As a result, sales teams struggle to hit quotas that they previously had no problems hitting with regularity. Salesforce also reported that due to these factors, sales management teams admitted that they now take fewer risks in their sales activities.  

Did Artificial Intelligence Make Things Easier for the Sales Team?

To make it easier for sales teams to reach out to customers, many companies now incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) in their sales and marketing activities. They use a combination of predictive, generative and prescriptive AI systems to learn more, communicate and better engage customers. Some of these applications include:

  • Predictive AI. Predictive AI analyzes a customer’s past behavior and purchase history to detect patterns. This allows sales teams to predict the most likely outcome based on established trends.
  • Generative AI. Generative AI uses algorithms to help produce creative output such as copy, blog articles, digital art, musical compositions and even program code. Guided by human input, generative AI can develop original content based on the specified tone and voice.    
  • Prescriptive AI. Prescriptive AI generates recommendations based on the behaviors identified by predictive AI. Using machine learning, prescriptive AI identifies potential scenarios for a given situation and recommends the best course of action.

Currently, sales and marketing organizations use these three AI algorithms to understand their clients better and develop targeted and highly personalized sales materials. Contrary to popular opinion, AI tools are not in a position to replace humans entirely. At this stage, AI enhances human output by assuming repetitive and tedious tasks, allowing them to focus on implementing strategy.

What Sales Performance Metrics Indicate

Selling seems harder today than before; but on the other hand, AI seems set to save the day. So are we in an up or down market right now? The answer depends on who you ask.

According to the federal watchdog US Bureau of Labor Statistics, retail and food purchases dipped slightly at 0.1% in October 2023 versus a month ago. But despite the apparent slowdown, many experts point out that one major factor is the drop in the prices of consumer goods, vehicles and fuel. This poses the question of whether spending went down—or if lower prices affected spending value.

Consider, as an extended example, the home improvement market. Despite manufactured goods prices declining and inflation rates staying flat, sales of home furnishings and fixtures went down by 2%.

Sales performance in the home improvement industry
Source: Shutterstock

Is the Home Improvement Market Suffering Fallout from Rising Home Prices and High Mortgage Rates?

Another critical factor in the drop in home improvement purchases is the ongoing housing market disparity. The Fed’s decision to raise interest rates as a response to rapid inflation meant higher mortgage rates for homebuyers; add the fact that during the pandemic, demand exceeded supply as many urban dwellers sought shelter in the suburbs.

At the same time, a supply chain crunch caused prices of building materials and furnishings to soar. The result is the housing market’s current perfect storm of limited supply, higher-priced homes and soaring interest rates. Zillow reported that home prices spiked by 40% between January 2020 and August 2022. Heftier mortgage payments (6-7% on average in December 2023, versus 4%-5% pre-2020) can surely dampen any plans to pursue any home improvement projects or upgrade furnishings.  

Home Improvement Industry Sees Sales Performance on the Decline

MarketSharp’s 2023 Home Improvement Industry Trend Report confirmed the downward trajectory for the market. The increase in home improvement spending during the pandemic—fueled by stimulus checks distributed by the federal government—has since proved unsustainable. With funding all but dried up and household spending going up due to inflation, families now have little money for home improvement.

For retailers, lower demand almost always means higher competition. This in turn sees industry players employ strategies such as offering promotions and diversifying product offerings in order to boost their sales and marketing initiatives.

Why Sales Presentations Still Matter

Home improvement companies should look at the specter of lower demand—and even lower sales—a wake-up call, rather than a prophecy. If there was ever a good time to overhaul your organization’s sales and marketing skills, it’s now.

Have You Embraced Digital Marketing?

Semrush and Apptopia’s 2020 Digital  Shopping Performance Report revealed that during the first year of the pandemic, industry heavy-hitters such as Home Depot and Lowe’s saw their app downloads increase by 86% and 133%, respectively. Meanwhile, Swedish furniture retailer IKEA saw web traffic grow by 79% during the same period.

But even as the pandemic ended in 2023, many homeowners appreciated the convenience of online shopping and retained their app usage. It helps that many retailers continue to sustain their digital marketing campaigns and conduct regular online promotions!

Local home improvement retailers that have yet to adopt a digital strategy should take note. With heightened competition expected in 2024 and beyond, the online battlefield can make or break your business. Now is the best time to revisit your digital marketing strategy, make better use of your website and boost your online eCommerce systems.

Great Sales Presentations Can Lead to Better Performance

Digital marketing is simply about making your voice heard where your customers are online. This includes keeping an updated presence on social media, making customer service available in chat or email, and making your sales and marketing materials available online. Not everyone has the time or patience to call the store to inquire about your products and services, after all.

Keeping a sales presentation ready to go on demand helps your customers get the information they need to make informed decisions on their time. Sales presentations can provide an overview of how your company can relate to your customer’s problems, how your solutions can address the problem and why your company is the solutions provider they need.

Note that the home improvement market is radically different from most retail purchases. Homes come in all shapes and sizes—so each homeowner has a slightly different requirement every time. More importantly, home improvement projects require detailed planning proposals before sign-off. If the devil is in the details, you’ll need the right sales presentation and the right tools to get the job done.

If you send out a presentation with incomplete information and lacking detail, you’d better be ready to face the consequences. At the least, you’ll find yourself and your client wasting time and resources working on additional information. At worst, you’ll likely lose a client before you even get started.

While content matters, the timing and delivery are also crucial to a presentation’s success. A well-developed but glitchy presentation is just as likely to turn off a busy client; the same goes for oversized presentation files that take forever to load. If a client doesn’t have time to attend your pitch, you can be sure they don’t have time to spend minutes waiting for your presentation to finish downloading.

Not all clients have the luxury of poring over every minute detail of sales presentations. Conversely, some insist on checking every word, number or image. Instead of creating separate presentations, use interactive presentation software to keep both client types happy.

Interactivity allows you to provide details that viewers can choose to access. Instead of laying everything out, an interactive sales presentation furnishes additional information on-demand when viewers click on an image or a link. Unprompted, these additional details stay hidden in the background, keeping slides clean. Interactivity also gives your presentation team a better way to tell stories. Instead of a straightforward linear direction, viewers can backpedal and examine details without disrupting the flow.

Manage Your Sales Presentations Easily

As modern sales continues to evolve, your presentation software must move with the flow. That’s why Ingage keeps ahead of the curve. Ingage is more than just presentation software—it’s a comprehensive collaboration and content management platform. The cloud-based interactive solution lets teams work on—and client view—presentations on their time, wherever and whenever. In a sales landscape defined by decentralization and personalization, Ingage strives to meet the modern moment.

Ingage also features analytics that allow the software to track viewer engagement. After viewing, Ingage can send reports that detail which areas managed to fully engage the client and which pages need more work.

Come and find out why over 100,000 Ingage presentations are shared every month. Sign up now for a free demonstration of how Ingage can boost your sales performance.

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