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September 16, 2008

It's alive!

The HOME MAINTENANCE CLUB website is now live.Professional and automated home maintenance systems from Monmouth County's most celebrated remodeling company - since 1987.

The Mark of Excellence Remodeling expert services are customized for your home's needs while securing its integrity and value for the future.

August 2, 2008

TWO more national awards for Mark of Excellence Remodeling

Mark of Excellence Remodeling, West Long Branch, NJ, is excited to have been recognized on a national level for its achievements in a premier trade publication - Qualified Remodeler. QR's 2008 Master Design Awards honored the two Monmouth County, New Jersey projects among this year's winners.

2008 (Fort Atkinson, WI)-
Mark of Excellence Remodeling of West Long Branch, NJ has been named a winner in the prestigious 29th Annual Qualified Remodeler (QR) Master Design Awards Contest. Mark of Excellence Remodeling won two National awards in the design + build addition and bathroom categories.

Sponsored by Qualified Remodeler magazine, the Master Design Awards is the premier national contest recognizing outstanding achievement in residential remodeling projects in 22 categories. For more information visit

Nominees are residential remodeling companies from across the country and entries are judged on aesthetic appeal, construction techniques applied, financial value of the project, functionality of space and overall impression of the project. Awards are determined by a panel of five expert judges.

Company owner, Mark T. Elia, CGR, CGP commented, “Getting rave reviews from our clients is most satisfying, however National awards and recognition for our projects is quite rewarding for both us and our clients.”

Mark of Excellence Remodeling has been renovating residential homes since 1987. Its geography of service includes Monmouth and Northern Ocean Counties of New Jersey. Mark of Excellence Remodeling specializes in design + build remodeling projects. Projects range from whole-house renovations and additions to kitchen, bathroom and exterior remodels. The company also has a Professional Handyman division for smaller projects and home maintenance. Further company information is available at

Founded in 1975, Qualified Remodeler magazine was the first magazine dedicated to serving the residential remodeling market. The magazine is published by Cygnus Publishing, a division of Cygnus Business Media, and serves an audience of more than 83,000 residential remodeling firms.

July 17, 2008

Jason Parsons - "At Your Job" interview featured in the Asbury Park Press

AGE: 31

EDUCATION: I attended Rutgers University; I don't have a degree from them. I did my training and certification from industry groups, The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) and the National Association of Remodeling Industry (NARI). I've continued my education, and I'm going to receive a green-building certification this month through NARI. For home remodeling, there are no colleges that really offer training or education. So the building and remodeling associations create their own criteria and certifications.

EMPLOYER: Mark of Excellence Remodeling, West Long Branch, NJ

JOB DESCRIPTION: My job is to develop, design and budget home improvement projects for homeowners that we ultimately produce for them. I meet with them at their home, and we talk about their needs and their wants, as well as their wish lists.I create a detailed estimate for them to cover all the phases of the project. After that, they'll come back to our office to our selection center, where we will review some CAD designs, which are computer-assisted design renderings; they're computer drawings of their proposed projects, whether it's a kitchen or an addition and so on. We work on the design together. Between me and the homeowner, we'll place where the cabinetry is going to go, or how the outside is going to look. We do kitchens, bathrooms, additions and exterior patios. This computer design program allows us to do so much. Imagine being able to take a blueprint, and add colors that the customer chooses, wood colors for cabinets, exact countertop colors, and add all of that into the detail of blueprint. We'll actually put wine bottles on a table for somebody. We can actually put their furniture placement in to make sure if we're building an addition that everything fits and flows. Our company is pretty much the design end. And then we have a production staff with project managers, carpenters and helpers who actually produce the projects. Once I've met with the clients, and they have made their product selections, we handle the permit application process. Once all of those things are finalized, we have an internal meeting with design and production to coordinate the project. About a week to 10 days before the project starts, I come to the homeowner with the project leader. It gives them the opportunity to now meet their project leader, the guy that's going to be there every day. We use an outside architecting firm, Alan Zimbler Architects, based out of Freehold. But if a client has his or her own architect or blueprint, we'll work with them. I physically don't do the construction end. But our guys that do the carpentry work and manage the entire process. So we handle the project from the (cost) estimate all the way to the (cleaning) service we bring in when we're done. So we go from beginning to end.

HOW DID YOU GET YOUR JOB? I got involved in construction as a teenager … working summers while off from school, doing carpentry, framing additions, things like that. I always had it my mind that if this was my house, ""I would do this, or I would do that.'' So I always kind of had a creative mind, and I had the construction background. I like and enjoy working with people directly. So, I transitioned from doing the physical work to taking some of the design courses and training for that, and then eventually dealing with actual designs. I've been with this company almost a year.

SALARY AFTER A FEW YEARS: Somebody with some computer experience and some construction experience, when they start, their salary is probably $40,000. With experience, education and effort, you could make in excess of $100,000. It's a combination of salary, commission and bonuses for projects being done on time.

WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE? I've been doing this (design) for over four years. I've never had a typical 9-to-5 day, 40-hour work week. I probably work from 45 to 55 hours a week. It does involve nights and weekends. Obviously I want to meet with a client or a homeowner when it's convenient for them. I'm in the office probably 40 percent of the time. My day may start out with me in the office in the morning, or it may start out with me at a job site. If we're just starting a project, I may be at a building department. When I'm in the office, I'm working on designs for my clients, researching their projects with the towns or looking for products for them. The rest of the time I spend going to our retail vendors, reviewing selections that the customers make, going to job sites so I can take pictures and making sure the customers are happy. Before clients actually go out to visit with our vendors to look for cabinetry or countertops, we'll talk about colors. I'll start incorporating colors and different aspects in my design. Then I'll send those samples off to our vendors, so they have a good idea of the type of cabinets that they're looking for or a color palette that they're looking for. Sometimes they'll take pictures of other parts of the home to give an idea to show their taste. Then I follow up and monitor. I let the client do as much as they want to, but if I feel they're making a decision that they ultimately might not like, I'll come back and offer some suggestions.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT YOUR JOB? I like going to someone's house that has an idea of what they want, but they don't really know how to either convey it or picture it. I'm able to transfer that into a concept drawing, and then ultimately create the space that they're going to live in and use every day. When the job is done, we're as proud as the homeowners are of the house.

WHAT DO YOU DISLIKE ABOUT YOUR JOB? The only thing that I would change about the job or the industry in general is that there are tons of guys out there that don't have the right licensing or insurance, or they have bad business practices or bad work ethics. They create horror stories for some clients. Unfortunately our industry is stereotyped by those guys.

SUGGESTIONS FOR OTHER PEOPLE CONSIDERING THIS TYPE OF WORK: I'd say be prepared to put time in. It's definitely not an easy or glamorous job, so you want make sure you put time in and make it a career and not just a job. Probably the most important thing is to stay on top of training. Trends in home design and remodeling are changing and evolving all the time. There are new products, and green and sustainable remodeling, for example, is very important to consumers now. Put the client and the project first. Make that your priority, and everything comes together after that. The Remodelers Council is definitely an organization that you would want to look into, as well as remodeling magazines like Qualified Remodeler.

July 14, 2008


We’re looking for a unique individual for tough job with a great potential upside.
Please pass along to anyone that might fit the bill.

Position available:

Monmouth County Home Remodeling Company

Tough job - great opportunity:
· Aggressive commission plan
· Commission only
· Benefits
· Gas allowance

You Must:
· Be Highly Motivated
· Energetic
· A Great Communicator
· Live Locally
· Have a presentable, reliable vehicle

NOTE: we do drug testing and background checks

Contact Neil

June 2, 2008

We make our own luck!

"Chance favors only the prepared mind."

Louis Pasteur (1822-1895)
French chemist

May 20, 2008

Pause for the Cause

The following is technique/tip submitted by Brian. The information is of great value. I often, as a training excercise, have sales reps tell a joke to the group. A great sales presentation consisting of timing an delivery, like a good joke. This thought is included below.

Brian's submission also references listening. Good listening skills along with keen observation often seprate the average from the above average reps in the same team. These skills can not be utilized unless your are comfortable and well practiced in your presentation. If you have to "pay attention" to what YOU are doing and saying there is little chance that you will hear or see the messages the client is providing.

Thanks, Brian! Happy hunting!!!

All the top salespeople ask good questions and listen carefully to the answers. One of the most important skills of listening is simply to pause before replying. When the prospect finishes talking, rather than jumping in with the first thing that you can think of, take three to five seconds to pause quietly and wait.

Becoming a Master of the Pause
All excellent listeners are masters of the pause. They are comfortable with silences. When the other person finishes speaking, they take a breath, relax and smile before saying anything. They know that the pause is a key part of good communications.

Three Benefits of Pausing Pausing before you speak has three specific benefits. The first is that you avoid the risk of interrupting the prospect if he or she has just stopped to gather his or her thoughts. Remember, your primary job in the sales conversation is to build and maintain a high level of trust, and listening builds trust. When you pause for a few seconds, you often find the prospect will continue speaking. He will give you more information and further opportunity to listen, enabling you to gather more of the information you need to make the sale

May 10, 2008

Technology Nightmares

Not a good week to be around electronics in Mark of Excellence. I tried changing my operating system so the geek squad could set up some kind of link to the server...I have NO clue. Now, of course, a bunch of stuff doesn't work on my computer. I just wanted to be able to get my email, which at the time didn't seem like a large request. Now it seems like I asked for the Cubs to win a world series or a 32" waist.

Jason, about to leave to go get a contract signed, finds his keyboard does not work. It has something to do with loading a driver for a wireless keyboard. Turns out the wireless keyboard works without the driver that it came with. Why do we even bother?

Remember when it was just clipboards and tape measures? Beepers were the hot technology to have! Oh, I miss those days...and a 32" waist.

Speaking of sales...what does it really come down to? The system doesn't change, just the associated tools, props and displays. What is there in every appointment? YOU. That is the constant. The only thing you can count on. The only thing that you can control. Speaking of control...I feel that is the number one reason for not getting a sale - loosing control of the appointment, the client and the sales system. The system never fails, only we fail the system. Here are the items that need to be present at every appointment to maximize the odds of successful results:
  1. Pre-call preparation
  2. Energy and enthusiasm
  3. Professionalism
  4. Listening skills
  5. Observations skills
  6. Follow the proven system

If any of these six are not included or are not fully in effect, the others are not successful and the likelihood of failure is on the rise.

People buy from those that they like and trust. People respect people that they like or want to be like. How does this happen? Luck? No, it comes from the constant focus on having those six items present and in effect at all times...with or without a laptop, PDA or any other technology or prop.

Happy hunting!


May 4, 2008

What a lay down!

Speaking of kitchen sales....

Jason was on an appointment last week.

Two thirds through the presentation...

CLIENT: "How much money do I owe you today?"
JASON: "Nothing today"

After the $72K price presentation...

CLIENT: "Okay what happens now?"
JASON: "You give me a check for $4K and then we start designing and drawing your new kitchen."
CLIENT: "I thought you said I don't have to give you any money today"
JASON: "You don't HAVE to give me a check today, but if you do, you will have your new kitchen sooner and my wife and children will be very happy tonight!"
CLIENT: "Okay. Who do I make the check out to?"

Now why didn't I have that appointment!!!

Kitchen Design Trends

Kitchens have always been, and continue to be, the heart of every home. Less traveling and more entertaining have made certain that dust doesn’t gather on most countertops. Also, many socio-economic factors have made household sizes grow to numbers that were last seen fifty plus years ago. While some lifestyles have come full circle, today’s kitchen does not resemble any predecessor from another period.

Kitchen renovations continue to be a common request by homeowners across the country. Hanley Wood Publications does a comprehensive annual study of remodeling projects nationally and by region. The article is printed in its Remodeling Magazine and named “Cost vs. Value”. The study reviews typical projects and the average investment amounts for a midrange and upscale options. The midrange kitchen remodel is listed to have an average national investment of $55,503. The upscale version for a 200 square foot kitchen, which includes stone countertops, cherry wood cabinets, gourmet appliances and an extensive lighting package, is valued at $109,394. Every project is individualized for each client and home, therefore pricing and options vary tremendously. While not the definitive price list, “Cost vs. Value” has served as a helpful, planning guideline for homeowners for the last twenty years.

Neil Parsons, VP of Sales and Marketing at Mark of Excellence Remodeling, has seen many remodeling requests and trends evolve through the years. Kitchen remodeling is no exception.
Neil lists five items or features below that are being incorporated in today’s kitchen designs that were usually not included or even discussed as recent as ten years ago.

One item is a convection oven. Convection ovens utilize fans to force heated air across the food. The forced air breaks the thin insulating layer of air that surrounds food. This process decreases the cooking time or the temperature required for the food preparation. Convection ovens are typical the second oven in a kitchen as part of a double wall oven unit or as microwave-convection oven combination.

Beverage centers can be found free standing or built into base cabinets. Beverage centers are smaller refrigerators designed to store wine, beer and soft drinks. The more expensive units have the ability to set separate temperatures for each shelf making the multi-use beverage storage possible and enjoyable for all tastes. It cuts down on the use of the much larger main refrigerator. Sizes, features and prices will vary. The price range is typically $200 to $2,000.

If the room or area permits, fireplaces are on the wish list of many families. Direct vent, natural gas fireplaces are the common choice. The options here are plentiful. Free standing, simulated wood-burning stoves require only a small area and are reasonably priced. Built-in units with a stone wall, hearth and a wood mantel can transform any room.

A generation ago every kitchen had a telephone on the wall with a phone book and note pad in the closest draw. Today cabinet layouts often contain a work station. A place for a chair, leg room and counter space. Yes the telephone is still there but it is usually accompanied by a personal computer, laptop or PDA, therefore the phone numbers are stored electronically or located on the internet. These work stations are a convenient place for note taking, children’s homework and home office use.

Now what room is not complete today without a television? Yes, televisions are on most
kitchen design surveys and many families want to see them included in the final plan. While placing a television in the kitchen is not completely new the difference between placing a portable unit on the counter with cords and cables dangling and having an under-cabinet unit with a flip-down flat panel screen is vast. These built-in televisions often have other media or internet capabilities. When working in the kitchen cooks can by companioned by the news, soap operas and of course the Food Network.

Mark of Excellence Remodeling has been Appreciating Homes Since 1987. The New Jersey design + build remodeling firm has been honored with several awards for its projects and business acumen. The company has been featured in various national publications throughout the years.

One of Neil Parsons’ kitchen designs, currently being built in Monmouth County, incorporates four of the five features listed above. The addition and kitchen area has been referenced to as the “Gathering Room” from the onset of the design and development. If you would like pictures sent as the project progresses and completes send your request to or visit the website

April 20, 2008

OH NO! Where's the check?

We all have "lost the deposit check" stories. A very low, gut wrenching feeling after the euphoria of the sale.

Here is Brian's from yesterday:

Here's a good one. I was on a lead today that I sold in union. It was a roof sale for 9k. As I was putting my stuff away in my truck I casually placed the folder containing the measurements, signed contract and check for 2k..... On my bumper. -- Of course my phone rings at that point and I drive off leaving the folder on my bumper. I proceed to Springfield feeling proud of myself for selling another job. I arrive for my lunch that I was so looking forward to and I realize. "OH SHIT!, WHERE'S MY DEAL?? DAM IT!!". So I backtracked back to Union from Springfield..... Then I started the route I traveled from the customer's house to Springfield. When I got all the way back to Springfield, at the intersection of Springfield Ave and Morris was when I found evidence of the folder. First I found the measuring sheet., then eventually the yellow copy of the contract which was great. But still no $2k check. I continued to search and search for my lost check. And finally, there it was in the middle of Morris Avenue at Meisel.... But oh nooooo! The light was turning green..... I wasn't going to let my check get run over by anymore cars so I dashed out and rescued it. I definitely earned my commission on that one. I endangered myself in traffic today to save a deal. Literally.

As long as I didn't have to explain the missing check to the customer I'm happy.


April 5, 2008


Hard work sometimes gets recognized and pays off...

The following is the press release I just prepared. It speaks for itself.

Mark of Excellence Remodeling, Inc. of West Long Branch, New Jersey is proud to announce that it has won four “Innovation in Construction Awards” from Remodeling News magazine. The exclusive winners for each category are selected amongst hundreds of annual award entries from architects, designers, builders and remodelers representing various states. Mark of Excellence Remodeling won the following categories: “Best Design and Room Addition under $100,000” for a project in Oceanport, “Best Design and Room Addition over $100,000” for a project in Sea Bright, “Best Bathroom under $30,000” for a project in Tinton Falls and “Best Marketing Program”.

Danielle Prescia, the company’s Marketing and Project Coordinator, oversees the marketing efforts and is most proud of the fact that over 50% of Mark of Excellence Remodeling business is generated through previous clients and their referrals. Certified Lead Carpenter Neal Robinson and Paul Williams were the project leaders for the winning renovations. Design Consultant Jason Parsons and Neil Parsons, VP of Sales and Marketing, created the award-winning designs for the projects.

Company President and owner Mark T. Elia, a local resident who was raised in Oceanport and currently resides in Long Branch, is excited about the national recognition that Mark of Excellence Remodeling receives for its work throughout Monmouth County over the past 20 years. Mark, a Certified Graduate Remodeler, attests, “It is quite rewarding to help a homeowner from the initial planning stages through the final details of their home’s transformation. I am honored to be a part of the process and I especially enjoy exceeding the expectations of the clients in my own community. That is important to me since my name is on all of our signage.”

Renee Rewiski is the Editor and Publisher of Remodeling News magazine as well as the President of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. Renee commented, “The Mark of Excellence Remodeling entries were extraordinary, professional and well deserving of the honors.”

Mark of Excellence Remodeling with its award-winning projects and marketing program will be featured in the May 2008 issue of Remodeling News magazine. Contact Danielle at 800-734-3737 to receive reprints as and when available.

March 29, 2008

Why they buy

Do the clients believe you? There will always be an initial air of distrust when a "sales rep" comes into the house.
Never forget that:
People ONLY buy from those they like and want to be like.

How does that happen? Where does like and then trust come from? TRUST is ultimately displayed by placing an order. Like and trust are based upon many small factors - appearance, timeliness, professionalism...etc. In my opinion, the biggest factor comes from the dynamic of the overall presentation. Are you there to give a performance and monologue? Or are you there to get involved with the people on their level, interact and start a relationship?

People do not want to be sold, they want to buy.

They want to draw their own conclusion and not just blindly accept what you tell them.
If you say it, they will doubt it.
If they can see and feel it for themselves they will believe it.
If you get the client to say it, they will buy it.

Make sure to involve as many senses as possible. While possessing all, people are either mainly visual, auditory or kinestetic with the dominant trait being the crux of decision making. If you can not determine which your client is...make sure to employ each as part of your presentation.

March 27, 2008

Story Time

Okay we all have great in-home sales stories about the crazy happenings and the things we witness. Here's your chance to share yours. The funny thing is that those outside of our sub-culture will probably think these things can NEVER happen. Those in the inner-sanctum know they occur each and every day.

I have too many to count but here is one of my favorites:
About an hour into the appointment, which was going great, the clients were happy and friendly. As I was setting up my laptop, I asked a few background questions. One was "what is your email address?" The husband said he didn't have one. The wife said, "You can write mine down". At that part, the storm rolled in. The mood changed abruptly. Happy and friendly flew right out of the window. The husband stared down his wife and sternly said, "You can't give him that email address. He's making a permanent record of it." The wife shot back, "Well it's true!" Having managed many tense situations in the past, almost to the point of qualifying as a certified marriage counselor, even I could not subside the wave rapidly heading to shore. She turned to me and blasted out, "myhubbyisacheat". After peeking out from my safe hiding spot behind the laptop screen, I watched as husband and wife (in name only, I guess) exited the kitchen in opposite directions. Less than 20 minutes later I was packed up and on my way, with no deal of course, just another memorable story.

Okay it's your turn. Let's hear your sales story....(please keep it clean!)

What does it for you?

What does it for you? Why do you do what you do?

Many in this sub-culture have fragmented lives, do things outside the norm and don't understand the banality and stability of the 9 to 5ers. So why is this the career path we choose? Is it the money? Is it the Independence? Is it the thrill? Or is it the pride of fulfilling a client's wants and needs?

Share with us...bare your soul, that's if you haven't sold yours yet.

What's your favorite part of the job? It's funny that I actually just referred to it as a job, because I often say that at 46, I've never had a "real job" in my life...LOL.

Now while I'm interested in hearing from ALL, I will not tolerate the impostors. I've met many that claim that they are million dollar producers and expect to make six figures by September. This is not an elitist blog, all are welcome, but don't make claims you can't back up...THANKS

On the other hand, if you're looking for tips and tools you just might find this blog a great platform. As "Ed" said once, "I learn more outside the meetings and training seminars when i just hang out with true sales people at a bar". Just ask our spouses or significant others, who all hate us, all conversations lead back to sales - sounds boring, but I assure you - we ain't!


When does the sale occur? It occurs on the first appointment that the price is presented. In MOST cases that is the FIRST call. A sale happens on EVERY appointment.

"Someone always gets sold. It is either the client or the sales rep"

When you leave the that call you want to leave with a check* or a "no". Maybes are way too expensive. If you don't know what that means, you are either a novice, not successful or someone looking to enter our sub-culture.

* "It is better to bring back a check with no contract than a contract with no check"

A contract without a deposit is not much better than a written estimate....also known as a "maybe"

The sales system

Selling is a matter of following a sales system. Not just any system. A proven, successful system designed for the product and service that you offer.

"The system never fails. Only you fail the system"

Following the system is a product of a few items:
  1. Knowing the system inside and out, forward and backward
  2. Keeping control of the appointment and not allowing people or situations to derail you from the system
  3. NEVER cut steps out of laziness, poor attitude or a pre-judgement of the client or appointment

The first comes from effort, practice and a commitment to being a success. The second comes with confidence and fluency in the system. Novices allow themselves to get derailed and feel they can blame someone or something else for NOT selling, when the MAIN reason is the sales rep. The third is unfortunately very common. How many times have we been on an appointment and feel like it's not good and we can't wait to get through and get out. Then, out of the blue, something changes or things are revealed to make a seemingly bad appt. a good one. Now, those steps you left out or cut short are long gone and there is no going back. Then all of a sudden you realize your effort was sub-par and not good enough to close the deal. You wish you could have a do-over. No such luck. A deal and a commission check squandered!

"The natural conclusion to a professional sales presentation is the SALE"