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The Deck Guy
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
After a few "rough" weeks going to look at what seem to be nice jobs and getting there only to find out that:

1) I'm the first contractor to show up to do an estimate
2) The have no real idea of what their project will/should cost
3) They haven't done any research on specifics (fixtures, materials, etc...)

Granted, I try my darndest to prequalify people on the phone before I make a trip out, but when I ask "about how many square feet do you want the deck to be" they'll usually say "we want it run along the back of the house". Thanks for that specific info, ace.

I'm tired of me having to spend a long time explaining detailed information to people that don't deserve it. If I'm the first guy in, looking at a deck job, is it unrealistic to expect that the customers might have sketched out a rough design on a piece of paper so that all the contractors can bid the same thing.

On complicated decks, I can't do a solid estimate without a drawing and I don't have the time or desire to do it for free when the gig isn't locked up. On a couple of jobs, I've just shot out rough square footage prices and made a note on the proposal that this is NOT based on a drawing and that after I receive $1000 deposit, I will do the drawing and rebid the job. So far, no dice.

I'm starting to get jaded quickly.

Do you guys ask a customer what their budget is from the outset? If not, when and how? I think that customers are reluctant to furnish this info because they somehow think it's going to affect the pricing somehow. If they were buying a car, and could only afford a Ford, they wouldn't bother going to a Mercedes dealership. I think the same rule applies to remodeling only I'm having qualms about broaching the subject.
 

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Flooring Guru
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If they say "I am not sure of my budget" then shoot a number out.

For instance...a client walks in and asks for some carpet. I ask for their budget, and they say the above.

I have not measured, and they have not picked a rug...so I shoot out "$10,000 seem reasonable?
they say
"Hell no!"
or
"Perhaps...depending on the product."

If they say hell no, then they usually spit out a number closer to what they may expect....then show em what you can do with that number.

If they say perhaps...then all you have to do is show value and you are all set.

Usually it's best to shoot out a huge number.

It's like when I ask "how big is the room you want to tile?"

they say "I don't know"

I say " is it 100 feet by 100 feet?"

they say "Hello no! it's abut 12x12"

see how it works? :)
 

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Flooring Guru
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I find people do go to the Mercedes Dealer just to see what they can not afford.
I find alot of people nowadays do not have that sort of time.
 

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I never ask for the budget. I don't see the point since it's never accurate anyways. Service Magic and other type services often ask budget... They also ask square footage and the customer is NEVER right on either. I simply do not pay attention to that stuff.

I ask what they want, then I tell them what it costs, and I give optional upgrades. If they balk at the price I tell them where we can save them money without cutting corners. I set the budget.
 

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I like to ask about the budget Doing remodeling you have to see what is in the customers head. Plus why would I suggest a $5000 remodel for what they want done if they were thinking it was going to cost $8000?????????? :eek: :eek: :eek:

Whatever the budget is guess what my quote is going to be? - Higher. I believe in helping the customer spend as much money as they can afford and then some, its the give till it hurts program. It's my job to sell them on wants and not needs.


Greg to solve your problem and get you amped up, start doing A B quotes.

Decks are easy, you should be able to plug it into something easily enough and spit out the prices for a redwood version, a cedar version, a PT version ect...

Give them some add on options and some budget saver options. -Custom railing add $X. Me stain add $X. Unstained subtract $X, Stairs with 4 stringers vs 2 stringers add $X, Bevel instead of square corners add $X. Screwed vs nailed add $X, Copper flashing vs ? There are dozens of things you can come up, some of them you might be doing for free and should be charging for them and letting the customer know about them instead of just including them.

Give them a stripped out deck, your price will be lower than everybody elses, but give them the options to bring it up, they will get excited by your low price and end up over what they would have paid somebody else because of all the options you throw in. You should have plenty of extra profit in each option. Just like on a car, options is where the money is. Go look at a new model home for $200,000, by the time you get done upgrading you are looking at $280,000.
 

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I know with electrical, I usually give them 3 options. Like mentioned above. A. is a high one B. mid price and C. is a cheapo. That way they have to pick one, usually the middle since most people don't want the cheap option and can't afford the high one. Also, I usually don't have price complaints that way. :)
 

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You have to know what your budget is before you can even begin to talk to a client. Most don't have a clue as to what anything costs. They look in a box store flyer and think that custom cabinets can't cost THAT much more, WRONG! I also find that budgets can expand rapidly as reality sets in, the wife just HAS to have granite countertops!

I blame a lot more on HGTV. They do have some good shows that tell it like it is but some of the others???????? Have you seen the one where they redo a room for $500.00? All that they leave out are the designers fees, transportation, labor of 5 people for 4 days, ins., WC and everything else involved. They mislead a lot of people into la-la land.
 

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Teetorbilt said:
They do have some good shows that tell it like it is but some of the others???????? Have you seen the one where they redo a room for $500.00?

LOL, and don't forget there is a big difference what something looks like broadcast on TV with the camera panning by it from 10 feet away, and standing in that room yourself and seeing it with your own eyes.

I love some of those paint jobs they do, they look so/so on tv, but if you look close sometimes you can see what they really look like in some of the shots were the stuff is in the background and the light is raking across it and they are doing a shot of the hosts talking. Whoa!
 

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My wife has experience teaching and training kids that are way learning disabled or, for lack of a PC term, retarded. One thing I've seen her use with great effect are picture prompts.
She has photos or pictures of various things that the kids can point to to indicate their desire or intention. Maybe if you had some photos of decks, with "ballpark" price tags on them, uniformed potential customers could develop an idea of what they want and an expectation of its cost. You could even fax or E-maiil them prior to your sales call. Just a thought.
 

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...jammin
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Greg Di said:
Do you guys ask a customer what their budget is from the outset?
Usually not right away, no
Greg Di said:
I think that customers are reluctant to furnish this info because they somehow think it's going to affect the pricing
And that's why I don't ask right away
But, of course, the fact is, knowing your client's budget will help you do your job better
Greg Di said:
If not, when and how?
Sometimes they will offer it right up front
That's great, you can now do your stuff
If they don't...

I'm a good salesman, I don't make stuff up or try to confuse them with technical words, and I don't lie and I don't make stuff up if they ask me something I don't know
At some point most people trust me
I just talk to them

If it looks like they are way off base with their "TV show" expectations of time and cost, or have some other bug up their butt, it should come out, or at least you can get the idea of what going on in their brains

At some point they will trust you (well, hopefully), and you can ask... if it's needed
It can usually just be another question
If you are "qualifying" your customer you're are asking them a few questions trying to find out what they want and expect
The budget question would not be out of line at this point
I try to get to this point quickly, especially if I am getting the sense that they are out of the reality loop when it comes to pricing (or time)

If it still doesn't come around or you can't get an answer, often the plan A and plan B works, but they must both be honest legit proposals
You can tell by which one they like as to where thing are headed

If that still doesn't work then it is open season and fire away with the straight forward "Well then, If you let me know what you have in mind for a budget, I'll try and work something up for you" or even "Well I really can't do my job unless you give me an idea of your budget"

Greg Di said:
1) I'm the first contractor to show up to do an estimate
2) The have no real idea of what their project will/should cost
3) They haven't done any research on specifics (fixtures, materials, etc...)
That can be frustrating
But remember, that is a salesperson's job, and at that time, you are a salesperson
I don't want to get into the details of why it can't be done that way or for that price with somone who doesn't have a clue either
But they may never have done this before

And quite frankly, having to educate a possible client is far, far, better than having to un-educate a know-it-all/I-saw-it-on-the-internet-so-it-must-be-true/
my-nephews-a-contractor-and-he-told-me/saw-them-do-it-for-$500-on-the-tv/
my-husband-says-you-hafta-do-it-this-way type...
...and then educate them on the reality of the situation

Greg Di said:
If they were buying a car, and could only afford a Ford, they wouldn't bother going to a Mercedes dealership. I think the same rule applies to remodeling
They'll always be tire kickers and one-leggers Greg Di
 

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Heh, I cant stand the unprepared H.O. I've been called for 2 bathroom remodels lately and both of them went like this...

H.O. : "I'd like this bathroom redone"

Me: "Okay, what did you have in mind?"

H.O. : "I dont know, what do you think we should do?"

Me: "Well, that varies depending on what you were planning on spending on the project"

H.O. : "We really arent sure, what do you think it would cost to redo it?"

ARRRGH. I mean, c'mon...you would think they had SOME clue about SOMETHING. Both are very nice people and referrals from friends so I took that into consideration, but I dont appreciate burning my time and gas for this type of thing.

I finally politely told em both that its their job to decide what they would like done and my job to make it happen for them.....and went home.
 

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DGR,IABD
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Longacre said:
I finally politely told em both that its their job to decide what they would like done and my job to make it happen for them.....and went home.
Isn't it always part of the sales process to help them decide what they need or want? There's so many options to decks, bathrooms, kitchens, or whatever that I don't think that the homeowners should always be expected to know exactly what they want. If I was in the general home improvement business, I'd be excited as hell to get a "hot lead" in the way of someone that wants their bathroom redone but doesn't know exactly what they want. I'd be sitting in their living room or at their dining table with manufacturer's literature all spread out helping them design their new bathroom. You know they want "something" done, ie. they are willing to spend money. You just need to take it that one step further and help them decide what they want to spend it on. You can't ask for a better lead, in my opinion. Heck, even if their idea of a bathroom remodel was turns out to be a new vanity, medicine cabinet and a paint job, you can still make a profit on that work just as easily as you could a bonafide gut job.
 

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Long, ever had them try to place you in the middle of THIER problem? Husband wants brown, wife wants pink and they both want you to decide for them. Bad Karma here. I tell them that I'll call in a designer to make everything perfect for them, she only charges $250.00 an hour but the place will be beautiful. Decisions will come quickly or you get some birddogs.
 

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Well, when people don't have a budget or don't know. I do something like this.

Well, Ms Sonso, you said that you wanted your breakers to stop trippin? Here is what I can do for you:
I can replace you whole servicefor you witha genorator for about $18000.
them: NOOO WAY!
ME: I didn't think you wanted that. Where do we go from here?
them: I just want those 2 breakers to stop tripping. I don't want all that crap.
Me: Oh, I guess I wasn't quite sure what you wanted. What kind of budget do you usually set for home repairs?
them: I don't know. Not $18000.
Me: (smile) ok. And? (looking at them in the eyes)
them: well, I am moving out in a week so I just need it to work till then.
me: So what are you looking to spend?
Them: about $50
Me: well, we got a problem. Nothing I do is $50. What do I do?
Them:Well I was actually not looking to spent anymore than $1000.
Me: ok let me show u a few options........
 

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I don't do free estimates. I tell them to call me back when they are done with all their bids. I think it is degrading to my trade to do estimates and the leave the price behind. I personally love being the last guy. I get to look at everyone else. I usually charge more and still get the job :)
 

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Totally have to agree with MD in regard to longacre.

Longarcre - buddy if you find that stuff sucks to deal with, there is always the alternative of working for somebody else. Then you just put your head down each day and plow through that days work, when its quitting time, you leave the job at the job site.


You're about 90% of the way there from what you posted:

H.O. : "I'd like this bathroom redone"

Me: "Okay, what did you have in mind?"

H.O. : "I dont know, what do you think we should do?"

Me: "Well, that varies depending on what you were planning on spending on the project"

H.O. : "We really arent sure, what do you think it would cost to redo it?"


All you are missing is:


You should expect to spend somewhere from $3500 to $50,000 on a bathroom remodel. It all depends on what you want done and what you want installed. There are really cheap toilets for $200 and there are gold plated toilets for $20,000.

H.O. (they will cut you off so quickly it won't be funny) -"Well we won't be spending $20,000 on a toilet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Sure, most of my customers don't either. What were you considering you wanted to spend?

H.O. I don't know... blah...blah...

You: $1000? or $20,000?

H.O. Were not spening $20,000 that's for sure!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You: $10,000?

H.O. we were thinking we wanted to see what we could get for around $4000.

BINGO, ALL DONE you know more now than 99% of the contractors that will talk to them.

Just keep asking questions, believe me everybody has a budget in their head, if not a budget a best case pie in the sky dream case scenario. I find the guys idea of the budget is always about 1/2 of what the woman is thinking. That's why I like to ask the wife and not the husband about the budget.
 

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I have found that the wife usually gets what she wants and hubby will take out a second mortgage just to keep the peace or keep gettin' a piece. BTW, there is nothing that I like more than the trophy wife. THAT is a license to steal. LOL
 

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You guys are right of course, but thats where sales skills come into play....of which I have none....LOL

Im usually lucky enough to find those folks that know what they want from me with little or no gray area and all I have to do is shoot em a price. I've never been much of a salesman and I know thats cost me a few good leads in the past. I know I am rather naive yet on the ins and outs of business, and I learn more every time I read these boards, and unfortunately sales is a part of that I still need to work on.

These smaller remodel jobs are "pad the pocket" jobs thankfully and arent overly critical to the budget to land them as my bread and butter is trimwork on multi-families and that keeps me plenty busy, but I agree that I do need to bone up on the sales skills for the inevitable time that I WILL need to land them.

Thats why I read this forum, you guys are like the ninja masters of this crap :)
 

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Long, ever had them try to place you in the middle of THIER problem? Husband wants brown, wife wants pink and they both want you to decide for them. Bad Karma here.
When that first shows up I'll say with a big smile on my face "As your carpenter I charge x$, as your marriage counselor 3x$" Then proceed to give them ballpark estimates of each of their preferred choices, and move on to the next detail. As teetor says the woman usually gets her way, but there's often some face-saving necessary for the guy and if you can help her convince him that that was what HE wanted all along, you'll have yourself an ally in her and he'll often fade into the background. Rich.
 
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