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Discussion Starter #1
Let's say a customer sends you an e-mail or calls you requesting an estimate for a new roof, or siding, or any decent remodeling job... What questions would you use to qualify that lead as apotential customer? Do you qualify your leads at all or do you simply estimate everything that comes in?

Some possible qualification questions:
How soon do you need the estimate and how soon do you think you will be ready to make a decision?
How soon are you hoping for work to begin?
How many contractors have you spoken with, or plan to speak, about this project?


What other questions would be good to ask?
 

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I dont know anything about roofing, but as far as flooring I will ask the customer:

* when was the last time you shopped for flooring?

(this helps find out how out of touch they are, perhaps they need to be educated on advancements made and how it may perform better than their expectations compared to their last product, can you say upgrade?)

* What kind of flooring have you had in the past?

(This will help determine what kind of stuff they have lived on, and find out what kind of things they like to live on, or dislike)

* what do you like or dislike about your current flooring your trying to replace?

(this is the most important question, it really helps me quickly determine what products to show them or not show them, I have seen this question skipped quite often, and it really cuts the time down if asked right away)

Just replace the word flooring for roofing, and I am sure it can be usefull.
 
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We always asked what room(s) they want painted. Every now and then you get someone who calls and wants their powder room painted. We kindly ask what other rooms they want painted. If they say nothing we turn down the job. The job is just too small.

Everybody has a different cut off point but for us it was 2 men 2 days. Anything less wasn't worth it.
 

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Florcraft said:
I dont know anything about roofing, but as far as flooring I will ask the customer:

* when was the last time you shopped for flooring?

* What kind of flooring have you had in the past?

* what do you like or dislike about your current flooring your trying to replace?

Just replace the word flooring for roofing, and I am sure it can be usefull.
Florcraft, I really like your approach. Yes, you are right, that if you replace "flooring" by "roofing" it will be just as useful.

In our case, we always document our quotes in writing, make sure that a full inspection is done before we even attempt a quote, and detail in our quotes the exact sequence of labour that will be carried out. In all, each customer quote take about a full day, between the inspection, client interview, product presentation, detailed workup of material and labour required, writing up the quotation, and then discussing it with the homeowners. You don't want to do this unless you have a very good chance of closing the sale. Given that we are almost always the most expensive bid on the table, we obviously can't use (low) price to bring in the business.

We get about half our business from referrals, and most of the rest from our web site. Qualifying the incoming calls allows us to spend the quality time with serious prospects. Unless I'm missing something important, I can't pay my bills with revenues from "free estimates", and since there are only so many hours in a day, they need to be spent productively.

When we get a call, we qualify the customer as follows:

1) How did you find out about us? (If through a referral, we find out who. If not, then we ask what was it that attracted them to our company).
2) What are you looking for? (If they are looking for a cheap roof, we direct them to companies that can meet that need.).
3) What kind of roof do you have right now, how old is it, and why do you want to replace it? (This tells us about their motivation. If it's a three-year roof, you know its leaking. If it's a twenty-year shingle roof, then it probably just looks worn. In any case the prospect tells us what's on their mind).
4) How long do you plan to stay in your place? (Since our stuff is "investment" grade, they got to want to stay around long enough to enjoy their investment).
5) How urgent is this for you? (Again, comes back to motivation. Is this a "get your ass here right now!" situation, or can we schedule it for later in the week?)

Since we are the most expensive (but also most valuable!!) solution they are looking at, we need to get price off the table if we are to continue. So we tell them "Our base price for installed product is $X per square foot. Is this within your budget?" The ones that can't afford us go away, or if they ask, we refer them to other roofers who can meet their needs more cost-effectively. The ones who can afford us, well at this point, we schedule the appointment.

Some of our competitors play the "model home" game and tell prospective customers that they are looking for model homes in the neighbourhood, so that they can then offer the customers "huge" savings. Of course, they offer a huge discount off a completely unrealistic high starting price, and end up selling the products at roughly the same price as we do. I personally hate this selling trick and have told my salespeople to stick to the facts, which is we give the best price we can with our first quote.

However, given our track record, we must be doing something right, Recently we quoted $15,000, while our competitors quoted $3,000 and $4,500. So why did we win the customer's confidence? Because we took the time to really understand what this customer wanted, and came back with a proposal that delivered it to them. When we originally qualified this customer, we got a clear message from the answers that there was more to this than roofing. In our opinion, proper qualification of a customer give you two benefits: information on the customer's motivations, and adjusts the customer's expectation of you.

PS. Florcraft, does your bear ever get tired? He's wearing a hole in my screen pacing in place all the time!
 

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4) How long do you plan to stay in your place? (Since our stuff is "investment" grade, they got to want to stay around long enough to enjoy their investment).


What a great question. This really will help quite a bit in deciding which products will fit their needs.

By the way, a Polar bears work is never done, always on the hunt...:)
 
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Discussion Starter #8
I think no matter what customers are trained to "React" to pricing. It's called a flinch response and is actually a negotiating technique. I always gasp when told a price even if I think I am geting a deal.

Sometimes a gasp followed by 5 seconds of silence is all you need for a discount or some feature tossed in free.
 

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Not unless the salesperson is terrible. I look forward to that awkward pause and wait for the client to respond to it. Than I will react to that response.
Discounting can creat distrust in customers when salespeople offer it right away. Not always, but sometimes. I always stick to my guns unless I see someone else offering the product cheaper. Than I will try to compete. Luckily I do not run into that very often because our prices are at the right level to compete.
I have seen some people soooo shocked when I give em a price, and I know they are looking for a discount, and I have watched them go out the door, but most will come right back after visiting a few stores once they realize I am not trying to take advantage of them.
It's hard to do sometimes, but you have to present yourself as quality, not discount Bob.If they buy from discount Bob, chances are I should be happy about it.
 

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Yes FLor when in the sales position, I stick to my guns. When told my price is high, my response is always "Compared to what?".

When in the buying position I use all the tools in my arsenol to make sure I am content that I am getting some kind of deal.
 

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I believe the most important question you can ask is "How did you find us?"

A person who is calling you blind out of the phone book or is a referral is as different as night and day for me.

Referrals already know something about you, there is already a bit of research done on their part, someone they trust has recommended you which puts you way ahead of the game. I'm going to give a referral a totally different approach then a blind call who is chosing me based on my name or my yellow pages ad. A lot of the selling of yourself has already been done for you so I'm going to be moving onto the next phase which is verfifying that there friend wasn't a nut for recommending me.
 

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Cripes! Mike what an excellent point!
It is true, you could waste a ton of qualifying time trying to sell the client on you, and they already have been sold by another satisfied customer....

nice........
 

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Discussion Starter #13
That is definetly something we always ask. My assistant kept forgetting to ask, or felt stupid asking... whatever. One day he gave me 3 new estimates and none had the "source" filled out on the form. I made him call each one back and ask. Sure it made us look unprofessional but he was really emberrased doing it. He hasn't forgotten since.

Very important! Thanks for adding your 2 cents, Mike!
 

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I would have to say that the second most important qualifier is to get out of the customer exactly what his intentions are. Is he just curious about what something would cost him? Is he trying to beat an existing bid? Trying to keep someone he has been working with honest in their pricing? A real deal?

Qualifying where the customer is in the buying process is essential, you simply cannot spend the same amount of time working on every single lead in the hopes that if you do enough estimates you will get work 1 out of 4 or 1 out of 10, whatever ratio you now have.

If you had a crystal ball and could examine your next 10 leads that were going to contact you next and know that

2 have no intention of ever doing anything, ever.
1 was just an escapee from the mental ward.
3 are either unrealistic or just not a good match for your level of services.
1 is just keeping his current guy honest.
3 are real deals, as long as act professionally and competently during the estimating process you have a good shot of getting their project.


Now would you spend the exact same amount of your time, setting an appointment, going to their house, spend hours with them, spend more hours working on a proposal, more hours remeeting with all 10 of them?

No freak'en way! The nut case you would hang up. The guy keeping his guy honest you might help out with some ball park figures, the 3 unrealistic guys you would say good bye to during the first phone call, and the 3 real deals you would spend as much time as it takes.

If you could have the inside knowledge of what these leads were really about you would probably close 2 or the 3 real ones.

If you are just doing your estimate process for every single lead that comes your way, you may get 1 of the real deals, but probably not because you end up spreading yourself so thin over all the other 7.

You can throw in your own numbers for your situation as for your closing ratio, but as you can see the magic happens through finding a way to get in the prospects head and dividing your time the most effectively so you are spending your time with the most promising prospects. Dealing with all 10 you get a 1 out of 10 closing ratio if you are lucky. Dealing with the real 3 you get a 2 out of 3 closing ratio. That ratio will get you rich!

You can fish where the fish are because you are using a fish finder device, instead of just throwing your line out all over the lake were ever you see a ripple that may mean a fish might be there.

Now how do you magically figure out ahead of time that the 7 out of 10 prospects I mentioned here are no worth spending as much time with as the other 3? That only comes with experience in your craft and at sales.

In every business that I have been in I started out just like everyone else, fishing all over the lake, but my drive was always to figure out how to fish exactly where the hungry fish were. I am too green in this business to give away any nuggets of specific wisdom in this regard, but when I do I will share them.

I know that as stated:
"How soon do you need the estimate and how soon do you think you will be ready to make a decision?
How soon are you hoping for work to begin?
How many contractors have you spoken with, or plan to speak, about this project?"

... are all good starts at this process, but I know from experience that there are always subtle tells that if you know what to listen for the customer will always give away his hand, and give you the road map to the sale each and every time. Customers have a tendency to tell you what you want to hear or to lie even though they really don't consider it lieing but just good consumer self-defense when confronted with a salesperson. If you can come up with questions that the prospect doesn't have a canned answer for that he has learned through his self-taught consumer self defense you stand a much better chance of getting that magical crystal ball to look into the prospects true intentions.

Asking the prospect how he found out about you is a big part of that process since you now know the next step of the process, you already have a tremendous amount of information with one simple answer and can now eliminate 3-4 other steps of the process that are now no longer needed.

Telling the prospect "I can get out right away to look at your project, I am also on the final stages of my current project, but I do have a few customers who I have spoken with this month who have final numbers. I am expecting calls from a least 1 or 2 of them to block in my time for their projects." then shut up and see what he says. I'm pretty sure that depending on the answer your crystal ball will get a little clearer.

I suspect Somebody serious will understand the ramifications of what you told them and ask you some questions regarding your schedule. They are serious and realize that if you are right for the job it is just wasting there time if you won't be able to fit into their schedule.

Somebody who is just in the beginning of the process, getting multiple bids or checking pricing is going to come back with a different response. There head will not be in the same place, there will be no connection to when to schedule the work since they haven't even figured out in their heads if the work will ever even happen.

I would be curious as some of you old salts and your comments in regard to this.
 

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Wow....I guess in my field I just don't need to worry about it....acrossed the nation is has been told that the average person enters only 1 full service flooring store to shop, some may visit 2, but it's easy to compete with another store.
My closing rate up here in Alaska is wayyyy better than down in Oregon, maybe because there's a huge percentage of wealthy up here...I don't know, but I really don't focus on if the have been somewhere else, or if the plan on going somewhere else....usually a mojority of the clients that come in are real buyers, and are high end....no time to shop, and they want the best...luckily because of Carpetone, we carry the best....
It makes it easier...
 

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Definately ask follow up questions because you don't want to waste your time or theirs. The worst is when you go out to give them an estimate and come to find out that the job is too small for you to do or you just don't do that kind of work. Ex. Someone asked for a roofing estimate, when we showed up we saw that the roof was caving in and they needed WAY more than just new asphalt shingles. They needed an ENTIRE ROOF installed. Always ask questions.. plus, it warms them up to who you are....
 

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Here in my neck of the woods things have been pretty slow. With the warmer weather starting my phone has been ringing a little more. I have been getting out as quick as I can and bidding every job.

I am finding myself to be wasting a lot of time on bids that I have no chance of getting. Some of these people are getting 8 to 10 bids on their project, others are more just curious of what it will cost.

I have never qualified leads in the past but I am strongly considering it now. I have had people the call and the first words out of their mouths are "Do you do free Estimates?" Rarely if ever do I land one of these jobs. I relize that the free Estimant is a whole other topic but right now I need to figure out the best way to qualify my leads.

I debated about telling the "Do you do free estiamte people" that I charge a $20.00 fee to do a bid in hopes of getting them to say never mind. But I know that by qualify my leads and will be able to rule these people out and do it politly.

I have never really qualified my leads before so this is new to me. Please help motivate me to make the change. Tell me what has worked for you in qualify your leads.
 
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