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Smart phone? Scan me!
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Okay I have to admit that I am not that great at getting the info or "feel" of the customer over the phone and sometimes in person. I thought I would post up this thread for some help. Suggestions on some of the things you guys do/say... not asking for your game plan with a customer but maybe just a couple pointers.

Here is why. This week (monday) I get a call from a lady who has siding that is going bad on the front of her house. Dutch lap, failed in a couple spots (one on the corner of the window then the whole wall down, the other I can't figure out yet how it is failing) and would like the place painted afterward. COOL! Well I was busy wrapping up my last project and called her the next day and got an answering machine. Called back later that day still nothing but machine. I called again on thursday and got the answering machine. Called friday (not wanting a lead to go to waste!) and finally got ahold of her. I hear her say to her son she didn't want to talk to me, then the son said "he is on the phone mom!" so she picks up and is short and kinda beeotchy. Said she wasn't planning to be in the house long, putting it up on the market next year :rolleyes: (aren't they all).

Okay so I went out and looked at the place. I will be spending some good time just putting together this proposal for her but am thinking that I will just be wasting my time. Is there something I could have done or said during our ONLY conversation to see if she was REALLY interested or just shopping me?
 

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semi-skilled laborer
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You have to try to pump them for as much info as you can on the phone, most times if they are not really interested in buying then you will be able to get them to admit it pretty early on. In that kind of situation I usually try to tell them that because of my current busy schedule we can really only meet people who are ready to schedule their projects now, but I do appreciate their interest in my company and if they decide to ever have anything done by us I will go ahead and give them a discount for showing that earlier interest. There is no discount, but Kmart has jewelry on sale 364 days a year and people still buy it and think they got some special limited time deal.
 

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I market myself as a limited supply, because I am. This causes the demand for my services to go up and also my price. I don't jump when someone calls. I've had customers that waited as long as nine months for me to get to them.

The way I built my business allowed me to reject certain types of jobs. For instance, I don't do insurance work, I don't do work on a house the owner is trying to sell, I don't do work on rental property, etc.

The woman you spoke with said she's not going to be in the house very long. Translation - I want someone to do the work cheap. If you're hungry then perhaps you should pursue it, otherwise I wouldn't waste my time.

I only go after the customers that I know can afford me and are willing to pay my price. Insurance companies aren't going to pay my price so I don't waste my time giving an estimate. The same goes for people who own rental property and are trying to sell their house.

I then move on to the job itself. I'm a stickler for keeping records. I track every nail and tube of caulk I use on a job. I track how long the job took me, payroll, what problems I had on it, etc. After a while you'll have a pretty good idea which type of work nets you the most profit per time invested.

When I talk to a customer and find out what they want done I can picture in mind about what to expect. Some jobs take (or can take) a long time but can only bring in so much money. I politely turn down these type of jobs right on the telephone, rather than spending time working up an estimate and then explaining to them why the job cost more than what they think it's worth.

I've always been a good salesman. I know what to ask and what to look for when I talk with a customer to gauge NOT what they want to pay, but what they're willing to pay and why. Just looking around someone's house will tell you a lot about them and their values. And if you listen to them, they will tell you the rest of what you need to know. This is where many salespeople make their mistake - they don't listen. They hear, but they don't listen.
 

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Yes - that you charge a consultation fee for your time, research and expertise.
That will work wonders. The slobbering goob bid collectors will balk and stutter in disbelief when they hear those words. Maybe even give you an earful of how stupid you are and how your business is destined to go down in flames. :laughing:

If you can't bring yourself to do that, just start asking questions - you have to tailer them to you and how you do business.

Example

Do you live in this house?
No it's one we are renting out- (click)
No, we are closing on it at the end of the month (click)
Yes, but we are going to be selling it, we just want to fix it up to sell it (click)
Yes, we just bought it and have to fix this crap hole up (ahh...)
Yes, we have lived in it for 20 years... (ahh...)
 

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semi-skilled laborer
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charging for bids isnt all that easy when you are a small painting operation as opposed to a bigger remodeling company. People tend to think one painter is as good as the next.
If I am charging for estimates I wont get a many calls, Juan down the road is practically painting them for free and I want to charge just to look at it .....
I am not against charging for estimates I just think that in certain trades it would be harder, and since painting is viewed by the majority of people as one of the lowest trades, mainly because everyone thinks they could do it themselves, even the people who can barely tie their own shoes, then it would be very hard to get people to pay for a painting estimate.
 

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and since painting is viewed by the majority of people as one of the lowest trades, mainly because everyone thinks they could do it themselves,
I have the utmost respect for a good painter. I know enough about painting to know that there's more about it than I know. And quite frankly, more than I want to know.

I have seen few good paint jobs, but many many bad paint jobs. I wish I knew more GOOD painters. I respect people who are good at their craft - people who have a desire to be the best. Yes anyone can do it, but few can do it well.

My favorite customers are those of the WWII generation. They understand and appreciate value and they believe in paying their bills. My least favorite customers are the younger people. They'll spend a fortune on things to make themselves look good... cars, boats, big houses they can't afford, but want to skimp on things that are important but not "fun" like home repairs. These are the one's who'll hire the illegal aliens so they can save a buck. They also depend heavily on getting the insurance company to pay for repairs. I avoid these people, as I do insurance companies. They want to play but they don't want to pay.
 

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That will work wonders. The slobbering goob bid collectors will balk and stutter in disbelief when they hear those words. Maybe even give you an earful of how stupid you are and how your business is destined to go down in flames. :laughing:
:clap: LOL - My estimator heard just last week (in a very self righteous and indignant tone) that NO ONE charges a fee just to give an estimate!

Mathews response was "well you must be a very fortunate man to never need the services of: Roto Rooter, a plumber, a HVAC repairman, a TV or appliance repairman, or a cable or telephone repairman .....and don't even get me started on mechanics diagnostic fees, doctors and lawyers......."

They guy actually conceded our point.......and we now have a $35 consultation this comming week :thumbsup: Sometimes you just have to educate them that's all.
 

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Roto Rooter, a plumber, a HVAC repairman, a TV or appliance repairman, or a cable or telephone repairman .....and don't even get me started on mechanics diagnostic fees, doctors and lawyers......."
They are all destined to go down in flames, probably just pure luck keeping them around, either that or it's just a matter of time cause they are involved in fads.
 

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charging for bids isnt all that easy when you are a small painting operation as opposed to a bigger remodeling company. People tend to think one painter is as good as the next.
If I am charging for estimates I wont get a many calls, Juan down the road is practically painting them for free and I want to charge just to look at it .....
I am not against charging for estimates I just think that in certain trades it would be harder, and since painting is viewed by the majority of people as one of the lowest trades, mainly because everyone thinks they could do it themselves, even the people who can barely tie their own shoes, then it would be very hard to get people to pay for a painting estimate.
Hell-no it's not easy! Handymen are in the same boat and get no respect unless we demand it. It's damn scary at first and it stings when everyone ridicules you and says you'll never make it.....other contractors and customers alike. But guess what - you can do it. You might have to change your target market to those that value you and your expertise - beleive me they are out there.

Actually it is much easier while you're still small - the more service techs I hire the more jobs I must bring in to keep them working. Things were much simpler before with less risk...... but then again the rewards where not as great as they are now either.

 

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Professional Instigator
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:clap: LOL - My estimator heard just last week (in a very self righteous and indignant tone) that NO ONE charges a fee just to give an estimate!

Mathews response was "well you must be a very fortunate man to never need the services of: Roto Rooter, a plumber, a HVAC repairman, a TV or appliance repairman, or a cable or telephone repairman .....and don't even get me started on mechanics diagnostic fees, doctors and lawyers......."

They guy actually conceded our point.......and we now have a $35 consultation this comming week :thumbsup: Sometimes you just have to educate them that's all.
Jessie I started charging for mine about 2 months ago. I did them for free for years. Go out give a verbal quote and leave. If they called back I charged a design or feasability fee. Now its 35-75 for me to come out it is working out well. Like you and Mike say, sometimes you get a few choice comments from callers. It tickles me everytime
 

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We are symbolicly conveying a message to the public that we are professional - we focus on a professional service - and right off the bat the folks that are attracted to that message - are exactly the folks who demand a quality service and already understand that professional price goes hand in hand.
You can read the rest of this thread here: - Using Feature/Benefits to prequalify customers
 

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I would pre-qualify over the phone asking key questions.

1. What is your timeline for the project?
2. Give them a ball park quote to weed out the tire kickers
3. Explain the estimate process. ( It will take an hour) I need you there for the whole time
4. Ask for the job over the phone.
 

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Smart phone? Scan me!
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
charging for bids isnt all that easy when you are a small painting operation as opposed to a bigger remodeling company. People tend to think one painter is as good as the next.
If I am charging for estimates I wont get a many calls, Juan down the road is practically painting them for free and I want to charge just to look at it .....
I am not against charging for estimates I just think that in certain trades it would be harder, and since painting is viewed by the majority of people as one of the lowest trades, mainly because everyone thinks they could do it themselves, even the people who can barely tie their own shoes, then it would be very hard to get people to pay for a painting estimate.
very valid points and they do. The last customer was actually a friend of mine.. why they got other estimates is beyond me. After I did the work on their house they were amazed. They had seen two other painters on that very block earlier this year, and they too were under the assumption that all painters are created equal. I started in this area about 5 yrs ago, and went commercial 2.5yrs ago. I have JUST gotten back to the neighborhoods 3 months ago and have finally seen what everyone has been talking about with how contractors are treated. AND how the media or that beeotch ANGIE tells people that they need to bargin, and ask for discounts and get 5 bids before making a decision.:censored:

I have the utmost respect for a good painter. I know enough about painting to know that there's more about it than I know. And quite frankly, more than I want to know.

I have seen few good paint jobs, but many many bad paint jobs. I wish I knew more GOOD painters. I respect people who are good at their craft - people who have a desire to be the best. Yes anyone can do it, but few can do it well.

My favorite customers are those of the WWII generation. They understand and appreciate value and they believe in paying their bills. My least favorite customers are the younger people. They'll spend a fortune on things to make themselves look good... cars, boats, big houses they can't afford, but want to skimp on things that are important but not "fun" like home repairs. These are the one's who'll hire the illegal aliens so they can save a buck. They also depend heavily on getting the insurance company to pay for repairs. I avoid these people, as I do insurance companies. They want to play but they don't want to pay.
:thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:

:clap: LOL - My estimator heard just last week (in a very self righteous and indignant tone) that NO ONE charges a fee just to give an estimate!

Mathews response was "well you must be a very fortunate man to never need the services of: Roto Rooter, a plumber, a HVAC repairman, a TV or appliance repairman, or a cable or telephone repairman .....and don't even get me started on mechanics diagnostic fees, doctors and lawyers......."

They guy actually conceded our point.......and we now have a $35 consultation this comming week :thumbsup: Sometimes you just have to educate them that's all.
Exellent points Jesse!

Jessie I started charging for mine about 2 months ago. I did them for free for years. Go out give a verbal quote and leave. If they called back I charged a design or feasability fee. Now its 35-75 for me to come out it is working out well. Like you and Mike say, sometimes you get a few choice comments from callers. It tickles me everytime
I read with great interest the tread about charging for estimates. I will work this into my business in the near future. I still need to get call backs and work on other fine points.. after not dealing with the sales aspect for so long I am a bit rusty.

I would pre-qualify over the phone asking key questions.

1. What is your timeline for the project?
2. Give them a ball park quote to weed out the tire kickers
3. Explain the estimate process. ( It will take an hour) I need you there for the whole time
4. Ask for the job over the phone.

Thanks Ray, and everyone who has pitched in so far on this issue.

I went over to her house to do a final look, count the siding take a few measurements.. (now that I have the price on the siding) and rang the doorbell. Son comes to the door and says she is getting her nails done. I left a card. That was at around 2:30pm and no call back all day. I am going to stop working on this until she calls me back where I can politely chew her ass for not being respectful of me and my business.
 

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I went from charging for estimates to "free initial visit". I do qualify strongly, such as.

How long in home, how long thinking about this (this is very powerful if used correctly), whats your budget, when do you want this done by (not whats your time frame). And a few other questions.

If they answer these questions to my satisfaction I go out.

When I charged all the people I saw were better to talk with and my close rate was higher. So now its back to charging.

In regards to charging, it definately sets you apart as a pro, yeah you get the people who act offended, well think about it and what else do you need to know. People who are offended don't see you as an equal, that a loser from day 1.

I need a new septic system, guess what, the septic guy wants $100 to come out and look at it, and I'll pay the fee because I want someone who will answer my questions. I may get 2 guys to come out, but not 5 or 6 "free" estimates. And why not?
I value my time and I value the septic guys time and opinion.
 

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I need a new septic system, guess what, the septic guy wants $100 to come out and look at it, and I'll pay the fee because I want someone who will answer my questions. I may get 2 guys to come out, but not 5 or 6 "free" estimates. And why not?
I value my time and I value the septic guys time and opinion.
Customers are forced to change their mindset if we charge for estimate.

Instead of closing their eyes and blindly picking anybody randomly it forces them to actually do some homework and think about who they want to come out.
 

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Smart phone? Scan me!
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Customers are forced to change their mindset if we charge for estimate.

Instead of closing their eyes and blindly picking anybody randomly it forces them to actually do some homework and think about who they want to come out.
WOW! That IS right! I love that. I wish/hope/pray for that to happen across the board for everyone!!!
 

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If you want to be amused try this.

When you're talking to a potential client get them really excited about the things you do. I talk about the different products I sell/install, give them ideas, talk about the warranty. Really get them all warm and fuzzy.

Then I end the conversation like this:

"Ok Mr. Jones, I think we'll be a great fit and I'm absolutely confident I can deliver your dream landscape. How about I set you up with a Landscape Consult?"

"Sure Bob, are you available in the evenings?"

"Yes Mr Jones, I am. I can be by Monday the 13th. Will 6pm be good for you?"

"Yeah, that'll be great."

"Ok, so I've got you down for a Landscape Consult Monday at 6pm. There is a non-refundable fee of $50 for the consult."

Now listen to Mr. Jones try to come up with all kinds of excuses about how Monday at 6pm (or ever really) just doesn't work for him. He's a cheap SOB who wants an hour+ of my time for free, but doesn't want to admit it.

Just keep playing the nice guy. Flip through your day planner, keep throwing alternate dates and times at him. Listen to him keep stalling. He just doesn't want to part with his $50!
 
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I charge if I feel uncomfortable with the person, and credit that amount towards the bill; you could spend your whole life writing free quotes.

A little trick I stole from an old industry professional was the following:

You arrive at the person's house, look around until you find something truly beautiful and comment on it; like this : "My loard that ____ is stunning!" if the person says "Oh thank you" and goes on at legnth about how much they love it then they will be easy to deal with. If the person dismisses your compliment and focuses on a tiny insignificant detail that is imperfect you can assume that they are terminally unhappy with life and will be nothing but a pain in the ass to deal with.
 
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