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Pro Painter
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Discussion Starter #1
I read something about qualifying in another thread that gave me the idea for this one. What questions do you guys use when speaking with a customer for the first time to ensure they are the type of customer you are targeting so you aren't wasting your time with tire kickers? Any input to this subject is much appreciated. :Thumbs:
 

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Flooring Guru
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Alot of technical questions.

What have you seen that you like?
What do you not like about your current (BLANK)
What is your budget?

stuff like that.
I actually work in an environment where damn near nobody is a tire kicker. So my qualifying is mostly to trim down choices.
 

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AA,

Try this list:

CLIENT FACT FINDER​



1. How did you hear about our Company?

Their answer will help you evaluate your marketing and advertising. Their answer may also inspire you to send a "Thank You" to one of your previous customers if it was a referral.


2. To better understand your needs would you mind if I asked a few questions?

Most callers will be flattered that you asked for their permission to do something that is to their benefit. This question opens the door for honest answers and a meaningful discussion.


3. Could you briefly describe the project?

Hopefully you have always asked this question. After all, it immediately tells you if the project matches your company expertise.


4. Do you have a time frame in mind for the project?

Sometimes a project just won't fit into your schedule and it is essential that you and the customer determine this sooner than later. This honesty is part of your professionalism and it will set you apart from other contractors that "promise" to start right away.


5. Besides you, will there be anyone else involved in the decision making process?

This question addresses two issues at once. If they say their spouse will be involved you will want to try to include both of them in your first meeting. This would provide an opportunity for you to bond and rapport with both parties. If the customer indicates their spouse is not involved in the project they will not be tempted to stall or put you off in the decision making process.


6. May we include this person in our first meeting?

Many homeowners divide their responsibilities when it comes to home maintenance and thus resist the meeting of the minds. On ocassion they make this happen when you inform them it is to everyone's benefit for the best job possible. At the very least it is important to meet the other party on your second visit.


7. By the way, do you have a budget in mind for the project?

WOW. We are already talking about money! This will surprise customers and contractors both! Most clients have a budget but they just will not share this information on the first inquiry. After you see the project you will probably have some idea of the cost, and the budget issue could arise again at this time. Why would you want to write up the whole estimate if their budget is $3,000 and your price is $5,000?


8. Have you ever hired a professional painting contractor before?

The answer to this question may help provide insight into their previous home maintenance contracts. If they have hired their laid off brother-in-law they may be shocked by the difference in your pricing schedule. This would be an opportunity to educate the prospect about professionalism and its associated cost.


9. Are there any other questions you may have regarding our company or your project?

The prospective customer is probably ready to ask his or her own questions now and it is important to encourage this exchange.


10. Would you mind if I described what will happen at our first meeting?
(Suggest the time needed)


Once again you have asked permission. This is especially important now because you have already tested their patience to a certain extent. In other words, you have taken their temperature and you should know if they want the best contractor or if they just want a fourth number to compare. If they give you persmission.....describe your typical first meeting. People appreciate knowing in advance what is going to happen next.


The customer will arrive at two possible conclusions from this fact finder format:

Number one, this contractor is very through and probably worth the money or, number two, this contractor is extremely professional and may exceed our budget.

You win some and you lose some. Some are just rained out. If we can conclude that this project is not a good fit it is like being rained out which is not a loss to our company.

However, some of you may believe that all these questions will take too much time. That's ok, if you insist. Just ask questions, 1, 3 and 4 then drive out to see the job and submit your "numbers". Ten minutes on the phone? Or driving one hour across town?

It's your choice!


Tom
Ranger Painting & Pressure Cleaning, Inc.

Hope this helps. By the way, I can't take the credit for compiling this list.
 

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When would you like to meet with me?

That's the only qualifying question I have. If they do not want to meet with me they are not serious buyers.


Obviously I will ask more questions. I always ask how the customer heard abotu us for tracking my advertising... but I place no more or less weight on any lead source. Every lead is valid assuming they want to meet with me. Once the sales process begins I ask alot of questions.
 

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AAPaint said:
What questions do you guys use when speaking with a customer for the first time to ensure they are the type of customer you are targeting :
I ask them to describe the project. If it is roofing they have called the wrong guy, if it is remodeling we are on the right track. With them giving me a 30 second description of what they have in mind I can tell whether I am interested or not.

As far as if they are tire kickers, I don't believe in them. Everybody is a buyer, there is rarely a real tire kicker on the phone, believe that and you will sell a lot more jobs.

The only thing I discriminate against is certain types of customers. I don't want work from GCs, nor work from realtors, nor work from people doing fix or flips nor rental property owners.

Homeowners, homeowners and more homeowners. :Thumbs:
 

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Pro Painter
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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Thank you all, and especially you Tom....great list. The reason I posted this is it's something that is often overlooked, but is important to all of us.

When I used to sell cars (yes, funny how a few of us have gone this route first, lol) I could tell if I had a buying customer within the first 30 seconds on the lot. Not only that, but I could tell what they could afford, and what it was they had their mind set on. Once we have all the information from the customer, we have a lot more power in controlling the sale. If my customer just got out of a 1985 Celebrity and is looking for a Sequoia, we're barking up the wrong tree. I used to ask questions like "so how long have you had the celebrity?" "how much did you put down on it when you bought it brand new in '85?" "Really, wow, that's all? Your payments must be sky HIGH!!!! Well, how much MORE did you plan on putting down this time?"

A few of those leading questions work in contracting, but there are major differences. I appreciate the answers though, because it gives me a chance to help tailor my q&a towards contracting and will help many other members here. Anyway, lines of questioning like this do two things. They make the customer realize he is going to have to put a lot of money down, make high payments, etc....and it tells me what I'm dealing with at the same time. It brings the customer's mind into the right frame when it comes to the money.

I'll leave with another question....how can we use our qualifying questions to "plant the seed" in the customer's mind that this won't be cheap? Thanks again for the input! :Thumbs:
 

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Flooring Guru
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7. By the way, do you have a budget in mind for the project?

WOW. We are already talking about money! This will surprise customers and contractors both! Most clients have a budget but they just will not share this information on the first inquiry. After you see the project you will probably have some idea of the cost, and the budget issue could arise again at this time. Why would you want to write up the whole estimate if their budget is $3,000 and your price is $5,000?
This is a good one to help determine where their mindset is. Although I rarely try to fit into budgets.
The customer may have Champaigne taste and a beer budget, and If I sell em beer I will tell em.
If I can offer a better VALUE at a higher price, they could increase their budget.
If I only fit into their budget but really feel that they are not getting a good value, then what am I doing to help them and myself? nothing.

How many times have you walked into a store and spent more than you planned?
Most likely alot, because you saw more value than what you intended.
 

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The Deck Guy
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Mike Finley said:
As far as if they are tire kickers, I don't believe in them. Everybody is a buyer, there is rarely a real tire kicker on the phone, believe that and you will sell a lot more jobs.
Mike,

If someone calls you to remodel a master bath with a new tub, fixtures, tile, etc and says that their budget is $2000, what are you planning on selling them? In other words, do you try to upsell the job or do you lower your standards to take a job with bottom of the barrel materials?

Personally, I don't like to do work that won't lead me to a higher plateau at some point. What I mean by this, is that I don't want my truck parked in front of the dumpiest house on the block. It doesn't look good for someone else driving by that's got $25,000 to spend on their bath remodel. They will not equate my company with a $25,000 job if you get my gist.

I'm not trying to be snobby...actually, right now, I'm slow due to some permit issues, so I'd take a stupid job to keep busy. Just curious as to how you operate because we are in VERY similar businesses thousands of miles apart.
 

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Greg Di said:
Mike,

If someone calls you to remodel a master bath with a new tub, fixtures, tile, etc and says that their budget is $2000, what are you planning on selling them? In other words, do you try to upsell the job or do you lower your standards to take a job with bottom of the barrel materials?
Greg those are good questions. If somebody had $2000 to spend mentally I would go back wards and calculate that means $1000 of that is going in my pocket so that leaves them $1000 for materials. I will spend their $1000 the best way I can, but my profit line can't budge. I will try to get them the most bang for thier buck for their $1000 in materials, but in reality they will either have to increase their budget or reduce the scope of work done. I won't install total crap materials, not only for the reason of it not serving the customer in the long run, but more importantly for the reason of crap materials usually cost twice as much to install with all the fussing and work arounds they require, they also have a tendency to break on installation.

To make a long answer short, I will install what $1000 will buy them, or they are going to have to increase their budget SUBSTANTIALLY based on the example you gave.

Greg Di said:
Personally, I don't like to do work that won't lead me to a higher plateau at some point. What I mean by this, is that I don't want my truck parked in front of the dumpiest house on the block. It doesn't look good for someone else driving by that's got $25,000 to spend on their bath remodel. They will not equate my company with a $25,000 job if you get my gist.
I have absolutely no comprehension of what would worry you in that scenario. If the owners of the dumpiest house on the block have good money to spend and have what it takes to be a good customer, their money is as good as anybody elses. I could careless about their neighbors or anybody else. My company gets hired for what we do, not for who we do business with. That statement just baffles me. :eek:

I did a nice remodel for a guy a few months ago, dumpiest house on the block. The guy was disabled and his bathroom smelled like he had been pissing on the floor for about 10 years. The particle board flooring in a raidus of 2 feet around the toilet was disinigrated due to all the piss.

Did I like the job? Hell no. But I really liked the customer. Great guy, actually a super guy. They were willing to pay about double what I would normally charge because of what I knew I was going to have to deal with, so they were A-ok in my book. They're totally happy, they have a beautiful bathroom and new flooring to pee on for the next 10 years and I'm happy because I made a good profit. :Thumbs:
 

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AAPaint said:
When I used to sell cars (yes, funny how a few of us have gone this route first, lol) I could tell if I had a buying customer within the first 30 seconds on the lot. Not only that, but I could tell what they could afford, and what it was they had their mind set on.
AA - Way back when I was automotive sales too, I used to hear the same thing from all the old car dogs. They pre-qualified everybody, I mean EVERYBODY, they thought they could tell a buyer from a jack-off just by how they parked their car. I pre-qualified nobody, I worked everybody from point A to point Z and averaged the highest grosses in the store, all the mean while those old car dogs were making up excuses why I was able to turn those ups into buyers.


AAPaint said:
Once we have all the information from the customer, we have a lot more power in controlling the sale. If my customer just got out of a 1985 Celebrity and is looking for a Sequoia, we're barking up the wrong tree. I used to ask questions like "so how long have you had the celebrity?" "how much did you put down on it when you bought it brand new in '85?" "Really, wow, that's all? Your payments must be sky HIGH!!!! Well, how much MORE did you plan on putting down this time?"
Same thing, I assumed everybody could buy whatever they wanted. I will never forget I was selling Fords, and the new Heavy Duties had just came out. In the middle of winter on a snowy night a tiny petite woman came in and was looking at an F350 powerstroke dualy. Stickered at $39,000, nobody would go near her.

She ended up bringing me a check in the next day for the $39,000, plus the taxes plus the $6000 in extras I sold her in the aftermarket shop, like a painted color matched cap, the bed liner, the stripes, the front cow catcher.. ect... it turned out she was a nanny for a rich couple, she had been their nanny for 18 years, the kids were going to college and they were going to part company, she always wanted a big truck, they told her to go out and pick out whatever she wanted and they would buy it for her, which she did that night. That deal put more than $4000 in my pocket, all because I didn't pre-qualify her.

AAPaint said:
I'll leave with another question....how can we use our qualifying questions to "plant the seed" in the customer's mind that this won't be cheap? Thanks again for the input! :Thumbs?
How do you let them know it won't be cheap? You tell them it won't be, you first convince them of the value, then you hit them between the eyes with the cost and then you shut up. People who want something bad enough find a way to afford it.
 

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Painting Contractor
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You can pre-qualify yourself out of jobs if you have
such a tight criteria they have to meet. I would clearly
understand if they hang up the phone on you.
Our best prospects are usually busy professionals that usually
get on the phone (e-mail usually) to get 2-3 estimates.
I qualify most of them by knowing how much time they spent
on which page of the website, which search term they used
and sometimes even their hot buttons.
Couple of quick and thoughtful questions later and we are ready
to meet.
Some of our "priced" customers today wouldn't even make it past
our first two questions two years ago.
And if someone is strong in sales like Mike, why qualify anyone?
 

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Pro Painter
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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
We used to get a lot of people who wanted the world but couldn't afford a pack of bubblegum. That's the type of qualifying I'm talking about. Otherwise, you'll spend hours on test drives with people that are so upside down in their own car, and so damn poor on top of it, with horrid credit that they couldn't afford a bicycle no matter how bad they want it.

How do you avoid spending all your time on estimating for people who simply can't afford your service? I've run into quite a few just as with selling cars in this area. What about the guy that wants a whole bathroom redone for $500? You go through the whole process with him till the end of your proposal and he says....oh, I was thinking more like $500, not 5,000?

I don't get it....I'm not talking about over-qualifying....but there has to be some sort of initial qualifying. Some sort of basic understanding of your customer in order to serve them properly....Often times we had to steer a customer toward a more affordable vehicle, but we still got the sale.
 

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AAPaint said:
We used to get a lot of people who wanted the world but couldn't afford a pack of bubblegum. That's the type of qualifying I'm talking about. Otherwise, you'll spend hours on test drives with people that are so upside down in their own car, and so damn poor on top of it, with horrid credit that they couldn't afford a bicycle no matter how bad they want it.

How do you avoid spending all your time on estimating for people who simply can't afford your service? I've run into quite a few just as with selling cars in this area. What about the guy that wants a whole bathroom redone for $500? You go through the whole process with him till the end of your proposal and he says....oh, I was thinking more like $500, not 5,000?

I don't get it....I'm not talking about over-qualifying....but there has to be some sort of initial qualifying. Some sort of basic understanding of your customer in order to serve them properly....Often times we had to steer a customer toward a more affordable vehicle, but we still got the sale.

"I don't get it....I'm not talking about over-qualifying....but there has to be some sort of initial qualifying. Some sort of basic understanding of your customer in order to serve them properly...."

If you have a good web stat program,
if their e-mail is [email protected],
if their address is where million dollar homes are,
to that add couple open ended questions like:
"what are you looking for in a paint job?"

and you are done.
 

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The Deck Guy
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Mike Finley said:
I have absolutely no comprehension of what would worry you in that scenario. If the owners of the dumpiest house on the block have good money to spend and have what it takes to be a good customer, their money is as good as anybody elses. I could careless about their neighbors or anybody else. My company gets hired for what we do, not for who we do business with. That statement just baffles me. :eek:
Mike, it's about image and branding more than dollars and sense. I work in the very affluent area surrounding NYC. You can't touch a decent house for less than $750,000 and you better have a BMW, Mercedes, AND a Hummer in your driveway (not that I do).

Most of the successful remodelers around me ONLY accept work in the ritzier towns in my immediate area. This is not a joke. If you don't live in Ridgewood, Wyckoff, or Franklin Lakes don't bother calling them. Big budgets, cool projects and big profit. I guess my point is that I don't want to get pigeon-holed as the mid-level company. I want to be the darling remodeler of the rich and famous.
 

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Greg Di, you are right on target. My first question is 'Where are you located?'. If you know your area, that pretty much qualifies them right there.

If the hit comes through, start checking refs.
 

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AAPaint said:
We used to get a lot of people who wanted the world but couldn't afford a pack of bubblegum. That's the type of qualifying I'm talking about. Otherwise, you'll spend hours on test drives with people that are so upside down in their own car, and so damn poor on top of it, with horrid credit that they couldn't afford a bicycle no matter how bad they want it.

How do you avoid spending all your time on estimating for people who simply can't afford your service? I've run into quite a few just as with selling cars in this area. What about the guy that wants a whole bathroom redone for $500? You go through the whole process with him till the end of your proposal and he says....oh, I was thinking more like $500, not 5,000?

I don't get it....I'm not talking about over-qualifying....but there has to be some sort of initial qualifying. Some sort of basic understanding of your customer in order to serve them properly....Often times we had to steer a customer toward a more affordable vehicle, but we still got the sale.

AA- you are correct, you are right on. I was over simplfying it. You do need to pre-qualify in regard to affording your work. It usually isn't such a big deal because as part of my process I point blank ask them their budget early on in the process. If it comes in low I discuss some options or discuss their flexibility or discuss how they determined that budget, if they give me the right answers then we go on, if not then there isn't much to talk about.

Most of my pre-qualifying gets acomplished by their address, if they are in a $200,000 neighborhood, I know the chances are less that they will be able to afford my services. If they are in a $350,000 and up chances are good. However, I have been show the error in that thinking many times, so I don't pre-qualify them out of an appointment, I just ask about budget sooner in the process!
 

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Greg Di said:
Mike, it's about image and branding more than dollars and sense. I work in the very affluent area surrounding NYC. You can't touch a decent house for less than $750,000 and you better have a BMW, Mercedes, AND a Hummer in your driveway (not that I do).

Most of the successful remodelers around me ONLY accept work in the ritzier towns in my immediate area. This is not a joke. If you don't live in Ridgewood, Wyckoff, or Franklin Lakes don't bother calling them. Big budgets, cool projects and big profit. I guess my point is that I don't want to get pigeon-holed as the mid-level company. I want to be the darling remodeler of the rich and famous.
Greg, I totally understand that you need to work for the customers who are your target audience, that audience is determined by their check book and project, not by the outside condition of their house. Working for the worst house on the block in a good neighborhood is not the same as what you seem to being saying now which is working in a neighbohood full of the worst houses on the block. ;)
 

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Pro Painter
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Discussion Starter #19
Mike Finley said:
AA- you are correct, you are right on. I was over simplfying it. You do need to pre-qualify in regard to affording your work. It usually isn't such a big deal because as part of my process I point blank ask them their budget early on in the process. If it comes in low I discuss some options or discuss their flexibility or discuss how they determined that budget, if they give me the right answers then we go on, if not then there isn't much to talk about.

Most of my pre-qualifying gets acomplished by their address, if they are in a $200,000 neighborhood, I know the chances are less that they will be able to afford my services. If they are in a $350,000 and up chances are good. However, I have been show the error in that thinking many times, so I don't pre-qualify them out of an appointment, I just ask about budget sooner in the process!
Ok...hehe! We're on the same page then! I agree with you as well, the neighborhood tells me a lot, but like you said, I have to reserve myself for the little old black lady smack dab in the middle of the ghetto with $10,000 she saved for 30 years to give herself something nice.....and now she has no problem spending 1/2 of it on a professional paint job. (EDIT: I think this is where the qualifying becomes important...lest we pass by a winner)

Again, thanks to everyone for the input. I don't usually start topics with just myself in mind, allthough I have learned as much from this one as any other thread. I really wanted to get all the opinions out on the table for everyone that visits to be able to read. I am gratefull for all that has been shared, and all that I have learned in this thread..thanks guys! :Thumbs:
 

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AAPaint said:
Ok...hehe! I have to reserve myself for the little old black lady smack dab in the middle of the ghetto with $10,000 she saved for 30 years to give herself something nice.....and now she has no problem spending 1/2 of it on a professional paint job. (EDIT: I think this is where the qualifying becomes important...lest we pass by a winner)
Exactly, that's a good example. You never know what a person will do or is capable of.

-We have all seen or heard of somebody over remodeling a house in a neighborhood.

-Lots of older folks have no problem getting their house ready for retirement and don't worry about spending too much.

-People inherit money and suddenly have a large amount of money to spend.

-Spouses can be terminally ill and want to get everything in order for their spouse so they will live comfortably after they pass.

The list can go on and on...
 
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