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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
giving an estimate?

We have two different types of sales; customers who call for an estimate and customers in which we initiate the sale from service calls, canvassing, etc.

There are periods when we are hot and we close 90% of the sales we attempt to close and there are several weeks at a time when we embarrass ourselves and close less than 10%. Less than 5% of the customers who tell us they will call back ever call back and sign a contract. There was a period for over 20 years when about 70% to 80% of our customers would call us back, but that was when we were the cheapest copper repipe specialists for a hundred miles. Our work was great and our prices were so low I am still mad at myself today.

This thread is to share some ideas and to explore why so many people don't call back after you give a terrific estimate (bid). For days, I often wonder what these people do. I know they have a broken pipe, there home is flooded, I gave a terrific presentation, I gave the best price, many seem to have the money, and they don't call back. I am really amazed, frustrated, and want to find a way to increase the number of people who call back. I hate calling people back to ask if they made a decision. After I am finished with a presentation the customer is well-aware of need and urgency. We need to devise a system where the customer calls us back whether or not they choose us. We need a system where we can nudge the customer call us back so we get a 2nd shot at closing the sale rather than calling the customer back and making them think we are desperate.

When I give an estimate I always try to read the customer and try to see what they are thinking. I try to see their problems and needs through their eyes. From now on, when a customer tells me he (or she) is going to call me back I am going to immediately give the customer a survey form. I am going to make the customer aware that we are concerned about the reasons they did not make a decision and the form is going to ask the customer to tell why they did not choose my company, what they did about the scope of work they needed, and the reason they chose another company, if they did choose one. I am even thinking that every time I don't close a sale I will hand the customer $30 in cash to follow through with completing and mailing the form. I think this is going to have some powerful psychological values. This form is going to show the customer that we are seriously concerned about their decision-making whether it be favorable to us or not. At the same time, this form will open the customers eyes to the seriousness of the correct decision and guide them down the correct path (I think).

This form could serve many purposes. The customer may think the form is for our benefit while it actually starts with statements that explain that our company has offered the best value in the world and it is important for us to understand why the customer did not make a decision. I think the questions could help the customer make a favorable decision and have a method to its madness.

We talked how to call customers back in another thread a few days ago. This thread is a little different because we need to find better ways to get the customer to call us.

I think the reason why customers never call us back is huge and serious. The norm is to accept that we won't close a percent of our sales, but how can this be true when we honestly know we are the best choice, the best scope of work, the best price, and no other company's offer could be even close.

Think about this for a while. How many customers have you had who you have known for years. One day, you give this old customer a proposal for work you know they need and you never hear from some this customer for the rest of your life. What happens to these customers? You did nothing wrong and just disappear. You could speculate there was a customer service issue, or something else that is simple to explain, but that is probably the least likely reason many people never call you back again.

I think the reason many customers never call back is because we attempt to close a sale, we explaing everything in detail, we think we are selling the customer a solution to their problem, but the customer has many other problems that are not related to what we are selling, or we actually helped the customer create collateral problems. We leave the customer in a daze and they just had a memorable and unfavorable experience.

When selling, I think we need to look at the customer's problems that are surrounding and beyond what we are selling. This may be accomplished with a questionaire that asks the right questions and the questionaire must appear to be for the customer's benefit.
 

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PCplumber:
You raise a great question in your post and I would be interested in seeing the survey questions that you develop. I believe you probably want truthful, honest responses so that you can use that information to inform and improve your sales/bidding processes and earn more sales. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get the 'real' reasons someone doesn't hire you since people aren't always honest or don't tell the full story when questioned (especially ones that aren't anonymous) since they may not want to offend or cause conflict.

These days, I suspect the reasons why my company isn't winning bids comes down to dollars and cents. People are taking longer to make remodel and repair decisions, they are scaling back, they are negotiating more on price, they are doing without extra options. All these boil down to price.





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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
My questionaire is going to be something like this.

I usually chain myself to the customer's kitchen table until I have exhausted evey weapon and until I know I hit a brick wall. When I know there is no way the customer is going to sign a contract I am going to give the customer this questionaire (not really this one) and hand them $20 in cash to fill it out (I lowered my price from yesterday's $30).

Almost daily, we as sales people are talking to the customers and there is a disconnection. We are presenting the scope of work and a price we think is right and these are overwhelming and not what the customer wants. We can ask the customer what he wants and he will not tell the truth because he does not know all the options. The customer disconnects during the presentation and hears no more. A brick wall is put up and the 'ONLY' thing the customer is thinking is they will call more contractors, get more opinions, and maybe get a lower price. Why does the customer cut himself short of allowing us to follow through with presenting suitable options? Even though this sounds simple, this wall is very difficult to get past and this is where most of our bids are lost. All we need to do is get the customer to understand that they need the larger and more expensive job, or the customer needs to understand we can to the smaller job and still give them the best price. The million dollar question is; why would the customer get more estimates if we can give them exactly what they want? The goal for the questionaire is to sway and nudge the customer for a favorable decision more than it is to get the truth.

The questionaire will say something like:

Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with service. As general manager of ABC Company it is my job to make sure you get exactly what you want. This short questionaire is to make sure our estimator presented and included the items and scope of work that interests you. ABC Company's estimators recommend the highest quality materials and workmanship that will last our customers a lifetime and for prices that are often 20% to 30% less than our competitors. Often, this is not what many customers are looking for, we fail to ask you what you want, and we lose great customers. This questionaire is to help us understand your interests. Whether you decide to do the entire job, or a partial job, ABC Company can provide you the service you want and for a price that suits you.

1) Is the work in our estimate something you were looking for? (a) yes (b) no

2) Based on importance, how soon do you think this work should be started? (a) Immediately (b) within the next few days. (c) within a few weeks (d) within a few months (e) never

3) When our estimator explained the scope of work to be performed was scope of work proposed more or less work than you are interested in (a) more (b) less

4) Do you feel the estimator was patient and took the time to explain the scope of the work and make sure you understood the meaning and need for the work proposed? (a) yes (b) no

5) Describe the scope of work you are looking for?

6) Would you like to meet with an ABC Company field rep to discuss your needs or alter the scope of the work (a) yes (b) no

7) I will contact ABC Company to start my job on ______________


Whether you do the entire job, partial job, or a patch, ABC Company will perform the best quality work for the most reasonable price. Since you took the time to allow us to give you an estimate and complete this form we will do everything possible to keep you as a great customer.

Thank you very much.
Sincerely,
Jack Orthman
General Manager

The questionaire should probably have less than 15 questions and not have any questions that invoke negative thoughts or negative answers. We will provide a self-addressed envelope with a stamp and ask the customer to send it immediately. Perhaps, the questionaire could include more information and propose a discount for following through by calling for another estimate.

The questionaire may open the door for a 2nd shot and we find that sending a company rep to the customer's home reveals many secrets. When probed, many customers will tell the true reasons they did not make a decision and we can work something that meets the customer's needs.
 

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My feeling is: Most customers (and alot of people) are non-confrontational. They generally don't like to discuss to much with contractors. We, as contractors, do not understand this aspect because we are self starters/outgoing. If they do go back and forth between multiple contractors it might not be a bad thing letting the other guy have it. Bottom line, call em back and ask for the work and let em know you can take care of their situation.

The one biggest sales question we miss: Ask them what their thoughts/ideas and concerns are and what they are looking for with this product/service. You will win them over for listening. Don't talk to much about you. Its all about them.
 

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Hey PC,
I am so 100% in agreement with you it's scary. Here's the problem that I have that it appears you may have too. Too much information.
I also tend to pour my heart out to customers and want them to know every last detail about the work I am proposing. You sound well educated, articulate, detail oriented and sincere. I like to think I am too.
What I have found over the years is that clients almost always prefer not to know the details. That's why they hire professionals. The inherent problem is that remodeling and construction is ALL ABOUT the details.
What I have observed is that customer feedback is important, but the customer always prefers to relay information in their own chosen format. If you give them a questionaire, they will almost always toss it away. A better approach is to offer them several options as to how to submit feedback to you in their own way. (By the way, paying for feedback will only make you look desparate, and that is the last impression you want to convey) Clients love to deal with contractors who appear confident, and successful and busy, but not cocky. So if you have to, just play the part.
Getting back on subject, I would offer your potential clients a very short, well versed question seeking the information you want, which would include the "seeking to serve our clients better" or "your opinion matters" approach, and give them your e-mail address, a pre-paid addressed envelope, or what they percieve as a direct phone number to YOU.

I may be wrong about your approach, but it is so similar to the approach that I am trying to change that I felt I needed to share it with you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thank you for your input

Hey PC,
I am so 100% in agreement with you it's scary. Here's the problem that I have that it appears you may have too. Too much information.
I also tend to pour my heart out to customers and want them to know every last detail about the work I am proposing. You sound well educated, articulate, detail oriented and sincere. I like to think I am too.
What I have found over the years is that clients almost always prefer not to know the details. That's why they hire professionals. The inherent problem is that remodeling and construction is ALL ABOUT the details.
What I have observed is that customer feedback is important, but the customer always prefers to relay information in their own chosen format. If you give them a questionaire, they will almost always toss it away. A better approach is to offer them several options as to how to submit feedback to you in their own way. (By the way, paying for feedback will only make you look desparate, and that is the last impression you want to convey) Clients love to deal with contractors who appear confident, and successful and busy, but not cocky. So if you have to, just play the part.
Getting back on subject, I would offer your potential clients a very short, well versed question seeking the information you want, which would include the "seeking to serve our clients better" or "your opinion matters" approach, and give them your e-mail address, a pre-paid addressed envelope, or what they percieve as a direct phone number to YOU.

I may be wrong about your approach, but it is so similar to the approach that I am trying to change that I felt I needed to share it with you.
I agree with your assessment and will give it consideration. The reason for offering the $20 is to pay the customer for their time and to induce them to fill out the questionaire. There are reasons I can't explain pertaining to why we (or most people) don't get customers to call us back. There is a book coming out on October 15th that covers this subject and I will keep you informed. I am very excited and can't wait for this book because I think this is what the entire book is about.
 

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PC Plumber - I would have a 3rd party telemarketing firm call your customer doing the survey.
1) If you try to find out right when you are leaving the home that will only urge the customer to get rid of you and may not get you the answers you want.

The telephone person can offer them a coupon for their answers and explain they are only doing the survey.

2) I have sent out a survey and got a response with only a dollar in the envelope.

I would have a person call a day later.

Terry
 
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