Getting In Front Of The Right Customers

Mr. Krabs

“It’s all about the benjamins…”

I prefer to work for clients that want quality work done to their homes as opposed to clients that are more focused on the prices that others charge.  There will be little red flags that pop-up during the interview that tell me which type of customer I am dealing with.

Usually, when a customer is more focused on the price of their project, they will interview as many contractors as they can.  This is the culture of “free estimates”.   I understand comparison shopping, but when you are getting free estimates from more than a few contractors, it speaks out loud and clear of their intentions.  “Price-shoppers” or “tire-kickers” are a few phrases that come to mind.  They are shopping around for the lowest guy, regardless.  They meet with 3 to 5 companies to find the cheapest remodeler.  Photo: truth.skylerjcollins.com

And we all know what kind of perils await the unsuspecting homeowner (!?) when they hire a contractor based solely on price.  Let’s go over some basic scenarios shall we? 🙂

The contractor does shoddy work. For example, this guy bid a small bath remodel that consisted of a new tub, toilet, and tile around the tub surrounds and floors. He gets substandard materials to save dollars.  He then hacks the project and gets out fast in an “on-to-the-next-one” fashion, since he’s barely able to make money on your job and needs to feed the dragon.

He also can’t pull the correct plumbing permits because he isn’t licensed.  So when a reputable contractor shows up after 6 months for a mold-contaminated bath wall with moisture issues around the tub, the homeowners are perplexed.  “How did the install fail so quickly”, they’ll ask.   Now it gets hairy.  It will cost them additional dollar amounts to correct a fudge up.  Suddenly the homeowners are scared of contractors.  They’ll tell any and everybody within earshot of how terrible XX Contracting was..

The contractor takes their money. I’ve seen guys breeze through town and collect down-payments from people, then have materials sent to a customer’s home that they didn’t pay their supplier for, culminating in the homeowner getting slapped with a lien on their house from the unpaid bill.

The homeowner lost money to this contractor, will lose money to get the lien lifted, and still needs to pay another contractor for the work not completed!  The contractor is gone and the homeowner is duped.  These stories are far in between, but they do happen more often than thought.

The contractor charges more during the remodel. He’ll pull out change orders and say that your project is running into difficulties with hidden situations that he could not see beforehand and needs more money.  Of course there are things that can’t be fleshed out until you demo stuff.  However, he’ll come up with the right excuses to convince you that you need at least 50% or more in total added costs.

Cost Vs. Value. On the flip side, you have the customer that understands the value of hiring a company that will fulfill contract parameters as required in a timely manner.  These kind of clients have done their homework; they understand cost vs. value.  They’d rather spend the money for trust-worthy professionals, than to take a chance on Joe Sketch.  And good contractors ain’t cheap.

They understand the value in hiring “do it right the first time” contractors.  They pre-qualify you by researching your business.  It’s not hard to find good contractors with a little internet research.  Be prepared to wait for top-notch contractors though; they’re usually booked for months in advance and cost much more than your buddy’s brother.

You must pre-qualify the potential prospect as well.

The kinds of questions to ask a potential customer during the early stages of contact with them:

  • Do they have a budget?  If they don’t have an answer to what kind of money they should have set aside for their home improvement projects, then it says to me that they aren’t prepared to buy today.  It could say they just haven’t thought of it and need a contractor to help.  Those first few phone calls or emails are when you ask these important questions.
  • Is it a realistic budget?  You’d be surprised at how most homeowners don’t know how much remodeling stuff cost.  Drop the ballpark figures in their lap and you might see their eyes pop!
  • After discussing budget, how are they prepared to fund their project?    New money? Old money? What kind of employment?  Grandpa’s money?  This conversation should take place before you burn up your gas driving all the way over there unless your spider senses tell you to go over there and SELL THAT JOB!

Photo: kimchi-icecream.blogspot.com

  • What kinds of finishes are they expecting on the finish product?  There’s cheap, mid-grade, and high-end.  Once they start verbalizing the finishes, this will give you a clue: cheap finishes equals a client that  is focused on price and making sure their costs stay as low as possible.  Getting their own materials?  Well, you have to decide if you are willing to go through that parade.  Mid-grade products says you’re possibly safe with this client and perhaps a good fit for each other.
  • A high-end spender could equal a great client, sometimes.  That scenario can go equally the other way though and become a pain in the ass experience in regards to payments, their sense of entitlements, and non-payment for extras.  A great contract will save you.  It is so important to get in front of the right kinds of customers.  Smart business sense is eliminating the problem clients and picking the people that help you grow your business and succeed.  Make the project work for you and deliver an exceptionally  finished product as promised.  You reputation as a solid contractor is on the line.  Can you say, referral?

“Cash Money takin’ over in tha  2011!..”

Cash MoneyPhoto: xxlmag.com

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