Last week we discussed a survey conducted earlier this year by Houzz. One chart (see the image) outlines the challenges homeowners say they’re facing when they remodel or renovate their home. It’s a valuable chart, because it tells you what they need help with. It’s your job to show them you can provide that help. Let’s look at a few of their challenges.
Staying on Budget. This is at the top of the list. It’s not unusual to hear from an owner that their project exceeded their budget, sometimes double what they expected to spend. When this happens, the blame usually lands on the contractor.
The best way to help your clients stay on budget is to find out their budget. In our book, I talk about the four basic questions that need to be asked on every sales call; one of them is “What is your budget for this job?” Don’t tell me they won’t tell you their budget; they will if you ask the right questions and approach it properly.
It’s your job to explain that the design of the project and the materials that go into that project will determine the cost of the job. The job price is determined by their choices, not yours. All you will do is assemble all the costs and add a reasonable overhead and profit to compensate for the work done and the risk taken.
When you know their budget, you can design the job to that budget. Additionally, if you analyze the project top to bottom, inside and out, as you should every project, you’ll eliminate any surprises that might crop up. Stick to the design, eliminate the surprises, and you can get the job built on budget.
When you design a job to the client’s budget and then they make changes that push the job costs up, who do you think they are going to blame? Prevent this by asking a lot of questions during the design process. If they want six things and their budget can only afford four, it’s your job to help them prioritize their needs versus their wants. That’s your job as the salesperson.
During the project, it’s important to remind them that every change costs money. More than once, I had to remind clients firmly that what they wanted was beyond their budget. I may not have been popular when I did it, but I didn’t want to hear any complaints about how the project was over budget.
Finding the right products and materials. With the wealth of information on the internet today, you should be able to help your clients find what they want. It’s also a little surprising that this is a problem for homeowners.
Based on the survey, roughly one in three of your customers are not getting the job they want. I believe most customers would be happy to pay someone to help them get the selection process done and behind them so they can get their job started, built, and done, using the right products.
Staying on Schedule. This is another issue that can be far better controlled than most contractors think. Are you conducting a pre-job start conference, five to seven days after the contract is signed? Are you using Gantt charts to visually map out the schedule? Gantt charts should include the phone calls needed to keep subs and suppliers informed and on time. Your Gantt chart should tell you when materials need to be ordered, who is to work on what job, where your vehicles and equipment should be and on what days.
Don’t forget that changes to the job will change the schedule. Like we discussed with the budget, it’s your job to make sure your client understands that making a change will likely delay the project.
Funding or Financing the Project. In our two-day class, we talk about helping the owner get financing for their jobs. This takes some effort on your part. You need to find at least two lenders and one broker you can trust, but if you do, you’ll increase your sales. In our two-day classes, I usually find that only one or two of the contractors in attendance offer help obtaining financing for their jobs. But those who do are almost always doing well. I also read recently that of the top 500 remodeling companies in the US, over 90% help their clients obtain financing. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
Dealing with the Unexpected. That is why you get paid the big bucks, my friend. It’s your job to solve the problems no one sees coming. Of course, it’s first your job to see them coming, to prevent surprises by conducting a thorough review of each job. But when the unexpected happens, you need to deal with it immediately and get it resolved. Communicate often with your clients. Keep them posted on the status of their project and warn them of potential problems you see on the horizon.
As we explain in our book Profitable Sales, A Contractor’s Guide, your clients have three basic fears when they are considering hiring a contractor. Those fears are:
- Will they do the job I want them to do?
- Will they do my job on time?
- Will they do my job at a fair price?
The survey by Houzz confirms that those are the things your client is worried about. You need to address their fears, showing them that you’ll do the job they want, on schedule and at a fair price. When you do that, you’ll eliminate the challenges they are facing. That is when you are really selling your services and not just taking orders. That is also when you will start making good money from your business.