If you're a business owner, you know that things have changed over the last few years. It's not just the economy. Clients are changing, and if you want to stay in the game and make something more than a living, you'll need to change with them.
For instance, today's young clients have different buying habits than their parents. They want everything, and they want it now.
Then again, they can take longer to buy. They first want to know all about their purchase. They'll get on the internet and research their purchase to the umpteenth degree to be sure they're getting the best product or service, at the lowest possible price, with the longest guarantee and all available bells and whistles.
Younger clients want to be educated and they want their questions answered. Contractors who get on board and learn how to work with them will get their business.
There are any numbers of ways you can help your clients and at the same time become their contractor of choice, the contractor they measure everyone else against.
When your clients go to the Internet to find info on their job, they might find a lot of advice that's garbage. Like how to deal with a contractor, or what their job should cost. So you need to get ahead of that and let them know a few things.
Show them Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value report. They can view it online, but you should also have a printed copy of your regional info with you at all times.
Make sure they understand that the price of their project will be determined by their design of the job and the selections they make. Those two factors drive the price. That also means that before you can provide a firm fixed price for their job, you need a design (especially with a remodeling project). You can provide ranges (average price range, high-end price range, economy price range), but you can't estimate a job without a design. That means a design agreement.
Don't forget to ask for, and get, your client's budget for the project. If they won't provide their budget, they'll think they can get anything they want. They want you to figure out how to match the job to their secret budget. That, by the way, is how you end up hearing "your price is too high". Sorry, that's backwards from the way you need to handle the situation. Get the budget set and help them match the design and the selections to their budget. Getting the budget set will almost always aid in getting the time frame for the job set. Once those two are accomplished, you are much more likely to get the contract. (We talk about providing ranges and setting the budget in our book Profitable Sales, A Contractor's Guide.)
It would also help if you developed a catalog of websites with information for them to review. This would include products they might want to consider. You should be reading at least one hour every day on some facet of this business. Doing so will take you to all kinds of information that you can share with your clients.
When you present these materials to your potential clients, make them as complete as possible. Is there anything more frustrating to read than an article on window replacement, appliances, doors, insulation, roofing or whatever that only gives you part of the info? Include price ranges so they have an idea of what selections will cost them. How long does it take to get the materials, how long do they take to install, how are they maintained after installation? Give them what they need to make a buying decision.
When you work with a client, you're building a relationship, and you want to become their contractor of choice. Once you're their contractor of choice, they'll be much more willing to make the commitments you need to justify the time you spent helping them acquire the information required to make an informed buying decision.
You'll normally find that as you answer their questions and provide the information that they're seeking, they'll get even more excited about the project. They'll say, "Enough already, let's get this project started. I can't live without ___ any longer." That's when you make the sale.
(first published in our email newsletter January 17, 2011)