A recent note:
I attended your Portland Oregon class this spring and I need to know if you've come across a client who wants to drastically reduce the scope of the work we've bid? The new scope of work is not something that we are interested in taking on as it's too small for our business and I want to respond in a way that is not likely to upset the homeowner. Have you written an article on this? Maybe you can help me to find it so I can brush up on my sales skills!
Thank you for all you are doing to support contractors like myself.
The easiest way to deal with this situation is to tell your client that their job won't fit in your schedule right now. You're geared for larger jobs and don't have the space to fit in a small job.
A request to reduce the scope of the job is usually because the original project was more expensive than they could realistically afford. One way to avoid this happening in the future is to know their budget before you take the trouble of estimating the project. That's one of the four questions you need to ask and have answered during a sales call. I talk about that here, and address what to do if they have unrealistic expectations here.
When you discover that their budget won't allow the project they want, and if you aren't willing to take on a small project, you can tactfully step aside much earlier in the process.
It's best if you know another contractor who can do the work. If you have a friend in the business who could do the job, you could recommend them to your potential client, but be careful. We have way too many flakes in this business and you don't want to be associated with one of them.
You need a fellow contractor who you can refer leads to with the confidence that they'll call the client promptly and do a good job of follow-through. You want someone who does things like you do them; they return their phone calls, keep appointments on time, keep jobs clean, and conduct business in a professional manner.
Remember also that the lead cost you money to obtain, and if you're going to pass it along, you should be paid a referral or finder's fee. You can work out the details with the other contractor (we discuss possible ranges in this article), but don't give away leads for free.
If you know someone that you trust, tell the potential client that you'll be happy to pass their name to your associate who can handle their project. I'd have the other contractor call the client, rather than giving the client the contractor's name. That reduces the chance of the information getting tossed in the trash or forgotten.
It's smart to specialize on the work that makes you the most money. It's even better if you know contractors who can pick up the leads outside your specialty. Properly handling a situation like this makes it more likely you'll get the call when they're ready to do a larger job.