The Questions You Must Discuss on Every Estimate
Last year, we wrote an article about selling. Basically, it’s tough! For seasonal areas this time of year, everyone seems to be calling at the same time. When it gets busy, we can easily get caught up focusing on the work to be done. We forget that there is a person standing in front of us that needs our attention.
People First, Then The Work.
What’s tough to remember is that the person is more important than work to be estimated. That’s not to say the details of the work aren’t important. But make no mistake, the person in front of you is about to make an emotional decision that needs your attention.
That’s right – it’s emotional first and logical second. This is based on research done by Eric Berne called Transactional Analysis. What his results show, and what a lot of sales training is based on, is that despite all the fancy presentations and “big data,” ultimately humans make decisions emotionally, and justify them logically.
What does this mean to a paint contractor?
Generally, it means people buy from people they know, like, and trust. Therefore, it also means if you are going to close more jobs AND get the price you deserve, you are going to have to ask more questions and do more listening. David Sandler wrote, “A listening prospect is no prospect at all.” Forget about trying to impress the customer with what you know. In reality, you are overwhelming them with information they don’t need and hurting your chances to win the bid.
So what kind of questions should I ask?
Over the last 7 years, we’ve worked with over 250 contractors, most of them painting contractors. What follows is the best of the best questions. What may be surprising, is that some of them might seem very uncomfortable to ask—for you. But just because they are uncomfortable to you, doesn’t mean it’s uncomfortable for the prospect. What’s more, I think you will see that by the way they are phrased, the approach is quite gentle.
1. Have you worked with a contractor before? What was that like?
This one seems obvious, but there is a lot behind it. Allowing a prospect to relive poor experiences can be an important motivator in choosing a better contractor this time. Listen for emotional words like, “frustrated,” “angry,” and “disappointed.” When you hear these words, dig deeper on the topic. Ask, “Can you tell me more about that?” What they say will tell you how to make their experience better.
If they have had good experiences, you should be asking yourself and the prospect, “Is there a reason you had us out today?” Chances are, it’s to keep the other guy honest (a waste of your time)
2. Besides price, what concerns might you have about this project?
It’s not about price. Repeat this to yourself multiple times a day. And despite what prospects might say, price is not the only consideration. If it is, you’ve got the wrong prospect. As above, dig deep here and keep an eye out for emotional indicators.
3. Have you thought about how you will be making your decision?
How many times have you hear, “I’d like to think it over.” or something similar? That’s a horrible place to be in sales. Asking this question is a great way to prevent it!. If you know what their process will be, you can take steps to accommodate it.
Follow-up questions here might include: Is there a timeline or deadline? Will other trades be involved? Are you getting multiple estimates?
4. Have you thought about what something like this might cost?
· Alternative 1: If all the prices you get are different, which one do you think you will choose?
· Alternative2: We tend not to be the lowest bid. If we are not the lowest bidder, is there any reason you might still choose us?
Of the questions listed here, this one is by far one of the most uncomfortable. I get a lot of pushback related to not being able to come up with a price on the spot. My response is that this is not why you are asking, so there’s no need to have a price ready. You are asking this question as an opening to establish that you will not be the lowest bidder, and will the prospect be willing to pay more to get a better service. It’s a moment of truth for the prospect.
It takes a great salesperson to succeed in a down economy. Make it your goal to discuss each of the topics above on every estimate. Use your skills at bonding and rapport to ask them in a soft way. You will be amazed at the trust you will build with prospects and very pleased with your increased sales.