Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Sorting Through the Estimate Trap

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         “There is an endless amount of people willing to waste your time.” Unknown.

As a paint contractor, performing estimates is as certain as buying paint, it is going to happen and its part of the job. When estimates are free, people have no qualms about asking you to come out. While estimates are a part of being a contractor, you can reduce and better control the time you do invest in estimating.

In reality, most contractors, particularly small ones are juggling the painting ball and the advertising ball along with the manager, secretary, accountant, human resources and public relations ball all at once. You need to manage your time and on-site visits for every lead is likely not an effective use of time.

How would you like to reduce time spent with consumers who don’t fit your target market? Would you like to increase the chances of selling to serious leads? You can do this while also saving time and money if you are willing to put in a little effort and do it consistently. One thing you can do is pre-qualify the customer.

Why Pre-qualify.

Pre-qualifying customers helps to make sure that your business and their project is a good fit. Pre-qualification happens all the time. You go to purchase a car and they check to make sure you got credit. You go apply for a driver’s license and they test you to make sure you can drive. So why not check and see if the customer fits the profile of your target market?

Pre qualification:

  • Saves time.
  • Helps you select customers in your target market..
  • Increases the chance of selling your service.
  • Reduces your aggravation.

Setting up pre-qualification:

The first step to any successful pre-qualifying program is the decision on what kind of customer you want. Here is the opportunity to narrow the focus on which people you are going to invest your efforts into. Think about it carefully.

  1. Do you perform both interior and exterior work? Or just one or the other?
  2. Do you have a limited service area? Or areas you won’t work in?
  3. Residential repaint? Commercial only

Let’s say you don’t do exterior painting but that is the customer’s need, you aren’t going to waste valuable time on them. Maybe they want a handrail painted, a short couple hour job but you have a minimum job fe, f the customer is not going to pay that fee you need to find that out up front. Once you have an idea of who you want to serve its time for the next step.

Practice makes perfect?

Forget practice, you don’t have the time or you would just go see everyone who calls. Instead, you are going to build a script. Your script is going to consist of all the questions you need to decide which customers are worth investing time into. The script is something you will use for every lead. A good script will keep you focused on the task at hand (gathering information) while keeping you or your employees from stumbling over words. Get everyone on board with this and be consistent.

Tips for developing your script:

  1. If you are a large company get everyone on board and invested in the process. Have everyone help choose questions.
  2. Keep it short and simple. Don’t turn it into a multi-page survey.
  3. If you work in the field print it out and keep copies handy so it can be filled out when as calls come in. (You do answer/return calls promptly, right?)
  4. Be consistent in its use.
  5. Give a copy of each completed script to whoever does the estimate.
  6. FILL IT OUT! Don’t just rely on remembering either the questions Or the answers. You will forget some or both.

Questions are the key:

Questions are the meat and potatoes of your script and therefore the success of your pre-qualify program. The questions should gather enough information about your prospective client that when its filled out, you can make an informed decision on investing further time and effort into them.

The questions can also serve a few other purposes. The right questions can help you determine which marketing is working, or if you need to add another service. It can help you build databases and even separate you from the rest of the pack.

Everyone is going to have different questions but here are some that Family Professional Painting asks.

  1. Name and address?
  2. Phone number?
  3. Email address?
  4. Desired time frame or start/finish date. (Will it fit in your schedule?)
  5. Best time for on-site visit? (we don’t do phone quotes)
  6. What factor will determine which contractor you choose?
  7. When was the house built? (Can this be a RRP job?)
  8. How did you hear about us? (Which marketing is working?)

You can develop your own and we will all have different reasons why we ask them. I actually have more questions and sound reasons for asking what we do.You should have an idea what and why to ask.

Tips for filling out the script over the phone:

Not only are you pre-qualifying the customer but you are also building your first impression. With that in mind, you should be prepared to project you best “phone voice”. Here are a couple of tips that will help;

  • Be pleasant. This shouldn’t have to be said but be nice and cheerful while you are talking to them.
  • Smile. Believe it or not, there have been studies that show people react more positive to somebody who is smiling when talking on the phone. It is almost like they can see that smile.
  • Stand up if possible. This one is kind of hard when you are simultaneously filling out a form but they say it gives you more freedom of expression and give you the feeling of being in control.

Paint Contractors need every advantage these days. Anything that can save you time or increase productivity is a valuable tool. Scripts may be one tool that gives you all this and more.

(photo crediorangecountyconstruction.com)

5 thoughts on “Sorting Through the Estimate Trap

  1. I started a new notebook last Fall, and as I was writing in an estimates info this afternoon, I reflected at all the ones I didn’t get. Sad, and a ton of time and money wasted.

    I have tried all of the above examples you listed Dale. Still I don’t think I am very good at it, or my pricing is off. If its the latter then I might as well pack it in and go get a job.

    I have tried out right asking if price would be the deciding factor to have them say no and really mean yes. Difficult to implement and really screen clients effectively.

    1. Tommy,

      First of all, thanks for the feedback.

      I don’t think we will ever weed out all price shoppers and the article is meant as a way to reduce not eliminate chasing undesirable leads.

      There are other questions one can ask that can shine light on what the customer is looking for. I am more than willing to share the questions and the reasons I ask them if you want. Just email me.

    2. Tommy, do you track why you did not get them? Often hard to get that info, but I find that most times my company was just not the right fit, and sometimes it was because we were too high.

  2. Chris is right that it it very important to learn why you didn’t get the job, because it is often not just about the price. Remember this article on following up on the jobs you didn’t get… https://bloggingpainters.com/2011/10/16/following-up-on-the-job-you-didn’t-get/

    But back to pre qualifying customers – This is one of the most important things a painter needs to learn to do and it starts with knowing who you are and what kinds of jobs you take – then sticking to only doing those.

    I often help a caller, that doesn’t fit our customer profile, by recommending where to find the right painter for their job. Being helpful to the customer you don’t serve will leave a lasting impression that might just come back to benefit you in the future.

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