In this issue, I am addressing the perspective of the contractor trying to close the deal with their potential client/ homeowner.

I can’t tell you how many times I have had conversations with other business owners about how they went out of their way to service a prospective customer with information regarding their project AND time accumulated in dealing with other issues to help the client make a decision to seal the deal – only to hear, “sorry the other guy was cheaper” or not to even hear any reply back.

The following is the methodology I use in managing all new perspective clients. This helps me with potential clients and also not to take the process personally. It is based on advice from other business professionals and my 27 years of business experience.

A- Keep it professional and keep it from getting personal: One thing is for sure; everyone has their own different attachment towards money and has to go through their own process before parting with it, especially when it comes to larger sums. I remember the time in an electronics store when I suggested to my wife that we get a new television. She immediately looked around and pointed to a television five feet away and said “that one looks great.” My reply was “what are you kidding me? I first have to research this to death.” Well, my process took about two months and 100 televisions later, and we wound up back at that first store and purchased the very one my wife originally pointed to!  guess how many times my wife has told that story at a dinner party? So, expect your potential clients to also go through their process of should I or shouldn’t I hire you.

B- “Everybody funny now you funny too”: Those are the immortal words of songwriter George Thorogood, and a quote I relate to when I have people come to my home to price up work. My loving wife will once again keep me in check when she says, “you now sound like one of your customers who can’t make up their mind.” That statement always works to remind me that I can be as indecisive as some of my potential clients.

C- Set your terms: what I mean by this is to create a short list of game rules by which you can manage yourself during the process and still maintain a high level of quality from the very fi rst return call to the given estimate.

Here are some of my game rules:

1) return all calls within 24 hours {except on weekends} and my answering machine states this;

2) the price is right. I no longer do the high/low dance. Sure, there will always be someone out there cheaper than you, but if you have a good amount of time in the business, along with that earned time comes earned experience and that is priceless! Especially when dealing with unforeseen circumstances in a professional manner. A good contractor learns to RESPOND, not REACT. Give your best price up front and stick to your guns. Anytime I have lowered my price more than once, I was usually sorry I even took the job;

3) one of the first questions I ask on my first return call is “If all things are agreeable, when are you looking to start this project?” That question sorts out the tire kickers right away and keeps me focused on the matters at hand;

4) my estimates always start out verbally and free as long as the client currently owns the property. If not and they need something on paper, then there is a small fee later deducted at time of signing.

5) always proceed in the same fashion for friends & family. There have been many, many times when I have walked into a home and asked “Who started this mess?” The reply usually is “We hired a friend of ours or “my brother in law.” Always draw up some kind of contract. To sum this up for everyone, most business owners I know pour their heart and soul into their work. They are proud of what they do and what they can do, so rejection in any form is always hard to swallow, but as the saying goes: “Business is business”. Right? As a contractor if you choose to help a potential client, always stick to your terms. Usually the only time I ever get myself aggravated is when I have not stuck to mine. Good luck.