It’s usually best to avoid doing business with troublesome people who don’t appreciate your skills, experience, or knowledge. Others, with work styles that don’t match yours, often spell trouble once construction starts. Try adding these strategies to your marketing and sales program to find your way to clients who love you.
Potential new clients pose the toughest new business inquiries. Besides learning more about them, you definitely need to find out exactly what type of project they have in mind. So start with these two qualifiers.
1. Assess Expectations
If your potential client gives you a rambling project description, will you be the one to bring sanity to the project? Or is it a job you’d rather let go?
Many people have trouble expressing exactly what they want simply because they don’t know what’s available. However, some have trouble making decisions altogether. For such clients, you might consider creating processes that help them sort options and meet deadlines. Do you have the patience and desire to help clients overcome their own challenges unrelated to the project?
Get all the details you can about the project and pay attention to how the potential client explains everything. Are they rambling? Do you detect uncertainty and lack of clarity? Ask qualifying questions to uncover project details and insights about your potential client’s expectations.
2. Sense Communication Style
Construction projects are notorious for disputes arising from poor communication. A potential client who expects you to guess their needs while they attend to other matters could signal a project filled with delays and turmoil.
Meanwhile, a potential client who expects you to be on call 24/7 might stretch your patience over the long term. If you pay attention to communication styles, you can align yourself with people whose style works with yours.
3. Explore Cost Expectations
Cost almost always determines whether a potential client will go ahead with the work. The cost also determines how soon the work can start. If you don’t feel comfortable asking the person for a ballpark budget, throw out some numbers to test the water.
For instance, if they want a bathroom remodel, tell them the average prices you’ve seen for those projects and observe their response. Simply wait for their answer without rationalizing the cost. How closely their estimate lines up with reality helps you see if your methods and pricing stand a chance.
In the rare cases where your inquirer says the price isn’t a top consideration, dig a little deeper to find out more about the project. It might require specialized methods, materials, or equipment. Maybe the client places more emphasis on aesthetics, or the project is part of a much bigger development. The better you understand the client’s needs and motives, the easier it will be to sense whether the project’s a good fit for you.
4. How to Find a Good Fit
Some people know it all, or at least they want the world to think they do. Such a client might be a good match if you like being told what to do and when to do it. But, if you have proven methods, materials, and tactics you want to use, you’ll feel more at ease working with a more hands-off client.
Ask questions to shed light on that person’s work style. For example, answers to whether they have an architect or designer lined up can provide more information than you might realize.
If the person has an architect or designer, they have invested in the project, making it more likely to move forward. If your community’s building codes require plans stamped by an architect or engineer, then you know the project is likely within compliance. If your community doesn’t require design or engineering professionals to stamp plans, then at a minimum, it shows the potential customer values planning.
This customer might not be a good fit if you prefer to design as you go, or you don’t like deviating from your proven methods. If you like to work on planned projects where design pros or the owner have already started planning, then such a customer could be a good fit.
5. Appraise Their Construction Savvy
It’s also good to know your potential client’s construction or design experience to assess how much hand-holding they will require. Ask them how long they’ve thought about the project. Ask if they’ve got construction experience, or inquire about their level of DIY experience. Find out if they have any design experience and on what types of projects. Most important, find out if they’ve ever bought construction services before.
6. Explain Your Limitations
By now, if you haven’t said goodbye, it’s time to see if your schedule will line up with theirs. Tell them how soon you’d be able to estimate the job. If that fits their schedule, tell them how long after they accept the estimate and sign the contract you’d be ready to begin work.
Too many contractors fall into the habit of trying to win every project. A better goal is to win only the right projects for you. The right jobs are those that fit your business goals. The right projects also have owners whose style can complement yours.