Business Articles - Sales

The Three Fears of Your Customer

When a homeowner decides they want to build or remodel, their first decision is who to call. Unfortunately the media, and a few flaky contractors, have convinced the public that contractors are comparable to used car salesmen and con artists. For the most part, the buying public doesn't trust contractors. They have three basic fears when they look for a contractor to work for them. As a result, you need to build their trust. Start by keeping your promises like arriving at appointments on time and by returning phone calls promptly. The little things really do make a difference.

Then address their three basic fears.

  • They won't get what they want.
  • They won't be charged a fair price.
  • The job will take much longer than they want or than the contractor promises.

    Addressing the First Fear: I won't get what I want
    Will I get what I want? Your customers have all heard from someone who had a contractor give them a bid. They wanted a bathroom remodeled and the contractor tried to sell them an addition with two bathrooms, a kitchen and a laundry room. Or they wanted to replace their old windows with reasonably priced vinyl windows and the contractor kept insisting wood windows would be best. Whatever the scenario, the contractor simply would not listen. The first basic question when you arrive at a potential customer's home is "What do you want to do?"

    But you can't just ask the question. You ask the question and you listen to the answer. Then you ask another question, and listen to another answer. You ask for options, you ask for opinions and for confirmations, you ask, ask, and ask. You summarize when you can, and prioritize. By your questions and your responses you show you are listening to what they say and what they want. Leave your opinions and your ego in the car. Yes, you know more about construction and have your own opinions about what will work best, but it's not your home. You are there to ask questions, listen to the answer and keep asking questions until you know exactly what the customer wants.

    At some point, your customer's concern about getting what they want will dissipate. This will happen when they realize you are listening to them and are helping them explore possibilities for their job.

    Addressing the Second Fear: Will I pay a fair price?
    This can be dealt with easily, but you must have the discipline to follow some simple steps to accomplish it.

    Think about this: When you work with the customer to establish the budget based on the job they want, then provide a quotation that is within that budget, two good things will happen. First, you will never hear your price is too high. Second, you have erased "price" as a problem or an item of contention between you and your potential customer.

    Most, and I do mean most, contractors decide before they even meet the customer that they just can't ask for the customer's budget. They conjure up all kinds of reasons why they shouldn't talk about money. "Well, he's Dr. so and so, I shouldn't ask about his budget." Or, "she is Mrs. Attorney and may not like it if I ask how much she would like to invest in the project." Bunk. They live their lives the same as you and I do. They make money, they spend money.

    Don't be afraid to talk about money unless you are a non-profit company and wish to stay that way. Find out what they want to spend on their project. Then, and this is a very key issue to your success, be strong enough that you can guide them through the process and keep their selections in line with the budget they have set. When they start making selections that cost more than the budget will allow, tell them. Don't sit there like a dummy. If you don't tell them, when you arrive at the final price for their job, you are going to hear "your price is too high." This should never happen.

    Addressing the Third Fear: Will you get the job done on time?
    Customers have heard horror stories about the bath remodel that took nine months, or the kitchen remodel that lasted a year and a half to complete. When you ask their time schedule for the job, be sure you cover the issues of when you can start, how long the job will take, what might cause delays and when the job will be complete.

    You start this process by returning every phone call the same day or by 9 AM the next day. Then you show up on time for every appointment, no exceptions. It doesn't take any longer to be on time than it does to be late. Matter of fact, it takes less time to be prompt. And most important, you are showing that time does matter to you.

    Ask for the start or completion date that the customer has in mind. If their time frame is OK, discuss how long the job will take. If they have unrealistic time expectations, you need to correct them. Explain how much time it will take to get their job up, running and completed. As you ask questions and share realistic time frames, you will eliminate the questions they have about whether or not you can perform to a given time schedule.

    And to cement the fact that you can complete their jobs on time, always do what you tell your customers you will do. If you promise a quote by next Tuesday, be darned sure that you are back in front of them by Tuesday.

    Every series of questions you ask, every response you give, should address those three fears. Most contractors won't do this. They are too busy trying to be nice and avoiding any possible conflict instead of really getting the information they need to determine if the customer qualifies to buy from them. You must be diligent in getting all the information so that your presentation eliminates the three basic fears that your customers have.

    By Michael Stone

    Michael Stone has more than three decades of experience in the building and remodeling industry. Michael offers Coaching and Consulting services for construction companies throughout the U.S., as well as audio and CD programs for business management, and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached by e-mail at, by phone at 1-888-944-0044, or on the web at

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