By Jason Polka
The process of getting new customers almost always involves speaking to prospects to generate a contractor bid. Most contractors don’t realize that their ability to do good work isn’t the most important factor in selling. A contractor’s ability to talk about costs is the ultimate selling point. Many contractors lack the factual data to persuasively and effectively discuss project costs and educate homeowners on why a project will cost what it does.
Modernize’s research of 1,152 homeowners confirms that more than half who are actively searching for a home improvement contractor are stressed about their budget, and 37% aren’t confident they understand the costs. However, 70% of the homeowners surveyed say cost and perceived level of experience are the most important factors in making a decision about which contractor to hire.
With that in mind, how can contractors do a better job of educating their prospects about a project, what it will cost, and why they are the most qualified for the job? Below are five tips to help you establish a positive and beneficial homeowner-contractor relationship:
1. Build rapport.
Although you’re an expert at solving whatever the homeowner’s problem may be, don’t underestimate the importance of establishing a friendly and professional rapport. Take the opportunity in the initial call to build a relationship with the homeowner by asking probing questions in order to fully understand the project. Ask questions to expose the “pain points” they are experiencing from planning their project. Find out why the project is important to them, and what it will mean to them to have the issue fixed. Avoid jumping to the solution right away. Give the homeowner as much time as they need to explain what they’re experiencing and why they need your help. Listening to their needs helps build a sense of trust and comfort between both parties.
2. Empathize with the homeowner.
Take the time to convey that you hear and understand the homeowner, and then empathize with their problem. Before moving on to talk about the solution, show that you can imagine and understand their feelings and needs. Use phrases such as, “I can understand how having that problem could make for a stressful situation.” This helps to validate that you understand fully the desired solution for the problem or project the homeowner is interested in working on.
3. Educate the homeowner about what’s involved to fix the problem.
Understanding their project needs is important to homeowners in deciding which contractor to hire. It is also the best way for you to showcase your expertise within your trade. Use patience to explain the homeowner’s current situation, how the problem (if there is one) occurred and what can be done to remedy it. Explain how you go about doing your work in a way that offers the homeowner benefits. Be sure to explain the potential timeline of the project, and what issues might arise to delay the initial time frame, so the homeowner is prepared for a realistic completion date. Ask if they understand what you’ve communicated, and if they have additional questions. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to follow up by email with educational material to further inform the homeowner and reiterate your expertise on this particular project. Your knowledge and ability to communicate effectively and in a timely manner reinforces the homeowner’s confidence in working with you.
4. Provide options: good, better, best.
Since 72% of homeowners say that a project’s cost is the most helpful information in deciding to hire a contractor, it’s important to land on a cost that will work for both of you. Start by offering your best solution to the problem and explaining its benefits. Then, offer alternatives with lower costs that could also help the homeowner meet a lower budget threshold. Everyone likes choices. If you offer only one cost, the homeowner will likely compare your cost to another contractor. However, if you offer three options, they may feel they don’t need to get additional bids. One-third of all homeowners get one or two bids, and 80% get three or less, so you may be able to provide cost alternatives without getting other contractors competing for your job.
5. Establish next steps and follow up in a timely manner.
After each conversation with the homeowner, talk about a concrete next step. Decide together if you should call back, and when. Or, if they prefer to call you, define a time frame and add, “If I don’t hear back from you by then, is it okay to follow up with you?” This provides permission for you to call and learn what the homeowner’s decision or mindset is and further cement the relationship. If they’ve decided to postpone the project until later, you might ask if it’s acceptable for you to call back at a later date to touch base, and get an update. If the answer is “yes,” then establish the follow up date. Showing dedication in wanting to work with the homeowner builds preference for you as their go-to contractor.
Though selling your services is as much about listening to homeowners and building a relationship with trust as it is about producing bids and schedules, these are skills that can easily be developed over time, and will pay off in terms of increased job demand and overall growth of your home improvement business.
Jason Polka is the CEO of Modernize, a company that uses business intelligence software to connect homeowners with contractors. Jason has led numerous initiatives to identify and execute new service and differentiated product opportunities within the contractor referral market. Modernize is the largest provider of leads for window replacement, solar installation, HVAC and roofing. The company’s business model is designed to simplify and remove any friction from the process of hiring a contractor.