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Handling High-Info Homeowners

April 21, 2022
How should contractors communicate with potential customers who are equipped with their own outside research and data?

By Gregg Hicks, Vice President of Modernize Home Services

Despite supply chain issues and labor shortages, all types of contractors, including plumbers, need to keep up demand with a steady flow of new business prospects. Over our 20-year history, consumer research and lead conversion data have shown that well-informed homeowners are better prospects and better customers for contractors. So, we created an online self-service tool homeowners can use to estimate and envision their bathroom remodeling projects. We’re not the only ones doing this, so contractors should know about this growing trend.

Online calculators allow homeowners to discover the costs of materials and labor they’re likely to experience for multiple components of a project, including showers, tubs, toilets and sinks, vanities, cabinets, lighting, grab bars and more. For homeowners, online calculators have shown to be a trusted tool.

The question is how should contractors communicate with potential customers who are equipped with their own outside research and data? Here’s how . . . 

1.  Ask about the prospect’s experience, attitudes and research

In our most recent survey of people looking for contractors, we found that 25% of them began the process feeling stressed. Reducing or eliminating that stress helps build homeowner satisfaction, leading to repeat business and more referrals. Giving homeowners tools to feel in control of the evaluation process is a major stress reliever.

Knowing that, a contractor might ask, “Have you seriously considered this remodeling project before? If so, what prevented you from doing it then?

2.   Inquire about their budget assumptions

Shockingly, 79% of our surveyed homeowners have not established a project budget before looking for a contractor. That leads to the problem of sticker shock that wreaks havoc in the sales process. avoiding mismatched expectations saves time and increases the chances of closing a lead. Among our surveyed homeowners, nearly half – 46% – have paused or cancelled a home improvement project due to its cost. Avoiding sticker shock converts more prospects into paying customers.

Try asking, “How much are you planning to spend for your renovation?” “Do you have a budget in mind for your project?”

If they provide a number, ask how they arrived at it.

3.   Congratulate prospects who are well-informed

If your prospect has done their own research through an online calculator, sincere flattery helps build your relationship.

Try saying, “Wow. It’s great that you’re so prepared, which will help us really narrow in on what you need.”

Our research shows that of those who come prepared with a budget, nearly one-third used an online calculator to create an estimate.

4.   Be transparent when homeowners have incorrect assumptions

A concern for homeowners and contractors alike is that no matter how good the database, there are likely to be differences between the online calculator results and the actual project cost. If the difference is small in the 5-10% range, that shouldn’t be a major issue. However, if a homeowner comes to you with expectations that are wildly inaccurate, then have an honest conversation that will build trust.

In our homeowner survey, we ask what motivates the selection of one contractor over another, and 26% of the time homeowners point to the chosen contractor’s expertise. Conversely, among the reasons why homeowners reject a particular contractor, 23% mention getting a confusing bid or quote.

Try saying, “I can see we have a disconnect on the cost of your project. If you would share how you arrived at your target budget, I’d be happy to look it over and see if I can spot the differences. Perhaps we can work out something fair to both of us.”

5.   Help potential customers envision the project

The visual aspects of a remodel are important for interior renovation. If your prospect has done online research, ask if they have a sketch or visualization. If they just have numbers but no sketches, try differentiating your business and building a strong connection by providing a quick CAD drawing of how your work might look in their space.

6.   Advance the sale with smart questions

Since an increasing number of homeowners come equipped with information found online, probing or qualifying questions can help.

Try asking, “Are there other stakeholders who need to be involved? Have they seen your estimate or plan?” “If we are able to meet the budget you have in mind, are you ready to proceed?” “Will you need financing? Do you want help with the financing?

In short, a knowledgeable, empowered homeowner is a valuable sales lead. Treat them with respect for having done their homework … and go close more business.

Gregg Hicks is a longtime marketer of home improvement services. He is a new business leader for Modernize Home Services, and has 20 years of experience across web analytics, SEO, social, SEM and affiliate marketing. His role as a spokesperson is to explain the value of thoughtful matchmaking between homeowners and home improvement professionals that forges positive and productive connections between the parties.

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