A customer called me in to look at a job they wanted doing. They had not long moved into this house and were confronted with an old fireplace which was in a pretty sorry state. It had been smashed about by the previous occupant and then left unfinished. The brickwork was crumbling and had been very badly repaired. The hearth stone had been ripped up leaving a messy concrete base and the chimney, being very old, required lining and some brickwork repair.
It turned out that I was the 4th contractor called in to look at it. The first had made an appointment to view but did not turn up. The 2nd. turned up, was very abrupt and just kept criticising the whole thing. He treated the customer as if they didn’t know anything and would not listen to what the customer wanted, just kept telling them what they would get. He was in and out in 5 minutes. They did not take to this guy at all!
The 3rd. guy was quite a pleasant chap. However, he was more of a project manager, rather than the contractor. He wanted to bring in different tradesmen for different tasks, he wanted to bring in a brickie, a floor tiler, a plasterer and a decorator, none of whom were employed by him. This quite naturally, sent the cost sky high. This also meant that the project would be drawn out over several weeks when it should have been completed in 3 or 4 days.
On my visit, I spent time talking to the customer, and listening to all these woes. We slowly worked through all aspects of the project and they were pleasantly surprised to hear that we were able to do the whole thing with our own, fully employed installers. I was also able to offer thoughts, ideas and solutions to things they might not have even considered.
We followed up that visit with a formal written estimate which we emailed to them within 2 days. The initial visit was on the Tuesday, they received the estimate on Thursday, on Saturday they were in the showroom buying a stove. They already knew that we had a 6 – 8 week lead time and were quite happy to wait as we had already created a friendly relationship with them and made them feel confident in us.
The Five Key Points
This comes down to 5 major points.
1. Listen and understand your customer
Listen to your customers’ needs and wants. Be mindful of what you can deliver to achieve their goal. If you cannot fulfil their expectations, be honest. Tell the customer what you can achieve and what needs to be delivered by someone else.
2. Promote your value
Use specific projects to emphasise the value to the customer. I have found that photographs of before and after help to show what you are able to deliver. Talk about costs involved and, in particular, highlight areas and products which can help keep costs down. Sometimes it may pay to spend more money on a higher cost product in order to reduce the time taken to complete the project. Remember time is money.
3. Demonstrate confidence and passion
Confidence is so important. Confidence in yourself and your products/services will give confidence to your customers.
Knowing your trade/business is not sufficient to pull in orders. You need to convey that confidence to the customer. Be passionate about your business and share accomplishments.
4. Name drop - develop relationships
Don’t be scared to name other businesses and trades that you have worked with, but be careful of what you say about them! The best recommendation for us is one that comes from other tradesmen etc.
This becomes your network, and the chances are that you will work with these other businesses time and time again.
5. Customer relations
Engage with your customers, not just about work. Be friendly and talk about topical things. Be interested in what your customer is doing and their experiences. It pays to spend time creating a rapport with your customer. Your customer is your best advert and will promote your work completely free of charge!