Once you have determined what the customer needs and wants, and before you tell him what the job is going to cost, there is one other very important thing that you must do. YOU MUST MAKE SURE THE CUSTOMER KNOWS THAT YOU CAN DO THE JOB.
The customer must be convinced that you are both willing and able to do the job. From a customer’s viewpoint, you may be willing to do his job, but are you competent enough to do the job?
When they are talking to you about a job, all customers want to get the answers to two basic questions:
1. HOW MUCH WILL THE JOB COST?
2. WILL THE JOB BE DONE PROPERLY?
Customers will almost always ask you the first question; they will almost never ask you the second question. But a very important thing to understand is that, as far as the customer is concerned, getting the job done properly is more important than what the job costs.
You might think that if a customer were so concerned with getting the job done properly, he would not only find out what his job was going to cost, but he would also try to establish whether or not you were competent to do the work.
Well, that is exactly what customers do, although this point is missed by many contractors. From the first minute you start talking with them, customers are comparing, evaluating, weighing, and judging you. Everything you say, how you say it, and how the customer feels about it is all being analyzed at all times by the customer.
The customer may be partially or wholly unaware that he is doing this, but by the time he is ready to make a decision as to whether or not he wants you to do the job, the customer will have formed a definite opinion of you and your ability to do his job properly.
You see, the customer is interested in value. When a customer asks you what a job will cost, he wants to find out the least amount of money you will charge to do the job properly. Before a customer ever decides that your price for the job is right, the customer will first have to decide if you will do the job properly.
Here are some of the things that customers respond to well when they are evaluating how competent a contractor is:
1. THE CONTRACTOR IS HONEST
2. THE CONTRACTOR IS KNOWLEDGEABLE IN
3. THE CONTRACTOR IS ORGANIZED
4. THE CUSTOMER IS ABLE TO COMMUNICATE
WELL WITH THE CUSTOMER
5. THE CONTRACTOR IS HELPFUL
6. THE CONTRACTOR IS COURTEOUS
7. THE CONTRACTOR KEEPS ALL AGREEMENTS
WITH THE CUSTOMER
8. THE CONTRACTOR DOESN’T COMPLAIN ABOUT
BUILDING INSPECTORS, OTHER CUSTOMERS,
OR OTHER CONTRACTORS
9. THE CONTRACTOR WANTS TO DO WHAT’S
BEST FOR THE CUSTOMER
10. THE CUSTOMER LIKES THE CONTRACTOR
There is no particular order of importance to this list. As a matter of fact, each customer has his own personality, and so each customer will judge the importance of the points on this list differently. But, if you can demonstrate all of these characteristics to every customer, it is almost certain that all customers will consider that you are competent to do their job.
Remember that when a customer contacts you about a job, the first thing you need to do is to FIND OUT WHAT IS NEEDED AND WANTED. While you are doing this step, you have a golden opportunity to demonstrate these qualities to the customer.
Are you courteous? Are you easy to communicate with? Do you seem to know what you are talking about?
Let me tell you something you may not have realized about customers. EVERY CUSTOMER HAS A PROBLEM AND HE WANTS YOU TO SOLVE THAT PROBLEM FOR HIM.
The problem that all customers have is this — they have a job which needs to be done, but they don’t want to do the work themselves. When they call you, they are asking you to solve this problem by doing the work for them. In exchange for doing the work, they are willing to pay you money. Now even if the customer has no idea how to do the work himself, he will still want you to do the job the way he would if he did know how to do the work.
If you can convince a customer that you will do his job the way he would if he could, you will have come a long way toward getting that job.
That is why it is so important when you are talking with customers to demonstrate the ten qualities listed above. Only when a customer has decided that a contractor is honest, reliable, knowledgeable in his trade, etc., will he be interested in knowing what the job will cost.
So the rule to use with any customer is:
BEFORE TELLING A CUSTOMER WHAT A JOB WILL COST, ALWAYS MAKE SURE THE CUSTOMER KNOWS THAT YOU ARE ABLE TO DO THE JOB
Since a customer will rarely inform you when he has decided that you are competent, it is going to be up to you to find out. The best way is to start by simply telling the customer — I CAN DO THAT JOB FOR YOU.
Generally, what the customer says next will show you whether or not the customer has confidence in you. If it is obvious that the customer agrees with you, fine. But if the customer doesn’t immediately indicate that he believes you, ask him — DO YOU HAVE ANY CONSIDERATIONS ABOUT MY DOING THIS JOB FOR YOU?
Almost always, if the customer does have a consideration about your doing the job, he will tell you, and you can work this out with him. Often, just asking him the question will impress a customer enough to improve his evaluation of you as a contractor. After all, you must feel pretty confident about yourself as a contractor to ask him this question, right? Many, many times I have turned a doubtful customer into a positive customer by asking that one question.
If the customer won’t answer this question or if you suspect that he is hiding something from you, I would advise that you get rid of him fast. After all, what is he trying to hide?
Once you have determined that a customer is satisfied that you will do a good job for him, you will be in a good position to tell the customer what the job will cost. This will be covered in the next chapter.