Qualified Remodeler Article

Posted by on September 9, 2015

Qualified Remodeler Article


Ben Johnson

“A Clear Process Sells Homes”

Three years ago I lost a project that was very important to me. It was crushing. I was being interviewed by a couple to design a house in the historic district of my local town. In the end, they chose a different designer with their only feedback being: “It just seemed like the best fit.” The best fit? I didn’t understand; I chalked it up to my fees being too high. I have realized that had nothing to do with it. Later I was informed that my competitor was actually charging almost twice what I had quoted.

I decided to poll other builders and designers about this. We all agreed that you can show off the most beautiful pictures of work you have accomplished, but if you can’t communicate your process effectively, your odds of getting the job go down significantly. People need to know how to get from A to B.

Ask any remodeler, home builder, or designer, what is the number one hurdle they face when courting potential clients, and I guarantee it will be dollars. “What do you charge”, and “what does it cost?” I get asked this often. I have found, however, that when potential clients give me pushback on fees, it is usually because I have failed to explain the design process appropriately. “It costs too much,” is often times just an excuse, and one that is easy to overcome. The excuse is born out of an absence of feeling that, “yes, you can deliver” their dream remodeling project. Comfort is key, and a clear process creates comfort.

In the end, all a potential client really wants to hear and experience is a pathway for obtaining their new space. You build homes and remodeling projects every day. You understand all the steps required to make it happen. Your clients don’t. Consider what it’s like setting up a mortgage for your new home. You don’t know all the little details behind what a closing attorney has to do. All you know is he walks you through the papers required and how to get them into the proper hands: “Here are the documents you need to sign if you want to get in your home.” Go it. You must be able to demonstrate the same control and simplicity. Be a shepherd. That’s what a prospect wants and they don’t even realize it until they experience that feeling of: “He’s got me covered.” Contracts get signed when a client feels that.

Now, assuming you have some examples of good work, and references, the main ingredient you need is a clear process that allows the client to visualize how they will get their dream project turned into a reality. To be able to articulate your process in a clear manner to a prospect, you must first identify what it is. Start by writing it out. Begin writing in paragraph form what your process looks like in your head from estimating to final site-work. Then, reduce those paragraphs down to bullet points and a list. Next, group the bullets into categories based on each phase of your typical project. Edit it down so that one, you can remember it, and two, it makes sense to others. Show it to your wife, a subcontractor, or a friend. Ask them if it’s clear.

When you visualize explaining your process, don’t fall into the cost trap. Give them the good news first. Talk about the project and how you do things. Cost, no matter what the number, is always bad news. You want the cost to be the last bit of data given away and you want to be the one who brings it up. This makes you look like the shepherd. “Here is our process for remodeling, and here is a typical cost range to do it in.” Also, make sure you are giving estimated cost ranges in initial meetings, not just a single number. What’s the easiest way to not get the sale? A firm number coupled with an unclear process. Give them the process, make it easy to understand, and then deliver the cost data.

Don’t risk losing those big projects by not thinking through your process. Your portfolio of remodeling projects will only take you so far and no, your cost is not too high. It’s all about the process. Make it easy, make it clear, and be the Shepherd.