Pre-Screening Clients on the Phone
Pre-Screening Potential Clients and Avoiding the Tire-Kickers!
Originally derived from car selling industry, a “tire-kicker,” is someone who is indecisive about purchasing your service, and never feels satisfied with what they are offered.
Regardless of what you call them, pre-qualifying potential clients that call for your service will save you time traveling to meetings, typing proposals and from having on-site discussions that will NEVER lead to a sale.
Pre-Screening Call – First Step
They may have called you, but this is your time to pre-screen them. During this pre-screening phone call you care basically interviewing the caller, to glean information on whether you should take the next step with them or not.
Follow the 80/20 rule here, which basically relates to allowing them to speak 80% of the time while you ask pointed questions and listen 20%.
People truly interested in their project will want talk about it. Tire kickers ask pointed questions, want a “ball-park price,” and will waste your time on-site.
Your conversation should start with you asking permission to ask a few questions, to find out more about the project, and what they want to do.
Here are some questions to consider:
How Did They Find You?
Ask the caller how they found you. Did they find you on the internet or have they seen you work or did a friend refer you. If someone says they found your website, ask what led them to the site. [A random search, jobsite sign or referral site]
Ask what the project is that they want you to look at. Are they updating, solving a problem, or expanding because of lack of storage or the need to add a bathroom, etc.
I try to ask the client to “paint me a picture,” of what they envision the project to look like. After this, you should have a good idea if this work is in your wheelhouse or not.
Project Start Date
I always ask the potential client when they’d like to start and what their expectations of completion are. Many times clients are inexperienced in remodeling, and have unrealistic ideas on these dates.
The “B” Word
Budget, there I said it! People think that they need to keep their budget a secret – not true. As a contractor you have to determine what their budget is, in order to do this project. Figuring this out ahead of time saves a ton of time up front. If they can’t afford the project, or don’t want to spend the money for a project, best to find out sooner than after you spend hours on a project.
If they say they don’t know or don’t want to talk about a budget, then try rewording your response. Give them projects ranges. For example, a low end bathroom can be $14,000 and a high end could be $50,000.
After a while You’ll quickly get a sense for when people are responding honestly, or when their withholding information.
This is also a good time to educate potential clients of construction costs. Ask if they’ve done any recent remodeling or building. Many times they simply do not have a good grasp of costs, or are unrealistic in their expectations of costs.
If the potential clients budget is unrealistic, tell them exactly what their budget will get them and if the call does not proceed in a better direction, politely decline to offer to look.
When speaking to potential clients about their past experiences remodeling their homes, do not shy away from comments that indicate resentment or a bad past experience. Flush that out, talk about it, knowing their concerns or fears is GREAT information. For example; if they complain that a past projects cost grew out of control, explain to them that proper planning and keeping to a budget, can combat this.
This is also a good time to explain that projects often get delayed due to hidden conditions, extras, weather, etc. I also discuss the hidden costs of remodeling that many people often do not consider such as:
- Furniture storage
- Eating out – with loss of a kitchen
- Painting the exterior of the house and interior rooms after a window replacement project
Early on you need to ask, and identify who your main point of contact is, and who will be making decisions. If the decision involves more than one person, ensure that both parties are present at your in-person meeting.
Ending the Call
At this point hopefully you’ve made up your mind whether you’re interested in working with this client and setting up an in person meeting.
Prior to disconnecting the call it’s important to summarize your understanding of what they told you. This is important to make sure you heard what they intended to convey.
Taking the time to pre-screen clients on the phone can save you hundreds of hours over the next few years – I promise!