Screening on the Phone

Contractors often ask about ways to screen prospects on the phone. Understandably, they don’t want to spend hours chasing unqualified leads. But screening on the phone can be equally bad.

Screening on the phone essential puts the prospect in the position of saying some pre-determined magic words. If he doesn’t say the right thing, he is immediately regarded as unqualified.

If you went into a restaurant, you probably wouldn’t appreciate being screened before you were shown to your seat. You wouldn’t like a pop quiz to determine if you could spend your money. So why do it to your customers?

I am not saying that we should chase every lead. If a customer wants a service we don’t provide or is out of our service area, their desires don’t fit our business model. But short of that, trying to screen prospects on the phone is a crap shoot at best.

It’s Just Theory

Every so often I run into a contractor who claims that any talk about systems and best practices is a waste of time. It’s just a bunch of theory, and theory, they claim, is useless. Ironically, their claim is itself a theory, and a very impractical one at that.

If you were going to drive across the country, I doubt that you would just hop in the car and start driving. You would probably consult maps and develop a plan. You would consider numerous things: how far you would travel each day, places to visit along the way, weather forecasts, and more. In short, you would figure out how to reach your destination with the combination of efficiency and pleasure that you desired.

Of course, this would all just be a bunch of theory. Who knows what might happen once you get on the road? Why spend a bunch of time making plans when you might get a flat 100 miles from home? It’s better, the critics of systems would claim, to just start driving and deal with things as they happen.

Certainly, you could drive across the country without a plan. And you can build a successful business without systems. But you can also win the lottery.

The Why Determines the What

Too often, we show up to give an estimate for a painting job and assume what the customer wants. After all, they called us for a painting estimate. But until we know why they called, we can’t really determine what they need or want.

Just last week, a customer told me that he wanted all of his fascia and soffit boards replaced. When I showed up, I asked him why he wanted so much repair work. He replied that he just assumed that, given the condition of his house, it would be required. His primary reason for calling was to do the maintenance he had been neglecting.

I soon discovered that less than 10 percent of his fascia and soffit were actually in need of replacement. I could have bid the job he originally asked for. But that isn’t what he needed or wanted. It would have cost a lot more money.

It would have been a different story if he had said that he wanted to bite the bullet and put on Hardi so that he’d never have to worry about rotted wood again. His “why” would have been much different. And that would have changed what I bid.

As it was, I bid what he needed and really wanted. I got the job.

The Best Way to Market a Painting Business

A common topic of discussion among painting contractors is how to market their business. The question is usually posed as if there were a single, one size fits all answer. The real answer is: It depends.

It depends on your company’s skills and goals. It depends on your target market. It depends on the types of jobs you do most profitably.

For example, if you have a three-man crew, it probably isn’t wise to market for large commercial projects. If you specialize in custom painting, marketing for apartment make readies is a waste of your skills

The best way to market is to first identify who you want to market to. Then identify what media will reach that market. You can’t be all things to all people. Don’t try to market to everyone either.

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