I Want My House Painted

One of the worst things a contractor can do during the sales process is make assumptions. Unfortunately, it is easy to do. We often assume that we know what the customer means. And often that assumption is wrong.

For example, I once had a customer tell me that she wanted the entire interior of her house painted. That seems pretty straight forward, but appearances can be deceiving. As we walked around her house and discussed the project, I asked her about the ceilings, closets, and several other items. After she told me to leave three or four things off of the estimate, she jokingly said, “I guess I don’t want the entire house painted, do I?”

If I had assumed that I knew what she meant, I would have bid a job that was much different from what she wanted. By asking a few questions, both of us became clear as to her needs and desires. And then I could bid the job accordingly.

I don’t mean to imply that we should endlessly interrogate a customer. That would serve no useful purpose and would likely annoy the customer. But we must be careful to identify when we are making assumptions.

If we seek to satisfy the customer’s needs and desires, we must first know what they are. And that means asking the right questions. Anything less is a disservice to the customer and to ourselves.

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Last week, I was in Florida to teach my estimating and sales system. One of the attendees has been estimating by the “eye-ball” method for twenty years. When Mike (not his real name) entered the training room, he made it pretty clear that he thought he was wasting his time.

By the end of the two-day session, Mike was one of the most vocal in praising the training. It is possible to teach an old dog new tricks. But one’s success in doing so depends on the dog, and the tricks one is trying to teach.

In Mike’s case, he was willing to keep an open mind and consider something new. Though he was skeptical at first, he was willing to listen and consider what I was saying. He could see how my system could help him sell more paint jobs.

Too often, contractors view sales as a necessary evil. It is something that we have to do to get jobs. And when that is our attitude, we often do little more than throw a number at the customer and hope that some stick.

In truth, sales is little more than playing the role of a consultant. We should be educating our customers about what is required to achieve the results they want and why our company can provide those results.

To accomplish this, we must first determine what the customer really wants or needs. We must ask questions and then listen to the answers. Only then can we propose a scope of work and products that will satisfy the customer.

Contractors often lament the fact that may customers think that anyone can paint. But many contractors approach sales with this same mentality. They treat every customer as the same and don’t spend the time to discover what a particular customer wants or needs.

Professional painters know that a lot more is involved in a quality job than slapping paint
on the walls. Professional salesmen know that customers don’t always want or need exactly the same thing. If we are selling paint jobs, we must integrate these two facts.

If we treat our customers all the same, they have no reason to view us differently than our competition. And when we look the same as our competition, price becomes the deciding issue. But when we treat our customers differently than the competition—when we spend the time to learn what they really want and need—then they view us differently than the competition. And when we look different, value becomes the deciding issue.

Know Your Limits

Contractors are often tempted to take on work outside of their core competency. The result can be a disaster for everyone.

Could You Estimate this Painting Job?

If I said that you could accurately bid a painting job for a 2,000 square foot house without leaving your office, would you believe me? Probably not, and understandably so. But if you read on, you will learn how I could do it, and how you could do it too.

Let us say that our fictional house has 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living room, family room, dining room, kitchen/breakfast room, laundry room, and a hallway from the entry to the bedrooms. Each bedroom has a closet and there are 2 closets in the hallway. There is crown moulding in the living room, dining room, and master bedroom. The cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms are painted. Do you think that this is enough information to bid this job?

However, what if you knew the size of each room? Could you bid this then? I could, and my bid would be accurate.

All things being equal, a painter should perform a specific task in X amount of time. If he can prep and paint a 6 over 6 window in 45 minutes at Mrs. Brown’s house, he should be able to prep and paint a 6 over 6 window in the same time at Mr. Green’s house. If we know the time required for each task, then the estimating process is simply a matter of identifying the tasks on a particular job and how much of each task.

Of course, all things are seldom equal. The windows at Mr. Green’s may have peeling paint or need some wood repair. The windows at Mrs. Brown’s may be on the second story. But we can attach numbers to these tasks as well. For example, we can identify how much longer it takes to paint a 6 over 6 window on the second story versus the first. If we attach a number to each of these variables, then estimating simply includes identifying the extent of each variable.

So, if I know the size of each room, I can calculate the quantity of each task. I can determine how much wall space there is to paint, the number of doors, etc. And because I know how long it takes to complete each task, as well as the material requirements, I can calculate how many labor hours and gallons of paint will be needed. If I were bidding this job sight unseen, my proposal would clearly and carefully state what prep would be included, and thus my price would accurately reflect the scope of work proposed.

(I hasten to add that I do not recommend bidding jobs without seeing them. We must see exactly what prep would be required, if there are access issues, and more. We want to propose a job that meets the customer’s needs and desires, and we cannot do this without visiting the job site.)

If it is possible to accurately bid a job sight unseen, imagine what is possible when you actually put your eyes on it. Imagine what is possible when you have an estimating system.

We will soon be releasing Estimating Paint Jobs. This video course explains how to develop an estimating system, and comes with forms, sample production rates, and more. You will learn the theory behind a measurement based estimating system, and see actually applications in the field. Click here to learn more.

Page 1 of 812345...Last »