Selling a Dream

When we purchase a physical product, such as a truck, spray rig, or ladder, we can see what we are buying. We can touch it, and often, we can even test the product before handing over our money. But in the case of painting jobs, we are selling a dream.

Certainly, we can show a customer photos of past work. We can describe the process and the final results. But all of this is intangible—there is nothing physical that the customer can actually see regarding the job they are buying. The customer can only envision what the final product will look like. And that can create a lot of potential problems. What if their vision is different from what actually results?

Obviously, we can’t crawl inside the customer’s head. We can’t see what they are “seeing” regarding the project.

Good communications can eliminate many of these potential problems. While these communications must go in both directions, it is particularly important that we allow the customer to communicate his needs, desires, and expectations. If we understand what the customer requires and expects, then we can correct unreasonable expectations and meet those that are reasonable. Equally important, we can bid the job properly by taking into account anything that is unusual.

I usually ask my customers quite a few questions to determine their needs and expectations. One of my favorite questions is “why”? This is an open-ended question, and it helps me understand their situation better. More significantly, the “why” determines the “what.” Why a customer wants something will tell us more about their true needs and desires.

Customers don’t buy painting jobs everyday. They often do not know the best way to achieve their goal. But often the customer may simply think that something makes sense and hasn’t considered the full context.

For example, let us say that the customer wants a hallway painted by a certain date. We may not be able to meet that deadline, but upon probing, we discover that the customer is having new furniture delivered and wants the walls painted before that. We can point out that the deliverymen may easily bump the walls and damage the new paint, and therefore, it would be best to wait until after the furniture is delivered.

While any damage caused by the deliverymen has no impact on the quality of our work, by delaying painting the hallway we help the customer achieve a better end result. By asking why the customer had a specific deadline we were able to discover what the customer really needed.

While this example is simple, the same principle applies to other aspects of a painting project. I view the role of a salesman to primarily be that of a consultant—helping the customer make the best purchasing decision. But before we can do that, we must first understand what the customer wants, needs, and expects. We must first understand what dream they have inside their head.

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.

Knowing When to Shut Up

Customers don’t really care how great you are. They want to know what benefits they will receive by doing business with your company.

Page 3 of 1012345...10...Last »