Following up with a client from a phone call or email lead is one of the most important aspects of the job. You want to give the prospective client a positive first impression on the phone, which can help build a bond of trust.
Sounding pleasant on the phone is an important part of building faith with your prospective customers. Hire a person who has this skill down innately and also give them a script to work from or simply have them take down the prospective customer's information so that you can call them back.
Before you call them back take time to research your prospective client. Look them up on Google maps and view their home on the internet. Find them on Linkedin or Facebook and learn as much as you can about them ahead of time so that you can be more knowledgeable of their needs when you come to visit them.
When you call them back it's important to provide the client with a set agenda of how the initial consultation will go. Give the prospective client an outline of what will happen at the meeting. This will give the meeting structure and you can keep the first consultation down to an hour visit. Also, besides learning about the affluence of your prospective customers from the internet you can also save time by giving them a ball park estimate over the phone of what you would charge for an average kitchen, bathroom or basement. For instance if your average price to redo a bathroom is $13,000 then let the prospective client know this. If the prospective client comes back and says they only want to pay $4,000 then you know you will not be taking time out of your schedule to have a home consultation with them. This approach can save you a great deal of time and traveling expenses.
Of course, you have to also qualify with them that it is merely a ball park estimate. Clients can also have a unrealistic set of expectations when it comes to the remodeling cost of certain areas of the home, such as the kitchen. Twenty five years ago the average cost of a kitchen remodel was priced at $5,000 to $10,000 and today that amount has jumped to $35,000 to $50,000. The appliances and materials that go into a kitchen remodel are much more expensive today. You can spend $10,000 on just a stove alone. It's important that you speak with the prospective client about the cost increases on materials so that they are aware of this and are willing to pay it. Customers often do have a price barrier which they will be tight lipped about in the beginning. In the initial phone call follow up you can probe the client on this point and get to what is their truth regarding what they can afford and are willing to spend on the project.
Another time-saving approach to the consultation is inviting the prospective client to your office rather than visiting their home. If you have a nice office with excellent remodeling work examples on display they can get a chance to view your work beforehand (other than viewing photos on your web site). For an in-office consultation ask them to bring photos and as much materials on the project that they can so that you can give them a firm price quote. If you work from a home office space than an in-office consultation is really out the question in most cases unless your home studio is really special. Also, clients do come to expect an in-home consultation as the norm, so like it or not in most instances it is best to provide them with one.
Of course, it's important to manage your time in the meeting effectively and giving them a set agenda to follow ahead of time is the best way to do this. Explain to them over the phone that you will be bringing in with you a presentation book which will show previous projects, proof of insurance and an estimate sheet. Next, explain that you will then take time to view the project area (be it a kitchen or bathroom) and will look at photos and other materials of what the client expects in the redesign. From that information you can provide them with a cost estimate.
Chances are your prospective client will arrange meetings with several other contractors in the area and to better stand out it's important that you give your prospective client a nice looking business card and possibly a small brochure showing your past projects when you first meet with them. In your presentation with the prospective client showing them your presentation book will go a long way toward building trust with them. Home remodeling experts work in much the same way that an artist does. They produce a tangible product which can be later used to better promote their work services. Artists have portfolios and home remodeling experts have presentation books.
In addition to the presentation book you need to carry a little tool kit for giving estimates. When giving estimates it is handy to have a tape measure, a digital camera, a note pad and pen, a flash light and possibly an iPad which can have digital measuring device apps installed. If you are nervous about the sales process, then taking a few minutes ahead of time to visualize the meeting better will help you give a smooth presentation. Practice also makes perfect. The more experience you have with the sales process the easier it will become for you. Above all, in building a good rapport with your prospective clients strive to show them that you are knowledgeable, friendly, hard working and trustworthy. Coming prepared with a good presentation book and estimate kit will go a long way with closing the sale on that very same day.
About the Author: Steve Constable is the owner of Chicago Kitchen Remodeling Inc. and graduated from Indiana University Bloomington in 1999. He has worked for more than 16 years in the Chicagoland area and is passionate about green home building practices in construction. You can visit Constable's company on the web at chicagokitchenremodeling.com/home-remodeling.php.
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