I recently spent six weeks trying to find and fix a water leak on the roof of my house. I finally gave up and called several professional roofers for a repair estimate. Four company representatives showed up in the next two days to bid the job. As it turned out, the repair required removing shingles and siding to replace the metal flashing between a first-story roof and a second-story wall.
As usual, I noted the different systems used by each company for estimating the cost of the job. "Different systems," you ask? Isn't an estimate an estimate?
Well, this is where many business owners go wrong. They minimize the importance of the system details regarding a customer contact—in this case, the Job Estimating System. With most construction work, this is where the buying experience begins, so it better be good!
How to Lose Sales
Here are some of the things I was not impressed with during the bidding process.
- Two roofing companies didn't answer their business or mobile phone. It took several calls to contact them. Most of the time that would result in a lost opportunity.
- Two of the four estimators arrived late to the appointment, ill prepared, and with nothing to take notes or measurements.
- One man seemed like a roofer's helper, inexperienced and without confidence about how to solve the problem.
- Two bids were pulled out of the air, more of a guesstimate than an estimate. Likely, they would either overestimate and lose the sale or underestimate and do the job without a profit. Either way, they lose.
- One of the bids was three times the cost of everyone else. How can you stay in business when you are that far off the mark?
How to Win Customers
Tony, the person I hired, was the first to arrive. He said he specialized in roof repairs and informed me that he had been doing repairs for twenty-three years. Tony knew exactly what the problem was and confidently explained it in detail. He was respectful and patient with my questions. He knew the brand and the color of the existing shingle and had samples in the back of his truck. He also had a special tool for dealing with the siding that had to be removed. Tony assured me that my roof would look like there had never been a repair, and that his work would last for the life the roof. His price was in the middle, but his presentation was compelling.
I asked Tony how he got his customers. He said that he tried to do every job so well that people would tell their friends and neighbors. Now that's what I call a great lead-generation system!
To be honest, I don't know how well the other companies acquire new customers. They may have been good roofers, but it wasn't communicated well on the first visit; they certainly didn't have a polished Estimating System. However, with a few little changes to the sales presentation, they could easily increase their sales!
Make the First Contact Memorable
Now, you may not be a roofer, but you do have customer contacts all the time. And every customer contact can make or break a relationship.
Take a look at your business system for engaging with customers the first time. Is it so compelling that they would be a fool to choose anyone else but you?
Tony does it right—and so can you— with a little Systems Thinking!