I recently spotted an intriguing question from a connection on Facebook. Her question was simple yet I felt it required an answer that was more in depth. Her question- Why do contractors fail to follow up, is a simple question and yet there are so many misconceptions around this topic. Apparently, she has had several contractors over several different visits which have failed to provide any sort of clear future or clear answer regarding following up with prices and the work to be completed.
Who is responsible for this follow up process and keeping contractors accountable? What can a homeowner do? A study I recently read found that 35% of contractors provided some sort of follow-up after their first visit, less than 12% of the contractors followed-up more than twice, and as few as 4% of all contractors followed-up a third time! And this is in a day and age where homeowners are taking longer and longer to decide on purchases!
So what are some of the comments and misconceptions?
One commenter shared this: “Sometimes, and it is not a good reason, a better opportunity comes along or they do not feel like they will get the job if the estimate does not “feel” right. Communication can overcome these feelings, usually, but good communication takes skill and time, and not everyone always has both when needed.”
- A contractor seeks to back out of the job for whatever reason.
A better opportunity may be around the corner or even saying yes to a job can limit the potential to pick up other jobs. But who decides this and why? This often falls on the shoulders of the contractor to decide. Sometimes in the moment this decision is made. Let’s say a contractor sees that this will be a “low-profit” job and knows that there are jobs on their books already that are more/better/healthier profits- who wins and who loses? It is up to the contractor to decide if they want to take on the jobs that go to or else it would be a waste of time and money for both parties involved. The contractor, at this point, should do his/her best to find a better means of getting the work done for the customer. Why you ask? When it is no longer about making money, you can better help someone. Send this customer to someone you know that can take better care of their needs. Being in the industry affords you the visibility of your competitors. What if we removed that word out of our vocabulary? “Competitors”. And we saw other companies as allies… If you can’t provide help for whatever reason, at least send someone who can. Your customer and the other contractor will both thank you for it!On another note, the commenter speaks about having the skill required to communicate properly. This is incredibly important for success in helping customers. I’ll provide some things to keep in mind later in the article.Another commenter wrote: “They just get busy with other calls for help I think…and if they left you an estimate, then they might just be waiting for you to decide which estimate and what services (if they vary) you are comfortable moving forward with…they may not want to pester you and be patient for your decision…”
- The contractor doesn’t want to help because it may end up taking months of follow-up and phone tag with a potential customer.
Companies and contractors that do have a follow-up system in place are certainly better off than those that don’t. It’s better service and allows the contractor to win more jobs where there competitors just left prices on a business card and then you never hear from them again. But, what about doing a better job on the initial visit? Would it be possible to imagine a customer only needing one estimate if we provided the best possible service the very first chance we could? Most contractors leave prices and don’t ever consider asking for the job! For so many different reasons! I could make the case that this is poor service for the customer. And by our companies. There are only 3 outcomes to each and every call we accept- Yes, No, OR When are we coming back for a 2nd visit? Contractors that do have follow-up processes in place get bogged down with chasing down leads and bids and this can easily drive the cost of doing business higher and higher over the long run. Believe me, I know. I used to think the answer to winning more jobs was having an amazing follow-up process and a sweet CRM platform to manage every lead. Many businesses simply get burnt out by this overwhelming task. And in worst cases, it becomes a chore for the sales people and their managers. We could all gain from doing our very best at providing the best possible service, asking for the business, and if the decision can’t be made at the initial visit, then giving you and your customer a clear future with a second date or working through the visit to a “no.”Another commenter posted: “My husband, who had construction experience, says there’s no job too small when you are building your business & developing a business relationship.”
- A contractor should be willing to take on type of job- big or small.
I can understand this business approach and yet I do not agree with it entirely. Many contractors end up not being able to get back, not able to make an appointment, or not being able to pay someone to answer customer’s phone calls all because they went after job that came their way. As contractors, we just can’t win them all. Simple. And you don’t want to win them all. Some jobs are appropriate to walk away from and call another “ally” to come provide what’s needed. It is extremely important to set parameters for what type of jobs you decide to take. This can even be done in your marketing strategies. I know some companies that don’t advertise in the Yellow Pages because “the leads are junk”. Some people only advertise offline because of the vast amount of mis-information customers end up with by doing research online. Either approaches are totally fine, just make sure everyone in your company is clear on your ideal customer and why that’s your companies standard.
Additionally, being able to say yes also means we have mastered the ability to say no. Learn both so that when a customer does call in, and we can better assist them with their needs. If someone is looking for a cheap price and your company doesn’t have the cheapest price in the area, just let your customer know and give them the choice to choose to continue with you or not. Find out if they need a cheaper price or just need a temporary solution to get them by. Most people aren’t looking for cheap solutions… This requires communication, being willing (and able) to say no, and being able to fully commit to assisting your potential customer.
Too often we jump and say yes before taking the time to have the conversation and finding out what our customer really needs or wants.
Another comment posted: I know that small time contractors typically are so busy that joining a group is not only hard for them to commit to (as if they get a job they will not show) but are too scattered with busyness (not business) that they cannot see the true value of consistency.
- Consistency is HUGE!
This is a really insightful comment! During slow times, it is too easy for companies take on jobs that they might not during their busier seasons. And visa versa. However, with consistency is something even greater- FOCUS. With today’s fast moving business and customers, it is even more important to maintain focus and keep your companies vision and ideals ever before you. If you thrive at commercial jobs, stick to those. If new construction is too cutthroat but pays the bills- cut your ties. I know it’s easy to say this in a blog article but can be unfathomable to do. Our owner, Keith, decided to pull us out of new construction in 2007 because that wasn’t where our customer was. It wasn’t the type of company we wanted to be. So, we walked away and lost a lot of revenue for the first 1-3 years. But, this single decision has catapulted us forward to so much more growth! Qs a healthier company, we can consistently provide better service on all of our calls and with all of our customers. One after the other- a home run success!
Win. Win. Win. That’s our motto.
While you may take a loss now, the long term benefits will catapult you and your company’s sales into a healthier future.
Very few companies in today’s business world, regardless of sector, size, or market can focus on more than one thing. Google comes to mind. They have their hands in so many different arenas! Robots, free internet to remote regions, driver-less cars, making software for phones- I mean how do these guys keep up! Well, that’s their business model. However, most healthy companies strive to focus on one thing and do it to the best of their abilities. It’s one of the reasons Access Heating & Air doesn’t do energy audits. Or insulation. Or siding. We stick to our knitting!
Businesses and companies that excel with follow up don’t have more skilled workers. There aren’t better systems in place at their workplaces. They don’t even get paid more! (These are only bi-products of something greater)The type of person that follows up is the type of person that follows through. In life. Not just at their jobs. We are all getting better and better at multi-tasking and taking on way more than what we are truly capable of executing. We have to learn and master the skill of “following through”. Those that follow through can be trusted with their words. Those type of people only use follow up systems and CRM software as tools.
Some points to stick by:
- Always know the next step. If a customer says “let me think about it”- drill in. What is it they need to consider and how can you help them with that? If they need to think it over with their spouse, schedule another time to come back and meet with both of them at the same time. Besides, when was the last time your homeowner presented your products/services to someone? Don’t leave that job up to them now.
- Do your very best to help your customer/client. Even if you know they won’t use you and your company. Help them make the best decision with the other company they want to hire. Often we lose sales because our competitors aren’t cheaper but simply only offering their lowest product/service to just get in the door. And this is a nasty race to the bottom. Do you think the cheapest guys in town have the ability to provide follow up with each and every touch to their customers?
- Don’t take every job that comes your way. Be ok saying no. Do the work figuring out what type of jobs you absolutely will not do. Don’t like insurance jobs? Say no. Want more commercial work? Start saying no to residential jobs. Want healthier profits? Stop giving your stuff away and trying to hang with the low-ballers.
- Stay focused and always keep your companies vision before you.
- Always provide a clear outcome. As often as you can. If someone needs more time, come back when they have had the time they need to think things over. If work will be delivered in the future (weeks & months), schedule this in your calendar on the spot. Their a lot of free and wonderful tools readily available to provide some backup for you. Wunderlist. Your native calendar app on your phone. Google Calendar and Docs.
- Keep your customer updated throughout the process. Follow up doesn’t happen just before a sale. Nor to get a clear future for when work will begin. Remember from earlier in this post, follow up is a way of thinking. Maintain clear and consistent communication with your customer throughout every step of interacting with you and with your company.
- Be open with your customer and set realistic expectations. If you know you suck at following up it won’t get better overnight. And you can’t just put your job on hold til this becomes like second nature. Let your customer know you are unsure when you will be able to provide an answer. Ask them to drop you an email so you have their contact info and a little reminder in your inbox. Let them know you’re not sure when the next step but as soon as you do they will be the first to know. Whatever you can promise do that. Don’t promise the moon away!
So, let’s commit to focusing. And disciplining ourselves. Our customers need it. Our companies and teams around us need it. And we might just find that more of the jobs we truly want to say yes to will reciprocate and say yes to our prices and our companies instead of needing to shop around and get 3 to 6 bids.
Drop me a comment below with what your doing to provide the best service for your customers!