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How to save yourself from The Talkers

They're your customers - or your prospective ones. So you don't want to be rude. But contractors need to find ways to stop The Talkers from stealing too much of their valuable time. Here's how....


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November 5, 2015 by Steve Maxwell

You probably didn’t become a contractor because you like listening to homeowners harp on aimlessly about their renovation wish lists. Sure, if someone really is interested in hiring you to make things happen, that’s one thing. You’ve got to talk and listen to make deals. The trouble is, not everyone values their time the way you need to value yours. And it can sometimes be hard to get out of the clutches of a hard-core “talker”, especially if you want to be polite. (And you can’t afford to be anything else. Word gets around). All this is why it can take way more time than it should weeding out the talkative tire kickers from the great potential clients – the ones that let you thrive. Here are five ways to stay efficient without making enemies

  1. Set a time limit at the start of every client conversation

Right up front, tell the prospect that you only have X amount of time to talk. Keep the figure short, too. 20 minutes is usually more than enough to figure out if the prospect is serious. If you need more time, take it. If you don’t, look at your watch, remind the person about your 20 minute time limit, then move on.

  1. Take calls from new clients only during “office hours”

Doctors don’t let you barge into their day whenever you want. Lawyers certainly don’t. Teachers can’t take calls in the middle of classes. So why should you let your schedule as a contractor get disrupted by someone else’s time line? Instead, let new client calls build up, set aside time periods each day, then return the calls in a systematic way.

  1. Butt in politely

There is a certain kind of person who never allows a break in their own conversation, so you never have a chance to politely sign off and leave. Some of the worst ones I meet even have the habit of saying something like, “I know I’m taking up a lot of your time, but I just need a few more minutes.” It’s at times like this that you need to make some noise and use a gesture. It’s okay to talk over a person like this to get their attention. Your time is money and you can’t let someone pull it out of your life as much as some folks want to. Every minute you’re listening to someone talk pointlessly, that’s one minute less you spend with your family. Butt in for them.

  1. Drive as little as possible

Driving is one of those things that’s MUCH more expensive than it seems on the surface. If you’re anything like me, you love your truck, you’re surrounded by your own music there, and it’s comfortable. All this is why too many contractors pursue face-to-face meetings too early in the game. It’s natural that new clients will want to talk to you in person and see what you’re like. Just don’t extend this courtesy to everyone who comes waving the promise of a project. For every ten leads, only one or two might be golden. Don’t forget that even the cost of just operating a vehicle is roughly twice the cost of fuel, not to mention the value of your time.

  1. Subscribe to a lead generation delivery service

Electronic communications are by-far the most efficient way to reduce wasted time as a contractor. Email is way faster than phone calls. Texts are faster than emails. A two minute video from a client can be worth more than the 2 hours you’ll take driving to and from a prospect to visit with them. And as it turns out, Canada is at the leading edge of digital technology that streamlines the deal making process for contractors.

One of the most advanced options is called eRenovate (erenovate.com/contractors/pro-app). Download the eRenovate PRO iOS app from the App Store, verify that you’re a legitimate contractor with a decent track record, then leads start coming in to your smartphone. Homeowners in your area post photos, videos and details of the specific renovations they have in mind. Anything from painting a room, to finishing a basement, to putting in a new kitchen to building a mansion. When your trade specialties match the job posted, you get notified right away. Look things over behind the scenes, get a sense of the situation, then fire off a quick, non-binding estimate and optional video intro to the client if you’re interested. eRenovate lets you get a pretty good sense of whether a prospect is hot or not, leaving you more time to do what actually makes you money. The homeowner can chat with you on your smartphone, then you can meet on-site to provide a quote if things look promising. Follow up on leads that look profitable, send a rough estimate, then ignore the rest. Connecting with new clients should be as simple as this. You’ve just bumped your efficiency up by 4x or 5x, and that turns into money.

Being a contractor has got to be one of the most complicated ventures in the world. You deal with everything from labour relations to tool inventory to coordinating trades and selling jobs. Thriving in this game means creating a system that protects you from all those very nice, efficiency-sapping talkers in the world. Doing this right is the difference between success and frustration.

 


Steve Maxwell

Steve Maxwell is the tools editor for Canadian Contractor magazine. You can follow him on his website (www.stevemaxwell.ca), on Facebook or via Twitter.
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