Canadian Contractor

Dave Gray   

How to educate your customer about product purchases

Renovation Contractor

We've all been there; a client looks at an estimate you've provided and starts to break it down line-by-line, trying to understand individual costs instead of looking at the overall big-picture of the project.

By Brian Kaplan,

We’ve all been there; a client looks at an estimate you’ve provided and starts to break it down line-by-line, trying to understand individual costs instead of looking at the overall big-picture of the project.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a client tell you that they will buy the tiles or the faucets or flooring “so all you have to do is install it” and eliminate that product cost from the budget. We’ve all been there – and this where the “order taker” feeling begins. Suddenly you feel like you’re selling fast food and your customer is trying to upsize their fries for free. But the thing is…we aren’t selling hamburgers, fries, or milkshakes, and we aren’t order takers. But it can be very hard to give up that attachment to saying “yes” and giving into a client when it could mean the client will hire someone else instead.

What the client isn’t considering when they make this ask (and where you have a chance to shine as both a problem-solver and relationship-builder) is that it isn’t about the line-item cost of the materials, it’s about the overall project coming together in the most logical way.


What we know, but our clients often don’t, is that something like buying materials is merely one component of a large-scale project, and there are so many assumptions that need to be made and scenarios that can occur that your client isn’t thinking about as they’re trying to save a few hundred dollars.

In their quest to be frugal I’m willing to bet your client has never given thought to the issue of the logistics of “self-serve” purchasing:

Where is your client going to store materials until it’s time to be installed? Because we often don’t have space on site, especially during the rough-in phase of the build.

Are they going to manage to bring it onsite when needed? I once had a client who was eight months pregnant delivering heavy boxes of tiles just so they could save a few dollars. What if there’s a defect in the product – are they going to package it all up and return it? And we haven’t even talked about warranties or liability yet. How do you explain to a client that you won’t warranty a product that you didn’t purchase?

Are they going to be okay with us charging them when they don’t deliver the material on schedule, or if they didn’t order and deliver enough?

Rather than give in, this is an opportunity to both educate your clients (because often their desire to control the narrative comes from a fear of control over a process they don’t know a lot about) and to build a connection with them so that they rely on you as the subject matter expert they hired, rather than clash with you at every turn. Defining a clear relationship (with boundaries) upfront is key to ultimately making your client’s dream renovation come true.

Try putting it your client like this: you don’t buy a car in parts, why would you renovate your house that way?

Navigating the client-contractor relationship is challenging, but having a clear process in place for how you run your business, and explaining that to your clients at the onset helps ensure both parties are on the same page – and it weeds out those who really aren’t your client.

If you’re having difficulty releasing your attachment to the “yes” part of client interactions, drop me an email and let’s unpack some solutions to help.

And if you like this topic, please reply to this email and let me know. I read and respond to every email and curate content on what you want to hear about.

Brian Kaplan


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