One challenge service contractors face in winning new business from previous customers is anticipating new opportunities. Even when you have a good relationship with the customer, it’s easy to miss hearing about a new project until after the fact – when there’s no chance to win the business. The reason for this? Your service business is not top of mind for your past customers.
Some home remodeling and construction projects are spur of the moment; others are planned months or years in advance. The key to growing a long-lasting and profitable service business is being the one to get the call when new projects happen. If a customer is planning a new project, you might not be in the picture when they’re ready to begin. However, what if you could be the first to know about it — and well in advance? Or be the one to help the customer see the potential for new work?
By becoming a home improvement advisor to your customers, you’ll learn about their upcoming work. You will also be able to offer recommendations before they start planning. All it takes to achieve this is asking these 5 simple questions during the first meeting of any new project:
1. “If you could change one thing, what would it be?”
No matter your trade, finding out what one thing your customer wants to change in their home, whether it’s the goal of the current project or not, gives you knowledge that no other contractor has. This small question can open up a conversation about what’s not working for them and provide you with an opportunity to offer valuable insight.
Homeowners want as much convenience as possible when it comes to the space they live in. When they mention the lack of outlets or that the bedroom doesn’t cool as well as the others, these are prime opportunities to talk about your services. By responding with, “I would love to help you with that!,” you put your service business in a position of helping rather than selling.
2. “What frustrates you the most?”
No one wants to have unnecessary problems in their life. However, a lot of times homeowners live with frustrations because they’re too hard to fix. So, on your next service call, ask what frustrates them about your area of expertise.
For example, if you’re an electrician, ask about their comfort in their home; the lighting, outlet placement, safety concerns around old wiring or fixtures, etc. If you are a general contractor, ask about closet space, the layout of bathrooms, the age of their kitchen design, etc.
Asking about common frustrations for homeowners gets the customer talking about things they want to change — projects you can complete. It gives you a chance to be a problem-solver with them. Again, it takes you out of the sales role and makes you more of a consultant or advisor. In this role, you can help them plan for future projects without making it seem like you’re pushing them.
3. “How long do you plan to live in this house?”
It might seem a little out of place to ask about how long a customer plans to live in their home, but it reminds them of work that needs to be done. In many cases, it might be improvements that they have yet to consider. Whether they plan to sell in the coming years or they want to grow old in their home, you can offer suggestions that meet their timeline.
“Getting ready to sell soon?” It opens the door for a discussion about what might need to be done before listing the home and it lets you know the timeline for following up. If they’re staying in the home for years, gently suggest work that will keep their home in great shape and keep them comfortable into the future.
4. “What kinds of projects are you thinking about long-term?”
Every homeowner has a laundry list of projects to accomplish. From the simple “honey-do” to major renovations, knowing what’s on their agenda sets you up to help when the time comes. This also gives you something to talk about during follow-ups — which are very important for winning new service business. “When we last talked, you were thinking about [X] project. Is that still in your future?”
It’s important to always have good reasons to follow up, as this gives you a way to keep your service business top of mind with the customer. If you’ve talked about a project a few times, they’re much more likely to call you when they’re ready to get started. Plus, you’ll have the chance to share your expertise during each conversation. This sets you apart from the competition before they even begin looking for contractors.
5. “What’s something you notice about your house that guests never would?”
Asking about what your customer notices in their home is a great way to start a conversation about future work. For example, imagine you’re a window and glass contractor and they mention the great light in the living room. Talk with them about achieving that same feel in another room — like the kitchen or master bedroom.
When the answer to this last question is something your customer loves, such as the lighting, it’s easy to gain their trust and business by discussing how you can achieve the same effect or feeling in another area. When the answer is something they’re not a fan of, like how often their kids track mud in from outside, you can quickly offer solutions. Such as, “You have so much space here that you could always add a mudroom.” Similar to asking about common homeowner frustrations, this question allows you to solve problems with the customer.
Growing Your Service Business: Ask Questions and Be the First to Know
These questions open up conversations that can turn into huge opportunities. Whether it’s to offer an idea for future work or to learn about future plans, you’ll gain new insights into the customer’s plans.
The next step is to follow up on every opportunity. It does no good to know that they’re going to replace the roof in a year if you don’t call them back. As well, don’t wait for the exact date to call. If they’re planning something in a year, check-in at 6 months and again at 10 months. It can be a quick email at first, then a call later.
Asking the question puts your growing service business in the lead for the work. Following up gives you a real chance to win new projects and increase construction profits. So, use these 5 questions during your next service call and see what new projects start floating your way.
For more service business management tips for small- or medium-sized businesses, such as the best contractor software, visit our blog, 49 Sure-Fire Tips for Contractor Success.