The most precious gift you can give yourself is the gift of time. Time to plan for your business rather than constantly being forced to react to the unexpected. Time to spend with a loved one. Time to coach your child’s softball team. Time for yourself.

And while we’re at it, let’s increase your sales and make it all free. If that sounds interesting, then keep reading.

Start by using the top half of the chart below to figure out the amount of time you spend estimating work. I define “estimating work” as the total time you spend with a client and their project — meetings, drive time, estimating, talking with trade partners, etc.

Next, fill out the bottom half of the chart to find out how much that time costs you. Now look at the number and cost of the non-productive hours, hours that are spent estimating projects that go nowhere. The gift I mentioned earlier comes into play when you recapture some of that “non-productive” time.

30% Share of households that decide to remodel (annually, 1994–2009) — Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University

One way to do that is to reduce the amount of time you spend estimating dead-end projects. Some action steps include:

  • Institute a retainer system rather than doing free estimates;
  • Adjust the size of the retainer to control lead quality;
  • Estimate more quickly (use estimating software, for example, or subcontractor-generated unit prices;
  • Flush out objections earlier in the sales process.

Closing More

A more direct way to recapture non-productive time is to increase your close rate by improving your sales process. First, develop a consistent, effective way to identify and understand the home­owner’s needs. Mostly, this involves asking good questions and listening hard to the answers.

Next, ask yourself this question: Why should a homeowner work with me rather than with my competition? If you don’t have a clear answer, then neither will your prospects. Stop and figure out the answer, then develop a way to communicate it clearly and consistently.

Increasing your close rate converts non-productive time directly into productive time — it truly is a free gift of time and money.

—Bruce Case is president of Case Design/Remodeling, in Bethesda, Md.

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