Scenario 1

Client: “What’s your markup?”

You: “I have heard that from some of our other clients. Why are you bringing it up?”(Always probe before responding.)

Client: “Well, I still want to know your markup.”

You: “To cover our overhead, the costs of simply keeping our business open and improving, we charge 30% of the sales price. To provide for the possibility of an expected return, we charge 10% of the sales price.”

Client: “That’s a higher markup than others have quoted.”

You: “I see. Let’s go back to what interested you about us. We think that our characteristics and qualities are worth paying the difference.” (If they don’t think so, wish them well and ask if you can check back with them in a month or two to see how their project is unfolding. You never know.)

Scenario 2

Client: “I need it done by [some totally unreasonable date].”

You: “Let’s start with your completion date and work backward, addressing each of the steps with the amount of time needed for each one.

“To illustrate things, I’ll take this piece of paper and draw a line from left to right. The end-point on the left marks the current month. Next, I’ll draw short vertical lines to mark several months. Somewhere to the right, I’m putting in your desired completion date, but now I’m going to keep the line going and list some more months.

“Now, let’s start at your desired completion month and begin moving left, back into time. I’m going to list here the number of months it would take for certain task.

“Let’s start at today’s date and put in all of those projects going forward from today. This is how long the project would take. Can you see now when it’s most likely we’ll be able to finish?”

Scenario 3

Client: “I’ll buy the plumbing fixtures for this job.”

You: “That is something that I have had other potential clients ask me about. Why are you interested in doing this?”

Client responds: (It doesn’t matter what the client says.)

You: “Let me talk a bit about what it means to supply an item. First, you would be responsible for making sure the order is accurate. Then you would need to stay in contact with the supplier to monitor the progress of the order. If it came late and disrupted the schedule, you’d have to pay the associated costs. You also would need to coordinate delivery with the shipper and with us, unpack the product, inspect it to assure it’s undamaged and all parts are there, call to get any missing parts, dispose of the packing materials, and deal with the product if it’s failed after being installed.”

You (again): “Are you sure you want to supply the product?”

Client: (thinking about trying to shave costs) “Well ... yes.”

You: “If I remember correctly, you were attracted to us because of our experience. Our experience is that we cannot do the job our clients hire us to do if we allow our clients to supply the product. If that means that we aren’t the right contractor for you, that’s too bad, but it would be best for you to find someone who has not yet learned all the painful lessons we have.”