Have you ever interacted with a potential client who wanted to supply a particular item or items needed for his or her remodeling project? It's a question that would come up when I was selling for our company. Over time I developed a response that gently but firmly hinted at why the client would not ultimately be happy supplying anything. Here is how it goes.

“Mr. Potential Client, you are interested in supplying the plumbing fixtures for your project. That is something that I have had other potential clients ask me about. Why are you interested in doing this?”

I ask because you never know, and I don’t want to make any inaccurate assumptions about why.  Some of the answers would surprise you.

Regardless of what I am told this is how I would give this lengthy response:

“Let me talk a bit about what it means to ‘supply’ an item(s). First, you would be responsible for making sure the order is accurate. This can get tricky with many products, as specifications change often.

“Then you would need to stay in contact with the supplier to monitor the progress of the order. Given your desire to get your project done by a date certain, we would need you to be apprising us of the status of your order. Plus, if it came late and disrupted our schedule, you would then be responsible for paying the costs associated with modifying the schedule and the additional general conditions expenses created by the delay.

“When the product arrived, you would need to coordinate delivery with the shipper and with us. The product would need to be placed in a location specified by us, and you would need to work with the shipper, not us, to get it in that location. By the way, you would need to be on-site when the product is delivered, as you were the one who ordered it.

“You would then unpack it. Depending on the product, this can entail some effort and the assistance of another person.

“After the product is unpacked, you would then inspect the product for damage and to make sure the product is complete and not missing any parts. If there was damage or the product was missing one or more parts, you would then be the one to talk with the supplier about getting the issues resolved.

“Once the product is unpacked and you have determined there is no damage and no parts missing, you would need to dispose of all the packing materials. They would not go in the dumpster we have on-site, as that is for the use of our employees and all the other folks we have engaged in the project on our behalf.

“When we are installing the product it might get damaged. Because we did not supply, it we would not be responsible for repairing the damage. You would.

“It is not uncommon for a product to not work once it is installed. You would be the person to deal with those problems, not us, if that turned out to be the case. And if the product needed to be uninstalled and sent back you would need to pay for the costs associated with doing so, including getting the replacement installed.

“Products fail for the most surprising of reasons. If the product you supplied failed at any time after the project is done, you would be the person responsible for doing whatever is needed to get it fixed.”

After going through all that I would pause to let it all sink in. Then I would gently ask: “Are you sure you want to supply the product?”

If the client still wanted to supply product I would say the following:

“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 product. If that means we are not the right contractor for you, that is too bad but it would be best for you to find someone who has not yet learned all the painful lessons we already have learned.”

And then be prepared to walk away.

If you bend to the client’s request to supply product, then the fun and games have just started, as you have taught the client that he can push you around. Once he learns that he will never stop.

You may wonder how I found that out!