The Challenge

How to keep prospects from reeling with shock over the probable cost of their project.

The Solution

Discuss budget straight away, suggests Jack Hauber, a sales coach with the Sandler Sales School. On the phone, ask about their goals, then say, in effect, that you would be happy to do the project and ask if they have a sense of their budget. If they say $50,000 for a project that you know will cost $150,000, “it makes no sense to even visit them,” Hauber says. But consider a visit if the delta is much smaller. “If you find enough pain, they'll find enough money,” he adds. Also, unless you come highly recommended to them, “it's unlikely that they'll give you their best number on the spot. If they start at $100, they'll often go to $150.”


If prospects don't have a budget, give them “the bracket test.” Lay out the price range of similar projects you've done recently. Don't use your lowest price if it's out of date and is no longer accurate, because that's the number the homeowner will remember, Hauber says. Be realistic. If the price seems to stun them, you'll know that they probably did have a price in mind. By asking what that amount was, you'll be able to evaluate whether they're worth a visit.

How One Remodeler Does It

“Never assume how someone views money,” says Anthony Wilder of Anthony Wilder Design/Build, Cabin John, Md. He always asks about budget, how long the prospect has lived in the home, and whether the home's value has increased. Besides revealing how much equity they might have (or think they have), their answers can hint at how much they might be comfortable spending.

Wilder prefers “very serious” prospects, who seem to have done some research, over those who are really positive but don't seem to have thought deeply about the project. “I have a lot of experience assuming that friendly people will spend and then trying to ‘nice' them into spending money,” he says. “It's critically important to be open” about cost.

Two other mistakes Wilder avoids are “assuming that if people have a lot of money, they'll spend it on me, and acting like I know what they need. ”