Robert Neubecker

How to respond when a client says, “We’re going in another direction”?

It’s OK if a client says this, according to Mike Jeffries of Rivers of Revenue, a marketing firm that works with remodelers across the country. “You can use that as an opportunity — if you’ve set it up — to ask what you could have done better.”

By “setting it up” Jeffries means relationship-building and establishing trust with the client from the start. “Genuinely take an interest in the prospect,” he says. “It helps to pay attention. Is there a basketball hoop? A garden? Find a natural connection like food, sports, or family.”

More trust

Jeffries believes that if you don’t get hired it’s because while the prospects may have trusted you, they trusted someone else more. (Unless they are choosing strictly by price — and that’s not your client anyway.)

But if prospects say they “want to go in a different direction” and you’ve built rapport, “You can ask what you could have done better or discuss what would have changed their mind,” Jeffries says. “At the very least you’ll get solid feedback, even if they choose someone else.”

Finding Out Why

Call and say: “If I could have just five minutes of your time, I’d like to find out why you decided to go in a different direction. I’m not trying to change your mind. We’re just trying to become a better company.” People are expecting a hard sell and this approach disarms them.

Prospects also feel bad about turning someone down. Give them an out. Just before you get to the proposal stage call and say: “Thanks for your time. My estimate is free, but my time isn’t. Can I make a small deal with you? [They will say yes.] When I call to follow up, please don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. You won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t hire me, and I would really appreciate your feedback. Are you OK with that?’”

Although you can never completely eliminate the problem, building rapport with the homeowner along the way will certainly help.

Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.