“Would you like a cup of coffee?” The way you answer that question might land you a new client — or lose you one.

Some people might consider saying “no” to be a rude refusal of hospitality. For others, a “yes” might be interpreted as a willingness to put them to unwanted trouble.

Knowing how to respond requires a willingness to uncover the meaning behind client questions to discern what they really want, according to remodeler and consultant Joe Dellanno, president of My Design-Build Coach in Arlington, Mass. For example, clients might ask when you can start, when what they really want to know is when you will finish.

Helping clients identify the underlying problems they have with their homes and coming up with the best ways to resolve these issues is the foundation of a consultative sales strategy.

This approach may take more time and customization, but the consulting that occurs during the sales process can save time and trouble after the contract is signed, and those remodelers who employ it insist the effort is worthwhile.

A couple approached Dellanno last year after firing their first design/build team. The two wanted a house to accommodate their young son who has multiple sclerosis. The original team had designed a home that was ADA-compliant, but that had appliances that would block the child's path when open and a walk-in closet in the boy's bedroom that would be difficult to maneuver in a wheelchair.

The clients really wanted a home that would help the boy feel less handicapped, Dellanno says. And he won the job because he spent more time exploring with the couple how design choices might affect their son.

“The most effective way to do consultative sales is to help your clients discover the answer and not to give your opinion too quickly, but to draw them out so they feel like they are part of the process,” he says.

TEACHING PROFESSION “You will make more sales when you educate the customer about everything they need to know to make a wise choice. And, you will make [those sales] at your price,” says Mike Gorman, author of If I Sell You I Have a Job. If I Serve You I Create a Career!

He has heard from many remodelers who complain about bidding on a job and having the potential client show them the door while another contractor who names a higher price walks out with a signed contract.