Distaste for discussing money keeps many remodeling companies from doing bigger jobs and being more profitable, says Sandler Sales trainer Chip Doyle. To address this, he developed a training program to leverage the day-to-day contact between production staff and homeowners.

Essentially, the idea is to honor the identity of production staff as craftspeople while helping them “understand that they’re in a new role, and talking about money is part of that role,” Doyle says.

As with other elements of a good remodeling relationship, the key is to set and manage expectations. For instance:

  • Give ownership. Rather than letting change orders breed tension, “let the client think it’s their idea,” Doyle says. In fact, ask them to justify the additional expense. “Are you sure you want to do that, Mrs. Jones? You know there will be an extra charge.” By showing concern and not exerting pressure, you’re giving clients full ownership of the change, which may then cost delightfully less than they expected.
  • Manage the weekly meeting. Use the “up-front contract” to avoid surprises and to put clients at ease. “Here’s what we did last week, and here’s what we’re going to do this week.” Build trust and familiarity.
  • Seize the moment. At a critical meeting point in the process, perhaps after demo, say: “There is no better time than now to make a change. Tell us now because it will cost you more later.” The psychological advantage is similar to buying an item on sale, and again shows that you are looking out for the client’s interests.
  • Know the neighbors. Post yard signs, knock on doors, and introduce yourself as the project manager next door. Encourage neighbors to call you with any problems or concerns. Buy into the notion that this is not an intrusion but a professional courtesy that protects your client, Doyle says. As the neighbors strive to “keep up with the Joneses” (which Doyle says is a predominant driver of remodeling), they’ll feel the risk is lower in hiring you. In his cul-de-sac of nine homes, seven recently got a new roof — all from the same company.

—Leah Thayer, senior editor, REMODELING.