He lives in the house with his wife and the house needs work.

When I visit the home, he tells me that they've been trying to get somebody out there to take care of the job for two years. He’s by himself, so I proceed to build a rapport with him: I talk about jobs I've sold in the area, I name some local customers, I ask what he’d like to have done.

The list is extensive: The metal roof needs to be sanded and repainted, the soffit and fascia re-done, and new gutters and downspouts need to be installed. I ask if his wife should be involved and he tells me no, he’s in charge. I work up a price: $18,947. He gives me a check for a third.

Who Are You?

A few days later, the phone rings—it’s his wife. Who am I and who do I represent? I offer to come over and introduce myself. The three of us are sitting in their living room when she says that she would like to go back over the contract.

She says: I wasn't consulted on this agreement. I point out that I asked her husband if it was okay for him to make the decision and he said that it was.

She says: When we’re spending this much money, don’t you think I should have been consulted? I tell her I might be able to discount the price a little bit because she wasn't there for the original negotiations.

I take $2,000 off the price and she says that that’s fine. When the job is finished, I schedule a visit to collect the final payment. The husband says he has the money, but would it be possible to finance the remaining $6,000? He calls the bank at my suggestion and signs the completion statement. They approve the loan, so I’m paid in full.

Or at least I think I am until I come over a few days later to talk to them about referrals. A knock comes on the door and a man about their age introduces himself as a friend of the family. He demands to know how much I charged for the work.

I say: You need to ask them that. Is there a problem?

He says: Yes, there is a problem. What were the actual costs involved?

Suddenly, the three of them are accusing me of overcharging for the job to the point of fraud. “Wait a minute,” I say. “You told me that you’d been trying to get somebody to do this for two years. You agreed to the price and you were satisfied with the work. You both signed the contract and you had three days to cancel if you wanted to change your mind.”

We argued for half an hour and that’s how we left it.

Buyers Remorse

A few days later, I get a call from the bank. The bank’s officer explains that the client has contacted them saying that they refused to make any payments on the loan because they’d been defrauded. I emailed the before and after pictures and faxed them the contract and the completion certificate. The bank called back and explained that these are people who just don’t want pay. The representative indicated that the bank would handle it from that point on.

I know that their outrage was real, but I was there to get a contract. They wanted the work done and agreed to the price. Now, I have an unhappy customer bad mouthing me around town. Moral of the story: You can do just about everything right and still go wrong.

—Grant Winstead operates the Success Sales System That Never Fails, designed to help home improvement owners and salespeople close at higher rates and “put more profits in your pocket.” Reach him at [email protected] or 703.728.4966.