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I read an awesome thread on here about "The One Call Close." It touched briefly on the importance of the opening survey and establishing the needs of the HO. I feel that I'm really good at the numbers and presentation part of my estimates, but I'm shaky at the beginning.

It's not the ice breakers or building rapport, that's all ok. Where I struggle is knowing the right questions to ask the HO to come out of their shell in regards to the job. Most HO's say the same basic thing: "I want good quality without paying too much." It's not that they're trying to be cryptic, it's just most of them don't know how to tell you what they want.

I feel like it's partly because they don't know all the aspects of the job so they don't know how to emphasize what's most important to them, but I find myself talking myself into holes and over-loading people with info when I try to explain processes.

What are some of the questions you guys use to figure out what your customers are REALLY looking for at the beginning of the estimate? How do you manage to keep it simple while still giving them the right info? I'm all about matching features to benefits, but I'm struggling to determine which ones to put front-n-center to make the best impression to each specific customer.
 

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I think if you get a feel for your customer's situation it may help. For example - some customers are preparing a home for sale, or a home for rental. These customers will likely be looking to pay less, and won't mind sacrificing certain things to do so.

Other customers want a higher quality, custom job.

I think it all lies in feeling out your customer's situation, and then providing different pricing options to suit there needs. If the customer is uncertain which surfaces in a room they want painted - give them separate prices for each. By doing so you allow your estimates to be tailored to your customer's specific needs.
 

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I usually ask what they want to achieve and work back from there.
 
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I think RH sums it up very well. You can also point to the existing finishes, especially on an interior, and ask them how they are satisfied with the current job, anything they like or don't like about it. If its an older home, I typically will point out the current condition and let them know what I include for standard prep, and how if they what additional prep work done it will be on a time and materials basis. Most people understand that an older home, especially woodwork, won't look like brand new, at least not without a lot of work. I think you're on the right track skinnyadam to not want to overload them with too many details unless they ask.
 
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