Why You Should Stop Doing The “Contractor Free Estimate”

What do you think of the definition of ‘estimate’ in the following image? contractor free estimate

Is that what you think most prospective contracting clients think when they ask you for a project estimate? Are they really looking for you to ‘roughly calculate’ the scope and cost of a project?

I think not. When someone calls and asks you for a “contractor free estimate,” I believe what they really want is a ‘consultation’ and then a ‘promise.’ Check out the following definitions…

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What the prospect wants is a time to pick your brain of all its expertise and then have you promise them a price. And, considering they will be writing you a check for a large amount of money, I can understand why they would want to be assured of those things.

The Problem With Free Estimates

The contracting industry has become experts at running around for free. This is rooted in a couple of things:

  • Fear
  • Wanting to Serve

We’re afraid we’ll lose the job if we don’t go out there for free and show them all we know. We also view running around for free as good customer service…going the extra mile. Unfortunately, most contractors are wasting massive amounts of time by giving contractor free estimates.

Thoughts From Other Contractors

I asked my Contractor Sales Academy members why free estimates are a bad idea. Here’s some of what they shared:

Screenshot 2016-04-13 06.33.29     Screenshot 2016-04-13 06.33.57

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I think all the comments above have value. But as Barbi said above, “you’ve paid dearly” for all the industry wisdom you have in your head. To me, that is the main reason you should avoid running around for free.

How to Stop Doing Free Estimates

I talk a lot about how being different can grow your contracting business. Not doing free estimates is one way to stand out in a crowd of contractors that all look and sound the same to the clients. I encourage you to look for ways to be different.

Here are some tactical steps you can take to stop doing the “contractor free estimate:”

  1. Clearly define what an estimate is. Then, spell that out when someone calls for a ‘free estimate.’ Ask them on the phone…”So, you’d like just a rough cost range of what we would do for you?”
  2. Get clear on what ‘consultation’ and ‘promise’ mean and share it with the client. For example: “Mary, thanks for sharing what you’re thinking for your home. I can help you with that one of two ways. The first is I can give you a price range over the phone right now. You can figure out if that fits within what you’re will to spend and if we should take the next step. The next step is our on-site consult and pricing promise. This is a paid consultation where we will provide you with our 20 years of knowledge, produce a formal scope of work, help with selections and promise you a price. Which of those works for you?”
  3. Talk about the difference between estimates and consultations on your website.
  4. Make videos where you educate people on what things cost and share them on social media and your blog. Then, you can use those to send clients links as you have a ‘free’ conversation with them on the phone before you both change your schedules around to meet.

Not Doing Free Consultations is Better for the Client

I’ve talked to many homeowners that really don’t want you to come over. The last thing they want to do is waste their time with some contractor who probably won’t be a fit for them.

We will win their respect and appreciation when we have the guts to not just run out there when they call. When you have an open and honest conversation with them about what they want and what it will cost, they will thank you for not wasting their time.

This is better for the client. Believe that.

My challenge for you is to stop running around for free. Utilize a screening process like we teach in the CSA. My promise is that if you stick to a process that will pre-qualify properly, you will save more than 50% of your estimating time.

Do you have the guts to not run around for free anymore?

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