Mike Damora is vice president of sales and marketing at K&B Home Remodelers, in Succasunna, N.J. Reach him at madamora@kbhomesnj.com. Follow him on Twitter @madamora.

What 50 Grand Buys

The more detailed and transparent you are in your bid, the more likely you are to get a signature on a contract

November 09, 2017

The lead came from the manufacturer, and our company was not the first contractor that had been out there. 

“I’m telling you right now, I’m getting other quotes,” says the owner, standing in the driveway. 

Actually he got five.

It’s June. With him still standing there I walk around the house, which is an old saltbox, and come back to meet him on the driveway. “I had another guy out,” he says, “and he told me $50,000. So if that’s your number, let’s just save each other some time. I ain’t spending fifty grand!”

It’s a fiber cement siding job. I looked at it and figured it’d probably be low-to-mid 30s. It was easy to see why he’d be annoyed. And wary. So I said: “I don’t see $50,000 worth of siding on your house but I’m not here to talk about [the other contractor], I’m here to talk about what we do.” 

What You Get

Good enough. After 20 minutes I went back to the office and prepared the proposal. The total wall space was 2,462 sq. ft. We’re at $7.85 a square foot, installed, for Hardie, including the tear-off, removal of old siding, and installation to manufacturer specs. Not the trim. Trims can be all over the place, depending on what the homeowner wants and the house needs, which are not always the same thing.

First I break out the basic cost of the siding: $19,326.70. But replacing siding, especially on a house like this, opens the door to possibility. The old saltbox has a plain front. It wants charm. Making an undistinguished house charming can be fun. What about a new entryway? New shutters? Sill nose trim at the windows? Corbels? 

So I put together a series of mix and match options. The owner, meanwhile, texts me that he also wants new gutters in the proposal. Five days later we sit down for an online meeting. Using visualization tools, I step him through design options.

Thanks for Following Up

The homeowner’s job involves organizing international conferences so he’s not home that often. We go back and forth through the summer via text. One of his texts reads: “Thanks for following up.” It’s down to us and one other contractor.

In late October he signs the contract. The frieze boards come out. The corbels come out. We’re doing the siding and sill nose trims, crown headers on the windows, new exteriors doors front and back. The centerpiece, though, is the portico we’re building in front that makes for an entirely new entryway. Also, we’re adding a window in the kitchen in place of the existing garden window.

Total? About $50,000.

Why would a homeowner spend $50,000 on an exterior renovation after adamantly declaring he’d never get anywhere near that number? First, there’s detail. A scope of work that elaborates everything that will be done and how it will be done. Second, transparency. We break out every product we’ll use. We have a thumbnail picture next to the product. There’s the unit of measurement—square feet vs. linear feet—and the unit pricing. So “Hardie lap siding in Booth Bay Blue?” This is how much you’re paying. In addition, there’s a description of how that product will be installed. All that’s in the contract. Using visualization tools, the customer knows what his house is going to look like for that fifty grand (including the portico). He’s not just hoping it’ll look good, he knows it will. 

Why’d You Buy?

A few months ago we incorporated a five-question “Why’d you buy?” survey via Google into our software to ask clients how they felt about conducting the sales meeting online. We asked, for instance, if they prefer an online meeting or a meeting in the home (ninety percent preferred online). We asked if the exterior design was helpful in visualizing their project (every client said yes, it was "helpful,"or “very helpful”). The last question asked clients to rate K&B Remodelers on a scale of one to five. Ninety-one percent gave us five stars. Nine percent gave us four stars.

That survey was for our eyes only but in today’s home improvement world where reviews are everything and homeowners know your company story before they ever pick up the phone or email you, you don’t want unpleasant surprises when it comes to publicly posted feedback. I wanted to be sure that homeowners were clear they were not being hustled by an obnoxious salesperson.

But based on this owner's feedback, I’d say that he did business with us because the price we gave him wasn’t a bulk price. It was broken out into quantifiable, measurable units. Homeowners spending substantial sums to make the outside of the house look great don’t want to roll the dice and hope for the best. Would you? In this case, he was willing to spend fifty grand, if he had a clear idea what the results would be.

I know that from the comments section, which reads: “With you I always knew what I was getting.” 

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