Perfect Strangers

My wife loves to entertain; the more the merrier. She can make fettuccine Alfredo with one hand while preparing flan with the other. An intimate dinner at our house may mean 10 people in the dining room or 20 on the deck. My wife is always as cool as the ceviche, even when the event is spontaneous or the guests have never been to our home before.

November 30, 2005

Mike Gorman
Contributing Editor

My wife loves to entertain; the more the merrier. She can make fettuccine Alfredo with one hand while preparing flan with the other. An intimate dinner at our

house may mean 10 people in the dining room or 20 on the deck. My wife is always as cool as the ceviche, even when the event is spontaneous or the guests have never been to our home before.

However, many people find having a guest in their home unnerving, an invasion of their space. Especially when the guest is a stranger.

What do potential clients experience when they invite a contractor into their home? If you've never thought about this, here's a little exercise: Next week, call a specialist from the Yellow Pages and inquire about remodeling your master bathroom. If you think of this as a blind date, you're pretty close.

Pay attention. Observe what it feels like to be standing in your client's shoes. Was your telephone call received professionally? Did you feel at ease from first contact? If not, are you any better when interacting with prospects?

Maybe you'll get lucky, and the perfect stranger will show up at your door. If so, he or she would inquire about slipping off their shoes once in the home. After introductions were completed, he or she would politely suggest that the kitchen table would be the best place to settle. The kitchen is a friendlier place than the living room.

The conversation would be skillfully guided to create an ambience of comfort and trust by effortlessly uncovering what this perfect stranger has in common with you. Once trust has been established, you may be surprised to see how comfortably you will share intimate details of your life.

Only when trust is evident will the perfect stranger turn the talk toward remodeling. He or she will review the information collected during the phone call before educating you about all the things you need to know to make a wise choice of contractor. Then he or she might ask about your motivation for this blind date: "You mentioned when you called that you need to remodel your master bathroom: Why are you remodeling?" Follow-up questions demonstrate continued interest and get you to think about the subject in new ways:

How long have you been thinking about this project?

What new products have caught your eye?

What do you like best about them?

What would you like to accomplish with your new master bathroom?

How have your needs changed since you bought the house?

Have you remodeled before?

If you were doing it again, how would you improve the process?

Your guest might produce samples of tiles or other appropriate materials to engage your senses and help you to develop and share opinions. At times your replies will be noted or repeated by your guest, strengthening your feeling that he or she is truly interested. By the end of this conversation, you begin to feel perfectly comfortable showing this stranger through your home. Your guest will comment about art, photographs or collectibles in the home to learn more about you, taking key measurements of the space along the way.

After a thorough examination of your home, this stranger will lead you back to the kitchen table. He or she might sketch a floor plan, ask about fixture placement or show you photos of prior remodels and product choices. Depending on the extent of your remodel, this might be when the contractor prepares an estimate, promises to call or return with a detailed estimate, or asks if you need more information to make a decision.

Soon your guest will share the price with you and maybe talk about such intimate details as financing in an effort to make it easier for you to buy. The remodeling process is loaded with intimacy between perfect strangers. Whoever educates best and earns the most trust wins the most business.

Former remodeler Mike Gorman delivers seminars and provides coaching on sales, marketing, estimating and business systems to remodelers and custom home builders. He can be contacted at: mgbok@aol.com , 800/218-5149 or www.techknowledgeonline.net.

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