When meeting with the estimator, the potentional customer actually meets the painting company face to face, likely for the first time. Maybe the customer read through painters reviews before booking an appointment and knows what to expect but the first impressions are the most important ones.
In a very small company, the owner wears many hats including the sales hat. It is common for the painter to do estimating straight after work, without even having a chance to get out of the painting whites. There is nothing wrong with that if the prospective customer can meet in the evening. Other companies have a dedicated sales manager and estimators. Karon is the estimator and sales manager for Ecopainting, a Toronto area painting contractor. I asked Karon to share some of her experiences with us in this blog.
In trying to keep this blog interesting, the questions are slightly different than what is considered typical. Comments such as being on time, or calling if you are late, being a good listener, etc, these are all valid points and worth mentioning. But they have been discussed extensively everywhere else.
What are some common things customers say when calling for an appointment?
One of the most common is that “it’s just a small room.” When I hear this, it tells me that this person is not looking to spend a lot of money on the room, which is fine. I will often mention our minimum mobilization price, plus the cost of paint and gauge what they think. Quite often it works out fine and we send a painter there for the day.
Another common comment is “we just need the walls done, we can do the trim ourselves.” This I find interesting and more often than not my response is a silent one. It takes a lot of training and practice to become a professional painter that can paint a sharp line at the baseboards. Painting a door and making it look like it came from the factory requires a lot of skill. There are painters with experience who can’t even do this, even with their best effort. So when I give the estimate for just the walls I explain that and sometimes end up painting the trim anyway.
Any stories with pets, kids or just people stories?
One of my recent estimates was in a home where there were two parrots, a cockatiel, a dog and a cat. I spent quite a bit of time with all of them, and Maria, the homeowner of course! The dog needed a lot of petting, by me, before he relaxed. The birds were gorgeous and colourful and Maria gave me some grapes to feed the one who loved to show off. He took it, skinned it and enjoyed it. As I was leaving and trying to close my case, I had a cat telling me no, with paws up, on the case, not letting me close the zipper. Needless to say, they all loved that there was a visitor in the house. I was there for a while, and even took some photos. You can see the happy bird with the grape in the picture below.
Do you care if other estimators are there at the same time?
No, not really. The only downside I would say to having other painting estimators there at the same time, is that I might not be able to get much time with the prospective client. A lot of estimators know each other and we are all there for the same reason. There is respect and everyone just does their own thing, walking around taking notes. Should I have any questions to ask the homeowner, if they are having a conversation with another estimator, I wait if it’s not a long time, or I will just go on my way and follow up later.
Do you care about the price of other estimates?
Not at all. There is always going to be someone coming in at a lower price, and that’s alright. Could be a handyman, sole proprietor, perhaps a new student painting company. My estimates are so thorough and in such detail, I know they don’t compare to others that are received. I have been told this many times, even when my estimates have been declined. Offering the prospect something a little different than the norm is also on my side (sorry, that’s a secret)
Was there ever a job that you didn’t want?
A few, but here is one: I went to see a job downtown once, in a home that was purchased 50 years ago and was “never” painted. The walls were so bad and so dirty that not only did I pass quickly through, making sure I didn’t touch anything, I just couldn’t imagine sending any of our crews there to work. I declined this job.
How do you tell someone that you don’t want the job?
When I go into a home, I get a sense of what that person is looking for and after some discussion, I learn their budget. If their budget is too low, I suggest ways to do the paint job cheaper. When this is not possible, I tell the homeowner that our company is not a good fit for them. I don’t have a problem telling anyone this early in the process. If I am estimating an entire house and we have just covered two rooms. I might cost out these rooms first. If we are not on the same path, I tell them that I respect their time and mine and since we don’t seem to be a good fit, I don’t think we should go any further. I have done this a few times, was very comfortable with it, shook hands and wished them all the best. We can not be the right company for everyone. I understand that people have their own budgets and we cannot accommodate a low priced paint job. We need to be profitable to stay in business after all.
Anything else interesting in your travels that is worth sharing?
Well that’s a very good question. Being in sales takes me all over Toronto. Interesting are the many different restaurants I discover when I have time to stop for lunch. I like that I get to explore different areas in the city, even if only for short periods of time. When I have large gaps between appointments, it gets even more interesting. I find unique shops to browse through for nick nacks for my home, or garden centres to buy something new for my garden. Being so busy, I don’t often get the chance to do these things after work, so I relish the opportunity. And no, I don’t add these costs to my next estimate….!
Before Karon became the estimator, she was a highly skilled painter with Ecopainting for over 10 years. She was also an operations manager for two years after that.
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