To give or not to give?

Gerry Gerber
Gerry Gerber

To Give, or Not to Give, isn’t that really the question?

Over the last year, there have been several discussion out on LinkedIn regarding the giving of “free” information to the client during the sales process.  Free information is plans, some specs, and perhaps some advice about their project.

Conventional wisdom from the “well-respected” contractors is that since “we are professionals, we should be paid for all of our work”.  While this is somewhat true, there is a practical element in doing a good sales job, where the client feels compelled to work with you and your company.  Sales is more than just creating a perceived value.  It is the gaining of trust in the business relationship.

All a prospect really wants is someone who will listen to their needs, and deliver confidence back in return.  If a remodeling salesperson holds out on delivering anything of value, how is the client supposed to know what to expect.

It would be my guess that 5-10% of the “professional” contracting firms out there have the reputations and sales skills to deliver this “perceived” process.  This is probably a very conservative estimate and it could be closer to 2-3%, but for the sake of this article, let’s assume that it leaves 90% of us out there that don’t have the reputation or sales skills to pull off selling “retainers” after speaking with them for an hour.

Of the 90% remaining, maybe ⅓, or 30% don’t even give it any thought.  They just bid everything they see, and hope that their timing was good, and their price is right.

That leaves 60% of the remodeling contractors out there that are very capable, yet are constantly searching for a process to gain the trust from the homeowner.

When I remodeled, I fell into the 60%.  I chose to because I always felt challenged by giving, giving, and then giving some more, in an effort to create value that was visible to the client.  Now, saying that, I also made it a challenge not to invest more than 1 hr per $10,000 in project cost before having some sort of commitment.    It wasn’t always financial, but there was always a commitment of some sort from the homeowner.  After 4 hours, regardless of the budget, we would meet on the phone and see if I was on track, and make sure that they were ok with the work I had performed so far.

It’s all about process.  My process was to listen, and put their desire down in writing.  Since this was more than most others were able or willing to do, I believe it was the element that built trust in our relationship.  They knew me, they liked me, and all I had to do was earn their trust.

Of the folks that I spoke with, I would say that 50% of them ended up working with our company.  During those initial 4 hours, it was my goal to invent a step that would require some commitment from them.  Their commitment might be in the form of spending more time with me, or perhaps a small cost step such as engineering, design, or perhaps architecture.  The bottom line was that I would then ask them if they wanted to continue working with us, and should I take the next steps and order up this work, on their behalf.

This my friends, is where the rubber hit the road.  It didn’t matter whether I did the work, or I had it hired out.  Someone had to do it, and more importantly, the owner was going to immediately receive the value of the work.

In order to get to this most important step, I had to give of myself the 4 hours or so to properly define the work, so that they could see that indeed, I was listening and understanding their needs.

Give them a list.  Give them service.  Give them an item that requires their investment.  Then, ask them if they would like to continue working with you.  I can almost guarantee you that over 50% of the people you see will want to work with you.

The others were probably just shopping anyway, and were getting bid after bid from the 30% bottom feeders.

Now, with this process clearly understood, do it the same each and every time.  Let them know that you are going to spend some time laying out the work as you had understood it.  Let them also know that there will come a time where you will need approval from them to continue.

It’s all about process and systems.  After all, wouldn’t we all feel pretty good with a 50% closing ratio?

Article by Gerry Gerber president of Gerber Software and the creator of the Mo-Bilt construction project managing system. Manage projects from $600.00 to a $1,000,000 quickly and easily.

Mo-Bilt system


  1. I give way more than most of my competitors. We do very detailed plans, 3d renderings, very detailed specs with color photos… all of this is standard. I know that my closing ratio is higher than some of my competitors and my pricing is too! I feel that it serves me well as a professional to earn the clients business by giving them exceptional detail and communication from the very first appointment. Of course this costs me money, but it pays huge dividends because it blows my competition out of the water. I say give it your best and may the best man win the business!

    That said, I am exploring concepts from The Lean Startup and trying to see what my ‘minimum viable product’ might look like in terms of an initial proposal to a client… I’m all for reducing work up front until a commitment has been made as long as I can maintain a top notch, professional image.

    • Matt, I just stumbled onto your post today,,,, almost 3 years after you created it.
      It sounds like you have a good formula for customer satisfaction, and wish you the best in your business.


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