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Knowing Your Customer

· Communication

Years ago, we were contracting some work in our home for the family room.  Following the usual procedure of meeting with several craftspeople and obtaining estimates, we came across an individual whom we did not select.  We’ll call him Donald.  Donald came out to the house, looked at the niche where we were planning to create an entertainment center and began taking some initial measurements.  He spent more time here than the others mainly because he was repeating himself. Upon leaving, taking an interest in our jobs, he asked what coaching is.  Don hinted that he doesn’t manage his time well.

That night, he e-mailed us some photos to review designs that he has built for other customers.  It was very valuable to see.  Then he called us the very next day to ask us what we thought of them.  Donald then called again several times with some more questions about very specific details as if he already had the job; we didn’t even have basic numbers yet. Seeing that he appeared to need some guidance, I finally asked for what we needed – a formal estimate with several options.

Once he was ready to fax over the estimate, he called me at home but didn’t leave a message. Immediately he called me on my cell phone, “to explain” the estimate. I told him we’d review it with others we were collecting and would let him know. He lost me right then and there.

Even though we’ve made another selection for different reasons, I’m not sure we would have done business with him. Obviously, a person presenting a proposal should follow up to be sure it was received and then again within a few days to see if there were any questions. If he was this disorganized during the estimate phase, what would he be like if he was awarded the project. When I suggested that he was focusing on too many details before we’d made a decision, he became quiet.

Knowing your customer and what their needs are id crucial. Most people who are planning a project will ask for several bids. In my observation, Don was spending way too much time on our project without getting the contract. If he does this with all of his proposals, he’s not using his time efficiently. If he were my client, we would work on focusing on what is important and staying on track. With that, we would explore the steps he’d need to take to be most productive, efficient, and in turn, successful.