How to get your Design-Build clients to like you

How to get your Design-Build clients to like you

Dan Baumann

How to get your Design-Build clients to like you

Before I started charging for my design services, I was working on so many plans and estimates, that there was never any time to sit down and collaborate with my prospective clients to find out what they wanted.

My days would be spent drawing plans and creating estimates for projects that I had no idea if I had a chance in hell of getting.

I was working 40 hours a week running projects, and another 40 hours trying to get more jobs. It was grueling, to say the least.

Gaining Trust in Your Design Build RelationshipsMy closing ratio was about three in 10, so I had to do a lot of work to get the three projects. It became very frustrating because I would work so hard on all of my plans—only to have 70 percent of the prospects take my ideas and use someone else to do their project.

I remember one project in particular that I bid on. It was a room addition for a referral prospect. A large family room, fireplace and kitchen expansion. At that time in my remodeling career, it was a large project for me.

This project had some challenges with property setbacks and roof lines. It was so challenging, I took the time to create a model of what I envisioned it should be.

Since this was at a time before I understood the importance of design fees, I did all the work to create the plan, the model, and the estimate for free.

I thought this project was in the bag. It was a solid referral, and it was in my neighborhood. How could I lose?

Needless to say, I didn't get the job.

I failed to find out that they were getting bids from other contractors and that they had a limited budget. I didn't know about these things until after I did all my work.

My bid was $85k, and that was after offering discounts on parts of the project. The contractor that got the job did if for $50K. It was a smaller plan, but it achieved the goals of the client. Apparently, they did a better job of finding out the prospects budget.

Talk about epic fail. I didn't do anything to build a relationship with this client. I neglected to ask any of the relevant questions I needed to ask if this was going to be a viable project for me. I took some basic goals and created what I wanted.

If I had approached this prospect with a design agreement, I would have known right away where I stood. Had I gotten them happily involved with my design services, I could have spent more time with them creating something that worked instead of what I thought they should have.

When I pass this project today and see some of my ideas on this house, it's a reminder of how I did everything wrong. However, I did learn a lot from that experience that I was able to use for future opportunities.

While it still took me many years to finally start charging for my services, as least I got better at asking the right questions. It's important to find out if there is a viable project before putting in massive amounts of time.

Once I finally started charging for my design services, I discovered that I was able to spend more time with the clients that were serious about their project. And the more time we would spend together, the stronger our relationship got.

The result of building these healthy relationships led to a closing rate of over 85 percent of the projects for which I did plans.

There is another benefit to spending time working with someone on their plans. On some occasions, it would become apparent that this relationship would not work.

Sometimes two people are just not meant to work together. So once the planning process was complete, it was easier to bow out of the project.

It's a common statistic in construction that one in 10 clients will not let you make a profit. I, for one, would rather forgo the profit on the planning phase of a project than the entire construction job.

It's mostly common sense. Charge for your services like any professional would, build a solid relationship based on trust, and give your clients a great project. In almost all cases, they will be happy to pay a fair profit for a job well done.

To Your Success,

Dan Baumann
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