What is Your Unfair Advantage?

Construction is a fickle business, and recently, I’ve been hearing complaints from certain quarters about the lack of enquiries, savage under-cutting and a drop in sales conversion rates. Fortunately, regardless of who you are, none of these issues is insurmountable. In fact, the simplest solutions are often the most effective. Renowned businessman, John Rollwagen, puts it perfectly when he says “The secret of business, especially these days, is to focus relentlessly on your unfair advantage – the thing you do that others don’t.”

Luckily for us in the building industry, this is so easy to do. These three magical steps will have you converting sales in no time.

1) Return your phone calls.
Most builders and contractors don’t return their phone calls at all. The ones that do are often 2-3 days late. Phone calls should be returned the same day or by 9am the next day.

2) Show up for your appointments on time. Not showing up for appointments, or showing up late, is one of the major gripes clients have with builders and contractors.

3) Do exactly what you say you will do, and do it when you say you will do it. It’s the little things that count!

Just these three actions should give you an unfair advantage over your competitors. Remember – making sales is first and foremost about building trust and confidence in your company and in you. The best way to build trust in any situation is to demonstrate it.

Once you’ve established a level of trust, you need to set the parameters under which you will work. If you don’t set these parameters, the customer will.

One of the first questions I recommend with any prospective client is “What is important for you when selecting a builder or contractor?” This is often immediately followed by “When would you be ready to start the job?” These two questions put the prospect on notice that you’re not there to dish out prices.

Let them know you’re serious about doing your work and if they just want a price, you’ll be on your way. Other, more detailed, qualifying questions coupled with a sprinkle of tact are no doubt also required here.

The primary purpose of your questioning is to discover what the owner is thinking. If their primary interest is price, then sorry, it’s time to leave and look for someone willing to pay a fair price for your services.

If you find you’re experiencing too many price-sensitive people, it’s important you look at how you’re attracting enquiries. If you are offering free quotes or reaching out to people looking for low prices, that’s what you’ll get. If your competitors are coming in at half your price, and getting the job, you’re aiming for the wrong market.

What’s It Costing You?

A very wealthy Australian recently said, “It’s easy to make money. To make money, you just need
 to do the things that make money.” Simple but right on the money!


What is your plan for doing the things that will make you more money this year?

As fascinating, simple and profound as it is, this quote begs the question –what percentage of your time do you
(or your team) spend on the tasks that make money and how well are you doing them?


Here’s a small list of questions to prompt you:

1) Could you be more efficient with your time?

2) Could you shop around to increase your margins?

3) Do all your invoices go out on time?

4) Could you qualify your prospects better?

5) Could you do more marketing to generate better quality enquiries, even if it’s just one more phone call a day?

6) Could you manage your finances better so you build more working capital?

If you stop working on a job, what happens? You lose money. The same applies to working on your
business and the things that make you money.

If you wanted to make an extra $100,000 profit this year, what would it take? A few extra jobs? How many more jobs would you need to price and what would you need to do to price those extra jobs?

Let’s say you put in an extra four hours a week focusing on generating that extra $100,000. That’s a total of 192
hours focused on generating more work. If it’s a focused 192 hours, I’d put money on you making the extra
$100,000. If we divide $100,000 by 192 hours, that’s $520 a hour. But here’s the clincher! Once you’ve set up
the systems you should generate the extra $100,000 for the rest of your career!

The most common objection I hear when I recommend spending four or five hours working on your business is “I
don’t have time”. If it’s worth $520 an hour (conservatively) then it’s costing you $520 a hr. So could you find the

Do You Know Your Break-Even Point?

Have you ever accurately calculated just how much work you need to turn over to cover your running costs and fixed expenses? This measure, known as the break-even point, is an immeasurably important step in ensuring business development and growth. It goes without saying that without it, things could turn south very quickly.

Simply said, if you don’t know your break-even point, then how do you know when you’re making a profit?
Before you start feeling frustrated about this often irritating little detail of business, the good news is that’s all about to change. We’ve created a free, very simple break-even calculator to help you figure out the break-even point for your business right now. All you need are some accurate financials and in three easy steps, you’ll have your measure.

Step 1: Source an accurate copy of your profit and loss. Note it’s imperative that your numbers are as accurate as possible, otherwise the result won’t mean a thing. So make sure the income and expenses listed in your P & L are up to date and accurate.

Step 2: Ensure that you’ve separated your ‘Cost of Sales’ from your ‘Running Costs’ or ‘Fixed Costs’. If you’re unsure about this, make sure you ask your bookkeeper, and if they’re unsure, give us a call we’ll walk you through it.

Step 3: Punch your numbers into the yearly or quarterly space on the calculator and hit each of the three calculate buttons to figure out your gross margin, break even and net profit figures.

Start Here >> Breakeven Calculator

Now here’s the thing – once you’ve calculated your break-even point, you can play around with the numbers and gauge the result to your bottom line. You can also use the top part of the calculator to work out your gross margin on individual jobs and find your most profitable work. Chances are 80% of your profit is coming from 20% of your work.

Should You be Charging for Quotes?












If you are already charging for quotes, then there’s no need to read any further – you’ve got the right idea.

If not, read on – there’s money to be made in charging correctly.

The short answer is yes, you should be charging for quotes, especially if you do itemized quotes or D&C. However, it’s much more than just dreaming up a number and slapping it on every inquiry that comes your way.

The first step is to ensure a strong marketing strategy. Your marketing should position you as the expert, the ‘go to’ person in your chosen niche or specialty. Once you have this positioning securely in place, you can plug your sales process into the back end. With sales being the biggest area of inefficiency in this industry (i.e. lots of quotes for too few contracts signed) the number one purpose for your sales process should be to qualify your prospective clients. Handling your inquiries correctly protects your time and lets your potential client know how you do business. Handling them the wrong way gives them the opportunity to waste your time.

So here’s a scenario where, even if you don’t intend to charge for quotes, you definitely should be. It’s important to bear in mind that the aim of the game here is to qualify the prospective client.

Let’s say you get a call for a renovation, first floor addition and bathroom. You show up at the appointed time to speak with the potential client about their proposed job. At some point in the conversation, the client makes the following statement: “I want a complete itemization of your proposal and when it’s ready, you can just send it to me by email or snail mail.”

How do you respond? If you’ve been in business a long time, you’ve had this happen. It’s critical to know how to respond to a super-controlling prospective client. Here’s a response that keeps you in charge of the situation but also allows the client’s ego to remain intact.

The sooner you let the potential client know how you conduct business, the better. In fact, this should happen during the pre-sales process when you send them your profile and clearly outline your process for doing business with them.

You start that part of the conversation with “Client A, itemization of any kind takes a lot of extra work and I’m happy to do it, as long as I’m paid for that service. We charge $65 an hour with a minimum of 4 hours for any itemization we do. Would this be agreeable?”

Their response will tell you if they are interested in a win-win business relationship or if they are going to be a classic P.I.T.A!

Now, if they start asking about your margins, then you know it’s time to walk. No need to get involved. Do they ask their doctor, attorney or dentist for an itemization? Do they tell their doctor what price they will pay? How about the manager or check-out person at the grocery store? Why do they think they are entitled to that information from you? You can try to explain if you wish, but there’s a high chance you are dealing with a potential client whose single focus is getting the lowest possible price for their work. Let another builder or contractor do the job – you don’t need it.

As far as sending a quote by email, snail mail or fax, that works for order takers. Order-taking requires the lowest price and that’s not where you want to be, especially as an expert in your field. If you don’t want the work, email your quote. If you want their business, inform them that when you go to the time and effort of compiling a quote, you want to sit down with them to review the proposal and ask/answer any questions they might have. If they aren’t willing to do that, they don’t want to make a decision and will try everything they can to avoid it. Politely tell them that you have their information and when they are ready to review their job with you and make a decision, you will be glad to come back and go over the job details and your quote for their work. You will unmask the real clients very quickly with this approach.

While it may initially sound ballsy or rude, this procedure sets the standard under which you are willing to work. Remember if you don’t set it, the prospective client will. The client is either at the mercy of your process for selling or you’re at the mercy for their process for buying. It’s your time to do with as you will, but why let some inconsiderate knucklehead waste your time? As a business owner and leader in your community, you must learn to guard your time as you would your life and insist that others respect your time. That way, you can focus on the clients you can do business with, not the clients who want to waste your time.

Woody Allen famously remarked that 50 per cent of success was showing up. Too many people stop there, and get 50% of what they could. If they showed up as a real pro – alert, prepared, practiced and primed in every way to deliver an extraordinary performance – they could achieve extraordinary results. In fact, following a well-defined sales process and professionalizing yourself and everyone in your business might just be the best way.



Your Price is Too High

How many times have you had a client say ‘your price is too high’?

It’s a tired line that customers have been trained to use, hoping that you, the builder, will pull back on your margins. Along the way, someone has told them that if they tell you “your price is too high”, there’s a chance you’ll change the quote to some lower number.

Lowering the price to win the job is exactly what most ‘order takers’ will do. An educated builder knows better and does not lower their price, unless the client changes the job.

It may seem daunting to hold firm, especially if the client has said you came in higher than two other quotes. However, hearing ‘your price is too high’ simply means that you have not done your job as a salesperson. Plain and simple, you have been lazy and have missed some very important steps in the sales process.

The number one rule for sales is to qualify your prospect. You need to pin down the budget to the point that you know exactly what they want and are willing to spend.

Here are the four essential questions you need to ask the client:

1. What do you want to do?
2. When do you want to do it?
3. Who will make the buying decision?
4. What does that person(s) want to spend?

If you get the answer to (at least) those four questions, you will get to a “yes” much quicker. They will help you qualify your prospect and save you a world of pain in wasted time and energy down the track.

Over the years I’ve compiled a list of the most effective qualifying questions a builder can ask. Click here to download them now.

Knowing the answer to these questions will increase your sales conversion rate very quickly, without lowering your margins. Learn the technique, ask the questions, get the answers and watch not only your sales increase, but your profits increase as well.