You Called Me....I Didn't Call You

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Dan Turner
Dan Turner's picture
You Called Me....I Didn't Call You
SoftPlan Version:

I must have a thousand friends that call me with questions or invitations out to their property to work a solution to a problem or give them a price on adding on to their existing structure.


They must be friends because they want something for free....but I'm making new friends two or three times a week now with the same expectations.


My good wife and executive assistant, Susan...has a good habit of getting information from the caller before handing the line over to me.  She'll get the name, address of the site, numbers and email address.  I'll discuss the matters at hand and hear the expectations and their angle for selecting a contractor or designer...or just tire kicking on prices.  One of the jobs on my side of the office is to cull out the chaff from the wheat and when the clues are finally in as to the intention of the potential client, I tell them that I would be more than happy to assist in any fashion that I can.  With the site address I can usually be on a satellite view (if suspect, I'll do a Zillow search of the address to see what the $comps are)....if everything adds up, I'll tell the potential client that I'll send them an email with a little more information and look forward to the opportunity to work with them!


All positive and polite...the ice has been broken via the phone call.  I'll validate the email address to see if there are any "uh ohs" that pop up in a search engine on the email or site address; if I'm suspicious, I'll go to the Tax Assessor's online portal and pull up the property records to see if the tax bill, owner and mailing addresses all match.  Don't waste time with a flipper that is trying to decide on whether to buy the property based on the expectations of costs over and above the basis of the purchase.....if the caller is not on the tax bill, there's something not quite right.  It could warrant another call for an explanation (some tax digests run well in arrears with recent title changes)....but the real dye test is the email that I send back that links to a private page on our website.


This private page has an explanation for my time and fees.  It also has a well written rationale as to why it's necessary that I am paid for coming out to any property before a contract.  It's usually a set fee of $125 an hour...door to door (that usually gets rid of the tea time chat) payable with a $125 deposit...that they can pay immediately via Pay Pal transactor on the private page.


The obvious steam release will be...."how dare he charge to come out here and talk about a possible job!!  Who's the boss here?"  The rationale that I use now is easy to reference...."how much do you pay your mechanic to plug your car into the diagnostic test to see what has to be done?"  It's almost universal...everyone with a new set of wheels has most likely had to endure the diagnostic fee charge in order to get a proposal from the mechanic to perform work on the family car.


Consider yourself the diagnostic.  The one thing that I do that my mechanic does not....I apply my diagnostic charge against my total fee for a reduction if I get the job.  For $125 an means business.  It means working out the firing solution between my home and theirs to accomodate me in lieu of sitting in traffic on the clock.  It means I've got their total attention....not a group of kids interrupting our conversation every two minutes.


The other side of the private page/pay pal....if they don't like me any longer (they're welcome to un-friend's an added value), they won't contact me back.  I'm good with that.  After years of chasing idiots with big dreams that won't survive a bank valuation given the neighborhood; or flippers that just want a free take off to shop around; even an insurance company that wanted to see if my review of the site would suffice to save them the plane ticket to come to town to look at a fire job.....and a few thousand other tales over 40 years.


I do not advertise my pay pal page on my index page...I don't want to scare people away.  I want them to call.  I want to sell them what I do and if I've done it correctly...they either agree with the logic or they storm off and come looking to you guys.  At that point...good luck!!<G


Dan Turner

Turner Builders Inc

Kelly Strickland
Kelly Strickland's picture
Great post and ideas. Adding

Great post and ideas. Adding to your thoughts from a builders perspective too, one thing that I do to weed out these folks is lisiting "Design-Build and Planning" as part of my services. In other words, if I get the feeling that they are "tire kickers" or shoppers I tell them I offer a planning service, at a cost to them, to help them diagnose a problem, create a scope of work, draw a plan or all the above. If they want to shop it or not move forward on a project - no big deal - I'd be compensated for the time in the project. If they move forward with me I will credit them some or all of their "planning fee" back on the final project invoice. I have yet to have anyone pay me a planning fee; hence it served it purpose well! Many times the D-B service allows me to be the only builder bidding a job where the planning and drafting cost is built into the job. All parties are happy.



Dan Turner
Dan Turner's picture

There are some things that conversation just can't takes a site visit to measure, record, draw up and then take-off to let the client know if they're tracking right.  The red flag in the conversation will always be "I just want to get an idea on what it would cost to <<whatever>>."  If they have a set of drawings...fine, I'll do the MTO based on the drawings on the clock.   If they don't have any drawings...then what they want is "my idea" which equates to some time away from somebody else.


My wife fussed at me some time ago when a guy called with a

"can I get a price from you for building me a home?" 

I said..."why sure, have you got a set of drawings?"

"No....I just want a price." he responded a bit too brusque for a phone call request.

"I'll need some information about how many floors, if you're going up with a foundation or slab, masonry, siding, gold plated fixtures...."

"Listen....just give me a ball park."

"Why sure....I'd say $2.75 million should cover it...but I can't guarantee that price."

"You can't be serious."

I was getting a bit worn out on my patience..."you're absolutely right, I'm about as serious as some idiot that would call me without a thought in the world on what you want and expect me to tell you how much it's going to cost."

"You're calling me an idiot?!?!?"

"Yup.  Best of luck."


I probably deserved getting fussed at by the lady of the house.'s picture
Here Here !

Dan, nicely summarized !  I love your price quote :-)