Podcast: Assessing Client Goals
Updated: Mar 1
Bill Gagne: (00:00)
This is the SRC toolbox podcast. My name is Bill Gagne
And in this episode, we're going to be talking to Charlotte Verge about how she approaches first conversations with clients.
Please, if you enjoy this episode, leave a thumbs up and a subscribe and let's get started.
Charlotte Verge: (00:20)
Hi Bill. How are you today? I'm good. Enjoying the sunshine. Are you
Bill Gagne: (00:25)
I wanted to talk a little bit today about what happens the first time you have a conversation with a client, whether it's on the phone, whether it's via email, what are you trying to ascertain or assess from that conversation in order to help them?
I don't want to use, like, what's the goal, because then it seems like we're trying to get something from them, but really we are.
So, what happens in that first conversation from a standpoint of the contractor,
Charlotte Verge: (00:57)
I think, verbally or over the phone, any form of communication that it, in which it takes place, it's determining what their end product is.
Is it a basement?
It is. Is it a kitchen?
Is it a bathroom?
And making sure that they have a clear idea prior to quoting so that they get a more reasonable, if not more accurate number, for the project that they're looking to undertake.
Bill Gagne: (01:29)
You and I have talked about it a little bit.
We, we sort of have two benchmarks in the client's first context.
It's sort of, where are they in their process?
Are they at a point where they are trying to formulate a budget and gather that information so that they can get a good idea of cost?
Or do they have an idea of costs, they have a budget and they're looking to hire the right contractor.
What do you do in figuring out where they are in that path and how do you best go about helping them do that?
Charlotte Verge: (02:05)
Well, I think initially it's just being upfront straightforward about the process and asking essentially pointed questions to really get the information you're looking for.
Where are you at in the process?
What are you hoping to achieve?
Have you put money aside?
Do you have drawings?
These are all initial questions that take place to get a better sense of where they're at.
As an example of one this morning, I had a meeting this morning with a potential client and those were the questions that were asked and they were straightforward and honest and return saying, I don't have much experience with renovations and I don't get it.
I don't have a sense of how much this is going to cost. You are the first contractor who even agreed to take a meeting with us.
So this is our first and initial conversation about the whole project. So with that in mind, you know, there's no point in getting into the nitty gritty.
If what they're looking for is essentially exploratory information and that we can help with, right?
Like if we can, we can navigate, we can funnel essentially their ideas about the project into a particular shape, where then we can better answer the questions that they have essentially.
Bill Gagne: (03:30)
How much of your initial contact is really education and informing them about what it really takes to get what they want and what's your attitude towards that?
I mean, we're always trying to help, but what steps or what questions are you asking them in that process?
Charlotte Verge: (03:53)
I think about, I'd say a generous half of the inquiries that we get. People have a sense of what it is that they want to do.
They just don't necessarily know the intricacies on how to achieve that.
So I have to ask those questions, do you have your drawings explaining the permit process, and all sort of the components that go into creating what it is that they want as an end result.
And sometimes if not all of the time, there's at least a small portion that is education.
So I need, in order to create a more accurate quote, to know about finishes and styles in order to give something that is more exact, but the larger components, the trade components, it's just making sure that they have a sense of what they want and I help them get there. If that makes,
Bill Gagne: (05:10)
What part of that conversation is you saying like, Hey, here's what we do. This is how it fits into what you're saying in terms of projects.
I know we get calls of doing say siding. We don't do siding, right? What are there things in that process? Because I know it's a w informing them that a quote is, you know, these, these are 10 to 12 hours to put together. It's not show up, write it up on a napkin and hand it to them. It's an extensive process. So how much of that information is in there as well?
Charlotte Verge: (05:47)
I would say more and more as we develop as a company, I feel that process is getting streamlined about informing them of the quoting process.
What is required to facilitate things on our end is starting to be more of a conversation piece, I think mostly because as you and I have discovered, and as I've gotten into the numbers more, and that we've sort of talked back and forth about it, we're more comfortable giving an initial ballpark pretty quickly.
As a result that separates, for lack of a better term, the people who are in the exploratory stage or had literally zero idea of the cost of undertaking, such jobs to the people who perhaps have done a little bit more research, or have put some money aside to budget for the project, that's where you sort of start to separate the groups.
Charlotte Verge: (07:01)
And that becomes important from our end, because we can then make the decision to either go forward with the quoting process or leave it at that ballpark, let them sort of digest that information and come back to us if they want to.
And I think that our initial meetings and quoting process is honest, straightforward information. So that the whole point from our end was always to educate not in a patronizing way, but just elucidate what's required to achieve what it is that they want.
And that happens all the time on smaller scale jobs, on larger scale jobs.
It's people's money. It comes down to it being a very personal thing, and you want to be able to be as straightforward and transparent about that process.
So you're not wasting their time and ultimately hours, but I don't think the process is technically ever wasted, but it is up to us to always improve on that process, to make it better and easier for everybody in the long run.
Bill Gagne: (08:31)
I think one of the key points that you and I have talked about is really just that being upfront and the educational portion to say, Hey, where are you at?
Here's what it really costs because we're not selling, there's no selling, you know, you're not selling somebody on a $20,000 bathroom or a $50,000 basement or a a hundred thousand dollars mean floor renovation. They're either prepared to do that or not.
And it doesn't necessarily affect our costs. You know, what their budget is. Your budget doesn't change the cost of a sheet of drywall.
Charlotte Verge: (09:06)
No. And we all know how that's jumped up three times in the last six months.
Bill Gagne: (09:11)
I can imagine navigating the conversation about increases in material costs recently is probably something that has to be done fairly early when people have budgetary ideas.
Charlotte Verge: (09:27)
To your point, exactly a conversation with the same folks this morning explaining for the example, is a main floor blowout with a new kitchen, structural changes, et cetera, and understanding what's required.
Number one, in order to achieve that in terms of just in terms of tasks and phases, but then also is that ongoing joke, like we're talking about being aware of lumber futures. Two by four by eight stud is no longer three 50 a piece it's egregiously expensive in comparison.
It is a conversation piece and something that I had immediately with these potential clients this morning, you have to be aware of those things, and we're not trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes.
We're just saying, unfortunately, you've chosen to undertake work at a time where X, Y and Zed drywall materials, lumber, these are all costs that have exploded in the last 12 months.
And so, yes, it's a very early conversation piece because it's them being aware of it. And then also where if not necessarily the potential, but the fact that it will increase by the time they get around to doing their project.
Bill Gagne: (11:03)
Are you finding people are asking you for that, or are you bringing that up or is there sort of a mix of people going, Hey, what's happening with materials or are you the one usually bringing that up?
Charlotte Verge: (11:14)
I would say I'm the one bringing it up because I think it's just, again, another portion of us being transparent.
You know, if people want an understanding as to how we came to the numbers that we came to, bringing that up early on, being upfront about it helps conversations down the road. There are on occasion, with some inquiries where they do it.
And in fact, ask very specifically about material costs because they are peripherally aware, or they've actually been doing their own research.
But ultimately a conversation piece that has to be had, whether it's brought up by the client or brought up on our end, just because as you know, the changes have been significant over the last six to 12 months,
Bill Gagne: (12:03)
Thank you to Charlotte for taking the time to do this.
And if you're looking for more information about renovations and projects and work you're looking to do, please don't hesitate to check out our website, speedrivercontracting.ca or our other podcast available on all platforms that you get your podcasts act. Thank you for listening.