Six things that changed my business in 2008

I second that question also. Or third it.?.

Okay here we go:

Estimates over the phone?
I’ll show you how to make up an estimate-over the phone conversation. It is very easy.
#1. Take ten past customers and find out what their sq. footage is.
#2. Once you know what their sq. ft. is then find out your price.
#3. Now divide those and you should come up with a number that you can multiply when you ask someone for their sq. ft. info over the phone.
For example: I found out that I basically have been charging .10 cents a square ft. So for a 4,000 sq. ft. house I’ll charge anywhere from $400 to $450. 2,000 sq. ft. home is $200-$250 That includes sills, tracks and screens. And that is inside and out prices.

I charge $2.00 per window to blade. (ie. remove paint over-spray)

THE TRICK IS TO PREPARE THE HOME OWNER OVER THE PHONE FOR A PRICE INCREASE. If necessary.

Now this is easy for me because in Florida you can legally look at their sq. ft. over the internet via the county accessor’s website. If you are in an area where you can’t I would suggest coming up with some questions for the customers. I do that too. Here they are:

#1. How many sliders do you have?
#2. How many doors do you have with glass in them? Like a front door, french door or pool door?
#2.a. Out of those doors with glass how many of them have the little bars going across them. It looks like you can play tic-tac-toe in them?
#3. There are pieces of glass that you can’t move, you can usually find these above your front door, real high up on your ceilings or half-moons or rectangles above other windows or doors. Do you have any of these?
#3.a. Out of the x amount of glass how many can I clean just standing there flat footed?
#3.b. How many would I need a tall extension ladder for on the inside of your home? It would be considered on the 2nd story.
#4. Let me explain to you what I consider a window is: within a frame there is a piece a glass that is stationary and there is one you can move to get some fresh air in the house. I consider those two pieces of glass to be one window. So if you have three windows that are directly connected to each other then I would consider that to be three separate windows and not one big one. Does that make sense? Okay, can you tell me how many windows you have?
#4.a. Out of the x amount of windows how many of them have those little frames going across them? Sometimes called muttons or mullions? Like your french doors. (if applicable)
#5. Would you like your screens cleaned?
#6. Would you like your tracks cleaned?
#7. What is your sq. ft.?

That was my phone conversation with the home owner above if you didn’t get that. Now you just need to come up with prices for each of those questions. Here are the prices you would need:

How much for:

Type/Suggestion

  1. Slidders? $10-$15
  2. French Doors? $10-$15
  3. Regular Doors?(no muttons) $3-$6
  4. Small Panes? (can clean flat footed) $2-$5
  5. Medium Panes (2ft ladder to 10 ft. ladder) $8-$12
  6. Large Panes (24ft. extension Ladder) $13-$18
  7. Windows? (Non muttons) $5-$7
  8. Windows? (With Muttons) $8-$12
  9. Screens? $1-$3
  10. Tracks? $1-$5

It’s important to ask if the house is a 2 story and what the sq. ft. is because sometimes the home owner will count it up wrong. But if you know the homes sq. ft. then you can adjust the price accordingly to be in line to what you charge per sq. ft.

And this is how you close them:

“While I’m adding this up do you have any questions about me or my company? (good time to build a relationship) Okay the price I’m about to give you represents inside and out of all your windows, sills, tracks and screens. Your total is: X. WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO LOOK AT MY SCHEDULE?” If they say yes you got the job 99% of the time.

NOW YOU FOLLOW IT UP WITH THIS:

“When I get there I’ll do a quick walk around just to make sure we got everything right. If I come up with a different number of windows then I’ll be able to show you how and why I did. Because I carry a sheet of paper with me that separates your house into four different pieces. The front, back, left and right. So you will know exactly why and how I came up with my price.”

Folks don’t mind that at all. And when I first heard about this I thought to myself how in the world will some rich lady want to walk all around her house counting windows? Well they do. This doesn’t work on everybody but I have been doing estimates over the phone for about 2 years and 95% of people don’t mind.

For the ones that don’t want to count you use the sq. ft. thing. But make sure you ask them if they want inside and out or just outside and make sure you ask if they want their screens cleaned and their tracks cleaned. That way when you give them a price they will feel you actually put some thought into it and not just pulled a number out of the air. And always ask “While I’m adding this up do you have any questions about me or my company?” That is the RELATIONSHIP BUILDER question.

Secondly, it doesn’t work for homes over 5,000. Sometimes over 4,000 sq. ft. you have to go see those home if you can’t do the sq. ft. thing over the phone. But be careful with those ones because at that sq. ft. they really can vary on price.

I’m going to be late for the day if I don’t leave now. I’ll post later about how my business has DOUBLED with sendoutcards.com/deland

Thanks, and I sincerely hope this information helps.

Your pal in the work,

Deland

I also use sendoutcards because I have found sending cards to be effective in my business, and I have found using sendoutcards makes that task easy, and in the long run, much more cost effective for me. I do not only use cards to say thank you. I use cards to open the doors to potential clients as well. You can personalize them using your own photos, logo’s, etc, use your best sales pitch, offer, promotion, etc. I have received new clients simply from introducing myself and services with a card. Each one said, they were impressed on how professional the presentation was. Sending out introductions and thank you cards is just the beginning. To keep you in the minds of your customers, let them know first that you are often thinking of them. There are holidays, special occasions, and like I have said before in a previous post, listen to your customers and ask questions. Find out those special days, birthdays, anniversaries, trips, etc. when you can and send out a card, and make these personal, not business. People care about people that care about them, and referrals will come.

It makes no difference if you choose to hand write your cards or use a system like send out cards, the key is, sending cards does make a difference to your customers if it has helped brighten their day, and that is what sets you apart often from the other guy.

Joie - CA

Joi well said. I appreciate you giving a testimonial. Can I share some insight out of David Frey’s book? It is called the small business marketing bible and I know you will enjoy what he has to say.
This is from davids book:
[FONT=“Courier New”]CUSTOMER SERVICE DOESN’T ALWAYS EQUATE TO LOTS OF REFERRALS

Customer service is critical to the success of your referral program. It is the foundation of the referral process. But just because you give good customer service, it doesn’t mean that you will get a lot of referrals. Receiving referrals on an ongoing basis is as much a function of deliberate planning as it is of great customer service. Many small business owners assume that referrals will happen by themselves if you give good customer service. This isn’t true. If you are not deliberate and proactive in creating referrals, the chances of you receiving as many referrals as you want are slim.

WORD-OF-MOUTH ADVERTISING AND REFERRALS ARE NOT THE SAME

Word-of-mouth advertising happens when one of your customers or friends mentions your small business in a casual conversation. It’s not intentional or planned. It’s just something that came out of their mouth.
A referral system is a methodical process that you have put in place to capture qualified prospects through your association with other people. A “system”, by its definition, is a “process that produces predictable results”. A system be can turned on and off like a light switch at will. Your business needs word-of-mouth advertising, but don’t confuse that with developing a methodical system for referral prospecting.

MAKING IT RAIN REFERRALS START WITH YOUR ATTITUDE

Time and again, the same question keeps coming to me. “How do I get more referrals?” My answer is always the same, “You must ask for them.” In reality, most small business owners know that they have to ask for referrals to get more referrals, but it’s the fear of asking that impedes them from moving forward.
This fear of asking is rooted in your attitude. If your attitude is one that believes that you are asking that person to go out on a limb for you by asking them to give you referrals, then you will always be battling with fear.[/FONT]

Okay I’m back now. So how do I use sendoutcards to boost my business. All right, the way I use sendoutcards are in these ways:

  1. When I talk to a prospect for the first time in person or over the phone and I close them.
  2. When I talk to a prospect for the first time in person or over the phone and I DON’T close them.
  3. When I want to get more business from my current customers.
  4. When I want to establish a relationship with other “like” businesses. (ie. pressure washers who don’t wash windows, maid services, home owner associations)

Those are the ways I use sendoutcads. Let me tell you how it WORKS.

When you sign up with the company to use the product you have a coach to show you how to use the system. That is ME! I will help you over the phone and/or e-mail whatever YOU prefer. I have plenty of time to help and I help a lot of people. (I have already signed up a couple of window washers. And a lot are trying the system.)

I will have you print out a piece of paper and fill it out. This paper is from the company and it will capture YOUR OWN PERSONAL handwritting and YOUR OWN PERSONAL signature(s). (it has room for four signatures)
That way when you type a message into a card. Sendoutcards will print it in your handwritting if you want them to. Or you can use one of their multiple fonts available.

For those of you who don’t know, this company will PRINT out the cards you make online and put a REAL stamp on them and put them in the UNITES STATES POSTAL SYSTEM to be delivered for you.

And they do it cheaper than a regular card you buy at the store. How much does a Hallmark or American Greetings card cost at Wal-Mart? Fair to say they are $2-$5 depending on the quality. You can however buy the bulk kind as well. A postcard through sendoutcards costs .58 cents including postage. A greeting card costs $1.03 including postage. You can also send gifts along with your cards if you want.

The beauty is you can go to sendoutcards and make ONE card. (and send it in a matter of seconds if you want to) Type your message, put your logo if you like and pictures, then you SAVE the card. You then go to your groups that you created in the system and assign that card to a group and press the send button. Sendoutcards will then personalize everything and send everything out for you. 5 minutes to make a card and 5 seconds to send it.

You can send a card to multiple people or just one person your choice.

I have over 800 residential customers. How long would it take for me to send them all a handwritten card? If one card takes me 1 minute to write that would be equal to around 13 hours of writting cards and putting stamps on them.

Jeff how long did it take you to send out 600 cards?

When I talk to someone on the phone and I capture their name and address I can send them a thank you card and list some benefits to chose my company over others. I can even, if I want to, make a campaign, similar to an e-mail campaign, and pre make a few cards and tell the system to send them out a week a part from each other. That way you are “dripping” on the prospect and they will see your follow-up and read the benefits of chosing you and will remember to call you back.]

I hope I am explaining myself okay here. I am willing to talk to anybody on the phone. 407-334-0174.

I am giving away a lot of free information so you will learn to trust me. I am also selling sendoutcards because I feel it can benefit myself and others monetarily. That is my goal: for people to see the benefit of using sendoutcards in their total Marketing Plan and sign up with me.

Did I answer your question Jeff?

Just being honest,

Deland

Nice tips! One thing: how are you giving estimates over the phone? I have done this by giving the average price for the size of home, but I’m always looking for a better way!

Hey Mountain View! Your post is #25. (it says in the top right hand corner next to “report”) You should read post #22. If you have any questions after that let me know.

Thanks,

Deland

By the time I asked the customer that many questions and explained to them what they don’t understand, I could of been to the house, looked at it, left a quote in the mailbox and been done. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to explain to a customer what a french pane window is. Also, this way there are no unpleasant surprises for me or them when I show up to do the work. And they have a written quote in hand.

I have customers call to get a price based on square footage. I tell them I can’t give them a price based on square footage that I can only give an estimate based on how many and what kind and size of windows they have. One 3000 square foot house may have 50 windows where another the same square feet have 35 windows. Big difference. Plus, you find out exactly how dirty they are and the effort that will need to be put into the job. Scrub and squeegee vs waterfed pole. Once again, big difference. I let them know that coming out to give them an estimate gives them a set quote and this way there are no surprises for either when we come out to do the job. They understand what I am saying and invite me to stop out for a free quote.

I myself, if I called two window cleaning companies to give me an estimate and one gave me a price range estimate without looking at the job and the other company taking the time to come out and look at the job and give me a written quote. I would go with the company that took the time to come out. I would think if they took the time and energy to come out they will take the time and energy to do the job right. To me it is just more professional.

That’s my philosophy too, and I’m sure that I’ve landed several jobs just because I acted fast. You have to show up, and ASAP. If you don’t give them lots of chances an time to think your chances of getting it increases.
And, I’ve said this many times here, but GAS is something that needs to be considered as an operative expense. If I spend money on postcards to get customers to call me, the LEAST you could do is go there and sell your company.

I really have to disagree with the last two posts. I don’t think it shows a lack of professionalism. How many other occupations “sell” things over the phone and land jobs/sales because of how they speak and interact with the customer?

This is window cleaning not rocket science. Window cleaning can be simplified greatly. It can also be very confusing if you let it. For example: How do you explain what a french window is? You ask them if there are bars going across the glass? Or are there little squares in the windows? How hard is that?

From my experience, and I know I haven’t been doing this as long as most people here but I do have over 822 homes that I’ve washed in 2 1/2 years with tons of repeat business, people like to have the estimate done over the phone. I honestly would say 1 out of 20 will say they don’t want to do an estimate over the phone. Maybe even 1 out of 30. Yet I land 60% of my bids over the phone.

Now you can’t do estimates over the phone for houses that are over 4k-5k square feet. You can on some 4k homes but not 5k or higher. So there are rules and limitations that I obey.

How I don’t get the bad end of the stick while quotting over the phone is I tell the customer that I carry a price sheet with me that serperates their house into the front, back, left and right sides of their house. And that I’ll do a walk-around while I’m there. If I come up with a different count I’ll explain exactly why and how I came up with that number.
People respect that I have an itemized list with prices “PRINTED” on the sheet. They don’t feel taken because they have a large home or that they live in an up-scale neighborhood. There is a huge trust factor that I deliver from the phone to the door.

I’ll explain to you what I did before my phone estimate days. I would get a call and ask for their name, address and phone number. I then would tell them that I would do the estimate on wednesday. So yes if I got a call on Thursday they would have to wait a week to get a quote from me. That was the only way to do it because I have at least two houses a day that I wash so I didn’t have time to go and visit a home and do an estimate after work because it was so late. And I may be different than some folks but I cover a HUGE area in my opinion. If you only cover a 10 mile radius thats great go to every home but I cover a 50 mile radius. (all jobs are profitable for me because I just charge a hefty trip fee for those that are far so it is worth it to me. Trip fee includes gas and time behind the windsheild).

And finally, talking to a customer over the phone about their windows, establishing a rapor with them, saying a couple of funny things during the phone conversation, and giving them a price at the end and letting them know they can schedule right then and there is priceless. Going to someones home and leaving an estimate on a card or nice paper and the customer isn’t even home when you give the estimate is not.

Just my opinion. If you guys who wrote the last two posts want some help on estimates over the phone feel free to call me. I’d be glad to help. If you try something new you never know what can happen.

In the trenches,

Deland

P.S. My wife was doing a lot of the estimates for me and she has never washed a window before but she used my script and landed about 65 to 70% of the estimates over the phone. That makes life easier.

I’ll stick to my way, it works for me.

Things must be different there than here. Maybe more retirees there with time on their hands. If I was to keep a customer who is too busy to be on the phone for 20 minutes playing 20 questions, they would get irritated, say nevermind and call the competition. Many call from their lunch breaks. If they are not home then they would have to visually in their mind walk through their home and count windows all while I am asking them questions. Home or not, in my eyes as a service professional that is my responsibility.

Like I said it must be a demographics thing. If it works for you cool. You can’t sell me on it.

I’ve got to admit a couple of things.:
#1. The sq. ft. thing doesn’t work for me as I thought it would. I was over estimating and under-estimating. A house with french panes and a house without takes a considerable more amount of time to do than a house with just flat glass. And it is hard to determine if a house has that or not just by the sq. ft. you have to ask them.

#2. The questions have worked great for me for the past year and a half when I started doing it. Most like it, some don’t. You can’t please everybody.

Just to set the record straight on a few things: I actually don’t have a lot of retirees as customers. I actually have very few. The price I charge to do window washing is a lot more than “retirees” like. I hardly close “retirees” and I consider them to be a little bit older of a customer. I was taught how to do estimates over the phone by a LARGE window washing company based out of Georgia called H&S Window Cleaning. I know the two owners and they coached me in my business. I will be forever grateful for them.

Another thing is that I’m not trying to “sell” anybody on doing estimates over the phone. What do I care if somebody estimates over the phone or not? I just wanted to share my success that I had with other window washers. That is why I started this thread to “give back” a little. The information and time i’ve put into the responses are valuable to me. I hope they are valuable to others or at least give them a different point of view. I wish I had somebody tell me these thing in the beginning and more importantly I wish I would have been smart enough to understand how important they were at the time.

Deland,

I'm not downing the way you provide estimates, for some in certain areas it may work great as it does for you where in other areas it may not for whatever reasons. I guess it is more of a preference thing. At least you are getting some idea of what you will be dealing with and can give a ballpark price. Unlike the "Splash-n-Dash" guys that charge $50 for any size house regardless of type or how many windows. Do you find that you have to increase your price once your on the job because of difficult landscaping you were not made aware of?

Sean: I change my price a lot while I’m at a customers home. I hope that doesn’t sound weird to say but I do. But, I prep the customer while I am on the phone with them. I say something to the effect of "Since I do estimates over-the-phone, to protect myself, I’ll do an onsite estiamte when I get there. I carry a piece of paper with me that separates your house into the front right back and left. If I come up with another count I’ll show you the piece of paper so you will know how and why I came up with a different number."
People respect that. And remember, window washing customers have a little bit more money than most. They understand we havet to charge a certain amount to make money. They like that my prices are printed up.
I’ve had this happen multiple times but I’ll do an estimate over the phone and would have to increase the customers price by over $100 and I’ve even incresed it over $200. Most don’t mind. The ones that do will look at the paper and maybe walk around with me so I can explain how I got the price. Most just say “that’s fine”.
I don’t really price for hard to get landscape stuff. I have a general pricing sheet that seems to cover all of my bases. (I’ll attach it)

Hope this helps.

Deland

How do you go about doing estimates over the phone? Do you do this even to new clients?

I’m picturing some 70 year old lady pacing around her yard trying to tell me the various sizes of her windows :stuck_out_tongue:

In my area it’s super easy. Most homes have 1 window per square foot. I charge $10 per window. so a 2,500 sq ft home generally will cost around $250.

I explain that over the phone, give them there ballpark price over the phone based on sq footage. I tell them that when we get there the Tech will do a quick look around and give them the EXACT price.

9 times out of 10 we are right within $20.

I’ve found customers appreciate the quick, simple estimate.

Didn’t even realize this thread had multiple pages and that question was already answered more than twice, heh. Sounds like a pretty solid idea, I think I might try that out.

This site is a truly great resource.

I think it’s a great idea personally. Roughly 50% of my calls ask me if I can tell them over the phone. I have in the past told them I have to give an onsite estimate. I’m going to give this a try using delands template.

thanks for sharing bro

Hey your welcome Paul. It was nice talking to you over the phone. Good luck on the biz. Call anytime.