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Builders: Free Estimate Mistake #2: Giving Only Limited Options

the successful builder

The Successful Builder always provides clients with multiple options.

Do you feel as though you are wasting time preparing free estimates on residential building and renovation jobs that you don’t get? It’s frustrating and costly. Especially when you client signs an almost identical agreement with another building company! Sometimes for more money!

In this article I will give you three tools to help you increase your estimate conversion rate.

Maybe, you are making one of the common mistakes residential builders make when working with clients on their estimate…You are not giving your client the feeling that they are doing the choosing! Maybe they feel you are making their choices for them.

Many residential builders provide just one renovation solution, or prepare only one building estimate. And some, when talking to their clients, like to tell them what they should do, even though they have not yet been asked for their opinion! Know what I mean? The fact is, you probably do have a pretty good idea of what that they do need, but…Should you make the choices for them?

In reality most clients are like you…they like to make their own choices. And they don’t appreciate having their choices made for them, especially by someone they hardly know. So building  trust is most important at the early stages.

So when preparing your estimates consider the following

1. Give Multiple Options

Include/discuss several options with each part of the home improvement plan. For example include an estimate for that additional room or French doors; standard or executive decks finishing; brick or timber cladding; tiled or wooden flooring; several levels of bathroom fittings; standard or architectural light fittings etc. These options give your clients the feel that you are not rail-roading them to decsions they don’t want to make.

2. Provide Helpful Information

Ask your client to decide which options they think are better for them and give them helpful details to assist them in making decisions. Keep asking questions and keep providing information. Eventually, if you do your part well, they will ask you which option you think is better for them. This is an important step because it indicates that they now consider you no longer simply a builder but a trusted building adviser.

3. Establish Budget

Once you have become a trusted building adviser  and before recommending options, it is good to talk about the budget. Usually clients are not prepared to talk about budget until they believe they can trust you. Once they trust you, and have discussed budget, you can make suggestions you know are affordable rather than suggest options that have a price tag that is way out of your client’s reach.

Following these simple steps will ensure that when you come to present your final estimate, your client will trust it’s veracity better, it will be closer to what the client really wants and thus it will have more likelihood of being the preferred one.

Let me ask you: Have you failed to close recent deals in your building company? Have your recent estimates been turned down by the home owner? Are you losing work to other builders?  Or are you cutting your rates down and still doing too much work? Do your estimates kinda suck? I’d love to hear what you’re struggling with.

Just post your comment.

View other posts in this series:

Builders: Free Estimate Mistake #1: Not Present for the “Which Builder?” Decision

Builders: Free Estimate Mistake #3: Not Being Accurate Enough

7 Responses to Builders: Free Estimate Mistake #2: Giving Only Limited Options

  1. Patrick Flanagan November 20, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    Hello Graeme,
    I could really use help with a more potent and detailed estimate, without a lot of clutter. I was never the one who did all of the estimating. I had a partner, but he chose to retire and now it’s on me. Any suggestions for where I might see some properly written estimates?? I would like a few templates i could build my own style from.

    • Graeme November 22, 2012 at 4:05 am #

      Happy to provide a sample estimate cover letter that you can adapt.

      • Bruno Marziano November 22, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

        Hi Graeme,

        I’m in commercial development and also do general contracting. I find that when pricing work it seems the designers leave alot of information out so you’re really not pricing apples to apples. When providing the quote I provide it based on the drawings and seperately list out potential extras to the client so they are not surprised. I have been trained to be comletely honest with the clients as well so all know how much extras can cost after the project starts. This seems to be working against me. Any suggestions

        • Graeme November 23, 2012 at 12:12 am #

          Hi Bruno.
          Thanks for sharing your experience. I can understand why your clients might not accept your quote (with possible extras) against other quotes (that don’t list the possible extras). It’s human nature to prefer the lowest price. I also fully appreciate that you are not prepared to jeopardize your integrity by not informing your clients of possible extras. Good on you. Especially if you know, from your experience, that a certain percentage of extras are likely to arise. So, in my experience, the best way to deal with this is to explain your process upfront and why your quote will have a list of possible extras. You might refer to some real examples to illustrate your point. It’s in these early meetings that you want to gain their permission for you to sit with them at the end of the process when they are assessing all the various estimates/quotes so you can ensure they get the best comparison possible. See my post, Builders: Free Estimate Mistake #1: Not Present for the “Which Builder?” Decision (

          Explain that you would love for your company to win the job, but if a competitor’s quote turns out to be better, then you will advise them to choose it. By positioning this way you are presenting as a professional, rather than just another builder pitching for a job. Cheers

      • Jason December 20, 2012 at 11:07 am #

        Hi Graeme,

        having the same problem with a more potent and detailed estimate, any chance on getting a copy of one as well?

  2. Terry November 26, 2012 at 12:23 am #

    I could also use a copy of your detailed estimate cover letter. I use a proposal writing boiler plate. It’s OK but doesn’t give you a lot of room for detail or options. I also try to establish that trusted adviser status at the first meeting but almost never do I get their budget number. I feel people don’t want to give that up in fear you’re going to adjust the cost of the project to the money they have to spend. I’ve been in business for 20 yrs but I’m ready to change my approach to estimating. Completely tired of tire kickers wasting my time.


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