View Full Version : Customer Budget

M & D Lawn
01-24-2010, 08:25 PM
When you are meeting with a potential customer, do you ask what
their budget for the project is? If so how do you get it out of them?
In my experience, everytime I ask for a budget people get weird and
think I am going to rip them off or take all of their money. The landscape
industry has such a bad reputation, it's like people automatically don't
trust us.

DVS Hardscaper
01-24-2010, 11:05 PM
I try to pull a budget out of them.

Yep, they "get weird".

So I also explain that the sky is the limit. We can do $3500 of work or we can do $56k of work. I also use an analogy of the real estate industry. I tell them "if you're in the market for a new home, you'll have to tell the agent how much you can spend. This way the agent can show you homes within your price range".

Also, as the client leafs through my portfolio of jobs they say "oh I love that". I'll respond "to give you an idea of cost - that job was $15k back in 2005". Then they'll either say "oh my god, i had no idea, or they'll say we really like that, lets do that in our yard".

On our website I have have a paragragh or 2 explaining the importance of the client providing us with a budget.


01-24-2010, 11:05 PM
I know you started this thread in Hardscapes, just wondering what it is that you do. What services do you offer. Landscape Design/Install, Landscape Maintenance, Hardscapes? And how long you've been doing it.

01-25-2010, 12:34 AM
They definitely get wierd. Sometimes they will say something like "as little as possible", and at least then I know to RUN!
Seriously, I tell them that it helps me a lot to be able to offer them something that they will want, and what type or brand of material will be within the price range.

M & D Lawn
01-25-2010, 09:52 AM
We have been in business for 15 years, we started just mowing and snow removal. We really got into hardscapes about 7 years ago. We've laid about 100,000 sq ft of pavers over the last 4 years.

01-25-2010, 08:14 PM
since there is such a variety of material and a huge difference in price, i wait for the homeowner to tell me what they like in our portfolio, then ask "so did you have a budget you would like to stay within?" its not too forward, and we usually get a great result, sure some people wont tell you, but they always have a number in mind, just gotta find out how to get it out.

hey dvs, what is your website anyhow??

01-25-2010, 09:19 PM
Good response DVS.

I get this all the time if they can't be straight with you on there budget then how can you put together a design. I had a guy a few years back saying if I tell you my budget you are going to make sure you spend as much of it as possible. Other times I knock on the door come in and they say I need this this and this I cant spend more then XXX.XX. Everyone is different.

01-25-2010, 09:34 PM
Posted via Mobile Device

DVS Hardscaper
01-25-2010, 09:58 PM
Good response DVS.

I get this all the time if they can't be straight with you on there budget then how can you put together a design. I had a guy a few years back saying if I tell you my budget you are going to make sure you spend as much of it as possible.......

I hear that frequently. I have had people state it to me hastily, and I have had people state it to me very politely.

When people tell me they're not going to divuldge a budget becase they *think* I'm going to take advantage of them - I respond with:

"Business relationships are about trust. We BOTH must trust one another to have a successful relationship........."

On the other hand - many of our weathly clients really and truely have NO budget. They know what they want done, and they get 3-4 estimates, and usually go with the lowest. Again, they wont give you their budget because they don't have one, and because they have every full intention of going
with the lowest quote. These type of people are very self-rightous. They have huge egos. They don't understand all the logistics of a hardscape job done right. They think they can screen the contractors and they truely believe they're selecting the right guy. When in all reality - they're looking solely at dollars.

I have had 2 or 3 people say (not about the same contractor) "oh our neighbor referred us to company that mows his lawn. They also service his company's grounds maintenance. They're a big company, so we know they'll do us a nice job". Little do they know is that the company is probably mowing his lawn for next to nothing because he awarded the grounds contract at work to them.

Ok, great. So now you're going with mega size company that will NOT focus on quality or personalized customer service. They primarily do maintenance work, plant beautiful flowers at the entrances to the corporate campuses, and you're going to trust that they know how to drain the water away from your dwelling and new patio???? And the home howner is so confident when they tell you they're going with the Mega company. Uh-huh...sure...good luck to you. It's funny because after 14 yrs in the residental hardscape business - I've heard it all, seen it all, and I know who all the good contractors are and I know who the bad contractors are.


01-25-2010, 10:06 PM
DVSHow about this one

I need to get your budget for this project so I can come up with a respectful design to fit you need and budget.

Ummmmm I was thinking I could trade you my car for the work and material

She was dead serious can you call the bank and say hey instead of making my house payment I am going to give you this car I took in on trade:hammerhead:

DVS Hardscaper
01-25-2010, 10:13 PM
DVSHow about this one

I need to get your budget for this project so I can come up with a respectful design to fit you need and budget.

I usually word it: "we'll tailor a design to fit your individual taste and budget".
(and local guys reading this - don't steal that line, as it's on our website, wouldn't look good if we all say the same stuff)

01-25-2010, 10:36 PM
So far all excellent thoughts and advise. I'm looking at it from the other end......your end. You've been doing this for awhile now, and have laid a fair amount of pavers. You opened this thread saying, "every time I ask for a budget people get weird and think i'm going to rip them off or take all their money." More than likely thats not true. Whats probably true is the fact that even before you walk through their door your already thinking that thats what their going to be thinking. Go in with confidence. Sell them on quality products. Sell them on the quality install your going to do. Sell them on You and your experience. Keep the subject of cost towards the end. More than likely they'll bring up the subject of money all on their own. If your not comfortable giving them a number, or even a ball park figure at that time, don't. Tell them you'd like to take the info that you've both discussed, crunch the numbers, and give them a solid estimate/proposal tomorrow or the following day.

01-25-2010, 11:24 PM
I think this is what we do I always try to sell them on our quality yatta yatta. I go to the office crunch the number and give them a very fair price but still you have to have a budget how can you even start a design I have designed a job a couple time that was 5 time if not more then there expected cost.

DVS Hardscaper
01-25-2010, 11:36 PM
not to sound arrogant. and the following is spoken in a verly calm, polite, laid back tone. But I think every single contractor on this planet truely believes they sell "QUALITY".

And any home owner that does their homework and obtains multiple quotes will attest to the fact that every contractor they met with talked about how they were the best.

You win people over by your passion for the work you do and by your personality. Pictures, references, and detailed explanations of the process help. But a buyer will pick up on your passion and personality way before anything else.


DVS Hardscaper
01-25-2010, 11:49 PM
And in all reality, we write on here as if we're just the nicest, greatest people.

I hear stories from clients how Charlie Contractor was over yesterday and tried to sell them exactly what they DIDN'T want, and how he was pushy, and how he didn't listen to a word they told him (in terms of their wants, needs, goals).

We have a client that got an estimate from a well known contractor in the area. The Mrs is very attractive. Nice Body, yadda yadda yadda. She and I are good friends. She told me when they were talking to the other contractor that he starred at her chest the whole time, and that he would not even look her husband in the eyes. RIGHT THERE - on his own, HE ruined the comfort level. Would you spout off a budget to a contractor you're not comfortable with??????

So, when a prospective client refuses to give a budget - it could just be that they are not interested in you. You could have done something to give them a bad taste.


Fiano Landscapes
01-26-2010, 12:17 AM
Personally I believe that if you go into the situation being timid, your potential customer will be very timid as well. Act like you've been there before. I always tell my customers that If I dont know what they are looking to spend obviously I cannot guide them in process. It is rude of me to design something without a budget. You can't be affraid to be bold with potential customers. They want to know that their going to be taken care of so show them how valuable your time is. Mostly, the only people your going to scare off is the people that are going to waste your time anyway.

I've heard the same situation with drawing plans for customers. The contractor is timid in asking someone to pay for a design, so they just do it for free, and then put all of this time into something for nothing. They aren't showing up at my house and suppling me with a service for nothing. If your timid and walking on egg shells with your customers, then expect them to follow the lead. They need to know your going to take care of them, and in order to do so they need to embrace the process. They wouldnt dare just tell a home builder to come up with something. They would have to come up with some type of price range.

01-28-2010, 04:44 PM
I have to strongly agree with DVS. Your passion for plants, soil, landscapes, beauty, serene environment, and your personality will make the sale or not. Know who you are and what you can provide, convey that with style and passion, be yourself, and the budget will materialize. I never discuss a budget in the first meeting, unless they are ready to sign a design contract with me. Then I ask for a ballpark idea if I have a clean slate to work with. If they have told me exactly what they want (i.e. it is a specific plan for the work), then I give them a ballpark idea if they want it, or I just go and cruch the numbers and we work from there together. If someone seems like they want it all, but don't seem like they have that kind of money, then I gently describe what a few things cost to install. It will quickly get them to realize if they are unrealistic with their budget in relation to what they want installed.

Just my 2 cents.


01-29-2010, 07:51 PM
Well, it is a sticky one. I started doing this last year.

When someone calls to inquire about our services and get a price for a project they have in mind, I first tell them to visit my website to read through the scope of work we do and learn more about our company before we meet at their site. I will then come out and look at someone's project for 30 minutes at no charge to them, dialogue about their needs only, no free ideas. At the end of the 30 minutes we go over our rate sheet, and scope of services, which leads them to make a decision how they want to proceed. Either hire me or not. If they do, they pay me my rates for all services, materials, subs, plus markups, and taxes. As well as agree to my terms, which are clear and firm. We give them a 7 page questionaire to fill out about their project, including budget, then come out and do site measurements. I charge an initial fee to just the ball rolling for projects. My goal is to be paid fairly, be profitable, and to charge my clients fairly for the scope of services we provide. We even charge for estimating time. We find this a really successful way to breach the subject of budget, manage it, for billing, and there is 100% transparency for the client, and us. I find, it really helps build the trust when you approach a potential customer with enough information about your work, your process, your billing, and having images where you meet your customers expectations.

If not, then they do me a favor by not wasting any further time. Simple. I want mature clients, reasonably, to work with.

We had a good year in a down economy by applying a different approach to how we engage our potential clients.

I hope it helps for my 2 cents. With 17 posts you now have like 34 cents!

01-29-2010, 10:07 PM
can i get you to send me a pm of the 7 pages questionaire. thanks.

01-29-2010, 11:17 PM
I am all for nurturing each other in developing our businesses on all these different levels, but this is something I developed over time. It's not for sale, or free, but here are some details to think about when you craft your questionaire for your clients to help them meet their goals.

Look. Think of this questionaire in a way that is going to answer all your questions about their(the client) site, their likes/dislikes, working areas, drainage issues, needs & wants, etc..... Do this in a way that also answers these questions for the seasons.

Also keep in mind BOTH(if married or has partner) needs to fill it out.

I would/have die a slow death if i had to sit down a write out all that stuff over two hours. Plus giving it to them to write over the course of a week gives them time to mull over the questions. Budget questions are on page 6.

From the 1st meeting until I break ground for the client is about 6-8 weeks.

I revise my forms for our services over the winter slow time.

DVS Hardscaper
01-30-2010, 11:37 AM
4Russl5 -

I'm curious about your company.

What dollar amount are your jobs? What dollar amount is your average job?

I'm all about pre-qualifying prospective clients. Big believer in it.

Although, I'm not so sure I'd assign a prospective client a 7 page homework assignment. With taking their kids to soccer and cheer leading practice, making dinner, helping their kids with homework, laundry, etc - it seems that may be a little over the top. 1 or 2 pages - absolutely.

I'd be interested in hearing more about your company, the type of clients you have, etc.



01-30-2010, 12:49 PM
We are a small custom dry stone masonry & native plant company. 4 of us last year. Our financial information....? I try to keep our minimum client budget to 5k. Maximum is where it comes in.

It is a beautiful thing that we all have our own companies and choose the parameters within the services we offer, why, when, where, & to whom.

My decisions how I run my company keep in the field, and all the other areas as well. I love it. It definitely means a ceiling on our income as long as I do this.

You all were curious how to breach the subject of 'budget'. This has been successful for us over time, and especially, last year. Why don't you sit down and type the questions that your prospective clients should address when they communicate to you their needs? Page 2 went real quick, and page 7 is boiled down to our needs. I like working with people who spend money in a way that makes sense every step of the way.

You can have any kind of company you want, with the people you want, offering the services of your choice, your way. This is what I do. What do you do?

01-30-2010, 03:37 PM
Getting a budget out of a client can be hard, and as DVS said, some really don't have a budget, they just want VALUE.

I know that when I need to buy something and am surprised at what is cost, I look for who is giving me value, not the lowest cost.

I often liked to have them browse a portfolio and point out work, and give them a ballpark cost. If that does not get the budget out, you might say "In a space like this our projects have ranged from 25-75K." AT that point, they usually respond with "Ohh, that much, I was thinking 35K at the most." or whatever the actual number.

The high net worth clients probably have a rough number in mind, but you wont get it. They will tell you what they want in the project and get the number. These clients may choose a 65K quote over a 50K quote because they trust the contractor, or feel that they are getting a better Value. I don't mean that the 65K job is not bid at high profit, but the client values an easy, no trouble experience.

That has been my experience.