Originally Posted by PaperCutter
It all depends on your sales process and how easily can build rapport with the client, but you can often arrive at that number without ever having to directly ask for it. I mean, you're there at the property. If they talk you through what they're looking for it's easy enough to say "ok, with a fireplace you're starting at around $XXXXX, your patio is somewhere between X and X, and we can plant and clean up for Xish, so I'm figuring your project will fall somewhere between X and X. Does this match with the research you've done thus far?" (because that way you give them an out - you're letting them know you assume they're smart and savvy and all that, and it gives them an opening to tell you who else they've talked to)
For plantings and that sort of thing I think you have to be direct, though, and ask how much they're looking to spend. Most people don't understand labor and don't understand that quality landscape grade plants cost more than Home Depot plants.
Of course. if you're at a point where you can charge for design (I draw for a number of contractors who couldn't otherwise charge for the process) that encourages the client to give you as much info as possible. The customer doesn't appreciate the hours that go into a good design, so if you're designing a whole backyard for free, what's to stop them from making you and two other contractors jump through hoops with endless revisions until they have something they can hand to the guy they pick up at 7-11? My design agreement specifies they get X hrs of revision time included and anything else is billed hourly. That makes them get serious about telling me how much they have to spend. We can't be good consultants for our clients unless they're giving us all the info.
That is very good. I'll use this approach from now on.