Getting The Client to Tell You Their Budget

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by JimLewis, Apr 3, 2012.

  1. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    Jim, great thread.

    Now, here's my take on the whole estimating scenario.

    I have to lean towards Jim's argument. People just don't have the funds like they used to. Around here I always try to give people a range on what they are looking to spend. I also try AGLA's tactics in that I discuss products and the varying prices on products.

    Another thing also, is that it seems is that 50% of the people I deal with only have short term aspirations with the home they live in currently, so those install budgets are focused on low-cost and curb appeal rather than the out-door living spaces.

    Here's the quote I use.

    " So, you want the world, I can give you the world. But, if you can only afford the moon that goes with the world, then I'll give you the best dam*&% looking moon I can give you."

    Now, in AGLA's case (an clarify if I'm wrong please), his business focuses more on the landscape design aspect rather than the install work. So, the way I see it, the customer is going to already have a line item in the budget that includes the design work. So, there tends to be more funds available as a whole for the project.

    So, I'm not saying AGLA is a god and just down right awesome and lands the big jobs just by pure will, it's his business model. And on top of it, I'm sure the region economics might have something to do with it also.

    So, on both sides of the coin, my opinions lie mostly in line with Jim and his article. People around here are very budget minded. Most professionals and their higher budget lies in their short term goals with their 225k home with only 8k of yard at best to play with.

    And on top of it, stupid DYI programs had to go ruin everything by making homeowners think projects can be cheaper and done faster than what most small landscape companies generally can do. I could easily knock out a 25K project in 4 days if I had 35 guys on a project, not to mention half of them being volunteers........

    Jim. Also liked your FB page. Thumbs Up

    Don't be afraid to like mine. I'm three short of 300! LOL!

  2. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,778


    You nailed it right on the head. Design is my business model - my target is not the highest end of the design market. Most people find me because they are already pre-disposed to hiring a designer or referred by someone who has worked with me(others because they want free advice). I am in a seasonal resort area and most of my clients live somewhere else. Simply having enough money to afford a second home means that they have disposable income. They certainly don't have the time to do any DIY projects because they live somewhere else. They want everything in place so that after they drive 8 hours from NY, CT, or NJ, they can start partying. The cost only becomes an issue if they feel like it is too much for what they are getting. There is no reason, from their perspective, for me to start with wanting to know how much they are willing to spend. It makes some of them feel like you have not been there before.

    You can adjust to your client and the situation. There is no one size fits all approach. Know your options and try to match your approach according to the client and situation.

    However, most of us tend to work in a certain range of the market. They are all good, but most of us get referrals within the same range so we get geared to working in that segment. I think that is a good thing because it keeps everything consistent. So sticking to what you know in your situation is not a bad thing either. The more specialized you are to working a certain part of the market, the more you can use a one size fits all approach.
  3. Duekster

    Duekster LawnSite Fanatic
    from DFW, TX
    Messages: 7,961

    I do not often have a hard job closing but I would like to learn how to design better. Get better at Pro-landscape or some other program so I can up sale. I think people have a lot of pent up desire to do things to their homes.

    I do sometimes let them know there is a wide range of materials that could be used and a wide range of cost associtated with those materials. I often toss out a few examples, particularly rocks and stone.
  4. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    I definitely understand where you are coming froom AGLA. Don't disagree with much of what you said. And we've won a fair amount of jobs by designing to what the customer wants and then them finding more money. It's just that we've also lost a lot of jobs because we overdesigned. Not fancy. Not Disneyland. We just designed to what they said they wanted but it turned out that they couldn't AFFORD what they wanted. So sometimes people will find the money somehow. But many times people just decide that they can't really afford it and just leave the entire process and use that money for something else.

    And I'm not talking about just $10K jobs. We've lost many jobs that were $20K, $30K, etc. price range too. All for the same reason. Just sometimes people have loftier dreams than what they an really afford. So it sucks to keep losing jobs like that.

    I just know that we'll land a higher % of jobs we bid if we pay a little more attention to their budget. The problem, until now, has been trying to get that figure out of people. Because they never want to give it up. But this article illustrates really well a technique that works perfectly for doing that.

    I thought I already had. I know I posted on your wall before. But I went ahead and liked it too. Likes help. But what you really want are LOCAL likes. People in the area you service. Most of my likes are customers or people in the area I service. That's a whole lot better than a bunch of likes outside your area.
  5. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    About half of my likes are locals, so it's not too bad.

    Just met with a Marketing specialist the other day and we're finally going to get the web-site going along with me doing a bunch of blogging to keep getting organic hits before I start getting into google ad-word purchases.

    That and all my posts on LS I'm hoping will add up on the organic hits. (yes there is an advantage to being consistent on this site!)

    That's been the biggest thing. I've finally have taken on an employee and really starting to amp up production. Hopefully the web-page will help with that.

  6. allinearth

    allinearth LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 614

    I think I deal with a lot of average income households. Many have never had landscape work done so don't realize what it costs. There are many that would be satisfied with what the local lawn boy could do and expect low prices. I would like to believe we are above that level and those are the type of customer that I would like to eliminate or qualify by discussing budget. However, I realize that I have some customers that clearly expect higher levels of detail and quality and I would never even ask budget. On those type you are right. We simply have to give them what they ask for.
  7. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    Agreed and good post.

    Only thing I want to add is that my pitfall is that I want to help everyone regardless of budget so we end up taking on jobs that are just down-right small or annoying just because I want to help.

  8. Farbio

    Farbio LawnSite Member
    Messages: 99

    Great topic. We deal with this issue as well and can relate to Jim Lewis. AGLA is design only so he is most likely not effected by much if he does design over the customers budget. He is paid and onto the next design before the landscape contractor even gets his bid to the customer. The customer may have been thrilled with AGLA's design but shocked at the 50k price tag the contractor gave them. Design build companies are much more affected by this situation because we need both the design and the build portion. I try to get the budget if at all possible.
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  9. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,778

    I don't do fantasy design. My designs do get built and in order for that to happen, the design and budget ultimately meet. The biggest thing that I'm trying to tell you is to learn to understand the budget without asking for it directly unless it is obviously one that is very limited.
  10. Isobel

    Isobel LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 548

    It's nice to know that this is advice they're giving out. I use this in conversations with my clients already, with alot of success.

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