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How do you sell the unsellable client?

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by shovelracer, Oct 7, 2011.

  1. shovelracer

    shovelracer LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,008

    Well for starts this actually does not involve hardscaping, as much as it does complete outdoor living. However, since this section will have the most contractors that are familiar with five figure jobs it goes here.

    The situation:

    2 million dollar home on 10+ secluded acres. I actually worked for the developer, notice I did not say builder, on this house about 5 years ago, but he fired everyone and brought in his own latino force after his first offer fell through. Took six months and lawyer threats to get paid. Anyhow it was eventually bought. Wife 25, the husband 45+/-, middle eastern. They wanted a pool, but wanted to save money. They decided to play GC and brought in their own latino forces for the job. (I am not hating on latinos, I am trying to paint the picture of a carload of masons rolling up in an 85 camry with out of state plates.) Well the job should have easily been six figures. I have no idea what they paid. We are talking pool, waterfall, pool house, outdoor kitchen with Viking grill and fireplace, etc. And this is where it ends. Due to the lack of foresight there are now numerous problems like no conduit for lighting and limited access, etc. The existing workmanship is mediocre to poor at best. The patio will fail in a few years based on what I can see, the stone work looks amateur, and the waterfall looks like an industrial concrete sculpture rather than a natural woodsland waterfall.

    How it went down:

    I get the call, "we are looking for a design, we have this pool, waterfall, etc." OK so I establish what it is that they are in need of and find out they are wanting basically a free design, and intend to shop. I am told that they had already received 1 free design. Keep in mind we are not talking about a basic foundation planting that you can whip out with no real harm, we are talking about several thousand square feet of varying terrain in need of everything. I explain that we do not offer free designs, and she tells me that she has no intention of paying for one when contractors are handing in their free designs left and right. For some crazy reason I agree to show up anyways and look at the project.

    I get there and she tells me that she will meet me in the back. OK no harm. She leaves me standing there for over 5 minutes. In that time I saw all I needed to see. It was worse than I expected. There was zero preparation, and there are several major planning oversights that will take thousands to correct. IE they need 80 yards of topsoil on the far side of the pool and patio with only access over the patio. They forgot to install the pool house toilet drain pipe when they had the ground open. They forgot to give the lawn guy access to the back acre except through a 48" gate. (note 48" mowers do not fit through 48" gates) So I tell my self that we are not here to judge, we are here to assist in completion of their outdoor living project. Of course they do not know this. All they want is plants and they want it right away.

    While we were talking her husband was bitching at the head latino cause he forgot yet another thing that should have planned for. The wife then went into a rant about how she hates all contractors, we are all idiots, etc. Keep in mind this girl is only in her mid 20s. The situation becomes really uncomfortable. I cut the meeting short after they were not able to give me any usable information and we were going nowhere. Less than 15 minutes on the sight in the end.

    So in that time I lay on them the entire outdoor living experience, complete with home automation, outdoor audio, nightscaping, softscaping, and deal with all the issues that need to be addressed around the area. Now to date I am the only one that has addressed anything other than installing simple plants. This seems to be working against me. To be honest I have no interest in just throwing in 10k in plants to appease them when I know that half of it will need to be ripped out, moved, or damaged when the other stuff they are not realizing are done. They are getting free designs and prices that are not even on the same planet as what I am talking about. I am providing a complete solution. I have not even given a design, because they are not willing to commit to my designers charges. I am offering to take over their frustrations, fix the issues, and return a complete outdoor living experience. We have the network of people to make this happen we just need the go ahead.

    So I know I obviously should run, and I also have very little chance of getting any work since the rough budget I mentioned was 5 times their highest quote. Of course they were not even for remotely the same thing. They have not responded to my emails, and in the 2 phone calls we have had since I have gotten the old "I check with my husband" response. In fact they couldn't even be bothered to fill out a simple questionare in assisting to find out their wants, needs, favorite colors, etc.

    My problem is I can't turn away. I have a unique chance to throw down a 50-100k detail job, and most of it can happen over the slow late fall to early spring season. They are not very receptive, but I know they want this. The designer glasses, hideously annoying escalade in the garage, and the over spending on a poorly designed landscape tell me they are the typical young artificial type, and want nothing more than to point out to their friends how they can monitor the pool temp, control the outdoor audio, and adjust the lighting from their Ipad poolside.

    So how do you sell these types? My line would have hooked the older, more refined, business man looking to enjoy the fruits of his labor. With these folks I am lost. About the only thing I did not do is get inappropriate and point out that they want this stuff to be the envy of their friends.
  2. FoghornLeghorn

    FoghornLeghorn LawnSite Senior Member
    from Texas
    Messages: 753

    How do you sell the unsellable? You don't, you explain what you are envisioning for them, then you leave and don't call them. If they call you and want to put a deposit down, then you have a green light.

    5 times their highest quote? They're going to think you're trying to rip them off. Not because you actually are trying to rip them off, they just have no idea what the cost is of what they want.

    You don't have a "unique chance", you have a couple of cheap-asses who don't know what they want and will have a nightmare of a site to work on.

    If you're already this frustrated with them, Imagine trying to collect 50-100k upon completion.
  3. jshilan

    jshilan LawnSite Member
    Messages: 3

    I have worked for difficult clients like this and you should follow your gut and walk away. The 50 to 100k job is just a mirage that you believe exists. Every time you think you are getting close to it, it either moves farther back into the horizon or just vanishes completely.

    You are like a moth to a flame right now. You are so enamored with the possibilities that you are blinded to the risk.

    You are better off cutting them a check for 15K now instead of letting them bankrupt you after several months of aggravation. Just think to yourself, if it is this difficult to "get" the work, imagine how hard it is going to be to "get" your payments.

    If I still haven't gotten through to you yet, read your post again and pretend it was written by another landscape contractor. What would your advice be? :hammerhead:


    Jody Shilan
  4. Stuttering Stan

    Stuttering Stan LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,504

    Sounds like the client does not realize the value of your craftsmanship and expertise. Is so, then you are chasing a client that will never buy. I know it's difficult, but focus your efforts elsewhere.
  5. shovelracer

    shovelracer LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,008

    Jim, we touched on much of that, but was cut short by the scolding of the other mason contractor. My situation is I do not need the work. We have had a better year than ever. We have already met and surpassed our goals and any previous numbers. We still have a full schedule and another 50-60k in straight labor work before the end of the year. I want the work. This is my problem. Maybe more so because it has been challenging. Reason tells me to stay away, and drives home everything that was said prior. Paying is not an problem, we lay things out so we are always ahead. If they want to cut us off then we simply will leave and my lawyer can fight for the rest. We have the contracts to support this as well. Not ideal, but there is no way we front anything to a customer we do not know very well.

    Anyhow, this morning around 2am or so it said I get this:

    "Hi Robert....thanks for your time, but my husband does not want to hire a design consultant at this time..."

    I'm sorry isn't that why you called in the first place.???

    I still want the job, but the price just went up. Much like you Jim I have several proprietary secrets that can be invaluable to them and save thousands over conventional methods. Or more realistically get the job done right, where the others will just cut corners to reduce the rediculously stupid and unnecessary workload.

    In reality though, I just want to call them and wish them well (not really) with their poorly done waterfall that will be requiring an overhaul in a few years and the patio that will substitute for a moto x track after a few seasons.
  6. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,602

    I will admit, I skimmed the initial post.

    But I get the jist of it.

    Shovel, ok, you mentioned their house and land. That indicates to me that you think this is a trophy job and you want it. YOU KNOW DARN WELL THESE PEOPLE ARE A NIGHTMARE. But you're looking at their property. Just like a pretty girl, she could have all the baggage and drama, and you're only seeing her hot body that you yearn for.

    I do not know your financial situation. Nor your workload.

    During the slow times I have chased after people like you described. Resulting in me only wasting my time.

    Really, What is there for us to tell you?

    If you wanna do a free design - then get you pencil out and get to work.

    If you can find ways to appease them and short cut the work - then get out your proposal form and get writing.

    Otherwise - forget about them. It's a beautiful weekend, go jump on a bike and enjoy it. While you're out with nature and enjoying the sights - there are 5 other contractors sitting in their basement offices scrambeling to give these people a free design for work priced at next to nothing.

  7. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,602

    I think we all (including myself) *THINK* we have invaluable secrets. And we just may have secrets that can beneficial to our clients.

    But you know what? Most people DO NOT care. I have to hop in the shower so I don't have time, but I could sit here and spend all morning writing my thoughts, and my experiences, as well as share stories about me as the consumer and how I think.

    I do alotta analyizing of home owners. If they are concerned with invaluable knowledge - somehow, someway they will indicate a willingness to pay for this knowledge. They may not just say it. It could be their actions, their questions, and their facial expressions that say so.

    These people you have written about have indicated that they want everything for nothing.

    THEY DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOUR, MINE, OR JIM'S INVALUABLE SECRETS. THEY DO NOT CARE! They are DETERMINED to get this work done for as little as possible. They do not want to accept that you, me, and Jim have operating costs that we need to recover. They refuse to pay for a portion of our phone bill, insurance, employer withholding taxes, etc.
  8. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,187

    If I get a lead that is middle eastern I walk away. Without exception over the last 17 years in this business every single middle eastern person I have tried to deal with is cheap to the core (regardless of how much $ they have, how do you think they got that way?). I am not trying to classify or being racist, it is just a fact to be aware of as a contractor. They are willing to gamble wiu a cheap no name contractor in the hopes they will save a few bucks. Invariably, however they will usually live with a poorly done job, not knowing what good quality really is like. I don't even bother going to estimates for them anymore. It's always a complete waste of my time and I don't market to the bottom end nor do I have to give anything away anymore. There are plenty of guys who market themselves this way. Perception is reality.

    Take my advice....run away from his one. I know this client and they will bring you nothing but sleepless nights and heartburn. Spend your energy and efforts on prospects that will appreciate quality and know the value of a job well done. Yes, they are still out there.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  9. SDLandscapes VT

    SDLandscapes VT LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 581


    You took the words right out of my mouth--the eastern/middle eastern cultures do not place a value on landscaping type services and thus do not value you or your time. I would walk.
  10. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,602

    These types of people are actually people that we are consumers can learn from.

    They are simply looking out for their bottom line. And they're very good at it. If you go along with them, they will negotiate and communicate with you right through the end. Where with Americans if they find a better price they simply drop off the radar screen,
    They'll stop communicating, and they will dodge your phone calls.

    These middle easterners they are very polite. They communicate, they look for the lowest the can get, but they do not beat you up. They leave the ball in your court. How they work is actually a skill and an art. It intrigues me. They are very good with their money and can stretch a dollar further than anyone.

    Yet....I try to run from them!

    Also, I find folks from the Asian continent to be the same as the middle easterners. Except the folks from the Asian continent are not as polite and well mannered when negotiating.
    Posted via Mobile Device

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