Who Here Screens Calls Heavily?

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by JimLewis, Nov 6, 2010.

  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    This is a copy of a new thread I started in the "Landscaping" Forum. But I wanted to start the same thread in this forum as well, as about half of what we do these days is hardscapes. I'm curious as to how you guys in this forum handle this as well.....


    Just curious if there's anyone here who heavily screens their calls / leads before they ever go out to bid a job.

    I know a guy who owns a really large landscaping company in another state (e.g. $5Mil a year revenue) who really heavily screens any call or lead that comes through. They don't set any appointments at the time of calling. Each call goes through a 5 minutes questionaire over the phone and then the owner reviews the list of questionaires at the end of the day and tells the office manager which ones to follow up on and set an appt. with and which to ignore and not call back. His criteria is pretty high. But he says this has lead to him landing 95% of the jobs he goes and bids.

    Just wondering if anyone here has a fairly rigid screening process and if so, what kind of results do you get with that?
  2. Darryl G

    Darryl G Inactive
    Messages: 9,500

    I screen all my calls pretty heavily. That includes asking a lot of questions but also looking up their property on an aerial photo and doing a search for any past small claims cases before I even schedule a site visit. I like the bird's eye view on the Bing maps, gives a pretty detailed view of the property and neighborhood.
  3. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,627

    I'm a believer in screening calls. But for the last 2 years, due to business being down - I have slacked off on screening.


    Had a lady call me this week for an estimate. I set up an appointment for this morning (thats where I was incase anyone was wonderin where I was this am).

    At the end of the initial phone call I found out that they do not even own the home and they are considering buying it. I was aggitated. I was thinking "here I am on a Saturday meeting with people that do not even own the place, what a freakin waste".

    So I meet with her this am. All along I had her name. Her last name is a common American last name so I didnt think anything of it. At the end of the meeting I got her e-mail address. As soon as she started telling me the e-mail address, before she got to the "@ blah blah blah.com", it hit me who she was. And then she finished the e-mail address and sure enough - her husband owns a LARGE, well known, successful business in the area of which I live.

    Here I was all about to cancel the appointment, as it seems we all wanna have these strigent requirements that must be meet prior to makin an appointment. This time I thought "well I'll go anyway and keep a positive attitude".

    I have some design work to do. And some cost calculations to do. And hopefully everything will pan out. These are people that you WANT to be on their goodside, they have money, and I bet they have plenty of friends with money.

  4. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    See, that's my dilemma. In the 15 years I've been in business I've always operated with the methodology that whoever calls us will get a bid - the same as anyone else. And even though there are certain races I almost always seem to strike out with (Indian, Asian - because they are almost always looking for the cheapest bid) and certain property values that I don't seem to land many jobs with (smaller less expensive homes, townhomes), I've always just given the bid anyway and given them as much personal attention as I give the guy with the million dollar property and the high profile.

    The dilemma is that yah, we get 70% of our work from people who fit a certain profile, if we turn the others down we're definitely giving a lot less bids. But at the same time we're also turning away good work. Yah, not as many of those people call us back as do the well-qualified ones. But the ones who do call us back still account for a good 30% or so of our business. I've done some really profitable jobs this year for homes and people I never would have thought could have afforded our company. I don't know where they got the money. Maybe they just re-fi'd the house. Maybe they just got an inheritance. Maybe they're just really frugal and have been saving money in the bank for years. But regardless, people often surprise me. So I hate to just ignore a certain group of people (and piss them off by turning down their business, not calling back, or ignoring their call) just so I can focus more on the big-ticket stuff.

    But then again, maybe if I just focused on the people that were within our usual demographic I wouldn't have to spend nearly as much time giving bids and I could focus more on the ones who are more likely to afford us. That's the dilemma.
  5. stuvecorp

    stuvecorp LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,245

    This is something I've wondered about as I'm at the estimate thinking why am I here? Why didn't I ask some more(and better) questions to prevent this waste of time?

    This year I've had a lot of estimates where I want nothing to do with the job for many reasons (and the worst part is it's a referral which makes it even worse but that is a whole other topic).

    How do they(the contractor) get away being so restrictive? Don't people get upset they were not chosen?
  6. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    I hear you. I usually wonder that at least 4-5 times a week. The only think that helps me brush it off is the fact that I'm giving another 15 bids that week that aren't going to be so bad. To me, it's just a numbers game. I have to wade through all the crap to find the golden eggs.
  7. stuvecorp

    stuvecorp LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,245

    How do you handle that much crap? I have to be honest, I hate the whole estimate process.
  8. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    Well, it pays really well. That helps make it bearable. Plus, I'd rather be out giving bids and checking on crews, etc. than breaking my back all day doing the work myself. So to me, it's a trade off. I like this better than I like doing the physically hard work all day.
  9. Bru75

    Bru75 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 582

    I'll meet with just about anybody, as long as the project sounds like something I want to do. I ask questions during this meeting to find out if the potential customer is serious with realistic price expectations. It takes maybe an hour at most to look things over and if there is some sort of problem with the job or person, I pass. If it turns out to be a total waste of time, I've only lost an hour. I've wasted time for much dumber things than that.
    At this point in time, it just dosen't make sense to me to reject potential work after one phone call.
  10. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    You pass??? How exactly do you pass without offending the client?

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