Another Case for Requiring a Consultation Fee

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Just this week
My client is traveling in Africa, and has a house in the Atlanta area with a tenant living there.

Our homeowner contacted us because the tenant has complained of high cooling costs to keep the house comfortable this summer.

After speaking with Dan, (our BFI virtual estimator) and getting her virtual estimate – she decided to invite me to the house for an attic evaluation.

If you’ve read my articles or viewed our YouTube channel, (search Bird Family Insulation) you know that I stopped providing free estimates over 2.5 years ago. In this context, my consultation fee is $50. This amount is sufficient to filter out most folks who aren’t a good fit for our company.

As I think about it, it’s a bit arrogant to think that our company is a good fit for everyone. Yet, for how many years did I spend hours and hours of time, and tons of money in fuel and vehicle expenses – giving away free estimates as if every homeowner is a good fit for our company.

What I would give now – to have all that WASTED time given back to me, visiting homeowners who weren’t a good fit for our company.

Abbey (during the first 10 years of business) and Savannah (currently) did their best to filter out callers who they thought were not a good fit for our services. But some homeowners just won’t accept “no” as an answer!

“Just schedule your Dad to come out. He’ll know what I’m talking about …”

Not so fast, buddy! Bob now asks for a $50 consultation fee, IF he doesn’t receive your 20% Down Payment!!

Back to the story…
So, after our homeowner had spoken with Dan, and received her virtual estimate, she invited me to the house – and alerted the tenant of my appointment.

After my site visit, I called Savannah (in our office) and gave her my quote amount. The arrangement was, Savannah was to text the revised amount to the client, and she would decide from there.

The reply Savannah received was simply this, “That’s so much higher than my other quote. Please ask your Dad why.”

Savannah called me, and repeated the question. I shared with her that I’ve not seen the other quote. However, there are kneewalls in this attic that need attention, and my quote includes repairing and upgrading the kneewall insulation.

(Here is what you don’t know: Dan’s virtual estimate was $2885, and the bracket he told her was a low estimate of $2596 and a high estimate of $3171. The owner was comfortable with that bracket, or she wouldn’t have invited me to the house and risked $50).

My quote, with the kneewalls, was $3301, which is $128 higher than she was expecting based on Dan’s high estimate. But he had no idea there were large kneewalls in the attic. If there were fewer kneewalls, or smaller sized kneewalls – I would have fallen between the high & low estimates which is always my target.

In the follow-up text exchange, Savannah learned that our client had no idea what a kneewall is. I told Savannah, no sweat – I’ll jump-in the conversation later – and share my pictures.

Returning later to the office, I revised her virtual estimate that Dan had prepared, so that it reflected my actual quote – which was higher than the virtual estimate..

I then texted her 5 pictures that I edited – where I circled the kneewalls, and drew arrows and gave comments in the pictures.

My last picture was a bath exhaust fan, taken without a flash – so that the interior light was shining all around the trim where the sheetrock hole had been cut way-too-large for the fan. I indicated that it needed to be air-sealed with expanding foam, and my quote included this and more.

Based on my pictures and notes, she intuitively knew that I had climbed through that entire attic. I’d not just stood on the ladder, like so many guys do.

Homeowners crave communication!
This type of one-on-one attention is what impresses homeowners – especially when they haven’t had to beg repeatedly, for several days – waiting and waiting for a response that often never comes.

The following day, Savannah told me that our client had paid her down payment and scheduled the job!

Even though I was quite a bit more expensive than the other quote, our client found more value in our customer service, my thoroughness, and my personalized attention to her questions.

Had she chosen the cheaper quote, her attic would not have been insulated nearly as thoroughly as with our service, and the kneewalls would have been totally ignored!

Here are THREE QUICK TAKEAWAYS for you, if you are a homeowner or contractor reading my article:

A Consultation Fee means the Homeowner Wins

  • Concierge service, personalized exactly for your needs, because you are paying for it! The client in my article asked for pictures and text messages from our office – and she got exactly everything that she asked for. Timely, personalized service.
  • Client vs Customer. As a client, you become under the care & protection of your consultant. As a customer, you are anonymous and have a one-time exchange with the contractor. Because I have fewer appointments – I have time to evaluate attic ventilation, HVAC ducts, etc – all the areas where I’m experienced and educated – to advise my homeowner with wise counsel to make informed decisions.
  • A Consultant is an expert – not a salesperson trying to sell you a service or product. No high-pressure sales experience. During my attic evaluations, I show my pictures and notes to my client. We discuss my rates – and there is no pressure. I don’t sell anything.

Consultation Fee means the Contractor Wins

  • I’ve already said it, but it should be repeated. The consultation fee filters out so much wasted time in my schedule. Because the homeowner now has “skin in the game”, I literally have been given my life back to me!
  • The $50 consultation fee pays for my gas and most expenses for the vehicle, which takes that financial burden off of the company overhead. With gas over $4 per gallon, it’s one less vehicle on the company’s fuel account, which helps protect our pricing from increases due to fuel costs.
  • High, amazing closing rates! It’s exciting to get up each morning, and only have 2 or 3 appointments and know that those homeowners are already sold… just go take some pictures, some measurements, answer a few questions, and collect your 20% Down Payment or $50 consultation fee. Either way, you leave with money and feel good about how you’re spending your valuable time.

In my experience, the Consultation Fee has completely changed how I think while in a home. I behave, and I think, like a consultant.

And, I have found – that homeowners are far more interested in what I have to say – because they consider me a consultant… an expert.

And, I get to see the other quotes… and render my opinion. Remember, I’m a paid consultant.

Gone are the appointments where I’m left to myself to evaluate an attic, and see myself out the door.

“There’s the attic ladder. Just email me your quote. Thanks for coming by”.

And the homeowner doesn’t even know or remember your name.

UGH, I hated that feeling of being used.

But not so, when they’ve paid you $50!

  • They want to talk!
  • They want to see your pictures!
  • They want to know what your advice is!

And isn’t that why we, as contractors, set appointments, beat-up our vehicles in grueling traffic, criss-crossing town from appointment to appointment, crawling around in difficult attics, risking a foot or knee through the sheetrock… So that we can earn their business?

You should try the consultation fee. If you’re like me, it will change your life, and your business… for the better.

Thanks for reading!

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