Why Do Your Clients Hire You?

by Ron Roberts
The Contractor's Business Coach

Why do builders or home owners hire you instead of your competition?

Did you answer that with a claim of “better quality”? Try again.

All contractors think their work is of superior quality. I’ve got a secret to tell you. Are you listening closely? 

Unless your competition is really messing up, your clients can’t tell the difference.

Surely you’ve discovered that most building owners have totally unrealistic quality expectations. Your clients probably aren’t going to be wowed by anyone’s quality.  If an architect or engineer is involved, their specs probably border on unreasonable standards for finished concrete.

They certainly can’t tell the difference between contractors who are performing to standard practice.

Now, back to the original question – why do your clients hire you?

Here are some of the possible reasons your customers choose you:

  • You were the first to respond.
  • You’re easy to work with.
  • You gave them the lowest price (that’s the lip service excuse).
  • You were courteous.
  • You’re funny.
  • You’re easy to work with.
  • You helped them budget.
  • You communicate well.
  • You’re attractive (don’t understand the impact appearance has on home owners’ buying decisions).
  • You pre-construction services.
  • You have flawless on-time completion.
  • You perform superior quality work (it can be the reason - it just isn’t often the reason).
  • Your crews and equipment are look clean and professional.
  • Their friend recommended you.

That’s a long list and certainly isn’t complete. It is absolutely essential that you learn the real reason your clients hire you. The reason they hire you is your competitive advantage. It is one thing that you do better than most or all of your competition. You need to embrace that and play up to it.

You future success depends on knowing, maintaining, and aggressively marketing your competitive advantage. It’s the one aspect of your service that your clients (and prospects) are willing to pay a premium for. It’s the one aspect that will grab their attention in advertising.

You will never learn your competitive advantage unless you ask your clients why they hired you and here’s why you should ask them: you can’t out guess them.

Take a look at that list of possible reasons. Do you really believe you know why they hire you? I didn’t and I am tuned into this stuff.

Let me give you a quick example from my own practice.  I thought my clients were hiring me to keep them focused on business building activities.  Turns out most wanted an outsider to hold them accountable and to keep them motivated. I wasn’t on the same page.  You probably aren’t on the same page with your clients either.

Now, don’t try to run a bunch of customer feedback surveys. Nobody likes to fill them out and you aren’t going to get reliable answers.

People buy with their hearts, then try to rationalize their decision logically. Whether your customer is a home owner, commercial developer, or general contractor, the decision to choose you is based on emotional, not on logic. Study after study has revealed that people rarely make the decision that they thought they would. Strangely, most of us are unaware that this is how we make decisions - emotionally not logically.

When you try to survey your customers, they respond logically. That’s why survey results rarely are good predictors of future buying behavior. You need to uncover the emotional drivers and the only way to do that is to ask questions.

You’re going to have to meet with customers and grill them…but you’ve got to grill them in the right way.

If you ask your clients straight up why they hired you, they will give you a well reasoned, logical explanation behind their choice…and it will be completely detached from reality.
Here’s how to dig out the real answer. It’s both easier and more difficult than you may think.

Pick out your five most valuable clients, the five you can count on for solid, profitable sales.  If you sell your concrete services to a diverse group of clients, say home owners, property managers, and general contractors, repeat the process for each group. Try to meet with ten or more home owners.

Take each out for coffee or lunch.  Tell them how much you appreciate their business. 

Tell them how much you would appreciate some honest feedback.  Tell them you will use their feedback as guidance for your sales and marketing efforts.  Their ego will like to hear that. Then ask them “why did you originally hire me and why do you continue to hire me?” 

Rephrase the question in a variety of ways such as:

  • “What problems do I solve for you?”
  • “If you could tell a friend just one reason to hire me, what would that reason be?”
  • “If I stopped doing it, what one thing would bring me back to the pack in your eyes?”
  • “Prior to hiring me, what was your experience with other concrete contractors?”
  • “What do you like least about construction?”
  • “What is the biggest pain you have to deal in your job?”
  • “Tell me your honest opinion about working with my company and field crew.”

If they respond with “low price”, don’t believe them.  Kept digging for the real, emotional reason they hire you. They have one. They may not be completely aware it at first, but it will become apparent with proper questioning.

Once know the reason you’re being hired, in other words your competitive advantage, here’s how to use that knowledge to turbo-charge your bottom line.

Focus your advertising copy on your competitive advantage. Use it to target prospects.  Ask about it in your sales calls. Use it to qualify customers. If the prospect doesn’t value your competitive advantage, move on to another one.

Knowing your competitive advantage and how to express it in words your clients relate to lets you quickly build rapport with prospects, strengthen relationships, and help you through gatekeepers. Most importantly, it helps you close sales at the prices you want. 

You really need to know why your clients hire you.  Go ask them. Then craft your marketing messages and selling efforts around their answer.

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