A new prospect named Janet called in.  Hello I have a project in mind and I have a few questions.
Fire away.
Well I’ve purchased a house and I want to get some things done such as flooring and a fence and a few minor things. Is that the kind of work you do?
Yes ma’am all day every day including today. We have something like that going on right now.
She moved on with efficiency. Ok my next question is, how long is your back log.
Well ma’am I’m not sure you’ve heard but we have this little recession going on. We’re ready to go to work. It usually takes longer for the customer to make up her mind than it does for us to start. If you tell me today, we can start in a few days.
OK, good. And do you have insurance and license?
Well the short answer is yes but the long one is that there’s no requirement for a license in the state of Texas to be a general contractor except that we’re required to register with the Texas Residential Construction Commission. I have registered, which functions as a kind of license, except that the legislature killed that commission so my license means nothing. What I can tell you is we have all the insurance and all the pedigree required to do a first class job with which you will be happy.
OK, she said almost without regard for my masterful sales pitch. Do you charge to come out and give an estimate?
No ma’am.
I’m currently in DC and I’ll be moving to Austin in August. Can you look at the work and can we communicate by fax or email?
Yes ma’am we do that all the time. At any given time we have 30 jobs on the board and I rarely see every job. Many of our customers I have strong phone relationships with but I’ve never actually met. I’ve been doing work for them for years but have never laid eyes on them. We just need to know what you want and we need access to the work. When it’s done, you can stand there with your hands on your hips and say wow I had no idea it would look this good and be this easy.
Can you give a written estimate?
Ma’am you sure do ask a lot of questions.
Well I had a couple guys come out to look at this work already. I thought I’d have the work underway by now because I wanted it done when I move in in about two weeks. Unfortunately one of them didn’t have insurance and the other one refused to give me a written quote. So I’ve learned to ask more questions.
No insurance and no written quote? Where do you find these people? And where did you find me?
I found them on Craigslist. I found you on Angie’s list.
Ahhh. that explains it.

From there we made an appointment. What I learned is that if you have no investment in an ad campaign like Craigslist where it’s free, you don’t treat your customer as an investment. When you carefully select your advertising and promotional efforts and you work it with purpose, every customer is valuable.

I submitted the quote. There were three or four components. A fence, a patio, some wall repairs and some tile flooring. She said our numbers were a little higher than the other quotes she got. Maybe 10 to 20%. I did not think it was appropriate to point out the quality of the other bidders, in her own words. Rather, I took the high road and pointed out that she’s comparing my numbers as a general contractor running the show, with a bunch of tradesman that she would have to hire, run and supervise from out of town. After they run her ragged, I suggested, that small difference will look mighty cheap but by then it will be too late. For that little bit of additional money, she gets the certainty that the job will be run with her interests in mind, and she gets our whole company at her disposal.

I was certain she would hire us. However she turned us down. In the end, things were working out to be more expensive. Her move was running behind. Her husband–in the foreign service–was departing for Iraq in a couple weeks. She was overwhelmed and simply not able to make a decision. She changed her strategy and decided to live in the house first, then decide what she wants to do.

While I would have rather had the work, I agreed that her decision was a good one, so long as she doesn’t go back to Craiglist, that is.