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Make it Clear

by David Lupberger


Question: After being in remodeling for over 10 years, I'm very frustrated by the misunderstandings and disagreements that seem to happen regularly between customers and me. The upsets that come as a result of these misunderstandings are hurting me and my company. What can you recommend to communicate more clearly?

Answer: As a remodeler, you are knowledgeable in the science of construction, and you apply your knowledge to the art of remodeling. In running a remodeling company, you have learned a variety of skills. After 10 years you are probably skilled at doing the tasks necessary to keep your business going, but the most powerful tool you have is your ability to communicate. Your success or failure in business is based as much on your communication skills, as your skill and competence as a contractor.

When you stop to think about it, you spend much of your day in conversation. It is through conversations that you sell your jobs, plan and schedule your work, take care of the customer, coordinate suppliers and subcontractors, negotiate prices, and create new business opportunities for yourself.

While there are many elements of effective conversations, the most critical to the success of your business is your ability to make effective requests to homeowners, suppliers, subcontractors and your employees. These are four basic ingredients in an effective request. ALL need to be present to reduce the chance for misunderstanding. How many of these do you include CONSISTENTLY in your conversation?

Available Listener - The question here is: are they LISTENING? Do you have the homeowner's undivided attention? Are they distracted? Are you distracted? So much important information falls into the "black hole" as it travels from your lips to the listener's ears - all because of distraction.

How many times have you spoken with a homeowner on the phone and heard children crying in the background or detected impatience in their voices and you kept right on talking? As the person making the request, it is your responsibility to make sure the distractions are managed. After all, you're the one who wants something!

Mood - In what mood are you making this request? Are you angry? Are you frustrated? Do you think the listener is a jerk? The mood you speak from is LOUDER than your words. The listener hears the mood first, and your ability to get the listener to accept your request is largely based on this. You will have much more success if your requests are spoken from a mood of mutual respect. You must also allow the listener the option of saying no to your request. How many times has someone promised you something, and then didn't deliver? Does it have anything to do with the fact that it was easier to say yes to you and make up an excuse later than to say no to you and suffer the consequences?

Conditions of Satisfaction - What specifically, does a listener have to do, and by when to fulfill your request? Here's an example:

Remodeler to Homeowner: "Hey, Bob, the framing is finished at your job and a draw is due upon completion of framing. I'll drop an invoice off Tuesday."

Homeowner: "OK, no problem"

Four days later . . .

Remodeler to Homeowner: "What happened, Bob? I gave you an invoice for the completion of framing, and my carpenter said you never gave him a check."

Homeowner: "I got the invoice. I was going to give you the check the next time I saw you. I didn't know you wanted me to give the check to the carpenter." In the homeowner's view, he was doing what he was asked. The remodeler who was waiting for a check did not get his money. The conditions for satisfaction were not clearly stated.

A Clear Response from the Listener - Did the listener say yes to your request? Or did they say "I'll try?" You know what "I'll try" means. But yet time after time you accept responses like this and then get upset when the results aren't produced.

Ask the listener whether the answer is yes or no. If it is yes, you now have a promise. Be sure that the listener knows what the consequences are for not following through. Many remodelers fail to do this and it leads to resentment on both sides.

If the answer to your request is no, you now have valuable information on which to base your next move. You can renegotiate with the listener or move on and ask someone else.

These four ingredients in an effective request may sound obvious, but your experience probably tells you that you don't use them consistently (if at all). I challenge you to use these ingredients from now on! They will save you time, money and aggravation. They will also help you build TRUST with people you work with, another key ingredient in a successful remodeling business.

Reprinted with the permission of Qualified Remodeler

To contact David Lupberger directly, call him at (301)570-9756. You may also send your comments and/or questions to David at his personal email..

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