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Breaking the Silence: The Cardinal Mistake Costing Contractors their Profit

Picture this: You're a painting contractor, and you've just landed a sweet interior job. It's a wall painting project, and anyone in the industry knows it's a cakewalk. No ceilings, minimal repairing. As the contractor, you're thrilled; this is a beautiful project, and you can't wait to get started.

Here's where things go awry. Like most contractors, you feel a tug of pride and want to display your industry know-how. You begin to talk, suggesting ways to improve the project. You mention how the trim might look ratty next to the fresh paint on the walls, or how it might be more cost-effective to paint the ceilings since everything's already covered in the room. These are great ideas, and the client agrees. They're curious and ask for a cost estimate. You punch in the numbers, and the cost balloons into twice as much. Suddenly, the client balks. They need time to think, maybe get some other bids. They've got a lot more to consider now, all thanks to your brilliant suggestions. Herein lies the mistake that 99.9% of contractors make - they don't know when to stop talking.

When a client agrees to schedule a project, that's not your cue to keep talking. You're selling past the 'yes,' and that's where you shoot yourself in the foot. Most contractors feel the need to prove their expertise, share their experiences, and offer more than what the client asked for. You had a sale in your pocket, a sizable profit ready for the taking, but you talked yourself out of it. It happens more often than you might think.

The good news is that you can still impress your clients without jeopardizing the sale. There's a time and place to show off your brilliance and knowledge, and that's after you've started the project. Get your foot in the door, start the job, and then, once you've gained some ground, you can begin to make suggestions.

Most clients aren't aware of the intricacies of a construction project or paint job. The selling process is hard enough without complicating it further by running your mouth. Sell your services for the lowest dollar amount that will still grant you a high profit margin. Get in the door, prove your worth, and then expand on the project.

Over the years, many projects that started as small-scale, inexpensive jobs ballooned into larger, more profitable ventures. A simple $250 powder room paint job could evolve into a $30,000 contract over time, once you've built trust and proven your reliability.

Consider the lifetime value of your client. That powder room job might seem insignificant at first, but if you provide an outstanding service, the client is likely to hire you for future projects and refer you to their network. Suddenly, that minor job has a lifetime value of tens of thousands of dollars.

The challenge is simple: learn when to shut your mouth. When a client says yes to a project, don't try to upsell or add on more services immediately. Secure the job, put it on the schedule, and then start impressing the client with your knowledge and skills.

Contractors often forget that the ultimate goal is to deliver a stellar experience that keeps the client coming back for more. This includes up-selling, but only after you've proven your worth.

To wrap up, remember this: when you get a 'yes,' button up, get the project inked, and only then should you make suggestions. One of the keys to successfully selling jobs at a profitable price is ensuring you achieve at least a 50% gross profit on your projects. Your existing and potential clients are more than one-time transactions; they're valuable connections who can help you grow your business, but only if you know when to talk and when to listen.

So the next time you find yourself in front of a client ready to say 'yes,' remember this lesson. Shut your mouth, start the project, impress them with your service, and watch as a small job turns into a fruitful long-term client relationship.


Don't let your eagerness to show off your knowledge cost you a lucrative project. Understand the value of silence and listen more than you speak. After all, the key to a successful contractor-client relationship lies not just in your skills or knowledge, but also in your ability to effectively communicate and understand the client's needs.

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