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Understanding Client Motives and Revolutionizing the Sales Process

There's an unfortunate, recurring predicament that many home improvement contractors often find themselves in, including those in the painting industry. We tend to place value on elements that, while potentially important to us, may not hold the same significance to our clients. We invest countless hours perfecting our websites, creating glossy brochures, and rehearsing our sales pitches. We take pride in the nuances of our service – our years of experience, the reliability of our subcontractors (or lack thereof), our commitment to leaving no mess, our assurance of superior work. And yet, we are often blindsided when these attributes fail to impress potential clients, leaving us questioning where we went wrong.

The common misconception among contractors is that the aspects they deem important are equally significant to the client. While some of these aspects could indeed matter, this line of thinking generally leads to misplaced focus and frustration. The fundamental truth that contractors need to grasp is this – people buy for their reasons, not yours.

Despite this understanding, many contractors continue to struggle with reconciling this truth in their sales process. They find themselves flabbergasted when clients remain unimpressed by their vast experience or exceptional quality of work. These contractors may take to social media channels to share their tales of woe, questioning why their tried-and-true selling points fell on deaf ears. This frequent lament exposes a widespread issue: many contractors do not truly understand their clients' motives for hiring them.

At the heart of every successful sale is a deep understanding of the client's motive for buying. It’s about recognising that while some clients may indeed value fancy brochures and competitive pricing, others may have entirely different priorities. One of the cardinal sins in sales is to make assumptions about what the client values without genuinely understanding their needs and desires.

The key to this understanding is to connect with the prospect on a human level. Every individual has fears, concerns, dreams, desires, and motives that drive their decisions. It is these human factors, either the desire to avoid pain or to seek pleasure, that most often lead to a purchase. By truly connecting with the prospect, you can tap into these motives, making the sales process a significantly less challenging ordeal.

Understanding the client’s motive begins with asking the right questions. For instance, if you're a kitchen remodeler, try asking the client to visualise their completed kitchen. Encourage them to imagine standing in their new kitchen, writing the final check for the contractor, and then ask, "What would need to happen for you to feel like this was the greatest experience you've ever had with a contractor?" This question offers the client an opportunity to express their genuine expectations and concerns.

This strategy effectively shifts the conversation from your services' features to the client's needs and expectations. It facilitates an open dialogue that could uncover vital insights about what truly matters to the client. They may express concerns about the cleanliness of the job site post-completion or any other unique needs or expectations they have for the project.

One of the worst things a contractor can do is bombard the client with their experience or other selling points before understanding the client's unique needs and expectations. To truly connect with the client, you need to not only ask these open-ended questions but also listen and respond accordingly. Mirror their concerns, ask for clarifications, and demonstrate understanding. This engagement can foster a genuine connection with the client, allowing you to align your services with their unique needs and expectations.

Sales is not merely about touting the things you believe are important, but rather about recognizing and respecting what the client views as important. Take the time to understand your clients' motives for buying. Sometimes the motive is speed, other times it is price, or perhaps it's simply not having to deal with a mess after the project is complete. Understanding the client's motive does not mean they are a cheap or difficult customer; it merely means they have unique needs and expectations that should be acknowledged and respected.

To illustrate this point, consider a client who needs to sell their house quickly due to a job transfer. The client may not be looking for a high-end painting job, but rather a quick, quality service that allows them to sell their house promptly. Such a client could be a valuable customer because they align with your services, despite not requiring a top-tier painting job.

For example, during the recession of 2008, some contractors took on jobs to paint bank-owned properties that needed to be refreshed for quick resale. These jobs didn't require high-end, intricate paint jobs but rather quick, quality work. By understanding the client's motive in this instance, contractors could perform the necessary work, hit their profit margins, and satisfy the client, leading to a win-win situation.


Contractors must make a paradigm shift in their sales approach to understand and accommodate their clients' unique motives. Only by doing so can they truly connect with their clients and ensure a smoother, more efficient sales process. This shift requires contractors to move away from making assumptions about what the client values to taking the time to genuinely understand their needs and expectations. The art of sales in the painting contracting business, therefore, lies in understanding the client's motive, a principle that applies to all trades, leading to greater success and profitability

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