Why it is your fault the customer went with a cheaper quote…

We live in a world where people are always looking to commoditise a product or service. By this I mean people try to boil everything down to price and nothing else.

It’s a ‘race to the bottom’ business strategy.

This works if you have two almost indistinguishable products, but it doesn’t work for decorating.

As decorators, you know this.

However, sometimes it gets forgotten.

For example, how many times have you read a post on social media where a decorator says something along the lines of:

‘Shall we all just make a collective decision and standardise a day rate for decorating?’

Comments like this are often not what the decorator actually believes is a good idea. Instead these comments are born out of frustration, as they most likely just found out they didn’t get a job and it was because someone ‘quoted a cheaper price than they did’.

But we know this is wrong, don’t we?

As we said:

Price only really dictates the decision when the products are indistinguishable?

We know that Decorator A and Decorator B offer very different solutions.

Therefore, the reason you didn’t get the job is not because someone else was cheaper. It is because you didn’t do a good enough job at explaining to the customer why you are worth what you’re charging.

This can be a tough pill to swallow.

It is far easier for us to blame external factors rather than blame ourselves.

However, it is incredibly important that you do blame yourself.


When you take responsibility and realise it was your fault, it means you have now put yourself in a position where you can fix it.

It means you can stop worrying what other people quote and you can focus purely on offering your best value solutions.

Let’s look at an example using cars and then see how we can apply the principles to decorating.

When buying a car, one of the factors we look at is price.

However, if it was the only thing that mattered, we would all be driving £500 hatchbacks. But we’re not.

Let’s break down the process:

A customer walks up to a car dealer because they want to buy a car.

They say, they just want a car to get them from A to B.

At this point, the salesman could do a number of things. Let’s say the salesman asks a few typical questions.

What’s the budget? Do you have a preferred model? Do you have a preferred colour? Any features you want?

I answer, £1,000, hatchback, red and it must have air conditioning.

This seems like a good method of selling from the salesman. However, it’s not actually that effective.


Because of what happens next.

Let’s say the car salesman finds a car that fits the bill.

A red Renault Clio, with air conditioning and it’s £900.  

You might think, brilliant! Guaranteed sale. But you’re wrong.

All this does is show the customer they have found a red Renault Clio with air conditioning for £900. Yes, that fits the spec they gave the salesman, but they are not going to buy it there and then.

What will actually happen in the majority of cases is the customer will say thank you for your time and leave the dealership.


Because they are going to see if they can buy a red Renault Clio with air conditioning for less than £900.

Why wouldn’t they? I mean the salesman has basically just broken down what the customer wants into very basic terms and given them a price. The customer can now compare the offer incredibly easily.

What’s worse is that the customer will now arrive at the next dealership, say he wants a red Renault Clio with air conditioning and if the salesman says, ‘No problem, we have one here. Only £1,000’ the customer will just say ‘Too expensive’ and walk off.

In the decorating world, this example looks very similar.

You visit a job. The customer says they want the spare bedroom painting. You ask the customer a few questions to try and get a more specific idea of what they want and give them a quote.

The customer will then take that basic information and compare your quote to other people.

At this point, you might find out that you didn’t get the job.

Naturally, you’ll then look for someone or something to blame.

‘Bloody cowboys out there working at £60 a day’

‘Time wasting customers do my head in. All they want is a quote so they can negotiate a cheaper price with someone else’

Sound familiar?

Or perhaps you were the second person in the chain…the potential customer has a quote from a decorator that says, 3 days work @ £100 day rate + materials.

So, the customer then sends you a message saying, ‘what’s your day rate for painting?’

Without thinking, you respond saying ‘it’s £120 per day.’

You’ll then either get a response saying ‘too expensive’ or you won’t get a response at all.

If you have ever experienced anything like this…

Now is the time you need to swallow that pill and admit the reason the customer went elsewhere is because you didn’t do a good enough job during the sale.

So how do we do this?

Let’s try a different approach to selling the car.

Start the conversation by finding out the current situation.

Instead of asking what ‘features and benefits’ the customer wants from the car, let’s start as follows:

Salesman: Good morning, ok, so to help me better understand what you’re looking for can we start with, why are you looking for a new car today?

(This will elicit a very different response. Perhaps something like this…)

Customer: ‘I’ve recently changed jobs and I can no longer walk to work. So, I need something reliable to get me to and from the office. Budget is a factor, so I’ve set aside £1,000 for this purchase’

-(Ok, good start. Now let’s probe a little deeper…)

Salesman: Is there anything else you might use the car for?

Customer: ‘Well, actually, if I have a car it means that my girlfriend and I could start driving to the beach at weekends’

Salesman: Ok, and what would that mean to you?

Customer: Well, getting public transport is a bit of a headache and probably not that cost effective. It also means more quality time with my girlfriend’

*The salesman is now learning not just about the current situation of the customer, but he is also establishing the impact this is having on the customer’s life. This is far more useful!

At this point the salesman should do more probing and questioning, and also try to establish the importance of each factor. For example, is the reliability of getting to work more important than comfort on longer journeys?

He should also find out if design/image is important to the customer. If it is, then he will still need to ask some of the more basic questions like preferred colour and models etc. However, for the sake of brevity, I’ll skip ahead a bit. *

Salesman: Ok, so we’re looking for a car that needs to be reliable, as you will be counting on it to get you to and from your new job each day, which of course is very important. We also want it to be comfortable for longer journeys so you can have day trips with your girlfriend, which I know you sometimes avoid due to the high cost of public transport, not to mention the inconvenience of it.

So, we need a low maintenance car that is cheap to run. As this would mean you know you can jump in it at any point and drive to the beach without having to worry!

Does that sound like a good solution to you?

Customer: Absolutely!

Salesman: Ok, I have a couple of options that might suit you. Firstly, I have this red Renault Clio. It has air conditioning and a great ride quality, so the trips to the beach will be comfortable and it’s only £900.

However, I also have this VW Golf available. It is a little more expensive at £1,200 but based on what you’ve told me I think it still might be a viable solution.

The VW Golf has fewer miles on the clock and is generally considered a much more reliable car. I know you said reliability is very important as you need to make sure the car can get you to and from your new job as walking is no longer an option.

The car doesn’t have air conditioning, but it does have a sunroof. However, more importantly the fuel consumption on this car is far better than the Renault Clio I showed you. So, your day to day running costs will be much lower.

Would this be of interest to you?

Customer: Reliability is probably the most important thing to me as I’m just starting a new job and if I couldn’t get there every day it would be a disaster.

I know the Golf is slightly over what I intended to spend but based on the extra reliability and the cheaper running costs it’s almost certainly a better solution for what I need.

Let’s go for that!

So why is this method of selling so much more effective?

Well, because the salesman didn’t focus on ‘features and benefits’ that are black and white. Such as, is it under £1,000? Yes or no? Does it have air con? Yes or no?

And because there were no black and white answers it’s far more difficult for the customer to walk away and find a like for like solution.

The salesman did a few key things in the second situation. They were as follows:

  • Ask about the customer’s current situation.
  • Establish the impact this situation is having on them and why it is important to find a solution.
  • Find out the priorities of the customer.
  • Summarize the discussion so that he could be sure he and his customer were aligned in what they were looking for.
  • Worked with the customer to find a solution. Making them feel involved all the way through.
  • Offered options which tackled the unique problems of the customer in different ways.
  • Didn’t even mention any features and benefits until right at the end.
  • Gave the customer choice.

You see in this instance the salesman was no longer trying to sell an object to the customer. The salesman had actually framed the situation so that both he and the customer were actually working together to find a solution for the customers needs. They were more like business partners trying to accomplish a common goal.

In fact, if you read back the closing statement, the customer was actually telling the salesman why the Golf was the best car!

The salesman showed the customer that he is not just looking for a red Renault Clio with air conditioning. The salesman showed it is actually a far more complex situation that cannot simply be broken down to basics features and benefits.

The salesman offered a customised solution to a complex problem. A solution where the customer would not just walk down to the next dealer and say ‘I want a red Renault Clio with air conditioning for under £900’

How can we apply this to decorating?

Well, the methods are the same.

If you price to put two coats of paint on to four living room walls. The customer can pick up the phone and ask someone else for the exact same thing. And if you’re not the cheapest. You’ll lose.

However, if you take the time to ask the customer questions and understand their unique needs, you can then work with them to offer a customised solution where they won’t even want to get a second quote.


Decorator: Ok, so tell me why you are looking to have your living room redecorated Mrs Jones?

Customer: Well, I have my family coming over for a meal at Easter and I want the room to look brilliant by then.

Decorator: Ah ok, that’s lovely. So, it’s important everything looks brilliant for when they arrive?

Customer: Yes, I want them to feel comfortable here and think that it looks good.

Decorator: Is that your children? Siblings?

Customer: My children and young grand children

Decorator: Wonderful, how old are the grand children? What are they like?

Customer: 3 and 6. Full of energy and always running around.

And so on and so on….

This seems like a perfectly natural conversation. Which it should be! That’s the best way to get to know a customer and their needs.

But what have we learned already?

Well, we have established a timeline. The customer needs it done before Easter.

We also know she intends to show it off at a family event and will want to make her family feel comfortable. A good quality finish is important to her, so that her family will compliment her on how wonderful it looks.

We’ve even found out that she has young Grandchildren visiting. If we expand on this, we could share our knowledge with her about durable paints and see if that would be of interest to her. Afterall, she wouldn’t want to spend all that money on redecorating just for her grandchildren to come in a get marks all over the walls and have to get it all re-done.

We are well on the way to developing a fully customised solution to Mrs Jones’ needs. A solution that we have devised with Mrs Jones herself.

Now she might have two quotes.

The first quote is to put two coats of paint on the four walls of her living room for £200.

And the other quote is yours…

A fully customised solution that will give her a wonderful new environment to share with her family at Easter, that will not only mean her family compliments her on the room, but it’ll also make them feel more comfortable.

Plus, Mrs Jones will be able to fully relax in the knowledge that her grandchildren are free to run around all day and any marks on the walls can be easily wiped off.

Well, I’ll tell you what, I shouldn’t think Mrs Jones will be too fussed about spending more money to go with you over that chancer who just said he’ll slap a couple of coats on for £200 cash!

Takeaway tip:

Try and use the following question (or one very similar) during your next quote and see how differently the conversation unfolds:

Question: ‘Thank you for inviting me around, so, to help me understand what you’re looking for, could you start by explaining to me bit about the situation and why you are looking to have this decorating work done?’

Let me know how it goes!

As always, any questions, feel free to get in touch. jonmearsblogs@gmail.com

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