Converting Every Call into a Scheduled Inspection
by Nick Gromicko
I spend a lot on marketing to get my phone to ring. Callers often ask me how much I charge. Then after I tell them, they say "thanks" and hang up. What can I do to get them to hire me?
The home inspection business is different than nearly every other business in that you don’t meet your client until after they hire you. It is all marketing (getting your phone to ring) and almost no sales (converting a phone call into a scheduled inspection). The only time you get to sell yourself is when the phone rings. You’ve probably done a lot of marketing to get your phone to ring. Don’t have it all go to waste when the phone rings… Convert every call into a scheduled inspection.
Here are some tips to converting (my word for turning a phone call into a scheduled inspection).
1. At the tone, please hang up and call my competitor.
Make sure someone who can convert or sell is actually answering your business phone. If your potential customers are reaching voicemail, an answering service, or an untrained employee or spouse, you are probably not converting many of them into clients. Real estate agreements limit the amount of time a buyer has to schedule an inspection. Buyers don’t have time to leave a message. Try having your calls forwarded to your cell phone and answer them yourself.
Many inspectors refuse to allow their cell phone to interrupt them on an inspection. I think this is a mistake. The client you are performing the inspection for is already sold. Their money is in the bank. The customer calling you, trying to schedule, is new money. Get that new money.
When I first went into the inspection business, I had two cell phones. I had one for new business. All my ads, flyers, brochures, etc., included this phone number. If it rang, it was most likely new business. I kept this phone with me on my inspections and always answered it. I had another phone for everything else. On my home inspection report, I would include this second phone number (not my new business number). That way, if my client had a question, they would call my second number, leaving my first number free for new business.
Upon meeting a new client for the first time at the inspection, I would ask, "If my cell phone rings during the inspection, would you mind if I answered it?" Nearly all my clients gave me permission to answer my cell phone during the inspection. Because I only carried my new business cell phone with me on the inspection, calls that interrupted an inspection were new business.
An added benefit: During a home inspection, your client is still sizing you up, so to speak. Your client is wondering if they hired the right inspector. I’m sure many of my clients thought, "Gee, this Nick guy looks too fat to fit in the crawlspace." Having your cell phone ring during an inspection shows your client that others seek your services and that you are in demand. If someone calls you who is not new business, just explain that you are in the middle of an inspection and will call them back. If your wife calls you to bring home a gallon of milk, just tell her in front of your client, "I’d love to do that inspection for you; let me call you back." But, of course, if it is new business… book it!
2. I am the town’s worst inspector and I charge less to prove it.
"Hello, I’m looking to get a home inspection. How much do you charge?"
You’ve probably received calls like this before. Forgive them. Most buyers have been pricing homes, shopping mortgage rates, calculating payments, and adding up closing costs. By the time they call for a home inspection, they have "How much?" on their minds. Here’s how to handle it: Don’t answer the question. Answer the questions they should be asking. Tell them why you are the best home inspector. Make the list long. Your qualifications are not as important as how many you have, so bust up your qualifications into many others. For instance, don’t just say you are a member of InterNACHI. Say: "I am a member in good standing of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, the world’s largest home inspection association. I pass InterNACHI’s Inspector Examination at least every three years. I have taken InterNACHI’s Standards of Practice course and exam. I have completed a InterNACHI’s Code of Ethics course. I have a signed affidavit on file with InterNACHI. I follow a Standards of Practice. I abide by a Code of Ethics. I fulfill 24 hours of Continuing Education each year…" Throw in anything else you can about yourself, such as: "I am local and live here in... I recently took a course on… I attended InterNACHI’s seminar on…. I carry insurance…. I work on Saturdays… My reports are generated using… I use a SureTest electrical meter when checking… My good standing can be verified by visiting FindanInspector.US… I have performed…" When I was in business, I had a chalkboard above my phone with my list of Reasons to Hire Nick on it. You should also develop your own script. Ask the caller if they have a pen and paper first. Then, give the list slowly, as if you are expecting them to write it down. They will. And when you're done, they will end up with a list of reasons to hire you in their own handwriting.
"Wow, I’m glad I called you, but how much do you charge for a home inspection?" If they ask again, ask them a question back. Ask, "How much does the property list for?" Note: I always ask how much a property lists for rather than how much they are paying for it. List price is public information, whereas contract price isn’t settled until after the closing. The caller will think you have some sort of formula whereby your pricing is based on the price of the home. It may be, but that is not the purpose of asking them what they are paying for the home. The purpose of asking them how much the house costs is to get them to say the price. Force them to say it out loud. Then repeat it back incorrectly so they have to correct you, and repeat the price again. The purpose is to highlight the drastic relative difference between the amount of the product you’re inspecting (the home) and the amount you are charging above your competitors. The following is a sample conversation:
CALLER: "Hi. I’m looking to hire a home inspector. How much do you charge?"
INSPECTOR: "I’d love to perform a home inspection for you. Do you have a pen and paper?"
CALLER: "Hold on. OK. I have a pen and paper. Go ahead."
INSPECTOR: "Well, I’m a member in good standing of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. I pass InterNACHI’s Home Inspector Examination every three years. I have taken InterNACHI’s Standards of Practice exam. I have completed InterNACHI’s Code of Ethics course. I have a signed affidavit on file with InterNACHI. I follow a Standards of Practice. I abide by a Code of Ethics. I fulfill 24 hours of Continuing Education each year. I am locally owned and operated. I am available on Saturdays. I just attended InterNACHI’s seminar on mold testing. I carry $500,000 worth of Errors and Omissions Insurance. I own and use a variety of meters, such as a SureTest electrical meter, a natural gas leak detector, and a digital carbon monoxide detector. I have performed over 400 home inspections. I have been in business for over three years. I have a strong construction background. I produce your report on-site, and I will do a very thorough job for you. "
CALLER: "Wow. It looks like I found the right inspector. But how much do you charge?"
INSPECTOR: "Well, how much does the house you're buying list for?"
CALLER: "Two-hundred forty-nine thousand five-hundred dollars." (The caller is thinking: "He must have a formula.")
INSPECTOR: "Two-hundred forty-five thousand nine-hundred dollars?" (Intentionally repeat it back to the caller incorrectly.)
CALLER: "No, not two-hundred forty-five thousand nine-hundred dollars. Two-hundred forty-nine thousand five-hundred dollars."
INSPECTOR: "Oh, two-hundred forty-nine thousand five-hundred dollars?"
CALLER: "Yes, two-hundred forty-nine thousand five-hundred dollars."
INSPECTOR: "Wow. Two-hundred forty-nine thousand five-hundred dollars is a lot of money. (No matter what a buyer is paying for a home, it is always a lot of money for them.) You’d better pay the extra $85 I charge above and beyond my competitors and go with me."
CALLER: "So, you charge more than your competitors?"
INSPECTOR: "Yes. On average, I charge about $85 more than my competitors. It will be the best $85 dollars you ever spent. Of course, if you want a cheap inspector, I know who my cheapest competitors are. I would be happy to refer you to them. And, of course, you can save even more money by waiving the inspection. That would be free."
CALLER: "No. I am spending a lot of money on this home and I want a good inspection. If you are only $85 more than your competitors, I don’t mind paying a little extra. However, how much do you charge?"
INSPECTOR: "What's your email address? I can email you a proposal right now."
CALLER: "OK. Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org."
INSPECTOR: "OK. I’ll send it now. When you get it, call me back and we’ll schedule the inspection."
CALLER: "OK. I’ll talk to you in a bit."
INSPECTOR: "OK, I’m emailing it now."
At this point, you should send the caller a page that lists all your qualifications again, your promise, your InterNACHI Certificate of Membership, your flyer, and a bunch of letters of reference, provided you have procured these from past clients. Note: You should always ask former clients for a written (even scribbled) letter of reference. Request them from your former clients by mail, and include a postage-paid return envelope. Don’t stop emailing until you run out of reference letters, or until the phone rings.
CALLER: "You can stop emailing. I really want to hire you."
INSPECTOR: "OK, the next thing I'm sending you is my bid."
3. The tone of my voice should tell you that I don’t want your inspection.
Potential customers use their senses to make snap judgments about home inspectors. Over the phone, the customer can’t see you but can only hear you. You have no ability to communicate your professionalism and enthusiasm visually. You only have your voice.
Tips for improving your voice:
- Record your script and listen to yourself. Ask other people to listen to it as well.
- Hang a mirror near your script and look into it when you answer the phone. Use the mirror to make sure you are smiling. Smiles can be sent through the phone line.
- Stand up when you answer the phone. You'll sound more energetic.
- Modulate your voice pleasantly. Try to get some resonance.
- Try to sound as though you're happy the caller called.
- Give your phone number or website address s l o w l y, and repeat it twice.
And, finally: When someone calls, it is no time to be shy. If you provide a good home inspection service, you have an ethical duty to allow as many of your fellow citizens as possible to enjoy the benefits of your good work. Convert!
More success tips.
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