ESTIMATING BY STEPHEN CARR
A few months ago, I received a call
from a potential new customer. It quickly
became apparent I would not be able to
connect with him. He seemed distant,
frequently interrupted me and didn’t
laugh at my jokes. We never seemed to
be on the same page. The call lasted only
a few minutes, which was not nearly long
enough for me to finish my pitch. By the
end of the call, I was certain I would
never hear from him again.
A few minutes later, I received a
call that was the complete opposite of
the first. The two of us connected right
away. He got my jokes, and I got his. He
was able to communicate his needs, and
I was able to come up with solutions for
his problems. After I hung up the phone,
I started wondering why the first call did
not go as well. I also reflected on the fact
that this was not the first time I had not
handled a call well. I knew that you can’t
please everyone, but it still bothered me.
If I had said something just a little differently, would I have made the sale with
the first caller?
A while after those two calls, I read an
Who are you?
article by Kate Hamill, “Why Being
Weird Gets Me More Clients,” in which
the author talks about “embracing your
weird” rather than creating some care-
fully concocted version of yourself to
use in your business relationships. The
article really rang true for me. I realized
that, even though my continuing educa-
tion has covered many subjects, I have
never attended any classes or seminars
about marketing, so I did not know I
was supposed to mold myself into the
perfect version of what I thought my
clients expected. I was unaware that it
was advisable to “aggressively market
yourself as a nice, safe, tame product
that appeals to the broadest swathe of
humanity possible.” I did not know I
was a hapless fool if I wasn’t presenting
myself in the “most homogenized, highly
‘saleable’ way possible—in a manner that
could never offend (or excite) anyone.”
Well, according to Hamill, I was acci-
dentally doing my marketing right all
along. My sense of humor, the fact that I
talk too fast when I get excited, and the
way I do not hesitate to voice my opin-
ions about the industry, are all part of
who I am. What you see is what you get.
Hamill’s article goes on to explain
how relationships made with people
who appreciate the real you are stronger
and longer lasting. Additionally, it is a lot
more pleasant dealing with people you
like. Have you ever had a customer you
dreaded calling? I haven’t had one for a
while, but I clearly remember having to
psych myself up for those calls in the past.
There are problems with creating mul-
tiple personalities of yourself, and one is
keeping them in order. Having to change
who you are every time you answer the
phone can be challenging. The biggest
problem with having several versions
of yourself may be your customers’ per-
ception of your honesty. Many people
are very good at detecting fakes and
will often require a face-to-face meeting
before they do business with someone.
Can there be problems with being
yourself? Absolutely! One personality
quirk of mine is my sense of humor,
which I have a tendency to let out in
front of people I have only been talking
to for a couple of minutes. I know it does
not always go over so well, and it may
have lost me some sales. Just recently, I
let a risky (but not risqué) joke slip out
in my very first meeting with a poten-
tial customer. I got lucky. It took him a
moment to get it, but then he almost fell
off his chair laughing. I won that cus-
tomer, but I know my humor has fallen
flat on other occasions.
Are there occasions when you may
need to alter your behavior? Probably.
I’ve only done it a few times, usually
when meeting with a high-profile client
for the first time. Even then, if the client
shows his or her sense of humor, I’ll let
mine show. Just a little.
Even if you are weird
WHETHER THEY KNOW IT OR NOT, most estimators are in the marketing business.
Every time they speak to someone, they influence that person’s feelings about them
and the company they work for. If estimators are rude to vendors, they may not get
the best pricing. If they snap at a general contractor, they may not get the contract.
Estimators are in the perfect position to influence both customers and vendors.
CA RR has been in the electrical construction business 42 years. He started Carr Consulting
Services—which provides electrical estimating and educational services—in 1994. Contact
him at 805.523.1575 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I S T