Signs of a potential ‘dud customer’ when quoting

How many hours of your life do you think you’ve spent quoting jobs for customers?

If you break it down, every single quote we do is highly time-consuming. I’d estimate that hundreds of hours go into this process for the average trade business, and we all know TIME = MONEY.

So one question we get asked all the time is, “how can I avoid quoting for dud customers, so I don’t waste my time?”

What we as trade business owners need to keep a watchful eye on are serial tyre-kicking time wasters. It’s a particular type of customer who wants hundreds of trade businesses to quote on a job and then essentially asks the tradies to fight to the death to provide the cheapest quote.

These ‘cheap as chips’ customers ONLY see the number at the bottom of the quote and are the types of customers you’ll NEVER make money with. So when dealing with a potential client like this one, here are some warning signs to look for.

They expect a free quote and won’t accept anything less than free

Many of us charge a standard call-out fee, which we waive when the quote is approved; however, some customers have gotten used to free quotes and therefore expect every tradie to quote for free. 

Suppose you DO charge for quoting, for instance. In that case, a $55 diagnostic fee (which covers the cost of the tradesman coming on-site and providing a quote) and the customer wants to waive it because “everyone else quoted for free” is a good sign they are a potential dud customer.

If they won’t pay $55 for a quote they won’t pay your invoice. 

“But they can do it for half!” 

I always say, for most residential jobs, you can usually quote on-site and ask for the sale then and there.

A red flag that they aren’t the customer for you is they may immediately ask you for a price reduction on your quote. 

“But this tradie said he could do it for half what you’re asking.” 

“Yeah, a lot of tradies are quoting on this job.” 

“What kind of discount can you give me?”

This is a clear sign the customer ONLY cares about the price, not about what awesome customer service you offer, how professional your business is, or that you’re super reliable. Or they’re going to want you to give a competitive price based on what the others quote. 

Overall, they want you to be reactive to the idea that other people are also looking at the job, so you’ll give your lowest cost to win it; this doesn’t make you money!

They don’t want you to make a profit 

If you explain to them your pricing structure and why the other quotes they’ve been provided with seem suspiciously low and they still want you to do it for less….turn on your heels and run! 

For any trade business, the cost you provide the customer is based on a mathematical formula, which allows you to cover expenses and generate a decent profit. If the customer asks you to reduce your costs, they don’t care (or want) you to make money on the job.

Don’t cave to their demands and end up losing money on the job; that’s crazy!

It’s a “not right now” job 

The quintessential dud customer is someone who has got you to come quote on a job because “they just wanted to get an idea of the costs” but have minimal intention of pursuing the job. 

It’s more of a dream project rather than something they can action. Sadly, there’s not much we can do about this, but at least we can continue to follow them up month on month with comms so when they are ready (if ever), your trade business is top of mind,. 

Overall, sometimes we can’t always see a dud customer until it’s too late and we’ve already wasted our time. The best thing we can do is, learn from our mistakes and keep an eye out for these time-wasters to focus our attention on GREAT customers instead! 

Written by Andy Smith, Founder of Lifestyle Tradie