Friday, September 3, 2010

One Man, Two Questions

I got Paul Winans on the phone yesterday.

Lucky me, because not only is Paul one of the smartest and most helpful remodeling experts around, but he and his wife Nina didn't sell their famously successful California remodeling company and move to Oregon just to become remodeling consultants. They also relocated to take advantage of their new state's vibrant arts culture. Paul rattled off a list of plays he had seen at the latest Oregon Shakespeare Festival, mentioned that Nina was off volunteering at a film festival, and answered a few of my questions.

Here's a little bit of what we talked about, as edited and paraphrased.

me: When screening potential remodeling clients, what's the single best question to ask?

Paul: (a big proponent of Sandler sales training): The most important thing to find out is why they want to have the work done. Usually when companies talk to a prospect, they ask for a perfunctory rationale. What you want to do is get to the why, the emotional reason, the pain.

The question that has to be asked over and over again is basically, 'Why do you want to go through the trouble, the inconvenience, the aggravation that comes with having a remodel done?' The more clarity you can get them to provide about their decision, the stronger the relationship is going to be, the less likely they're going to feel they have to talk with other companies, and the more information you'll have to structure a strong proposal.

It's too easy to end a meeting with a prospect by saying, okay, I'll send you a proposal. Your solution is only valid if you've first established the foundation for what is motivating the client to do the work.

me: How do you create a sense of urgency in slow remodeling buyers?

Paul: This gets back to that powerful first question you ask. The clearer you are about why somebody wants to get this project done, the more likely you can engage them in a conversation about when they want to have it done and why.

If it's a pregnancy, for instance, it's a slam dunk. Or it might be that a big celebration will be held at the house, and they haven't had a party in 15 years because they're so embarrassed by their kitchen. That's their pain. That's what you want to drill down to.

Remodeling can be hell, Paul and I agreed. It's critical to get your clients to accept this -- and to know that you'll ensure that the outcome is worth it -- at the beginning of the relationship.

Paul even suggests encouraging your prospects to consider buying another house before they remodel. "What is it about this house that makes you want to go to the trouble of remodeling? Is it the neighbors, the school your kids can walk to, the beautiful yard?'

Because, he said, "As the client gets clearer, as they hear themselves talk, they actually talk themselves out of thinking there's any other choice besides you."

That's what you want.

FYI, I'll be asking a business question like this every day on If you've got some burning questions for experts like Paul, and for your remodeling peers, use the comment box below to suggest them!

Or email them to me at

1 comment:

David Roberts said...

As usual, Paul Winans skillfully hits the nail square on the head and drives it home with clarity and precision. I was fortunate to encounter Paul as my first group facilitator at Remodelers Advantage Roundtables where he challenges and yet supportive at the same time. He has the ability to see through the clutter and tune out the static to get behind the real and deep issues involved in operating a remodeling company.

We engaged Paul as a business coach to help us realize our potential for our design build company, Roberts Architects ltd and Robert Construction Group in Evanston Illinois. He gives us the objective critique we need, helps us look deep into our companies soul, and he challenges me directly as others don’t. With Paul’s consultation we are developing our design build company in fundamental ways, reinforcing our strengths, improving our weaknesses, and laying out a strategic path to our successful future.