Know When to Walk Away From a Sale in Decorative Concrete

Jan 31, 2023

Kenny Rogers gives some pretty great business advice in his song, The Gambler, when he says, "You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away and know when to run."

Here are three examples of when to walk away from a prospective sale. And don't miss the bonus tips for dealing with difficult customers, because sometimes we stay in the game when we should have folded.

Walk Away From a Prospective Sale When It Means Taking on Something That's Not in Your Lane

I was in a forum recently where a relatively new dealer was asking how to level up a pool deck because one section had dropped lower than the rest. The reality is this is outside of his specialty, and he needs to walk away from the project until other trades do what they need to do. In this example, that section of the pool deck needs to be replaced or leveled by a leveling solution like poly jacking.

As a decorative concrete professional, stay within the boundaries of decorative concrete.

You don't pour concrete, and you don't level concrete, but other people do.

Once the potential customer has an adequate sub-straight, then, as a decorative concrete professional, you can come in with the options in your toolbox to satisfy the customer's design wishes.

Pro Tip: Develop relationships with other contractors

You can refer business to them, and they, in turn, will refer to business to you.

When developing these strategic relationships, be sure they have boundaries around their business, too.

Don't be a decorative concrete professional who tries to be all things to all people, and don't refer work to other contractors trying to be all things to all people.

Here are some strategic relationships I recommend:

  • A concrete contractor who only pours and finishes concrete
  • A poly jack contractor who only does leveling
  • A brick mason who only does borders and brickwork

Walk Away From a Prospective Sale When Dealing With a Difficult Prospect

I often walk away from prospects who can't find the time to meet to do the estimate because they're so "busy."

These kinds of people don't prioritize your time or expertise and will likely continue to cause scheduling nightmares in the future.

Another sign you might be dealing with a difficult prospect is when they continue to demand multiple samples or ask you to tweak things outside of your mainstream offerings.

For example, your prospect wants three samples of the same design with a light texture, a medium texture, and a heavy texture in three different colors.

Another red flag is a prospective customer who wants to see ALL the options, sifting through 15-20 photos and still "wondering" what their project will look like.

Another sign you're dealing with a potentially difficult customer is your own gut feeling. You'll get the sense that this is a person that you just can't please.

No matter the specific circumstance, if you're dealing with a potentially difficult prospect, either walk away or price the job accordingly to accommodate any extra hassles you can predict.

Raising the cost may mean you price yourself out of the project. But don't worry about it because it's probably not the kind of customer you want anyway.

I know this is hard.

Walking away from business you know you can do doesn't seem like the right call.

But chances are the customer will never be satisfied and will have you redoing things repeatedly, and it will not be a profitable project for you in the end anyway.

Walk Away From a Prospective Sale When It's Too Small of a Job

I wish we could help every prospect, but we have a cost per hour for our crew, and sometimes with prep time, drying time, and travel time, it's not worth taking on those projects.

As mentioned in previous videos, you don't want to eliminate small projects immediately. You may still want to go out on the estimate because you might be able to convince them to add to the project.

If you do a good job of explaining your minimums and the value you add, the prospect often respects you for being professional and will want the work done, and will be willing to add areas to make it worth it.

Pro Tip: When screening the call over the phone to set the estimate, be sure to let them know their initial request is below your minimum but that you'd be willing to meet them in person to discuss it.

You don't want to show up and surprise them with the fact that their 90-square-foot stoop is below your minimum. They will be frustrated.

But you also don't want to refuse to go on the estimate and miss an opportunity to show your prospective customer that increasing the job size is worth it.

Maybe I've convinced you to walk away from jobs that are too small, but you're not sure what to say.

Here's an example of what I would say.

"Due to the size of the project, it just doesn't justify having my crew out here. The steps and drying time are the same for this small job as a larger one. It will still take four days to complete, but I can't justify dispatching my crew for 30 minutes each day without having enough volume. I'd love to give you an estimate on your back patio or garage floor."

Let's say they don't want to add any more projects. Before completely walking away, I may still give them a quote and let them know that if we get another project in the neighborhood, we might be able to add in their below-minimum project.

What you don't want to do is take this project as is. Do all you can. But if it just won't work, then walk away.

Bonus Tips on Handling Difficult Customers

We've been discussing handling difficult prospects, but I promised you some tips when dealing with difficult customers before we wrap up.

Tip #1: Communicate everything clearly upfront.

Inform your new customer how many days it will take to complete the project. Have proper contracts with proper disclosures, including how your warranty works, so everything is clearly spelled out in writing upfront.

Tip #2: Put yourself in their shoes.

Understand the investment your customer has made. Chances are they are being difficult because they invested their hard-earned money, and it is not turning out like they thought it would. Compassionately communicate the reality of the situation, but be ready -- sometimes, they don't like your answer.

Tip #3: Don't ignore them.

Again, your customer has invested money and trust to work with you. Respond professionally and promptly as you would a prospective customer.

So there you have it.

We've given three examples of when to walk away from a prospective sale and offered three tips on handling difficult customers (for those times when you didn't walk away).

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more tips to launch and propel your decorative concrete company forward. And sign up for our email list below, so you never miss new targeted advice for launching and optimizing your decorative concrete business. 


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