(Some of this may sound elementary to some of you, Decks will be used in this article, however, the same methods would apply for fences and homes)
Many of your competitors will spend a lot of time telling the prospective customer what they are going to do for their decks. You are going to actually SHOW them what you are going to do.
Make up a stripper kit consisting of 3 glass jars containing solutions of your chosen stripper (One at 5 oz/gallon, one at 10 oz/gallon and one at 15 oz/gallon). In another jar mix a solution of acid at 15 oz/gallon. Also, a stiff bristle brush. We carry this kit in a 2 ½ gallon plastic bucket.
When you arrive for the appointment and walk out on the deck, ask the prospective customer if you can test a place on their deck to determine the difficulty of removing the current finish. Explain that your preservative will not protect properly unless the wood is completely stripped and neutralized. In addition, explain that the price is based in part on how difficult the current finish is to remove.
Select an area on the deck (about 1 square foot) where the finish is relatively intact and yet is clearly visible. Be sure there is nothing under the deck where you are stripping that might be harmed by the stripper.
Shake the jar and pour some of the stripper on your selected area. You can select the strength of the stripper to use (5, 10 or 15 oz/gallon) by how intact the finish looks. A little practice and you will be able to judge which strength to use.
While the stripper is dwelling, ask the prospective customer if there is a hose nearby or if there is somewhere you can fill your bucket with water. In a few minutes, scrub the selected area with the brush and determine if it is removing the finish (if not, try again with a stronger version). Rinse the stripper while scrubbing (unless you have a strong stream of water from a hose). When rinsed, shake the jar of acid and pour it on the stripped area. The prospective customer WILL be impressed…… You are a professional !!!
Even if you do not sell the prospective customer that day, you will leave a reminder of your professional work that they will see every time they go out on their deck. This process is notably important if only one spouse is present at the presentation (the absent spouse can see what you will do rather than relying on the information being relayed to them).
Now to measure the deck………………DON’T ! (You are a professional) The prospective customer will more than likely ask you if you are going to measure the deck. You may answer by stating that you have been restoring decks long enough to be able to determine without measuring.
Hints on measuring:
Balusters: the average baluster is 36 inches long and 2 inches wide. 36 inches times 2 inches = 72 square inches. There are four sides. 72 square inches times 4 equals 288 square inches. Since there are 144 square inches in a square foot, each baluster is 2 square feet. Estimate the number of balusters times 2 square feet each.
Floor boards and top rails: Most floor boards and rails are 6 inches wide. The length of the board divided by 2 (since the width is ½ a foot wide) will give you the square feet of that board. Multiply that number by the number of boards.
Practice on your own deck or that of a friend or relative, and you will become proficient in no time.
Write up the estimate on a simple estimate/acceptance form (Exhibit 1). You can print these forms on your computer printer using blank 3 part NCR forms that can be purchased at an office supply store. Adapt the form to your own needs.
Hand the white and yellow copies to the prospective customer and pack up your stripper kit. Tell the prospective customer that if they wish to have the work performed, all they have to do is sign the white copy in the bottom right hand corner and mail it back to you.
Start walking to your vehicle. As you get a few feet away, turn to the prospective customer and ask them to call before they mail the form so you can put them on the schedule right away because you are quite busy………..WALK AWAY !!!
A large part of the time you will never make it to your vehicle.
In the event you do not sign up the prospective customer that day, send a letter the next morning (Exhibit 2).
You have now placed yourself well above your competition…………You are a professional !!!
A helpful hint: A few minutes before you arrive at the presentation, call the prospective customer and tell them you are on your way………..You are a professional !!!
Of course, always call if you will be, or think you will be late for the appointment.
Exhibit 1 Exhibit 2