A Tale about Fencing

This story was passed along to me recently by Tom Kirk, Oregon Territory Manager for CertainTeed.

The story concerns fences, but I think you’ll quickly see how it relates to the roofing business, too.

The story is about a homeowner who wanted a new fence for her backyard. She called three fencing contractors to get bids.

The first guy arrived twenty minutes late and asked to go into the backyard so he could measure the property line. When he was done, he went out to his truck for five minutes to write up a bid. Then he left.

The second company’s estimator showed up and immediately called the homeowner by the wrong name. He went out back, too, to measure the yard. He also went to his truck to work up a price, and his bid was a little higher than the first one. He left, too.

The final guy arrived at the appointed time and greeted the homeowner by her correct name. Like the others, he went to the backyard and took measurements.

But unlike the other estimators, the third guy did not go out to his truck to make an estimate. Instead, he stopped back in the house to present a follow-up question.fence-2

He asked, “Before I write up a proposal for you, are there any other concerns you have about getting the new fence?”

The homeowner only needed a moment to think of an answer.

“Well, actually yes. There is.” she said. “Six months ago, I planted a vegetable garden in the back corner. The neighbor’s dogs are able to get through the current fence, and they keep messing up my plantings. That’s why I wanted the fence in the first place.”

The third guy nodded after hearing this. “Got it,” he said. “If you choose us, we will rope off that part of the yard. We’ll make sure your garden doesn’t get hurt during our installation of the new fence.”

Then he went to his truck to create an estimate. When he gave it to the homeowner, she saw that it was almost 40% higher than the other two bids.

Now guess which company was chosen for the project.

The answer is easy and obvious. It was the third guy, of course. Higher bid and all.

And it’s plain to see: that last guy didn’t have to do much extra to win the job. He took care of the basics (arriving on time and using the correct name) and he asked the right question to win the job.

So . . . which contractor here do you most resemble?

The thing is, it’s easy for all of us to get too “comfortable” or to get into a rut. It’s easy for any of us to skip important parts of the sales process. It’s easy to forget to ask good questions to the prospect.

And it is easy to have in advance a list of good questions to ask. And it is easy to remember to make that extra effort and ask them.


Thanks to the photographers: to Orin Zebest for the top fence photo, to Anne Swoboda for the defocused fence, and finally to Jim Linwood for the garden.

Thanks also to Tom Kirk for originally sharing this story with me.

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