Trades Business Hack: How To Deal With Time Wasters (AKA Bad Customers)


How to avoid time wasters (aka bad customers).

I’ve made this Toolbox Tip for Sarah in response to a question she posted on this video in my YouTube channel. And it took me and my team four months before we noticed it, so Sarah, I’m sorry.

You asked the major question about how to deal with a specific kind of frustrating, prospective customer.

A customer who asks you to quote, then picks your brain and uses what you tell them to garner enough information so they could do the job themselves, or break it down and give you bits and pieces of sh*tty, unprofitable work by sourcing the materials themselves. It makes the job as cheap as possible for them and makes it not fun for you to do and you’ve given your knowledge away for free.

Sarah told a story about someone who did this and then, once they f*cked it up themselves, called her up and asked to help them fix it, also for free. They slyly suggested they’d be giving you more work but she didn’t believe it. She thought they’ll pick her brains and then go back and try to fix up their mistakes themselves.

Sarah asked how to handle these people including those who ask for a breakdown of a quote so that they can go and source other quotes and materials separately.

This is a broad question. It’s a series of questions about how to deal with a**holes and I’m going to try and answer it quite fully.

Response 1- Don’t put too much energy into these time-wasters

These people are quite rare. Most business customers are decent, honorable, and understand that you’ve got to make a living and don’t try to look down on you.

You shouldn’t put too much of your energy into these negative time-wasters. Make a simple system to deal with them (which I’ll explain in a minute) and move on and work with the good people.

I’m going to refer you to a recent video I made called, ‘The Life-changing magic of doing enough marketing’.

If you’re doing enough marketing, then, you’ve got lots of leads. And when you come across an idiot and time-waster, you feel much more confident in saying, “No, I don’t want to”.

Response 2 – They’ll likely commit a mistake

Remember, they’ll probably cock it up anyway. It took you a lot of years to get this good. They’re not going to do as good of a job.

They’ll always either cock it up or it will be rubbish and a bit ugly.

If they are DIY’ers and they feel happy with that then fine, who cares? Let them go.

Your market is the people who appreciate the value and quality you bring to your work.

Response 3 – Take preventative measures

If you’ve been watching my stuff for a while you know I’m a fan of what’s called qualifying out, which basically means you ask questions and use the responses to the questions to decide if you want to invest more time in this opportunity or person.

If you qualify and you decide it’s not a good use of your time then you shouldn’t do it. If you qualify and you think “I’m not going to win this job” then stop working on it. Do not invest any more time in a job you’re not going to win.

You could qualify when they enquire on the phone – “Do I want to drive out there?” And you can qualify when you’re on site – “Do I want to go home and write up a quote?” 

Recommended Reading: Quoting, It’s A Shit Of A Thing – Qualifying Out

If you don’t believe they’d buy from you, don’t waste any more time. I teach this in my coaching. As you build your sales process, you put your qualification steps in it and you plan your questions with a checklist so you don’t forget to ask them.

They might not buy from you for many reasons. They:

  • Don’t have the money.
  • Don’t have the authority to make a decision on their own.
  • Aren’t ready yet.
  • Haven’t got the finance sorted out yet.
  • Haven’t got approval from counsel.

All sorts of things could be getting in their way.

From your side, you might not like them and they might not like you too.

Your d*ckhead filter might be going off.

It might be going no, “They are just picking your brains. They’re going to do it themselves.” All those reasons could be the case. Your questions should be helping you form an opinion as to whether those things are the case.

If you believe any of these things the case, you don’t have to give them a quote.

Let’s be clear. Just because you said “Free quotes” on your website doesn’t mean you have to give a full detailed quote to every time-waster who picks up the phone. You do not.

This is your professional time, it’s worth the money, you don’t have to give it away for free to everybody. Those are not the rules.

That’s your preventative action – qualify out. If you think it’s a waste of time, don’t quote.

I know that sounds a bit scary because you’ll feel some pressure from them, but you’re in charge of your time and they aren’t.

Response 4 – When your preventative measures fail

If your preventative measures let you down, what do you do or say?

You probably don’t say, “F*ck off you time-wasting a**hole”.

Your response will vary depending on why they don’t qualify as worth any more of your time.

Let me throw you ideas to illustrate.

If I’m your coach, my program will help you prepare your own responses and you’ll go into these situations prepared.

  • If it’s the money, you might say something like…

“It doesn’t sound like you have the money to do this project. A formal quote is not the right thing for me to do. They take a lot of time and energy and you won’t be able to buy anyways because you don’t have the money. It’s far better for me to give you a quick estimate now which will be close and you can use that to go and get your ideas together or finance sorted out. When you’ve got those things sorted out and you’re in a position to buy, then it’s time for me to do a formal quote. How does that sound?”

  • If they’re time-wasters or you don’t think they’re going to buy from you for whatever reason, you might say…“Look, I’m getting the feeling that you’re not likely to go ahead with me. I’m not going to invest any more time into this project. It’s probably best if we leave it here. You can go in today and I’ll give you a quick estimate of the cost. A formal quote is a lot of effort and time for me. Time is money. I’m not going to invest my time and money in a project I don’t believe I’m going to win”.
  • If your preventative measures have failed, and you gave them your expertise and they come back later for help like Sarah’s customer did, I would say, “NO”.“Look, I gave you all my help the last time, you’ve made a mistake. I don’t believe I want to be involved any further”.You don’t need to say much.
  • You’ve qualified somebody and they’ve got the money. They’re doing it soon enough. The decision makers are all involved. They’ve said you’re the kind of trade they want. Everything’s looking good, your d*ckhead filter isn’t going off. You think you like each other and yet, when you present your quote they ask for a breakdown.

If they don’t need a breakdown in order to decide whether your quote is reasonable or not, there’s no need for you to give one. You could say:

“I work out my quote and I allow for labour and materials. How I do that is my intellectual property and my risk. You don’t need to see the detail of how I figured that out in order to decide whether to extend my quote.”

You certainly don’t need to be going down to Bunnings and comparing prices on timber and things like that. You shouldn’t need to go down to any level of detail where they can go and start price-shopping.

The real answer is here:

“No, I’ve done your quote. I’m not your servant, you don’t get to boss me around and make me do all the free unpaid work for you“.

The real answer I think here is, of course, you didn’t qualify properly because your d*ckhead filter should have been going off. They’re clearly being a bit funny now and it’s time to get yourself out of there.

Nobody gets this right all the time. These preventative measures only work so well — a pushy, aggressive or clever customer will get past them sometimes.

But, if you take these steps and put these structures and systems in place in your business, you will reduce the amount of time you waste on the time-wasters and you’ll spend more of your time with  nice, decent people.

Remember the marketing stuff? If you attract the right kind of people and you attract enough of them, it’s easier to say NO to the idiots earlier and waste less time.

Of course,  if you would like me to help, I can help. I will help you set these systems and structures up. I’ll help you plan what to say, plan the questions and help you write the checklist.

It’s called business coaching to figure out whether it’s the right thing for you to do or not.

There are four ways you can engage with me:

1. Subscribe to these emails and get them once a week in your inbox so you never miss a video from me.

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3. Attend my next Tradie Profit Webinar.

4. Book yourself a 10-minute chat with me. We’ll talk about whether coaching is right for you now and if it is, we’ll go further into the process before you have to make your mind up.

See you later.

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