Whether they know it or not, most estimators are in the marketing business. Every time they speak to someone, they influence that person’s feelings about them and the company they work for. If estimators are rude to vendors, they may not get the best pricing. If they snap at a general contractor, they may not get the contract. Estimators are in the perfect position to influence both customers and vendors.


A few months ago, I received a call from a potential new customer. It quickly became apparent I would not be able to connect with him. He seemed distant, frequently interrupted me and didn’t laugh at my jokes. We never seemed to be on the same page. The call lasted only a few minutes, which was not nearly long enough for me to finish my pitch. By the end of the call, I was certain I would never hear from him again.


A few minutes later, I received a call that was the complete opposite of the first. The two of us connected right away. He got my jokes, and I got his. He was able to communicate his needs, and I was able to come up with solutions for his problems. After I hung up the phone, I started wondering why the first call did not go as well. I also reflected on the fact that this was not the first time I had not handled a call well. I knew that you can’t please everyone, but it still bothered me. If I had said something just a little differently, would I have made the sale with the first caller?


Changing faces


A while after those two calls, I read an article by Kate Hamill, “Why Being Weird Gets Me More Clients,” in which the author talks about “embracing your weird” rather than creating some carefully concocted version of yourself to use in your business relationships. The article really rang true for me. I realized that, even though my continuing education has covered many subjects, I have never attended any classes or seminars about marketing, so I did not know I was supposed to mold myself into the perfect version of what I thought my clients expected. I was unaware that it was advisable to “aggressively market yourself as a nice, safe, tame product that appeals to the broadest swathe of humanity possible.” I did not know I was a hapless fool if I wasn’t presenting myself in the “most homogenized, highly ‘saleable’ way possible—in a manner that could never offend (or excite) anyone.”


Well, according to Hamill, I was accidentally doing my marketing right all along. My sense of humor, the fact that I talk too fast when I get excited, and the way I do not hesitate to voice my opinions about the industry, are all part of who I am. What you see is what you get. 


Hamill’s article goes on to explain how relationships made with people who appreciate the real you are stronger and longer lasting. Additionally, it is a lot more pleasant dealing with people you like. Have you ever had a customer you dreaded calling? I haven’t had one for a while, but I clearly remember having to psych myself up for those calls in the past.


Who are you?


There are problems with creating multiple personalities of yourself, and one is keeping them in order. Having to change who you are every time you answer the phone can be challenging. The biggest problem with having several versions of yourself may be your customers’ perception of your honesty. Many people are very good at detecting fakes and will often require a face-to-face meeting before they do business with someone.


Can there be problems with being yourself? Absolutely! One personality quirk of mine is my sense of humor, which I have a tendency to let out in front of people I have only been talking to for a couple of minutes. I know it does not always go over so well, and it may have lost me some sales. Just recently, I let a risky (but not risqué) joke slip out in my very first meeting with a potential customer. I got lucky. It took him a moment to get it, but then he almost fell off his chair laughing. I won that customer, but I know my humor has fallen flat on other occasions.


Are there occasions when you may need to alter your behavior? Probably. I’ve only done it a few times, usually when meeting with a high-profile client for the first time. Even then, if the client shows his or her sense of humor, I’ll let mine show. Just a little.