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Selling First Time Cleans

“How much does it cost to clean my house?”

Hopefully, this question is at the top of the most frequently asked questions you hear from prospective customers.  How you answer influences not only your business but your customer’s experience in working with you.  Let’s break it down.

The Real Answer:

We can clean your house for $200, $175 or $150.

Why is this the real answer?

Because we typically offer multiple services that follow the “good, better, best” model.  The specific answer depends upon how clean the customer wants their home.  But we know the real answer won’t suffice when trying to close a sale and foster a long-term customer relationship.

So what is the right answer?

Before we can get to the right answer, we must first identify specifically what it is that we are selling.  People want a clean home, but “clean” is not a product, it’s a result. People want a result. They don’t care what they pay for it. They want a result, but you have to sell a product because how do you deliver on an undefined result? Again, clean is a result, so it becomes defined by the imagination. If you don’t define what you are offering, there’s no telling what clean means to the customer.  It depends too much on your customer’s definition of clean. You can’t sell clean. You have to sell a cleaning product.

This distinction is less apparent when you are still small and you are out doing the selling AND the cleaning. When you’re going to be the one always going out there and cleaning, it doesn’t matter because you’re going to do a great job. You’re going to do a great job communicating, and you know what to do, and you know how to pivot.

But when you want to grow and begin to train employees to take over the role of cleaning, now you’re stuck if you sell a clean. You can get away with it if you’re doing the work, but if you want your company to be bigger than you, you have to stop selling a cleaning, and instead, turn your service into a product. This is critical.

I bet you’ve never said, “Well, how clean do you want your house?” Really, that is the question we have to get answered, even if we don’t ask it so bluntly. We need to know “how clean” so we can guide the customer to the right cleaning product: the good one, the better one or the best one.  We almost have to work backwards from the desired result: a clean home.  And it starts by selling a product rather than a result.

Turn your service into a product

You likely already have three products in your company. Whether you sell it that way or not, you already have it.  People buy the wrong service because we sell them the wrong service. Often they pressure you over price.  We didn’t explain to them, “I have three products, and I think you need the Level 2, or I think you need Level 3.”

Each product defines the level of service that you plan to deliver to get the result they expect. They won’t buy the wrong product if you make sure you tell them what the three products are and how clean it will get their home. I’m not saying to use those terms, but you help them to understand. “What level of service are you looking for? What are your needs?” Create three packages to sell your three products. I want you to picture your service as if they could fit into a retail box on a shelf at your local home improvement store.

The Three Products

Level 1 Service (The Good One):  Maintenance Clean

The first level of service that we sell is your maintenance cleaning. This is the service that you sell to somebody that says, “I would like to have my house cleaned every week.” Boom! You sell them a Maintenance Clean. Weekly, bi-weekly or even monthly is what we call Maintenance Clean.

But even with weekly-by-weekly and monthly service, a Maintenance Clean cannot be sold to somebody who hasn’t had their first visit clean yet. How can you sell a Maintenance Clean to somebody who hasn’t had your service two weeks ago, or one week ago, or four weeks ago? Define this product as a Maintenance Clean. We have to bring it up to maintenance level before we can sell them a Maintenance Clean.

Now, there are only two types of services we will offer you on the first visit, and Level 1 is not one of them. The maintenance clean always comes after the first time initial clean, whatever that looks like. Don’t even offer this product on the first-time cleaning service. Don’t even offer it. Don’t say, “We could do it for $135 unless it’s kind of dirty, and then I need to bump it up to $250, and then if it’s really dirty, I’ve got to bump it up to $350. “No, it’s not dirty. I can go with the $135.” Don’t even mention it because you shouldn’t sell it to them anyway. It should not be available.

NOTE ABOUT PRICING WHEN SELLING YOUR SERVICES:  Even though you likely calculate your price based on labor hours, do not include time when quoting a customer. You’re promising a price; you’re not promising time. You’re saying it’s $135 per cleaning or $160 per bi-weekly service. You’re promising them a price that they can count on. You’re not saying, “It’s $135, and I promise we’ll stay three hours flat. We won’t leave one minute early.” Do not include time in your price. That’s the wrong way to sell it.

Level 2 Service (The Better One): General Clean

The second level of Service is the General Clean. Think of this as a budget clean that gives you enough time to clean the basics and some build-up that are on those basics. Now, you’re going to have to define the basics.

A general clean only gives you enough time to clean the basics and the build-up on the basics. You know what build-up is. The basics would be: my tubs are dirty; my showers are dirty; the toilets are nasty. The faucets are icky; they’ve got toothpaste spatters all over them. The countertops have caked-on hairspray and makeup. The countertops have food and crumbs. The appliances. They’re going to wipe down the outside of the stove, the inside of the microwave. You need to dust the furniture. Get that coffee table wiped off. Get those end tables polished up. Vacuum the carpets. Mop the nasty floors. These are the basics.

A General Clean assumes that this is a first time clean. Nobody calls you when they have a very clean house and says, “Come and maintain it.” I’m sorry. Nobody calls you when they have a clean house. Stop being gullible and falling for, “Oh, it’s not bad. We keep it up.” Stop falling for that.

Nobody calls you when they have a clean house to start service. The basics are going to be dirtier than they will be in two weeks when you get to come back and repeat.

The General Clean is suitable if the home has been thoroughly cleaned within the last 90 days from top to bottom by the homeowner or your competitor. It’s not suitable if they have not cleaned it in months. It doesn’t need to have been cleaned a week ago. But remember, they wouldn’t be calling you if it was cleaned a week ago.

But about every three months they really get their act together, and they spend the whole day cleaning, or about every three months, they call a professional (often whoever has the coupon), then the General Clean is going to be fine. Yeah, it’s going to be a little dirty. The shower is going to be nasty; the toilet is going to be ick, but it’s not going to be hideous.

Allow up to about double the time, and, of course, double the price of what it would be on a maintenance clean if they qualify for Level 2 General. If I’m going to allow three hours to clean your house every two weeks Maintenance Clean, on a Basic General Cleaning, I need double the time. I’m still just going to clean those basics, but I’m going to scrub extra time on that shower, and on those floors, and on those tubs.

Level 3 Service (The Best One): Top To Bottom Deluxe Deep Clean

This is the crème de la crème, the Level 3 of Service. Now, we don’t say that to the customer, “If your house is nasty, we’re going to give you the Level 3.” No. You simply say, “We have two types of service for initial cleans. We have a General Clean, where we hit all the basics for you and spend extra time to bring the basic areas of your home up to maintenance level. But we also have our Top To Bottom Deluxe Cleaning.” Some people call this a spring cleaning or a deep clean or whatever you call it. My company calls it a Top To Bottom Deluxe Cleaning.

This is where you focus on the basics – remember the tubs, the toilets, the floors, the countertops, the appliances, the sinks. This is where you focus on the basics, plus other areas that haven’t been cleaned in a while. And you don’t have time to do these other areas in a General Clean.

What are those areas? These are the things that homeowners forget to clean. These are the things that don’t scream at them every Saturday, “Clean me; clean me. Their shower screams at them. Their toilets and their floors scream at them. But these things don’t even talk to them, and they forget they even need to be cleaned.

These are the ceiling fans, the baseboards, the moldings, the blinds, the picture frames, the doors. Nobody’s washing the doors. You’ve got 15 doors in your house; they’ve got little fingerprints and doggy slobber, and cabinet fronts. The spaghetti splashes on the kitchen cabinet fronts. The toothpaste spatters on the children’s cabinets in their bathroom.

The light fixtures – nobody’s cleaned those light fixtures in months or even years. Sure, they clean the mirrors, wipe down the countertop, and scrub the sink every few months, but they haven’t cleaned the light fixtures in ages. They’re caked on with dust and cobwebs and maybe even hairspray gluing the dust and cobwebs down if it’s in the master bathroom.

The high dusting. The customer has no clue that there are tons of cobwebs up there in the corner, but you know. Heavy build-up in the showers. This is the shower that hasn’t been cleaned in ages. This is the shower that you need the single-edge razor blade to scrape off the soap scum. This is the shower that you’ve got to treat it. You have to scrub it. You have to rinse it, and you’ve got to come back and do it again because there is a months’ worth of layers of grime and build-up – not weeks.

So, heavy build-up. Dust – it’s not just the tables that need to be cleaned. It’s the moldings around the room. It’s the window ledges and lock ledges. It’s the, “Oh! Look at these blinds. They’re furry. We’re talking dust, pet hair caked in the edges of the carpet. Some of you are looking at your house right now going, “I didn’t even think of that. Boy, mine are looking bad.”

This is when your customer needs the Top To Bottom Deluxe Cleaning. What do you think is going to happen if you sell them a General Clean? You will get a complaint. Hey, you’re lucky if that’s all you get. And you will eat it. Why? Because you’re going to stay for free, and you’re going to clean till you get it right. They will give you a 1-star review that will demand a refund. You’ll have to go back and reclean. Your staff will be irritated. Free labor – it’s like, “Oh, goody. We get to work for free again today. Wasn’t that pleasant?” Do not sell the wrong service when they need a higher level.

Allow about triple the time of a Maintenance Clean for a Top To Bottom Deluxe. If you think that house would be three hours every two weeks once it’s maintained, it’s probably going to be easily nine hours or more. Nine to ten hours for a Top To Bottom Deluxe Clean. Why? Because you did all the basics, worked on the build-up too, and you added all of these spring cleaning items.

Have Detailed Lists of What’s Included

Once you have established your 3 levels of service, have a detailed list of what’s included with each. It’s a good idea to have the checklists on your website or available to email to your prospective client while you review their options on the phone. Don’t sell a cleaning without a defined list of what is included and what is not included. It’s not good enough that you verbalize all this. “Oh, we’ll do this; we’ll do that.” They remember what they want to remember. They do not remember what you said. “Oh, I’m pretty sure you said you’d climb up and clean the chandelier. Oh, I’m pretty sure you said you’d wash the garage floor.”

By providing cleaning checklists to your customers, you not only set more accurate expectations, but you can establish the value for each level of service.

So the client says, “I expect all of those things on that Top To Bottom list to be included, but I want to pay $175.” Well, we’re not a good fit because here’s the problem. They want to pay the price of a General Cleaning, but will demand the service of a Top to Bottom Deluxe Clean.

What you don’t want is the wrong client. This system helps you lose the clients you should have lost and win the clients you should win. Every prospect is not a good fit for us. It can wreck our businesses, and our life, and our profitability. Every client is not a good fit. If you win the ones that are not a good fit, they will torment you. They will want their money back, and they’ll still give you a nasty review.

Selling the Right Service

Find out how clean they want their house by defining what each level of service includes – and does not include. Defining your service options help gives the prospective customer realistic expectations and lets them choose the service that most closely gives them the result they want: a clean home.

Here’s an example of how you can phrase it to the customer and when you’re explaining the difference between the Level 2 and the Level 3 of service with the General Cleaning and the Deluxe Cleaning. They’re like, “I don’t want to pay for the Deluxe.” It’s like, “Okay, let me explain. These areas are only included in the Deluxe.  With the General, if these areas are dirty when we arrive, they will still be dirty when we leave. Are you okay with that?”

Especially if somebody is being a little difficult, you want to be very clear with your words. Ask again, “If those areas, such as baseboards and ceiling fans that are dirty when we arrive, they will still be dirty when we leave. Are you okay with that?” If they come back with a smart-aleck answer like, “Well, no. I’m not going to be okay with that. I’m putting my house on the market.” Then don’t sell them anything less than the Top To Bottom Deluxe Cleaning because that’s what you’re going to give them whether you get paid or not.

So if the answer is no, upgrade them to the Level 3 and allow them to say, “No, thank you. You’re too expensive.” And then you can hang up and go, “Whew! Dodged another bullet.” And that bullet is a 1-star review and a refund.


The next time someone asks how much it will cost to clean their home, you now know the best way to present your services as products.  Define what’s included with each product level and guide the customer to choose the product that is best for them based on what is needed to produce their desired result, a clean home.

When the level of service matches a customer’s needs and expectations, everyone wins.  You provide a profitable service and your customer gets a home cleaned the way they imagine it should be cleaned.   And often, you earn a long term customer.


Debbie Sardone
Debbie Sardone

Known as The Maid Coach, Debbie Sardone is America’s top cleaning business consultant. Debbie helps owners of residential cleaning companies build a 7-figure dream business, with a 6-figure income and the freedom in their lives that they deserve.

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