If you are already charging for quotes, congratulations you “get it”, so no need to read any further. Otherwise for a question that’s bandied around now more than ever, here’s my take on the situation.
The short answer is YES, you should be charging for quotes, especially if you do itemized quotes or D&C. Now you’re probably thinking, but Kurt my competitors aren’t charging for quotes so how am I going to get any work, especially when the phone has stopped ringing! If this is you then you’ve got a marketing problem and that’s a whole different conversation, which incidentally needs to be had before you start charging for quotes. (See our article on how to generate a continuous flow of profitable work to sort your marketing out).
Remember your Marketing should position you as the expert, the “go to” person in your chosen “Niche” or specialty. Once you have this positioning securely in place you can plug your sales process into the back end. With sales being the biggest area of “inefficiency” in this industry (i.e. lots of quotes done for too few contacts signed) the number one purpose for your sales process should be to QUALIFY your prospective clients. Handling your inquiries correctly protects your time and let’s your potential client know how you do business. Handling them the wrong way gives them the opportunity to waste your time.
So here’s a scenario where even if you don’t intend to charge for quotes, you definitely should be. Bearing in mind the aim of the game here is to “qualify” the prospective client. So lets say you get a call for a Reno, first floor addition, bathroom whatever. You show up at the appointed time to speak with the nice people about their proposed job. At some point in the conversation, the potential client makes the following statement: “I want a complete itemization of your proposal and when it’s ready you can just send it to me by email or snail mail. “?How do you, or did you, respond? If you’ve been in business a long time, you’ve had this happen. It’s critical to know how to respond to a super-controlling prospective client. Let me share a response that keeps you in charge of the situation but also allows the client’s ego to remain intact.
The sooner you let the potential client know how YOU conduct business, the better. In fact this should happen during the “Pre-Sales “ process when you send them your profile and clearly outline the YOUR process for doing business with them. You start that part of the conversation with, “Mr. and Mrs. Prospect, let me tell you how we work, Itemization of any kind takes a lot of extra work and I’m happy to do it, as long as I’m paid for that service. When I work, I like to be paid for my time just like you do. We charge $65 an hour with a minimum of 4 hours for any itemization we do. I think that is fair, don’t you?” their response will tell you if they are interested in a win-win business relationship or if they are going to be a classic P.I.T.A!
Now, if they start asking about your margins, then you know it’s time to walk. No need to get involved. Do they ask their doctor, attorney or dentist for an itemization? Do they tell their doctor what price they will pay? How about the manager or check out person at the grocery store? So why do they think they are entitled to that information from you? You can try to explain if you wish, but you are dealing with a potential client whose single focus is getting the lowest possible price for their work. Let another builder or contractor do the job, you don’t need it.
As far as sending a quote by email, snail mail or fax, that works for order takers. Order taking requires the lowest price, and that’s not where you want to be, especially as an expert in your field. If you don’t want the work, email your quote. If you want their business, inform them that when you go to the time and effort of compiling a quote, you want to sit down with them to review the proposal and ask/answer any questions they might have. If they aren’t willing to do that, they don’t want to make a decision and will try everything they can to avoid it. Politely tell them that you have their information and when they are ready to review their job with you and make a decision, you will be glad to come back and go over the job details and your quote for their work. You will unmask the real clients REAL quick with this approach.
Is this ballsy? Is it rude? No, it’s setting the standard under which you are willing to work. Remember if you don’t set it, the prospective client will. The prospect is either at the mercy of your process for selling or you’re at the mercy for their process for buying. It’s your time to do with as you will, but why let some inconsiderate knucklehead waste your time? As a business owner and leader in your community, you must learn to guard your time as you would your life, and insist that others respect your time. That way you can focus on the clients you can do business with, not the clients who want to waste your time.
Woody Allen famously remarked that 50% of success was “showing up.” Too many people stop there, and get 50% of what they could – if they showed up as a real Pro. Alert. Prepared. Practiced. Primed in every way to deliver an extraordinary performance, they’d get extraordinary results. In fact following a well defined sales process and professionalizing yourself and everyone in your business might just be the best way to b