Job Estimating and Winning Bids

Article excerpt

Many landscape contractors today lose focus on what it takes to sell a landscape. It all starts with one question, what are you selling the customer? Are you selling them a paver patio, an outdoor kitchen, a fire pit? The list goes on. Primarily, you must sell yourself to the client. Once you've accomplished this, everything else is easy.

Understand what the customer needs, listen to his or her wants, and then properly prepare a design and estimate that is within the client's budget. Consumers are not always looking for the best price; they need peace of mind in there purchase, and a contractor who is credible, honest and experienced. Don't be scared to ask the client what his or her budget is; it will save you a lot of time and energy. You may have to value engineer the project if necessary. Think of yourself as a problem solver. Sometimes all they want is a reputable company they can count on when they need something.

Think of five reasons a customer should choose you for their next project and write them down. Use them in your marketing materials, and stick to them. If you call the client back the day they called, you may be ahead of 80 percent of the competition. I hear it every year from customers that a contractor never gets back to them. The faster you get the design and bid back to them, the better the chances arc of closing the sale.

Persistence pays off

Persistence and patience are needed when working with clients on projects, especially if it is a large dollar amount. They may need time to mull it over and think about it; other distractions may become a tactor. Their career may be a challenge when trying to set up an appointment, scheduling a walk through, or closing the sale. Professionals are often difficult to contact. Determine which type of contact works best for your client -- whether it is via phone, e-mail or face to face. Getting both husband and wife together can also be difficult. I always make sure every person involved in the decision making is going to be at the appointment when closing the sale. You may need to set a time and date for an appointment that is convenient for them, not you.

On larger construction projects, the general contractor or subcontractors may be more of a priority at the time than the landscape contractor. Don't get frustrated and give up, you have invested a lot of time in the design, as well as the estimate. Industry statistics say that it may take up to seven or more meetings with a client to close the deal. If you give up before the seventh contact, you may have just given the project to the next contractor. Communication is key -- always keep in contact with the client from the project s design to its completion. Following up with a client years later may even develop into a new additional project.

A client may call up to three landscape contractors to bid on the same project, and they usually receive two or three estimates that are all over the board. One or two may be within 15 percent of each other and one is 40 percent less or more. Why? The first answer is one contractor doesn't have the overhead expense the other company does. Overhead is one factor in the spread of one bid against another, but it. shouldn't be. If one contractor is working out of his house and the other has a shop, doesn't the one working out of his house want to have a shop someday?

Another reason is the landscape industry has yet to have a standard estimating system such as those used in other service industries. Take the insurance industry for example, you get into an accident with your vehicle, the insurance company wants you to get two or three estimates. Every estimate was within 10 percent of the other.

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This is because they have a standard system in place that estimates production hours for everything. The landscape industry does not do this very well. There a few programs available that are close, but we still need to see the estimating system that will revolutionize our industry and bring it up to par with insurance companies, electricians, mechanics, etc. …