PDA

View Full Version : Pre-Qualifying


DanaMac
03-09-2009, 11:10 AM
I know many of you that do installs and/or landscaping, do some sort of pre-qualifying on potential customers that inquire about a bid. What do you ask in pre-qualifying? Since I only do service/repair and did not pre-qualify back in the day, I don't know the process. What kind of questions do you ask them?

The reason I'm asking is we may start doing a few more installs this year. Already have one inquiry referred to us by a master gardener that sends us some work. What I don't want to do is run around with my head cut off giving bids and never getting any jobs.

Oh by the way, this was post #6000!!!!

hoskm01
03-09-2009, 11:21 AM
I know many of you that do installs and/or landscaping, do some sort of pre-qualifying on potential customers that inquire about a bid. What do you ask in pre-qualifying? Since I only do service/repair and did not pre-qualify back in the day, I don't know the process. What kind of questions do you ask them?

The reason I'm asking is we may start doing a few more installs this year. Already have one inquiry referred to us by a master gardener that sends us some work. What I don't want to do is run around with my head cut off giving bids and never getting any jobs.

Oh by the way, this was post #6000!!!!
Congrats. You should be so happy!

Money down is the only pre-qual I need. Half for irr installs for us.

DanaMac
03-09-2009, 11:25 AM
Money down is the only pre-qual I need. Half for irr installs for us.

What I'm trying to do is eliminate the tire kicking riff raff. I always get 1/2 down on installs.

FIMCO-MEISTER
03-09-2009, 11:44 AM
Why don't you emphasize a design fee? Probably not a good idea. I guess I'd ask how they got your name and try and sell the system over the phone. If they respond well to your pitch then go out there and look it over. I'd also try and meet them, come up with the price, get it signed, and receive the down payment all in one shot.

DanaMac
03-09-2009, 11:50 AM
Why don't you emphasize a design fee? Probably not a good idea. I guess I'd ask how they got your name and try and sell the system over the phone. If they respond well to your pitch then go out there and look it over. I'd also try and meet them, come up with the price, get it signed, and receive the down payment all in one shot.

If I was doing more installs, maybe I would get some design software. But I'm not. I don't like trying to get someone to sign on the spot. I personally will not make a $2000-$10,000 purchase lightly without thinking it over.

Below is part of the email conversation I have had with this one potential customer. This isn't pre-qualifying, but I'm trying to let this person know what i expect, and what they can expect from me.

Yes I can look at this project with you. To let you know, my company is primarily service and repair oriented, but we do install a few new systems, time permitting. May, June, and usually most of July is out in terms of when we could install a new system. So it would either need to be done in April, or sometime after mid to late July.

Our bid will also not be the least expensive if you are price shopping. We will design the system for maximum efficiency while minimizing water runoff and waste. Part of our business model is to make existing systems better and more efficient, so we also practice that with new systems we install. Quality components are also used, which helps the system from wasting water. The proper building permits will be issued, and required backflow prevention device will be installed for protecting your drinking water supply.

BSME
03-09-2009, 11:56 AM
I think you're on the right track

AI Inc
03-09-2009, 01:36 PM
I ask them how many bids they have so far.When do they plan on doing this job.
A lot will come out if you start bullshatting with them when you get there. Look at the beemer , comment its a nice car . If their reply is ," yes , I dont mind paying more for what I feel is a quality product" that is a good thing . If their reply is " yeah , I effing stole that thing " not so good.
I have done surveys in the past to all customers I installed on said yr. Price always was answered as least important, while went with contractor I felt the most comfortable with was always listed as most important.

hoskm01
03-09-2009, 10:14 PM
I always respond at some point with, " we will not be your lowest bid"

DanaMac
03-09-2009, 10:28 PM
I always respond at some point with, " we will not be your lowest bid"

Same here, I like to let them know what they are getting into. I'm not selling a KIA, and I'm not selling a Porsche. More like a good durable Subaru or low end BMW. :) I don't want to waste their time, and I don't want mine wasted either.

Waterit
03-10-2009, 10:00 AM
I ask them how many bids they have so far.

I ask the same. If the answer is more than 3, I'm moving on, they're tire-kickers. I've also found that the "come by, take a look, and leave your bid in the mailbox" calls are a waste of time. If you can't get face time, move on.

AI Inc
03-10-2009, 01:04 PM
I ask the same. If the answer is more than 3, I'm moving on, they're tire-kickers. I've also found that the "come by, take a look, and leave your bid in the mailbox" calls are a waste of time. If you can't get face time, move on.

I refuse to do them . Thats nothing but a " cheapest guy wins " deal. Dont want no part of that.

Waterit
03-10-2009, 01:16 PM
I refuse to do them . Thats nothing but a " cheapest guy wins " deal. Dont want no part of that.

And there it is, sports fans: a Red Sox/Patriots fan and a Yankee/Giants fan agreeing on something. Is this professionalism on both parts, or yet another sign of Armageddon?

Wet_Boots
03-10-2009, 01:36 PM
Armageddon for sure.

Mike Leary
03-10-2009, 06:29 PM
I refuse to do them . Thats nothing but a " cheapest guy wins " deal. Dont want no part of that.

The only people that profit from that are the guys that come in after a few seasons, after half the plants have died and the turf is stressed/flooded. I finally gave up on those calls; got tired of seeing people cry. :cry:

Beartooth
03-11-2009, 02:03 AM
Most times your referral source is(or should be) your pre-qual. You said in this case it was a master gardener who referred you and has in the past. He obviously knows you do quality work, so let him "feel" out your customer for you. Obviously you have to let the people who are referring you know that you don't have time to waste on those who want the cheapest or "Home Depot" system. The more you sell, the better you will become at guaging where your potential customer is in terms of knowledge, value, etc.

DanaMac
03-11-2009, 09:27 AM
Most times your referral source is(or should be) your pre-qual. You said in this case it was a master gardener who referred you and has in the past. He obviously knows you do quality work, so let him "feel" out your customer for you. Obviously you have to let the people who are referring you know that you don't have time to waste on those who want the cheapest or "Home Depot" system. The more you sell, the better you will become at guaging where your potential customer is in terms of knowledge, value, etc.

Very good point. And I think in this case, the gardener is a good pre-qual. She only works in two areas of town, and are higher end clients. She got me the redesign we did last year where we replace 20-30 rotors or so to make them all the same, and installed an WM SL controller.

I did hear back from the potential customer. She is moving here from Portland and the house is brand new. the "builder" put in a system (sigh...) but did not hook to the water or install a controller (*** bigger sigh ****). I am going to look at it with her next week when she is here. Not sure she will like what I have to say about a builder install. Could be a rip it out and start over.

Kiril
03-11-2009, 09:59 AM
the house is brand new. the "builder" put in a system (sigh...)

Oh .... so you mean there is no irrigation there.

SprinklerGuy
03-12-2009, 10:35 AM
Send me....no worries about tire kickers....

I'm serious....but be prepared to install some systems...

I'm not kidding btw..if you are serious about wanting to install...email me.

that takes the tire kicker worry right out of the equation....we can build my fee right in and I'll bet you'll still have all the work you want.

DanaMac
03-12-2009, 10:38 AM
I'll bet you'll still have all the work you want.

I always have :)

I'll think about it. Some business direction may change for me soon. Possible health issue with an employee. We'll see.

As long as you don't go all used car salesman on the customer.......... sorry Tony, I've just had too many bad experiences with car salesmen. I will always bash them.

SprinklerGuy
03-12-2009, 11:01 AM
Bash away while I laugh all the way to my bank....with clean hands and knees.

The stereotypes don't bother me a bit....my customers love me and 90% of them say they've never bought a car like that before!

We still have an escape andthe price went down 1k....

DanaMac
03-12-2009, 11:06 AM
Bash away while I laugh all the way to my bank....with clean hands and knees. for 12 months compared to my 8 and multiple vacations

The stereotypes don't bother me a bit....my customers love me and 90% of them say they've never bought a car like that before! I'm sure you're better than most. I've gotten to know you over the years. Hey I'm sure people stereotype the sprinkler guy too

We still have an escape andthe price went down 1k....She doesn't want that color. I think she is going with a local auto broker that has gotten her the last 2 vehicles, and my F150. They've been very good for her. Nothing against you. And she wasn't too thrilled with the feel of the liberty

..........

SprinklerGuy
03-12-2009, 11:14 AM
Well I see I can't win this argument...self made men will always be right.

DanaMac
03-12-2009, 11:17 AM
Well I see I can't win this argument...self made men will always be right.

Not trying to win anything. I've learned quite a bit from you, and hopefully more to come. But I like my 8 month work season, with a little here and there in the off season. And I like my level of income. No kids. Not having them. Not looking to be the biggest baddest company around.

JimLewis
03-13-2009, 07:37 AM
Well, sorry to change the subject, but back to the original question here.....

How much time we spend pre-qualifying any new lead (irrigation or other landscaping install) depends on how busy we are. If all of our install crews aren't totally full with work for several weeks, I won't be too picky. I'll go give a bid to anyone who calls; tire kickers and all. And yes, we do get a fair share of them. I figure if we are at the point where we could really use some more business, then I have no need to weed anyone out. I need to give as many bids as possible until we do get busy.

But once things get busy, we start to pre-qualify a little bit. First thing we'll look at is their home value on Zillow.com. Now obviously, home values have been going down. But that doesn't matter. You can look at a neighborhood where you've done some good jobs in the past and use that as a benchmark. Then just give bids to homes near that value or higher. Last year, in our area, that figure used to be $350,000 or more. If the home value wasn't at least $350K then I knew there was little chance we'd land the job, based on past experience. This year, that figure might be more like $300K. But you get the point. We first target home values. That's a real quick way to tell whether the person calling has money or not. If the home is worth $950,000 then you can pretty much stop screening right there and book an appointment ASAP!

If they don't qualify in terms of home value, then we try to give them an over-the-phone guesstimate. I might look them up on Google Satellite to get a feel for how big of a property it is and then tell them, "Well, based on my experience in that neighborhood, you're probably looking at something in the neighborhood of $4K-$6K for a new system." If don't seem dismayed at that price, then maybe we book an appointment to get them a firm bid. But if that scares them off (e.g. "Oh. That much? Ok. Well, thanks. We'll call you back.") Then I've saved myself some time.

I also send every customer to our website before I arrive - specifically to the section that refers to sprinkler installs. I want them to read up about our company and what makes us different BEFORE I get there. That helps sell them on US and saves me some time explaining how we're different and why they would chose us over a less expensive bid. It changes the tone of the conversation from just price to other issues like brand, warranty, quality, references, water savings, etc. So now they're not just thinking about price.

Otherwise, I do waste a decent amount of time giving bids to tire-kickers. And that's ALWAYS annoying. That's never fun. But it's really just part of my job. I might give 4 bids just to win 1 irrigation install. But that's my main job - just to be out every day bidding jobs. So it doesn't bother me so much. I know from experience it's just a numbers game. If I just keep giving more and more bids, eventually one out of 3 or 4 or 5 is going to say yes!

AI Inc
03-13-2009, 07:55 AM
When I get there I like to sit down with them and explain a system, how its works, the products involved ect. I used to do this after I measured , but then realized they were not even listening. They were more concerned with the # at the bottom. By doing this before I measure , there is no # yet and I keep their attn on what Im saying. And keep in mind , you should be doing more listening then talking.

JimLewis
03-13-2009, 08:06 AM
I don't know if that really counts as pre-qualifying though. I think DanaMac was asking more of how do you pre-qualify the customer before you go out to give the bid.

AI Inc
03-13-2009, 08:07 AM
True , just thought I would throw that out there. What are doing up so early?

JimLewis
03-13-2009, 08:13 AM
I hear ya.

Just woke up in the middle of the night. Couldn't go back to sleep. I'm getting over a serious case of Bronchitis. Almost turned into pneumonia. So I've been sleeping overtime lately. Sleeping during the day. Sleeping in every morning. Going to bed early - just trying to get over it. Well, finally, it all caught up to me and I couldn't sleep anymore tonight. I went to bed around 10:00, which is early for me. Then woke up around 1:00 am. So I'm going to take some meds now and go back to bed. If I go now I can still get in a good 4-5 hours before I have to get up for my first appointment today... :sleeping::sleeping::sleeping:

Kiril
03-13-2009, 09:21 AM
Jim,

In my area I find the owners of high priced homes sometimes "kick the tires" more than anyone else.
Ability to pay sometimes does not translate into willingness.
You do make a good point about the home value, just thought I would throw that out there. :)

AI Inc
03-13-2009, 09:24 AM
When I do targeted mailing, its , single family homes that sold for more then $400k in the zip codes within 20 miles of shop.

Mike Leary
03-13-2009, 11:05 AM
If I'm fielding a cold call or even a referral, as they're yakking away, I'm looking up their address from the caller I.D. listing. There are some areas of my market that are not worth even considering.

Mike Leary
03-15-2009, 07:38 PM
You hand them your card and say ,"save it, you'll need us down the road">

JimLewis
03-15-2009, 09:57 PM
Mike,

That's a nice card. But it kinda looks like you picked your nose before you handled that one. Here you go......


http://i103.photobucket.com/albums/m146/gutterpunk101/kleenex.jpg

Mike Leary
03-15-2009, 10:08 PM
Mike,

That's a nice card. But it kinda looks like you picked your nose before you handled that one.

Figured one of you would spot that; suffice to say, without the snot, it worked.

Wet_Boots
03-16-2009, 12:36 AM
Spammer...

mitchgo
03-16-2009, 01:01 AM
at least he still advertises for washington!

man

No one on this site is from washington... only ML and Dirty Water.. which he seems to not be on here anymore.

Wet_Boots
03-16-2009, 01:37 AM
DW got a real job - I'm sure he'll consult LS when he chooses the landscaping for his mansion.

DanaMac
03-21-2009, 10:54 AM
Found this ad on craigslist this morning. This person figured out how to pre-qualify themselves out of getting a system from anybody.

Considering a sprinkler system. Want real estimates. You get NO MONEY UP FRONT. Backgrouind investigation will be run on you (your company) first. Don't have a lot of money, but the deal will be in cash!!

Wet_Boots
03-21-2009, 10:58 AM
Send him to Irrigation TV...

JimLewis
03-21-2009, 02:12 PM
Found this ad on craigslist this morning. This person figured out how to pre-qualify themselves out of getting a system from anybody.

Considering a sprinkler system. Want real estimates. You get NO MONEY UP FRONT. Backgrouind investigation will be run on you (your company) first. Don't have a lot of money, but the deal will be in cash!!

Oh yah!!! I'd be all over that one! NOT! What a freak! :rolleyes:


.

Mike Leary
03-21-2009, 05:01 PM
No money up front; never believed in it. I did bill every two weeks, though.

DanaMac
03-21-2009, 05:09 PM
No money up front; never believed in it. I did bill every two weeks, though.

Half up front for installs (when I did them) or I wouldn't even schedule it. That way I know if they are scum and decide not to pay the rest, I have my materials and some labor covered. I know some states are different and only allow 1/3 up front.

Mike Leary
03-21-2009, 05:22 PM
Gotta know who you're working for; in twenty-five years, I think I got stiffed twice, both times I saw it coming and adjusted my billing before they thought they got the better of me. :cool2: Warranty ceases to exist, after that move, by the way.

ARGOS
03-21-2009, 05:29 PM
CA is 10% or $1,000, which ever is lower. I don't require a down payment.

I do bill 50% complete 50% payment.

AI Inc
03-21-2009, 05:57 PM
Most of my work is in Mass . Im 1/3 down ( by law ) the rest at completion and training.

Mike Leary
03-21-2009, 05:58 PM
I do bill 50% complete 50% payment.

Most of our jobs took months to do; cash flow rules; never liked going over 30 days with the suppliers.

AI Inc
03-21-2009, 06:00 PM
Most of mine take 4 -12 hrs.

Mike Leary
03-21-2009, 06:02 PM
Most of mine take 4 -12 hrs.

You do a lot of one zoners?

AI Inc
03-21-2009, 06:07 PM
No , used to do mostly 8-14 zones for 30 something yo IT workers . The last 2 yrs it has been a lot of 5-6 zone systems for 60+ year olds.

AI Inc
03-21-2009, 06:08 PM
Keep in mind , 10 zones around here only sells for $4k. At that price it has to be done in a day.

Mike Leary
03-21-2009, 06:21 PM
Keep in mind , 10 zones around here only sells for $4k. At that price it has to be done in a day.

Thank gawd I'm not in your market. That's only $ 400 a zone. :hammerhead: You know it would be $ 15k if I did the system.

AI Inc
03-21-2009, 06:28 PM
Thats why they need to be done in a day , and 5-6 zones done by 1:30

JimLewis
03-21-2009, 06:36 PM
I don't know how you guys do it who don't take deposits or only take 10%.

We always take 50% down and balance on completion unless it's a big job (e.g. over $20K). Then we'll do 1/3 down, 1/3 when job is 50% completed, and 1/3 at end. Or if it's a really big job ($50K or larger) we do like $20K down, and progress payments at different stages of completion.

I don't even know why you WOULDN'T take a deposit, unless it's mandated by law. It's not like customers mind. Almost everyone expects to have to put down a deposit with contractors. 50% down is pretty common. I've never had anyone balk at that. Everyone seems to be just fine with it.

Unless you got a big bankroll or big line of credit to tap into, I don't even see how you'd do jobs without a deposit. We will typically have 3-4 different install jobs going on all at once. Let's suppose they are all $10,000 jobs. How can you do $40,000 worth of work without any getting any cash until all the jobs are finished? I pay cash for all our materials. I guess a lot of people buy their stuff on a credit account. So maybe that helps you get through the materials part of the job without needing cash. But labor? You just pay all your workers whenever the jobs are finished? Or you just always have plenty of money in the bank to cover whatever payroll and other business expenses would come up?

Mike Leary
03-21-2009, 06:37 PM
Thats why they need to be done in a day , and 5-6 zones done by 1:30

If you've got a big crew, I suppose it could be done. I'd always figured with my lead and a apprentice, we'd be doing a zone a day. Attention to detail is next to impossible by doing 5-6 zones a day.

AI Inc
03-21-2009, 06:42 PM
Get there while they unload I flag it. Then me and 1 guy pulls it ( about 45 minutes )While we are pulling 1 digger and 1 plastic plumber starts digging. After thet , guy that helped me pull mounts the clock and senser. While he is doing that , me and plastic plumber are doing the tie in backflow ( 1 hr or so ). Then I nozzle heads and plastic plumber starts sprinkler plumbing. Guy that hung clock starts building manifolds. Then I go for coffe. After coffe I starting running ( compacting ) lines with machine on zone that are done. After 12 yrs working together , there is not much talking as they all know the next step and whats expected of them.

Mike Leary
03-21-2009, 06:57 PM
senser

What the hell is that? Sounds like something ROTAR would use.

AI Inc
03-21-2009, 07:12 PM
Compared to how I spelled solar sync the other day , thats manageable, ya would have thought I had molasis stuck to my keyboard.

Mike Leary
03-21-2009, 07:18 PM
ya would have thought I had molasis

::::Has Fimco remove AI from contractor list, reason? :drinkup::drinkup::::::

irrigation solutions
03-22-2009, 03:42 PM
How many bids are you getting. If they say more than 2, we tell them we are too busy. That means they are shopping price.

www.irrigationsolutions.com

Mike Leary
03-22-2009, 04:17 PM
How many bids are you getting. If they say more than 2, we tell them we are too busy. That means they are shopping price.]
I never gave a rat how many bids they got; if I wanted the job, I generally got it and most assuredly not because of price.

JimLewis
03-22-2009, 05:41 PM
Yah, I agree with Mike. I would say most of the bids we give are to people who are getting more than 2 bids. And it's probably true that the majority of them (maybe 2/3) are going to hire the company with the cheapest price. But I don't care. Because I know that at least some of the people in this scenario can be convinced to spend more, as long as they are given a reason why they would want to.

So with every bid I give, I give a half hour presentation about their system. I tell them about what brand I am installing and why, how the system would be designed, what upgrades we use that most companies won't be installing, how our system is going to save them water and dollars each month, how we'll clean up better than most companies, how we have a better warranty and why that's important, and I leave them with a ton of references.

After I am done with our presentation, I can safely say I leave every [potential] customer very impressed. Then it's just a matter of; can they afford us? Some can. Some just can't justify spending that much more, even though they are impressed. So we win some we lose some. But put me in the ring with 3 or 4 other bidders, I am fine with that. Even despite me being the most expensive bid usually - I know I'll still land one out of every 3-4 bids I give. And I got no problem with that. I just market enough to make sure lots of leads keep coming all the time. I'll let the 2/3 of people who are cheapskates hire the competition.

Mike Leary
03-22-2009, 05:47 PM
Jim is right on, If I lost one due to price, I'd give them my card and suggest they hang on to it; "you'll need me down the line".
More than once, that comment got me the job.

Kiril
03-22-2009, 09:36 PM
A smart consumer gets 3 bids minimum, if for no other reason than to screen out the hacks.

Mike Leary
03-22-2009, 09:48 PM
A smart consumer gets 3 bids minimum, if for no other reason than to screen out the hacks.

I've sat down with would-be clients that had got previous bids and told them, "those bids are what my parts costed-out to".

Kiril
03-22-2009, 09:53 PM
I've sat down with would-be clients that had got previous bids and told them, "those bids are what my parts costed-out to".

modification

..... screens out the hacks and over priced egomaniacs ;)

Mike Leary
03-22-2009, 10:04 PM
over priced egomaniacs ;)

Still waiting for some pics. :sleeping::sleeping:

Kiril
03-22-2009, 10:06 PM
Still waiting for some pics, big brick.

Still waiting for my million dollar payout too ..... when am I getting that?

Oh, and your pic

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_EbyN6SxdiBo/SHRo5le_PqI/AAAAAAAADgc/NAVAD_rIpYo/footinass.JPG

Mike Leary
03-22-2009, 10:16 PM
Oh, and your pic

Push "F-1" that opens the trap door for pikers.

Kiril
03-22-2009, 10:24 PM
Push "F-1" that opens the trap door for pikers.

And here I thought the key sequence was "cmd-ctrl-power"