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Classic Lighting
09-26-2010, 10:41 PM
Does anyone charge a fee to meet with a potential client? I have spent many hours chasing leads, meeting with prospects, and drawing designs. Too often I hear the excuse that "the price is too high", "I'll call you when I decide" or "I'd rather do it myself." Would a consultation fee weed out the tire kickers? What do you do to minimize wasted time and effort with prospects?

RLI Electric
09-26-2010, 11:02 PM
I have charged a fee to meet with potential clients and they have paid it. With the understanding it comes off the price of the job if I get it. I will do it if the job is a half hour drive or more. Truth be told, I have not done it for landscape lighting projects but for straight electrical projects.

David Gretzmier
09-27-2010, 12:27 AM
10 years ago when I owned and ran a million plus landscape and lawn care company we did that, 75 bucks consulataion fee. got to do bids and we still had plenty of work. but I don't think that company still does it now. the phone does not ring enough to qualify and cherry pick out folks like it did 10 years ago. Bids are part of life when you own a business.

both landscape lighting and Christmas light initial consult and bid takes me about 2-3 hours of drive and meet time if it is a project less than 20k. while I could spend 8-16 hours on each bid drawing up a scale wiring diagram on each bid with tons of info and specs, and I have done that before, it does not close any more jobs that a clear well written 2-part copy bid sheet that I use.

I will do 100 bids for Christmas Lights in a 45 day period or so and close about 35-40 of them. my gut tells me if I asked for a 65 buck fee to do a bid, then I probably would only do 45-50 bids and close 20-25. so even though I may spend 200-300 free man hours over 45 days doing bids for all those folks, it is worth it.

I believe a bid fee or consultation fee scares off both folks that will buy, and scares off folks who won't buy.

RLI Electric
09-27-2010, 06:24 AM
While I have never charged a consultation fee for landscape lighting (because I am afraid of scaring a person off) I have done it for electrical projects. If I feel that it is someone kicking tires and shopping for price, then I use it. As contractors we have made our own bed with "free estimates"and therefore we are stuck with the result. I don't know of too many interior designers that offer a free consultation. They may come by to ask questions but they most certainly will not give out their ideas for free and neither should we. I cannot tell you how many times that I have done that only to find that someone else has done the same job using my ideas. In fact that did happen on a landscape lighting job. Funny thing was the other electrician knows me and knows that this is what I do. He called me up and read the EXACT specifications my estimate had. The client erased my name and my pricing and used this as THEIR specs to the other contractor. I know and trust this guy, he asked me what I was charging them and went back to them and doubled my price. This is the kind of professional courtesy we should extend to others. Needless to say, I got the job but I will be more careful of how my specs are in the future. I would never continue to quote a job if I know one of my electrician friends are quoting it. I will say, "you have a great guy quoting this and you cannot go wrong with him." I will most certainly make it so any generic electrical contractor will not know what I am talking about when I am quoting a "composition" and not a "job". As David says, I will probably not charge for a consultation for a landscape lighting job but if it is a tire kicker looking for a quote on a kitchen, basement or a service change and if I think they are shopping price alone, you can bet there will be a consultation fee. If for no other reason than to see how serious they are and to provide a differentiation point between myself and any other electrician.

niteliters
09-27-2010, 01:29 PM
Does anyone charge a fee to meet with a potential client? I have spent many hours chasing leads, meeting with prospects, and drawing designs. Too often I hear the excuse that "the price is too high", "I'll call you when I decide" or "I'd rather do it myself." Would a consultation fee weed out the tire kickers? What do you do to minimize wasted time and effort with prospects?

consultation fee would do that, might weed out some who might though. think about a design fee. You get an opportunity to meet/qualify them as they do you. If you all are a match, they will pay u for a design. what I think you will find, whatever you do, that your level of professionalism will increase, effecting you and your company in a positive way.

niteliters
09-27-2010, 01:39 PM
One thing to add, you can simply charge for your time, if you have a design presentation that you have hesittated to leave in the past. that could become part of your package. You could also offer a more indepth design package for those who want to try it themselves, One thing we do...leave them with no information that would aid them in getting another competitve bid. If they request a complete design and will pay the $1000 and up you might charge, then give them $$$ worth giving them the information they have paid for with enough detail they realize how valuable you are. The few that started out requesting the complete design ended up having us to the install

Pro-Scapes
09-27-2010, 03:38 PM
Charging a consult fee is an excellent way to seperate serious clients from the price shoppers. While I do not always charge a fee it has saved me quite a bit of running around. Prequalifying over the phone or via email is esential especially if your time runs short.

You may lose a prospect here or there because they are used to everyone handing out free estimates. Mike Gambino and an interior designer who sends us work both put it it to me in such a way that it made great sence to charge a fee in alot of cases.

Mike wrote an excellent article on it some time ago and you can read the pdf at www.gambinolighting.com I think the title is "fee or Free"

Personally I didnt hessitate to pay my carpenter $200 for his time calculating the materials list and estimating the addition I put on the house last year.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
09-27-2010, 11:11 PM
I generally do not charge a consultation fee. I prefer to pre-qualify the interest level over the phone and have become pretty good at separating out the serious prospects from the tire kickers. I do charge for all of my design, specification and procurement time, something that is rarely done by most LV lighting contractors but should be considered by more of you more often. Recapturing your costs of operations is critical to long term success. Remember that all we really have to offer is our time. If you are not billing for it, then you are giving it away. Just ask any Lawyer, Doctor, Architect or Designer. Adding some project management billing software to your office is an eyeopener.

Stillwater
09-28-2010, 05:46 AM
Yes.... I try to sell the work verbally before the design is discussed. I never sit down at my drafting table and draft formal plans without payment. In most circumstances I sell the job before I ever draft. But if they want drafted plans they have to pay a fee and it is due before hand. You need to try to sell the job without the plan, this takes exceptional communication skills, not every one can do that. When I meet for the first time with someone the last thing on my mind is drafting plans. If that is what they want fine, I leave with the check.

extlights
09-28-2010, 05:45 PM
We have never charged for any consultation. We don't do drafts or drawings and actually never have. As a matter of fact we've never even been asked to do one. Maybe that comes with the confidence that we've been around for a long time and have good referrals...I'm not sure. We will never charge for anything but the finished project, service work, or add-ons.

Pro-Scapes
10-01-2010, 11:29 AM
Yes.... I try to sell the work verbally before the design is discussed. I never sit down at my drafting table and draft formal plans without payment. In most circumstances I sell the job before I ever draft. But if they want drafted plans they have to pay a fee and it is due before hand. You need to try to sell the job without the plan, this takes exceptional communication skills, not every one can do that. When I meet for the first time with someone the last thing on my mind is drafting plans. If that is what they want fine, I leave with the check.

Do you do a rough sketch and calculation on site or something to arrive at your price ?

Selling a job without a plan is scary to me. It opens me up to omiting something the client expected. We review our formal proposal on site. The client then signs it or we ammend it as needed. Each and every client is different and being a solo operator it allows me to adjust to each clients wants or needs.

Stillwater
10-02-2010, 01:15 AM
Do you do a rough sketch and calculation on site or something to arrive at your price ?

Selling a job without a plan is scary to me. It opens me up to omiting something the client expected. We review our formal proposal on site. The client then signs it or we ammend it as needed. Each and every client is different and being a solo operator it allows me to adjust to each clients wants or needs.

Every project is different, I start with categorized portfolios of my work, I have ones for water features/ponds outdoor rooms/kitchens hardscapes/walls/walks/patios/paver drives/ lighting plantings/gardens etc. The ones pertaining to the proposed work are brought with me to the consult they get to see actual work we have done and in almost all cases they have already seen our work as a majority of calls are from word of mouth. I require their goals and their budget up front and work with them to meet their goals with what resources they have. Detailed plans are often not required in selling I let my reference's and portfolio's do that. Mostly they are just variations of what they see in my books anyway and would like to have themselves. I sell within their budget. More often than not working designs and plans are for my and the crews use only. Some level of fear of omitting something will always be their but knowing your costs is important and with that the fear can be subsided. Never loose a degree of fear though it keeps you sharp ,Big mistakes that can't be adjusted within other aspects of the project can be resolved either with a "unknown difficulty" clause written in a work agreement or contract or by honest discussion with the customer. Start buy haveing high quality profeshional photos taken of all your work save them and catagorize them over time they will sell for you. Above all be honest and likeable and that will get around.

Prolightscaper
10-04-2010, 09:40 PM
Charge em early and charge em often.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
10-05-2010, 08:28 AM
Charge em early and charge em often.

Hi "prolightscaper", and welcome to the forum. Your initials wouldn't happen to be MG would they?

David Gretzmier
10-05-2010, 10:03 PM
I was thinking PS. does not sound like MG's tone.

Pro-Scapes
10-05-2010, 11:41 PM
MG is out of town right now and we have been communicating often on shipping me out some pallets of materials along with writing our latest article togther. Last months Turf featured one on wiring that he and I wrote together in case you missed it http://www.lhdesignbuild.com/article.php?id=5634

irrig8r
10-06-2010, 12:51 AM
MG is out of town right now and we have been communicating often on shipping me out some pallets of materials along with writing our latest article togther. Last months Turf featured one on wiring that he and I wrote together in case you missed it http://www.lhdesignbuild.com/article.php?id=5634

I read that article last week Billy. Nice work!

Classic Lighting
10-06-2010, 07:57 AM
Thank you for all the great responses. Hearing everyone's professional opinions on this subject is invaluable. Billy, kudos on the Turf article.

Pro-Scapes
10-06-2010, 08:59 AM
Thanks. I think you guys will really enjoy Novembers article written by Mike and I. Features the work of Mike..Tim Ryan and myself. Bi idea which pictures will be included and which will end up being cut out.

elegance_alex
10-08-2010, 11:15 AM
We prequalify the lead on the telephone, talk some design aspects and controls and give a preliminary ballpark $ figure. If the potential client is receptive to that, we do a design/demo appointment. We charge for the appointment, but the design fee is rolled into the bid price, so if they buy the installation the fee is applied to the total- we just get it up front for our time and ideas. If they make the agreement on the spot I flag the fixture locations. I'm DONE getting into low-bidder price wars with competitors who use junk for equipment, and I don't provide the drawing until the job is complete. I do sell the client that I am a professional and my time is money.

NightScenes
10-13-2010, 02:21 PM
I give a free one hour consultation and then charge a design fee to move forward. I let potential clients know this up-front on the phone and if they agree, I'm pretty darn sure that we'll end up doing business.

Chris J
10-13-2010, 10:45 PM
I'm a firm believer in consultation fees, however when I attempted this in my region, I was shut down by most. I don't know if it's just the conservative nature of this town or the fact that I'm not as well known as I'd like to think I am, but it didn't work. There are just too many guys willing to provide this for free, not to mention demos for free, so I end up being the odd man out. Maybe it's the economic state, but for now I look at it as it's part of doing business. I commend those who can get a consultion fee though, and I like Paul's idea the best: first hour free, then a fee for the design. That sounds like a winning proposition all around.

Pro-Scapes
10-14-2010, 07:25 AM
We prequalify the lead on the telephone, talk some design aspects and controls and give a preliminary ballpark $ figure. If the potential client is receptive to that, we do a design/demo appointment. We charge for the appointment, but the design fee is rolled into the bid price, so if they buy the installation the fee is applied to the total- we just get it up front for our time and ideas. If they make the agreement on the spot I flag the fixture locations. I'm DONE getting into low-bidder price wars with competitors who use junk for equipment, and I don't provide the drawing until the job is complete. I do sell the client that I am a professional and my time is money.

How do you ball park on the phone. Look how Mike G does it on his website. Gives ranges for certain size projects. I have never given a price over the phone except for add ons to systems I installed.

Chris J
10-14-2010, 09:31 PM
Giving "average prices" over the phone is a big no no in my book. Cost/obstacles very too much from job to job. I did this once when I first got started and it bit me in the rump. The guy was talking about needing 10 to 15 lights, so I told him a "rough" figure for that type of job. When I did the design.......on his multi million dollar estate!.... my estimate came in at around 80 to 85 luminaries, and he tried to hold me to the 15 light price.....................NOT! I ended up having to dig myself out of a deep hole, and although I still sold the job it wasn't a pleasant experience for anyone concerned.

elegance_alex
10-14-2010, 10:35 PM
I hear some guys quote a "per fixture" price. Do you do that?

Classic Lighting
10-14-2010, 11:07 PM
I hear some guys quote a "per fixture" price. Do you do that?

No, too many variables to consider. "per fixture" guys are probably lawn dudes moonlighting as installers. I quote by the job and do not give the client detailed pricing info.

Pro-Scapes
10-14-2010, 11:57 PM
I hear some guys quote a "per fixture" price. Do you do that?

Never. Installed lighting is not a thing that entails a constant price. I would rather charge my clients accordingly and have them and myself both satisfied.

One of the best tools I have when doing estimates is providing a seperate estimate for options... Primary zone xxxxxx.....Option 1...add 4 crepe myrtles flanking far end of driveway x,xxxx....option 2 add tree mounted downlights along East end of home as discusses on site with the client x,xxx

Giving a per fixture price will open you to issues. Either you will lose money if it is a long run or other obstacles or it will invite your client to delete fixtures from your design

JimLewis
10-15-2010, 12:31 AM
Charging a fee is a good way to not give many bids. I don't think most people would be willing to do it.

What you need to do is amp up your advertising (get more leads) and then learn how to spend less time giving bids. At bid time, there should be no reason for you to get into that much detail like you described (drawing designs, etc.). Your first goal during the initial meeting is to get them excited about what you could do with their yard. THEN, you explain that quality lighting isn't cheap and why one should "invest" in quality lighting. Then give them a ballpark figure right on the spot. Doesn't have to be exact. But you can say something like, "Well, so to create the kind of lighting effect I've been talking about we'd need about 18 fixtures and you're probably looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,000-$4,000. If that sounds like something that interests you and is within your budget, I could draw up a more formal bid. What do you think?". Then you're just spending 20-30 minutes with them and basically qualifying them. Those that say, "Great. That's about what I was thinking of spending" are the ones you then spend more time on. The ones who say, "Wow. That much, huh? Well, let me think about it before you write anything up".... those are the ones you forget about and move on.

Also, you can implement some qualifying over the phone before you go over. We screen each call before we ever schedule an estimate. We take down some info. and then I review it and tell the office if they should call the prospect back to schedule an appt. or not. We look at several criteria. But among the most important are home value (Zillow.com), how did they hear about us, What is their budget, what part of town they are in, etc. You don't have to book an appt. with everyone who calls asking for one. Ask them some qualifying questions and tell them you will take this information, figure out who in the company to send the lead to, and call them back to schedule an appt. Then....some....you just don't ever call back. Others, you call back in 1 hour or book the appt. right there if they answer all the questions right.

Pro-Scapes
10-15-2010, 07:15 AM
Charging a fee is a good way to not give many bids. I don't think most people would be willing to do it.

What you need to do is amp up your advertising (get more leads) and then learn how to spend less time giving bids. At bid time, there should be no reason for you to get into that much detail like you described (drawing designs, etc.). Your first goal during the initial meeting is to get them excited about what you could do with their yard. THEN, you explain that quality lighting isn't cheap and why one should "invest" in quality lighting. Then give them a ballpark figure right on the spot. Doesn't have to be exact. But you can say something like, "Well, so to create the kind of lighting effect I've been talking about we'd need about 18 fixtures and you're probably looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,000-$4,000. If that sounds like something that interests you and is within your budget, I could draw up a more formal bid. What do you think?". Then you're just spending 20-30 minutes with them and basically qualifying them. Those that say, "Great. That's about what I was thinking of spending" are the ones you then spend more time on. The ones who say, "Wow. That much, huh? Well, let me think about it before you write anything up".... those are the ones you forget about and move on.

Also, you can implement some qualifying over the phone before you go over. We screen each call before we ever schedule an estimate. We take down some info. and then I review it and tell the office if they should call the prospect back to schedule an appt. or not. We look at several criteria. But among the most important are home value (Zillow.com), how did they hear about us, What is their budget, what part of town they are in, etc. You don't have to book an appt. with everyone who calls asking for one. Ask them some qualifying questions and tell them you will take this information, figure out who in the company to send the lead to, and call them back to schedule an appt. Then....some....you just don't ever call back. Others, you call back in 1 hour or book the appt. right there if they answer all the questions right.

Just curious Jim. With this way what is your closing rate on lighting jobs that you do actually go look at ? I know alot of your clients are also landscape clientel of yours too but I try hard to never mention fixtures numbers but i do take samples of fixtures with me. The Gambino bullets and paths have always been accepted without question and quite happily from my clients.

since we do not advertise and seem to have been working off refferal alone for awhile our close rate has been nothing less than incredible.

irrig8r
10-15-2010, 12:33 PM
...our first goal during the initial meeting is to get them excited about what you could do with their yard. THEN, you explain that quality lighting isn't cheap and why one should "invest" in quality lighting.

In some places where lighting sales might have been booming three or four years ago it will be hard to sell landscape lighting as an "investment" or "adding value" to property, because properties have lost market value. Appealing to their emotions, including understanding how much they fear the dark still works for me though...


Then give them a ballpark figure right on the spot. Doesn't have to be exact. But you can say something like, "Well, so to create the kind of lighting effect I've been talking about we'd need about 18 fixtures and you're probably looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,000-$4,000. If that sounds like something that interests you and is within your budget, I could draw up a more formal bid. What do you think?"....

$3K to $4K feels like a little on the low side here for 18 fixtures though...

JimLewis
10-15-2010, 03:56 PM
In some places where lighting sales might have been booming three or four years ago it will be hard to sell landscape lighting as an "investment" or "adding value" to property, because properties have lost market value. Appealing to their emotions, including understanding how much they fear the dark still works for me though...

I didn't mean investment in terms of adding value to your property. I meant it in the same way you'd "invest" in a quality car or a quality set of tools. The better the quality, the longer it's going to last. So like with malibu fixtures they're all going to be fallen over and broken after a year or two. We see it all the time. It's a total waste of money, aside from the fact that they barely illuminate anything. So when I talk about "investing" I'm talking about spending your money on something quality that's going to last and still be working perfectly in 10 or 20 years.

$3K to $4K feels like a little on the low side here for 18 fixtures though...

Relax. That was just a figure I threw out there as an example. Every property is different. Every bid is different. Depends on what brand you're going to use, how long the runs are, how big the property is. I know all that. I was just throwing out an example. The number wasn't the point. The point is you give them an idea of what you think it's going to cost - at least within a thousand or so - to feel them out. Then you don't have to waste any more time with them if they come back with something like, "Oh! Wow! No, I was thinking of something more like $500. Nevermind. I can't afford that. I am sure you do some amazing work. But that's just way more than I could ever afford."

JimLewis
10-15-2010, 04:06 PM
Just curious Jim. With this way what is your closing rate on lighting jobs that you do actually go look at ? I know alot of your clients are also landscape clientel of yours too but I try hard to never mention fixtures numbers but i do take samples of fixtures with me. The Gambino bullets and paths have always been accepted without question and quite happily from my clients.

since we do not advertise and seem to have been working off refferal alone for awhile our close rate has been nothing less than incredible.

Our close rate on lighting totally depends on where the lead came from. I find not a lot of people in my area - even in the fairly high end homes - aren't really expecting to spend thousands of dollars on lighting. So even though we may have done a nice lighting job for their friend or neighbor, once they find out how much it costs to do something like that, they often get a little sticker shock.

If we got the lead as a referral, then we maybe have a 50% chance at landing that lighting job. If it came from a lead generation service (e.g. Service Magic) the % probably goes down to 20%. If it came from someone who went to our website and has taken some time looking around and getting a good feel for our company and the quality work we do, it might go up to 30%. But I am not really concerned about that. 20-30% is a typical close rate for any work we do - pavers, landscaping, water features, walls, etc. I don't really care about the % we don't get. I just market well enough so that I'm always giving 3-5 bids every day. So then I've given 15-30 bids in a week and I know just by sheer numbers I'm gonna land 5-10 of those jobs. The rest I don't worry about.

Now, if I was just doing lighting and didn't have other ways to make money, I might be more concerned about trying to increase that percentage. But mostly, I am just fishing every day. Just trying to spend a little time introducing myself, getting them excited about what we could do for them, getting them some quick figures, and moving on. Once I get a "fish on" then I go into more sales mode. Night time demos, chosing fixtures, placement, etc. But only if I seem to have someone who's asking all the right questions. You can tell when someone is seriously interested just by the questions they ask. The ones who aren't interested just try to run away as quick as they can once you've mentioned some prices. I just let those fish go.

Pro-Scapes
10-15-2010, 05:33 PM
yes but it sounds like your doing a ton of work for free even if you consider it a cost of business. My close ratio is multiple times higher. I may need to give a bit more value or make some ammendments to phase in the project but 9 times out of 10 I end up with the project.

I have an idea I would like to discuss with you in private that might help you considerably but would like your thoughts on it before I post them here.

JimLewis
10-15-2010, 10:15 PM
I'm always open to increasing my sales ratio, for sure. So if you want to share something with me, I'm totally open. I'm just sharing what works for me. I would love to be able to have a whole ton of awesome lighting jobs that I've done and be able to just get all my leads from referrals from these awesome jobs but I'm just not there yet. We've done some pretty neat lighting work. (Unfortunately I only ever got photos of maybe a 10% of the jobs we've done) But still, not nearly as into lighting as some of the pros are. If I relied on my existing lighting customers to send out referrals I'd probably only get a few referrals a year. I'd rather have more referrals, even if I know going into it that it's a 1 in 5 chance of landing the job, than just get a few referrals a year that I know I'll have a good chance of landing. To me, it's just about volume. I try to always stay busy giving bids and then the ones we land we make really good money on and try to do as good of a job as we possibly can. That's what works for me. Despite the recession..despite the unemployment in OR being over 10% and the 3rd worst state economy in the nation, we've managed to keep growing our business by about 30% this year. So my tactics keep us busy with lots of jobs all the time and profitable. I even raised our hourly rate this year by $5 an hour. But there's always room for improvement, I know....

Prolightscaper
10-17-2010, 11:57 AM
The key to a successful landscape lighting concern is to get them to call you eager to do business. Having them approach you first is crucial .

If you must advertise to get work you are going to spend alot of time dealing with unqualified leads . That is assuming there is even a 1 percent response.

In some cases there will be no response. Other cases good response but in all cases very few that will result in good projects. You pay the same for the ad whether it produces or not.

A viable business cannot be built on $2,500 jobs. The $10,000 plus projects rarely come from cold advertising leads.

Buyers in that price range rarely find you from a post card or an ad in the yellow pages.

Most people don't know what a good system is or even what it costs

It helps alot when another trusted individual endorses, recommends and brings you onto a project

Build your network- High end builders, architects, designers.

Do a fantastic job. Service the hell out of your clients and network.

Maintain your jobs like they are your own because they are and keep in close contact with your clients. Birds of a feather flock together.

That is how you build a landscape lighting design/install business. Not by advertising.

Will P.C.
10-17-2010, 12:18 PM
The key to a successful landscape lighting concern is to get them to call you eager to do business. Having them approach you first is crucial .

If you must advertise to get work you are going to spend alot of time dealing with unqualified leads . That is assuming there is even a 1 percent response.

In some cases there will be no response. Other cases good response but in all cases very few that will result in good projects. You pay the same for the ad whether it produces or not.

A viable business cannot be built on $2,500 jobs. The $10,000 plus projects rarely come from cold advertising leads.

Buyers in that price range rarely find you from a post card or an ad in the yellow pages.

Most people don't know what a good system is or even what it costs

It helps alot when another trusted individual endorses, recommends and brings you onto a project

Build your network- High end builders, architects, designers.

Do a fantastic job. Service the hell out of your clients and network.

Maintain your jobs like they are your own because they are and keep in close contact with your clients. Birds of a feather flock together.

That is how you build a landscape lighting design/install business. Not by advertising.

This is an excellent post.

Landscape lights are something that people just do not need.

When you send out all types of flyers and other similar methods, more often than not you will get the 'curious' customer. Basically someone who just wants to see what it will cost. They will probably even want you to draft something up, but they have no intentions of actually using you. Moreover, there are a ton of 'curious' customers out there.

Now if you can sale a project w/o drawing anything up, then you are doing okay. This is more likely to come from people who found you and are prepared to spend the necessary money.

Consultation fees are tricky in the landscape/lawncare business.

Prolightscaper
10-17-2010, 01:06 PM
Consultation fees shouldn't be necessary but they are unless you have no problem wasting your time with some who wish to pick your brain and never intend on hiring you. There is no way to qualify this over the phone.

If you are a serious business person then you should have a problem with that. You sell your time (expertise and ideas) and materials. They should never be given away for free.

Anytime there is suspicion to believe that this will happen a fee need be introduced. Nothing exposes a fraud quicker than asking someone to put their money forward. This is what separates the serious buyers from the tire kickers and free information seekers.

If they are unwilling then they are unqualified as a prospect .

Who wants a client anyway who is so tight with their money that they won't invest a small menial sum to meet with you.

Are they going to listen to you and agree on the qty and placement of fixtures or are they going to fight you tooth and nail and insist they don't need as many fixtures in order to save money. My bet is the latter. Will they be willing to regularly make the financial investment it takes to properly maintain their system with you?

Anyone who says they close most of the inquiries they get is either exaggerating , selling too cheap or taking any job that comes there way whether it's a good one or not.

Selectivity in this economic climate ? Some may say they will take any job that comes there way good bad or indifferent.

I say differently. Focus on getting only the best projects and clients that will build your business.

What good is a project that you installed that is not maintained by you? It is no good because you will never get another project from that one guaranteed.

A project that lacks your care will be yours no more. You cannot use it as a showcase and you cannot send prospects by to view it. Are clients going to refer you when their system looks like hell from lack of proper care (And no one will care for it like you will) ? Of course not they are going to blame it on you. The system and client is dead to you.

And prospects that won't pay your maintenance fees for proper care are not clients that you will build your business on. They are simply one shot deals and one night stands that long standing business building relationships are not built on.

You can dilute yourself into thinking that every time the phone rings there is a good job and client on the line. If you are marketing well then this will be the case more times then not.

However in those cases that are not that way a consultation fee can really save you alot of wasted time.

Prolightscaper
10-17-2010, 04:42 PM
Consultation fees shouldn't be necessary but they are unless you have no problem wasting your time with some who wish to pick your brain and never intend on hiring you. There is no way to qualify this over the phone.

If you are a serious business person then you should have a problem with that. You sell your time (expertise and ideas) and materials. They should never be given away for free.

Anytime there is suspicion to believe that this will happen a fee need be introduced. Nothing exposes a fraud quicker than asking someone to put their money forward. This is what separates the serious buyers from the tire kickers and free information seekers.

If they are unwilling then they are unqualified as a prospect .

Who wants a client anyway who is so tight with their money that they won't invest a small menial sum to meet with you.

Are they going to listen to you and agree on the qty and placement of fixtures or are they going to fight you tooth and nail and insist they don't need as many fixtures in order to save money. My bet is the latter. Will they be willing to regularly make the financial investment it takes to properly maintain their system with you?

Anyone who says they close most of the inquiries they get is either exaggerating , selling too cheap or taking any job that comes there way whether it's a good one or not.

Selectivity in this economic climate ? Some may say they will take any job that comes there way good bad or indifferent.

I say differently. Focus on getting only the best projects and clients that will build your business.

What good is a project that you installed that is not maintained by you? It is no good because you will never get another project from that one guaranteed.

A project that lacks your care will be yours no more. You cannot use it as a showcase and you cannot send prospects by to view it. Are clients going to refer you when their system looks like hell from lack of proper care (And no one will care for it like you will) ? Of course not they are going to blame it on you. The system and client is dead to you.

And prospects that won't pay your maintenance fees for proper care are not clients that you will build your business on. They are simply one shot deals and one night stands that long standing business building relationships are not built on.

You can dilute yourself into thinking that every time the phone rings there is a good job and client on the line. If you are marketing well then this will be the case more times then not.

However in those cases that are not that way a consultation fee can really save you alot of wasted time.

“How One Builder / Remodeler Increased His Business By
Eliminating Free Estimates”
Many builders and remodelers struggle with the idea of charging for estimates.
The general consensus is you can either charge for estimates, and risk losing business, or you can provide free estimates, which neither differentiates your company from the competition nor guarantees you'll actually get the job.
Aaron Skoczen, a member of the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association, struggled with the same concerns until he eliminated his 'free estimates' on a trial basis for a couple of months.
By the end of the two months, Aaron was convinced, and he never switched back. He now schedules fewer estimates than ever before and because of it, he now has more time for his business and less stress!
Aaron explains exactly how he accomplished this turnaround and why, two years later, he hasn't looked back.
How Aaron Got Rid of Free Estimates In Less Than 60 Days!
"The focus is to create value in the eyes of the client," Aaron explains.
"First, when a homeowner asks us if we do free estimates, we'll tell them, 'We're not going to give you [just] a number.'
"We'll provide them more than just that - we'll put together a professional package that gives them information on their house, their zoning, their setbacks," he says.
And this provides Araon with three distinct advantages over his competition.

* He now meets with his prospects knowing he's being paid for the opportunity to present his services. He can then take the time other contractors can't to completely understand the project.
* He immediately becomes 'the contractor to beat' regardless of any lower-priced bids. He does this by providing valuable, customized information while other contractors provide just a 'ball-park' number.
* He quickly creates an established business relationship. The homeowner has now paid Aaron for a service and then is more likely to continue the relationship over a contractor who has merely given them a 'free estimate.'

What Aaron Knows That Most Builders & Remodelers Don't ...
Aaron understands something most industry members miss - homeowners aren't looking for the lowest price or 'freebies' when shopping for contractors.
Even though they tend to ask about price or free estimates right away, they're actually looking for the contractor who provides the best value for the money.
Aaron establishes this value right away and, doing so, allows him to reduce the number of estimates he needs to give and wins more projects.
This provides him more time to spend on his business, rather than chasing free estimates.
And how much does Aaron charge?
"$65."
"I don't know where we actually started with $65 but, in my opinion, it doesn't matter if it's $20, $65 or $100."
"[The point] is to just get out and meet with them.
Rip Up Your Free Estimates And Give Your
Prospects What They Really Want
"We tell them, 'We're not going to give you an estimate or a number...however, at the right point in time we will give you a full proposal, which will have an exact cost to the penny and that will never change."
Again, Aaron ups the ante by letting the homeowner know, right away, they're going to get the best value with him - a complete proposal with a firm price.
When most contractors are worried about handing out the right ball-park number, Aaron is setting up for the long-haul and promises the homeowner exactly what they want - the final cost for the project.
Rather than compete on price, Aaron sets the expectation for what it takes to arrive at the final cost accurately.
If you're struggling with free estimates that result in little-to-no business, or projects with minimal margins, take the same challenge Aaron did.
Give it a shot for a couple of months and see what happens. Aaron did, and his business is more successful because of it!

Pro-Scapes
10-17-2010, 07:35 PM
another important aspect is when we should NOT charge a fee.

Existing client even if they have moved to a new home

I gave an consult to a builder whom has sent us 3 jobs. I didnt charge him out of respect for the business he has sent me.

Churches. Enough said

Municipal projects.