Originally posted by bommaritro
What questions do you ask? I have gotten burned on this before. The owner had already picked out a person that he liked and then requested bids. I had no idea what had happened until after the contract was awarded and I received a call from the winner thanking me for the complimentary bid.
Listed in order of importance (IMO)
1. Who is your current service provider?
I know who the major players are and those that are whores. If it's one of the later I tell them straight up I won't compete with them. If it is one of the major players after the call is ended, I call the owner and find out if they know there client is actively seeking bids and I have been solicited and will be submitting a bid. This little bit of professional courtesy goes a long way and keeps everyone on friendly terms. It also paid back.
2. Do you have a spec sheet of services required?
If the answer is no, I ask if they are willing to create one so that there job is easier to select a service provider and ensure everyone is bidding apples to apples. If it's a client I really want, I will volunteer to come in at no charge and help create one. If they don't have one or don't want to make one then it is pretty much a done deal with someone else. Keep in mind these are not small commercial strip centers but jobs >$25k/year. I worked with Texas Instruments for nearly seven years as a facilities manager. We were required to have budgets and spec sheets for items less 1/5 of this amount. It's the only way a business can stay in business.
3. How long has the current service provider been serving your needs and why are you looking for a new one?
If the provider have been working for a long time or they really fumble answering the second half of the question or say something to the effect that we are just making sure our rates are competitive it almost a sure bet your simply being exercised. Good commercials generally stay with a provider they are happy with and it is hard for a stranger to get his foot in the door except using the good ole boy system. (I forgot, that's really what we are talking about here isn't it.). Commercials, that are like rats jumping off a sinking ship, always looking for the lowest price each year aren't the kind of customers I want.
4. What problems are you having?
If the service provider has been there long term and they can't give a list of several chronic problems (and the problems had better match up with what I know about the provider) that raises the caution flag real high for me.
5. Do I need to be insured and if so what are my limits?
If they don't know or they say no, you're talking to an individual with no authority. Ask to speak to their supervisor and start again.
I work these questions in with many pass the time of day questions. For lack of better words, it's amazing how stupid these people are, sometimes they will just tell you I need your bid so I can keep my provider. I asked for a spec sheet one time and walked out with a complete copy (including prices) of the competition. WOW!!!