Wasting Time Giving Estimates
I get a lot of emails with lots and lots of questions. Below is a Q&A I posted to my blog about wasting time giving estimates....
I have been in the business for 5 years now. Something that really ticks me off is when someone calls me for an estimate, I go to their house, write down all the details and then put the bid together in a very detailed manner only to find out that I did not get the bid because I am too expensive. When I go out to give the estimate I spend usually 30 minutes at each place. It's really starting to feel like a waste of time and I as my business grows, I have less time than before. Can you help me out here?
I am going to assume that you understand your numbers and your prices are in line with what you need to charge to perform the service, cover expenses and make a profit. That being said it sounds like you are not qualifying your leads and you are potentially marketing to the wrong target audience.
For example, if you know that your hourly man rate is $47 per hour and you are bidding on properties that are not in need of a lot of services, are not very big, or more importantly, are not very concerned with paying the price for a quality service, you need to look elsewhere. You need to determine who your "ideal" client is - create a profile. Where do they live, how much is their home worth, how large is their property, how many different services do they need performed, how often do they need services performed, etc.
If you are a full service lawn & landscape company then it doesn't make a lot of sense to target areas where people want their lawn mowed every two weeks and nothing else.
Second, as far as wasting your time on estimates, that can potentially be an easy fix. You must qualify them before you agree to go and provide the estimate. At first some business owners will be uncomfortable doing this. Asking certain questions might make them feel awkward. I'd rather feel a bit awkward versus spending 30 minutes estimating and another 30 minutes preparing the bid only to be repeatedly shut down because my price is too high.
So how does qualifying a prospect work?
When someone calls you and says "Hi, I saw your ad, I'd like an estimate.", many business owners respond and say "Sure, what is your address, I will be right over."
No, No, No...
When someone calls you need to ask them a variety of questions to get as much information out of them as you can.
"Thank you for calling. Can I ask how you found us?" - This is the first question to ask so you can track the success of your marketing efforts. If almost all of your phone calls are coming from people who saw you online, then you know that your online marketing efforts are working.
"What is your address?" - Good question to ask right away. If your ideal clients are located in certain upscale neighborhoods for example and the person on the phone indicates they live elsewhere, this could be the first warning shot.
"What services are you interested in?" - This is usually where you start to get the information you need. If they say "I just want my grass cut when it needs cut", then you know this is not the kind of client you are looking to work with.
"What kind of budget do you have to work with?" - This is a question some business owners will ask and others will not. But if you do ask, you will get more information you need. If someone on the phone responds and says, "I am on a fixed income so I don't want to spend much", then again, this is probably not the client you want to work with.
"Do you currently have a service provider?" - This is a great question to ask because it will open them up to give you an idea of what kind of person they are to deal with. "Yes, we are on our third landscaper in 3 years. These guys keep trying to raise prices on us and we have to keep looking for someone to do the work inexpensively."
Bottom line, think of questions you can ask right then and there. Find out as much as you can. If the prospect on the phone does not fit the mold, then politely explain that you are a full service provider and only capable of serving so many people, but you can certainly recommend another company.
This way you aren't the bad guy, you direct them to a mow, blow and go kinda guy, and you did not waste an hour of your time on work you will never get.