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Prospective client %@% me off!

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by zedosix, Dec 4, 2012.

  1. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,403

    Bidding War. Thats where my thread titled 'Repeat Customers - Double Edged Sword' derived.

    The client more or less launched a bidding war between me and one other contractor for Phase I. I went along with it. But I was able to play into it because I'm the sole owner of my company and the other company is owned by two individuals, meaning too many hands in the pot.

    Now the people are ready for Phase II. The guy told me he was going to have to get "other bids" and he said it in a way as if he expected me to suddenly drop my price. I'm very interested in doing the work and I hope we will end up doing it. But I already priced the work at rock bottom from the get-go, even if it was for my own parents I could not lower it anymore.

    I have yet to hear back from this customer as far as yay or nay. I might do one follow up call, but I'm not gonna battle with anyone to get the work. I've already proven myself to these people with Phase I. If someone else does Phase II and if there is a problem with Phase I years or months down the road - it's going to turn into a finger pointing fiasco and end up infront of a judge. The home owner will sacrafice quality to save $1800.00 but they'll end up spending 10 G's taking the contractors to court if there's a problem. But you can't get a home owner to realize that.

    Thats what the industry has become, contractors working for cheap.
     
  2. PaperCutter

    PaperCutter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,938

    Typically, the initial consultation is free, unless they're outside my geographic area or I get the sense that all they're after is a free hour with a designer. During that time we walk the site, talk about the issues, what they want to do, and go through my portfolio. I then go back and work up what I expect the design to take me and send them a design proposal (flat fee) that outlines scope of work, deliverables, and timeframe. If they send me the signed contract and the deposit check, I schedule a time to go out and measure. If not, I send them a thank you card and move on to the next one.

    I have had a couple here and there who expect me (and typically 3-4 other designers) to measure and basemap everything, then submit "a concept sketch that's all I need, shouldn't take you more than a couple minutes, just so I can be sure we're on the same page." Yeah, no. It doesn't work that way.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2012
  3. zedosix

    zedosix LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,628

    If you haven't yet measured the job then how were you able to get them to sign a contract? I'm assuming that you can't give a price until the measurements are taken.
    Maybe I'm missing something here, but in my case I must do all field measurements and a rough draft before being able to give a rough quote. If I get a positive response I'll take it to the next level and meet up with them. Second time around I'm prepared with a written contract. Its what we are used to and we find what works best. Your way or my way, end results are the same.
     
  4. PaperCutter

    PaperCutter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,938

    The contract is just for the design work to start. Because I'm design only, I make darn sure I've accounted for everything in my proposal. I've done enough projects at this point that I can get them in the ballpark for what the job will cost (the screen porch $30-40k, patio $20-25k, plantings $10k, etc) so we at least know if what they want designed is realistic for their budget. My design fees run anywhere from $400-500 to $3000-4000, depending on what we're designing.

    When I worked for a design-build, we mostly did a flat rate design fee. Everything was $700 for the design, unless there were a lot of grading or framing issues, in which case it was $1200.
     
  5. MDLawn

    MDLawn LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,284

    When I first got into the business on my own 6 years ago I had a similar situation arise although I should've seen it coming based on where the people lived. I show up at the requested time and there was another person/contractor/not sure what there in his string tank top taking measurements with his worker/business partner (first bad sign of it not being worth my time). I sat around the corner for 30 minutes and finally talked with the guy. Then the walk around started like this "I need these wall bricks from (name any big box store)." Second bad sign. Even just starting out on my own I knew that was no good. The yard was a complete mess and needed a complete redo. I asked about a budget, then they said "Well what do you think?" Hearing that I shot some ridiculous number off the top of my head. I knew it was over then... But still showing up and some other guy is also just showing up??? I feel the annoyance....

    Eventhough I'm still relatively new to this industry I even feel the same way with any of the work. I know hardscaping has more planning and executing than mulch, sod, trimming, etc... but it's still tough work and like was already said doing it for prices less than when I worked for a friend of mine 11 years ago! Really a shame....
     
  6. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,403

    I have been on estimates once or twice where there was another contractor there. It's very uncomfortable because a savvy contractor is going to hold back on realling selling hinself. Yet on the other hand it gives you an opportunity to see how others think.
     
  7. MDLawn

    MDLawn LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,284

    I think the main thing is it's just uncomfortable and awkward. I know as soon as I left that one estimate another truck pulled up. But at least it was after! I thought about parking my truck, which had signs on it and theirs did not, right next to the property and just wait staring at the property. Put the pressure on a little. Buuuutt I was soft and parked around the corner.....

    But this year I had an estimate for sod installation (2500sq ft) and landscaping around a newly installed pool. The customer chose me and because I'm newer I asked why (just as a way to gauge my selling and pricing). Now yes she can lie all she wants but she did say that I was much more informative, listened better, talked about different ideas and ways of doing things, and we were all similar priced. Again she said that so take it as you may truth or not. I'm a talker and I like to sell I guess and now she wants me to do the landscaping in the front of the house. $2500 budget so nothing remotely fancy. So two contractors on site is just bad for me.
     
  8. zedosix

    zedosix LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,628

    I priced myself out of the job, quoted roughly 26 per sq.ft. for front and back yard. I feel that its better than having to deal with a price war. You see he doesn't know who I am, or the other two guys, I'm just another name in the book even though it came from his neighbour, he still regards me as a means to base his decision. Now I just made it easier for him.
     
  9. alldayrj

    alldayrj LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,747

    Wait til he tells the other guys your price. Then everyones head will be spinning!! So you did the price on the spot?
    Posted via Mobile Device
     
  10. zedosix

    zedosix LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,628

    Same as usual .... Take it to dynascape 15 20ins later I have quantities then email a price
    Posted via Mobile Device
     

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