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When is the time to give the price?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Lowe Mowing, Dec 30, 2005.

  1. Lowe Mowing

    Lowe Mowing LawnSite Member
    Posts: 46

    OK you get a call to estimate a residential property. When you arive you take a look at the yard and everything. What my question is, do you tell the customer a price to their face or do you write up a service agreement in the truck and hand it to them. Or what do you guys do. I just found it very odd last year when giving estimates becuase I would knock on the door, talk to the customer, look at the yard, and then return to the door to give them an estimate. Is this the way to do it or is there a more perficient professional way to do it.
  2. marko

    marko LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 963

    I like to talk to customer first, see EXACTLY what they expect, do my estimate and deliver a written proposal. I had some custom forms made up (I did it in MS Word), took to a local printer, and had 500 carbonless 2 part forms made up for under $50.
  3. daveintoledo

    daveintoledo LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,587

    i go to the property, give them an estimate to there face, if they agree on the price, i let them know i will mail them my service agreement.....when they sign it and mail it back, i will add them to my list..

    if i had the capability to print the agreement in the truck, and have them sign right away while the idea is fresh in there mind, i would.
  4. Branchland

    Branchland LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 354

    I pretty much do like you do. I just tell them while I'm there talking to them. But that's just for mowing or other smaller jobs. Now if it's a bigger job that will take some figuering and service agreement I tell them a day that I'll bring it back.
  5. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,403

    If they're there when I am estimating I will knock and go over the details and price with them. Leaving the quote you lose the opportunity to explain your pricing and make them more comfortable with both you and the deal. Some people feel put on the spot when you toss a price out and instinctively will want to think it over. But that's ok.

    It's also good to get an impression of the customer from their reaction to the price. For example, if they react poorly to a very good price, warning bells should be going off. They may be too ignorant to recognize a bargain and the value you're providing, and you may want to rethink working for them. If they leap to take your bid and act surprised its so low, that also gives you valueable information on your market.

    But for renewals, however, I prefer to send customers a letter with the new price and conditions. Why? First of all, it's always good to have the details down on paper to avoid misunderstandings. And also if you call them up mid-winter and announce a price increase, they may well agree to it since you caught them by surprise, then they think it over and find someone else cheaper and cancel in early spring. Cancellations are disruptive. I prefer to give it to them straight and let them make their decision so they're sure they want me the next season.

    I have zero interest in pushing anyone to get their business, or any of the other 'salesy" tactics some prefer. Just like you cannot force people to like you, you cannot force people to hire you, at least not in the long run. Even if you manage to wheel and deal through your sales skills and get a customer who is grumbling and unhappy about the deal, he's not going to last long anyway. Hence the horrific turnover rates many here have. I could go sell other stuff and not get sweaty if that's what I wanted to do. Offer real value, sell that to the customer, and you'll get the business.

    But the price isn't what YOU or I say it is, it's what your particular market sets. Lower prices relative to the market will get easier sales. Higher prices relative to the market mean more income per unit of work, but you will have a higher turnover rate if your prices are perceived as too high. I try to find a balance. Squeezing every penny out of a deal may not be the best solution in the long run.
  6. Jpocket

    Jpocket LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,278

    I have a pre-made form that I carry with me, and when I get there I just fill in the price. Thats just for mowing.

    HOOLIE LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,981

    I normally knock on the door first to touch base and tell them I'm there (I think it leaves a bad first impression when the homeowner sees you roaming around the yard, and thinks you're up to something). After introducing myself, I just tell them I'm going to have a look around, then write up the proposal and knock when I'm done.

    If the estimate is for mulch, hedge trimming, etc, I like for them to come outside if possible to make sure we are both on the same wavelength.
  8. Flex-Deck

    Flex-Deck LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,846

    Nice Thread - It seems funny, but when I bid like a county job or city job, I make sure I am at the board meeting that the bids are opened at. The main reason is that I want to be able to answer and ask questions it there are any. Example - our county has a conservation commission which takes care of the campgrounds, county parks, and picnic areas, however, they are under the board of supervisors. When I bid the project (got it) last year, I was the only LCO present at the board meeting. This year I raised the price, and went to the board meeting, (they can accept last years mower contract without letting bids for an extra year if they are happy with the mowing job, and the LCO is willing to do it for another year) - They wanted and deserved justification for the price raise (25%) - and I got up to the podium and just said "You have stuggled for 20 years to find someone that could actually do the job timely and well, and since we have both gotten many compliments on the job we did, I am only going to say that the new price is fair to both of us. I am not going to use fuel costs-equipment costs etc as a reason, only quality - I also guaranteed them that the new price would be my bid next fall, which in reallity gives them a three year contract.
  9. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,840

    It's always best to give a price right on the spot. I can't tell you how many times I've given an estimate on the spot and then they said, "sounds great! When can you start?" And in doing so, I have totally eliminated the competition. Had I gone back a few days later with a bid, I probably would have lost out to some other LCO who was quicker than me. Plus, why would I want to go back a second time anyway?

    First thing you need to understand is that there's a difference between a bid (estimate) and a service agreement (contract). Everyone gets a bid. But only after someone says they want to sign up should they get a service agreement or contract.

    Over the years I must have given over maintenance bids and have had several hundred maintenance customers over the last 10 years. So here's my typical meeting with a customer (and this is the most professional way to do it, IMO):

    Knock on door....."Hi, Ms. Jones? Hi, I am Jim Lewis with Lewis Landscape Services....good to meet you too....listen, I am just going to take a quick peak around your yard and I'll be right back to your door in a few minutes with your bid....okay, see you in a few minutes." ... and the door closes. Sometimes they want to walk around the property with me. But 75% of the time, they are happy to just let me walk around on my own.

    So I'll take a look around, quickly fill out my bid sheet (see a pic. of my bid sheet below) and then I go back up to the door. Of course, I am wearing a professional uniform and carrying a professional metal contractors estimating case too. My whole point is to look the part of a big, professional company. Which we are. But I did it this way even back when it was just me. Anyway, so I lean toward them, showing them the bid sheet, but not giving it to them yet. I explain every facet of our service. What exactly we do, how often we come, and then finally I point out the price. Then I give it to them and wait for them to speak.

    Sometimes they are anxious to get started right away and want to know how to sign up. Sometimes they want to discuss it with a spouse first. Sometimes they just say, "Thanks. We'll let you know." and shut the door. I really don't care which one they do. It's just a numbers game. I know if they don't sign up probably the next one will. My motto is "some will, some won't, so what!" I don't put any pressure on them. If they are excited to get started right away, then I'll be excited to start working for them right away! If they want to wait and talk it over, I make sure to let them know that's perfectly okay. I tell them I hope to hear from them later and it was nice to meet them. Then, I'm off to the next estimate.

    I'll attach a copy of our bid / estimate sheet. It's nice to have something like this all ready to go. Then you just fill in the price and explain it to them. It flows real well and it makes you look professional.



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