Do all estimates have to be free?

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by gkell88, Dec 27, 2001.

  1. gkell88

    gkell88 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 55

    I recently saw the "consultation" form that a local tree man uses. No estimate is free from him, and my estimates are more detailed, and take almost as much time. My question:

    Free estimates are the norm in my area for all lawn care companies AFAIK. I'm thinking of implementing some type of initial fee that can be refunded if the prospect becomes a paying customer. It would weed out price shoppers, and I would not apply it to referrals, but we must find a way to seperate the price only shoppers. In return, we will provide a very detailed estimate. Full of valuable information.(we are an App. company and do very good work with very high standards)

    Have any of you ever tried something like this? What do you think? Is it possible to make it work?

    I appreciate your input.
  2. GroundKprs

    GroundKprs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,969

    Depends on how hungry you are. LOL. As you state, free estimates means dealing with price shoppers. But if you are trying to expand, maybe you have to put up with that.

    But if you are at a comfortable revenue level, and just wish to take more premium work, a proposal fee as you suggest is a good way to weed the customer field.

    I'm not gonna state my proposal fee, but if the client does not accept the proposal, my 60-90 minutes spent on it is the highest profit rate of all my services. I just got too tired of price shoppers. Even a referral will hand over a check before I start on measurements and investigation of the site. But I have forgotten all about it when I see a beautiful property that I would like to work on.
  3. gkell88

    gkell88 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 55

    I was thinking of $25.00 for the consultation, with a $30.00 option that includes a soil test from a private lab, with the results mailed with the evaluation. Keep in mind, I am talking about John Q Public here.

    How does that sound to you?
  4. Rex Mann

    Rex Mann LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 621

    We would like to charge for our proposals however, our vendor of paving stones, who refers us a ton of business requires a free estimate. BTW we only do walls and pavers.

    We use a very stringant qualification process over the phone. We ask that both husband and wife are present, we ask for an hour of thier time and the list goes on. If they are just shopping then they will not want to spend an hour with you.

    It works for us. It weeds out the tire kickers.

    Let me know if you want the entire rundown.


  5. Turfdude

    Turfdude LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,899

    For Installs, yes you can and should charge a fee especially if including plans. You may offer an option to "credit" back the cost (or part thereof) if the client uses you for the install. For maintenance of any type,bidder beware of price shoppers. If I know its a referral then I'll spend a little time on full maint bid (up to 1 hr total to check site, travel, initial client meet/greet and assigning fees.

  6. SprinklerGuy

    SprinklerGuy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,778

    we offer a "tuneup" and it is basically an evaluation for 48 bucks. We do NOT usually do free estimates for repair jobs but for installs we do it for free.

    REx,,,,,who's pavers do you install? I am interested in doing them as well. Can you help with info?
  7. thelawnguy

    thelawnguy LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,411

    Dont know if this helps answer your question, but a friend who is a remodeling contractor will give a free estimate only if the customer is a direct referral from another customer, and if its anything more than say a roof job or the like you must supply professional plans with material list or have them done and paid for by an architect. If you have no plans he will not talk to you but will give you the number of his designer, if you are not a legit referral customer he will charge $150 estimate fee to be applied to the job.

    I guess the point is nobody wants to do estimates we all want to do the job but with a little qualifying we can weed out the price shoppers and tire kickers with probably 80% accuracy and end up giving those "free" estimates to those we are going to do business with the majority of the time.

    In the spring a local nursery advertises "20 minutes for 20 bucks" they send a guy over to do a quick sketch with sample material list, then see where that gets em then they decide from there whether to spend more time with the people depending if they are DIY or they actually want the nursery to do the job.
  8. For prospects looking for full service grounds maintenance I offer a free estimate, site visit and soil test.

    The only stipulation I have is that I only do estimates on Tuesday PM or Saturday.

    If you try to keep most of your estimates to Saturday you will get more walk up interest from the neighbors of the prospect.

    Also in your advertising literature you should state evening phone calls encouraged and accepted for that's the time of day to make phone contacts for residential accounts.
  9. HBFOXJr

    HBFOXJr LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,712

    I'm interested in further refining my qualification process, especially for irrigation installation. Could you please share with us your phrases or methods.

  10. steveair

    steveair LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,073


    perhaps I will give another light to this subject.

    Basically, I am starting to do more and more design/consultation work for other landscape contractors in my area. Main focus is landscape design work.

    If a contractor calls me and wants to have me meet them at a job, then instantly they are going to get charged.

    I price my work out in two ways:

    First, there's a lump sum price which basically covers my time spent during the field trip, customer interview, drive time, etc., and then covers the price of the plan/design that I hand over to the contractor to give to the client.

    Second, there's the time method, where I give the contractor a hourly rate charge for the amount of time I spend with them on a project........this is where a lot of guys moan and groan.....

    For me, landscape estimates ARE my business, and therefore the idea of "free" does not exist to me. I really hound some of the guys I work for because they will bring me in on a project, and not charge the client for my fee, yet I surely will charge them for my time.

    Maybe for maintenance you cannot charge for estimates, but for any kind of design/construction work, you are losing time and money if you aren't.


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