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A new client called and they want a project done now. Yesterday was two days late.

On the sales call, you realize the job will be at least $250,000, and there are several parts that will have to be subcontracted. So you get busy and call the concrete guy, roofer, electrician, plumber, drywall and insulator. You tell them you need quotes back ASAP as the client is ready to get started. You want to present a firm, fixed price quotation with your contract, and you’re counting on them to help you get it together.Putting Together the Puzzle

All of the subs confirm that they’ll meet you at the jobsite Thursday morning, between 9 am and noon, and they’ll get you a quote as soon as they can. It’s almost too good to be true.

Thursday morning comes and you are on the jobsite by 8:45 am. The roofer shows up at 10:45 am, the electrician shows up at 11, and the plumber and insulator show at 11:30 am. No sign of the concrete or drywall subs.

You call the concrete and drywall subs and ask where they are. They forgot, or they had to go meet another contractor, or they had to fill in for one of their guys who got sick and didn’t show up for work. Does this sound familiar? If you’re a general contractor, I’ll be amazed if it doesn’t.

At least once a week, I’m asked how to handle a situation like this. How can you get a written quote on all items that exceed $300 on your estimate if your subs won’t provide a quote? You’re trying to do a good job for your client, you want to present a fixed firm price quotation, and you can’t get the help you need from the specialty contractors.

It’s exasperating, but let’s look at it from another point of view.

Unless you have a design agreement from the client and they are paying you to put this together, you aren’t sure you’ll get the job. You’re going to a lot of effort in the hopes that the client is serious about the work.

The sub is even less sure they’ll get the job. They know they might bust their behind to put together a quote and help you get the job, only to have you find another sub who will do the work cheaper. Why should you be a priority to them, if they aren’t a priority to you?

When you go on a sales call, even with previous clients, always do your ground work and get the four basic questions answered. Having a start date and a budget from the potential client allows you to move on to a design agreement.

With a design agreement in hand, you can now tell your subs that if they help you get your final quote together and you get the job, they’ll get the job. You can also tell them that your experience is that you contract for xx% of the jobs when you have a design agreement. At least 90% of your design agreements should turn into signed contracts. That information tells specialty contractors that their time won’t be wasted. When they help you, they’ll get the job.

You can also help them put together a quote faster by taking good photos of the jobsite. In many cases, this will give them enough information to put together a quote without having to go to the jobsite. Additionally, make sure you have clear, detailed job specifications so they know exactly what you want done.

Follow through. When you get the job, don’t shop your subs. If you aren’t faithful to them, don’t cry when they aren’t faithful to you. If you’ve shopped subs in the past, you’ll have to work at repairing that relationship and this will take time.

Using this approach you will find that your subs will respond better. If they don’t, then maybe it is time to find another sub to help you out.

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