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A note we received:

How would you handle this situation? You know a client is getting 3 bids, you’ve made your presentation with your detailed, multi-page contract outlining your approach to the job etc., but they still want to wait until all bids are in. But they want to keep your detailed paperwork “to look over”. Do you leave it with them? Or, do you simply provide a one-page quote with them?

Short answer: don’t leave paperwork. Long answer: this shouldn’t happen.

Generally speaking, when potential clients don’t want to make a commitment but want to keep your paperwork, they intend to shop it around. That is not always true, but it is true enough of the time that I don’t think you should leave anything (except marketing materials) unless you’re willing to let your sales to leads ratio slip to one in seven, eight or nine sales calls.

If you follow the steps we outline in our book, Profitable Sales; A Contractor’s Guide, getting involved with the three bids game and then hoping for the best can be prevented.

Our book suggests an alternative approach. The first time they mention other contractors, you need to walk through the contractor of choice routine. If you do this correctly, they’ll be comparing all the other companies to you. You can read about it in this article on becoming the contractor of choice. We also discussed it in this article on getting three bids.

You need to have the strength to tell them, “Here is how we work!” Explain how you approach their type of job. You should get paid for helping to design their job, doing the estimate, getting all the supplier and subcontractor quotes assembled, writing up all the necessary paperwork and helping them get their selections done before you create the contract for the work.

Make your presentation, which includes ballpark price ranges when you’re asking for their budget. Ask to move to a design agreement or letter of intent, and if they don’t want to make that commitment, move on. You won’t make a profit providing free estimates or giving them advice or ideas on how to build their job.

If they’ve made a commitment to you, there shouldn’t be an issue about waiting for additional bids to come in. They’ve already committed, so when you sit down to present your firm fixed price and written contract, they’re ready to go.

Now, this primarily applies to remodeling projects, where developing a firm fixed price can take a significant amount of time and trouble on your part. If you’re a specialty contractor, it’s a little different.

The sales process is the same, including the four questions outlined in the book Profitable Sales. If they won’t answer your questions, they aren’t serious about the project; they’re just shopping for a price or advice on how to get the project done. It’s time to move on.

If they’re serious about doing the project and you can quickly ballpark a rough figure (e.g., siding, window replacements, painting, roofing), then share that with them. If they’re ready to sign a contract, then put one together and expect them to sign it.

I’m opposed to creating written documents specific to a project without getting a commitment first. If you’ve created those documents and they aren’t willing to sign, don’t leave the papers behind.

I need to add a warning that applies to all our articles on sales. You won’t discover all you need to know about approaching a sales call here. It isn’t possible to cover everything. We’re only touching the highlights of a sales call.

I don’t push our products heavily, but don’t expect to be able to handle all the issues that can arise without reading the book. Learning to sell your services takes time and practice; it’s not something that can be mastered quickly or by only reading selected articles.

Remember that you’re in business to provide a service and make a profit doing it. That’s why it’s important to get paid for what you do and the services you provide.

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