Contractor Talk - Professional Construction and Remodeling Forum banner
1 - 20 of 20 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,249 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have decided to put something on my new estimate forms asking for confidentiality.

I had thought about just adding a "CONFIDENTIAL" watermark but now I am considering adding a spiel about quality, price and price sharing resulting in under-bidding.

Should I stick with the watermark? I thought the spiel might deter someone from allowing low-balling to occur that might not know better. I know many will share my info with competitors anyways but...
 

·
The Deck Guy
Joined
·
3,126 Posts
Just don't leave the proposal if they don't sign it. Take it back with you.

You know when someone is going to price shop 9 times out of 10. Even if you get a sniff of it, you don't leave the proposal. You take it right off the table and say "I'd be happy to come back when you are ready to sign this, but I invest too much time in my proposals to leave them behind only to have them used by less qualified people as a spec sheet.."

That's when they realize you are the real deal and will either not care (because you are not someone they can push around and wouldn't hire you anyway) or they will stop and sign it.

Yes, you need a huge set of balls to do this, but it works in weeding out potentially troublesome clients right off the bat and establishing yourself as THE guy.
 

·
The Deck Guy
Joined
·
3,126 Posts
Also, when you meet the first time, tell them something like, "OK...I'll get working on a very detailed proposal for you right away. Let's set a time NOW for me to return to meet with you so that when I come back, you will be READY to sign the contract and we can move ahead."

This is when they will say "oh, we have to meet with other people" or "we are waiting for other proposals". Then you ask, "Really, who else are you talking with? Maybe I know them?" or "How many contractors did you call about this project?".

These are all huge barometers of where you stand and where THEY stand.

Just make sure you say "So, when I return with my proposal, assuming you still love me, you will be ready to move ahead with the project? Right?" Wait for the yes. If they beat around the bush and don't give you a "yes" answer, that tells you A LOT.

I could go on and on about different ways to feel people out and control the appointment, but you didn't ask about that. :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,249 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
On my larger projects I meet with the customer once to get an overview of what they want and a second time to give them the details of how I will complete the project along with the scope of what is to be done. I have a detailed contract ready and leave it only once it is signed.

However, most of my business consists of fences in the $1k-$4k range. It just seems funny for me to not leave a written estimate for jobs in that range. Maybe it's me? I did stop including footage and linear ft. costs to stop the over the phone price shopping.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
116 Posts
On my larger projects I meet with the customer once to get an overview of what they want and a second time to give them the details of how I will complete the project along with the scope of what is to be done. I have a detailed contract ready and leave it only once it is signed.

However, most of my business consists of fences in the $1k-$4k range. It just seems funny for me to not leave a written estimate for jobs in that range. Maybe it's me? I did stop including footage and linear ft. costs to stop the over the phone price shopping.

No I do not think it is you, it would feel very strange to me as well not providing the potential client with a written estimate.

To your question, confidentiality is something nice to include on your estimate, but very easy to get around, and allmost impossible to do in most cases. Even if you did catch a potential customer dead in the act of handing over your contract to another contractor to look at, do you want to be the guy taking poitential clients to court?

I guess in short the best way is to cover your bases and let the chips fall where they may. It's tough times and hard to do, but there's very few options here. IMO
 

·
The Deck Guy
Joined
·
3,126 Posts
On my larger projects I meet with the customer once to get an overview of what they want and a second time to give them the details of how I will complete the project along with the scope of what is to be done. I have a detailed contract ready and leave it only once it is signed.

However, most of my business consists of fences in the $1k-$4k range. It just seems funny for me to not leave a written estimate for jobs in that range. Maybe it's me? I did stop including footage and linear ft. costs to stop the over the phone price shopping.
Ok...then have two proposals:

1) The leave behind price that is VERY generic "install fence per proposal number 9999: $1,425.00. You must reference the real proposal which they don't have, so really the piece of paper you gave them is technically worthless, but is has your name, number and price on it.

2) The REAL proposal which they get a copy of when they sign.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,249 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Ok...then have two proposals:

1) The leave behind price that is VERY generic "install fence per proposal number 9999: $1,425.00. You must reference the real proposal which they don't have, so really the piece of paper you gave them is technically worthless, but is has your name, number and price on it.

2) The REAL proposal which they get a copy of when they sign.
I like the proposal reference number idea. I may start using that.

HomeElements, I do not intend to pursue anyone who shares my estimate. The idea is more to remind the client that it is unethical.
 

·
The Deck Guy
Joined
·
3,126 Posts
I like the proposal reference number idea. I may start using that.
Great because I thought of that system literally as I was typing. :whistling:laughing:

I knew there was a way we could make it work for you.

I would NOT put the "confidential" on anything you leave the customer. I think it implies that you don't trust them from the get go.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
116 Posts
I like the proposal reference number idea. I may start using that.

HomeElements, I do not intend to pursue anyone who shares my estimate. The idea is more to remind the client that it is unethical.
Yes Im sure you wouldnt as most of us (if not all) here would never do such a thing, just reminding you of the alternative. There's no telling the # of jobs I've lost over the years to this, there's just not alot to do about it (other than what you are doing) and still many HO's wouldnt blink before qouting your estimate to another contractor.

Honestly, it was one of the reasons I liked insurance work. Yes the INS companies try to low ball you but there's strict guildlines when it came to the estimate. Infact it was forbidden to even give your estimate to the homeowner.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,565 Posts
Reading through this thread gave me an idea that I believe could work.
Since I have come across HO's that will show me a proposal from other contractors for a project and I feel they have betrayed a unwritten trust,why not give your price verbally and leave a detailed proposal without the price filled in.
Say you're leaving the price out in case they decide on changes in the scope of work,but the price is for what is on the proposal.
They'll have the number but will have a hard time proving it's associated to any specific proposal in case they need it for getting a better deal.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,181 Posts
If I think a customer is price shopping I leave them with an "estimate" and not a proposal. On an estimate I dont have the exact details written out. Just remove and replace all existing roof material with whatever brand and replace all flashings and other thigns. On the proposal I have the number of squares to be replaced, the number of new pipe flashings, the exact feet of ridge cap or hip cap, exact feet of ridge vent and so fourth.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
35 Posts
It can certainly be frustrating. I have done jobs for example like finishing a basement for someone which can have a fairly large scope of work attached to it depending on size, kitchens, baths, theaters, finishes, etc, in which it's a very uncomfortable feeling to hand over that information to the homeowner without a commitment. I usually draw a plan as well so that the scope is more fleshed out in considering the numbers. As others have alluded to above, I have won many jobs just by showing professionalism and thorough attention to detail. This becomes costly when you don't get the jobs however (drawing plans and working up detailed estimates). I too have lost my designs and proposals before, but have since been better about controlling them until I have the job. As Greg says, I think it's important to hone an ability to sense what type of customer you're dealing with early on. I like his idea of referencing a separate document containing the details. Of course many diligent owners should be able to get most of that information from you as you're presenting your bid by asking questions and taking notes, which they can then use in their negotiations with other contractors, but that's the way it is. I just hope to make a good impression with the customer, try to assert my values of integrity and honesty, be competitive in my pricing, and always provide a superior product, which becomes a useful future reference. My references generally seal the deal for me unless someone along the way has really misled the customer with regard to what the costs should be or with an incomplete scope of work. This usually being an unlicensed person or one of those contractors that low-bids until the customer can't turn back and then doubles his prices by the end of the job with extras and omissions that homeowners don't know to look for up front.

I know.. some of this seems off subject. But I thought maybe it could be another perspective on the problem in that cutting down on the ratio between the number of estimates that you give and jobs you get, also lessens the confidentiality concerns with regard to your proposal information. Too many customers just see the price and assume they are getting the same product across the board. Which is a problem that good contractors have to face all the time I think. It can be very difficult and time intensive to explain to each customer the complexities of how different a job by contractor A and contractor B might be. Especially when they look not all that much different in the end and even less so to the untrained eye. However this is usually my approach, risk the time up front, educate the homeowner as much as possible, which helps them and also helps guard against a misleading competitor, and hope the effort proves to be time well spent. I'll show them what I have in terms of a design and then verbally go through my scope and pricing, taking it with me until they are ready to sign. I have found that showing the extra effort up front with a drawing and also with making sure to take enough time with them, makes a lot of difference. I have toyed with the suggestion by oldfrt although a bit differently. I have in the past made available a general scope of what should be included in whatever type of job I'm bidding along with a list of questions the customer should ask potential bidders. This at least levels the playing field a bit, but relies on the homeowner to implement it so that they get apples to apples numbers. So far I haven't come across any better solutions, but it's good to hear all the ideas here, maybe we'll have something before long that will benefit us all.

Sorry for the blending of topics but hopefully some thoughts here are useful or at least reaffirmations of what you may already do or think.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
850 Posts
If you could put in a few more line breaks, it would make posts like this easier to read, which is a good thing because there is good stuff in there.



It can certainly be frustrating. I have done jobs for example like finishing a basement for someone which can have a fairly large scope of work attached to it depending on size, kitchens, baths, theaters, finishes, etc, in which it's a very uncomfortable feeling to hand over that information to the homeowner without a commitment.

I usually draw a plan as well so that the scope is more fleshed out in considering the numbers. As others have alluded to above, I have won many jobs just by showing professionalism and thorough attention to detail. This becomes costly when you don't get the jobs however (drawing plans and working up detailed estimates).

I too have lost my designs and proposals before, but have since been better about controlling them until I have the job. As Greg says, I think it's important to hone an ability to sense what type of customer you're dealing with early on. I like his idea of referencing a separate document containing the details.

Of course many diligent owners should be able to get most of that information from you as you're presenting your bid by asking questions and taking notes, which they can then use in their negotiations with other contractors, but that's the way it is. I just hope to make a good impression with the customer, try to assert my values of integrity and honesty, be competitive in my pricing, and always provide a superior product, which becomes a useful future reference.

My references generally seal the deal for me unless someone along the way has really misled the customer with regard to what the costs should be or with an incomplete scope of work. This usually being an unlicensed person or one of those contractors that low-bids until the customer can't turn back and then doubles his prices by the end of the job with extras and omissions that homeowners don't know to look for up front.

I know.. some of this seems off subject. But I thought maybe it could be another perspective on the problem in that cutting down on the ratio between the number of estimates that you give and jobs you get, also lessens the confidentiality concerns with regard to your proposal information. Too many customers just see the price and assume they are getting the same product across the board. Which is a problem that good contractors have to face all the time I think.

It can be very difficult and time intensive to explain to each customer the complexities of how different a job by contractor A and contractor B might be. Especially when they look not all that much different in the end and even less so to the untrained eye. However this is usually my approach, risk the time up front, educate the homeowner as much as possible, which helps them and also helps guard against a misleading competitor, and hope the effort proves to be time well spent.

I'll show them what I have in terms of a design and then verbally go through my scope and pricing, taking it with me until they are ready to sign. I have found that showing the extra effort up front with a drawing and also with making sure to take enough time with them, makes a lot of difference.

I have toyed with the suggestion by oldfrt although a bit differently. I have in the past made available a general scope of what should be included in whatever type of job I'm bidding along with a list of questions the customer should ask potential bidders. This at least levels the playing field a bit, but relies on the homeowner to implement it so that they get apples to apples numbers. So far I haven't come across any better solutions, but it's good to hear all the ideas here, maybe we'll have something before long that will benefit us all.

Sorry for the blending of topics but hopefully some thoughts here are useful or at least reaffirmations of what you may already do or think.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
90 Posts
leave behind a bottom-line proposal that can be accepted within a specific period of time but not the work-up (e.g. take-offs, unit pricing, etc.) behind you're numbers. practically speaking confidentiality clauses are of little protection from customers that auctioneer contractor offers. pretty common around here in residential and municipal markets. we seldom see it commercially or with the federal government.
 

·
Contractor
Joined
·
4,763 Posts
how many of you write proposals for large scale projects like the the complicated basement Outback cited? For clarification, a proposal is what you will do the project for....an estimate is what you think you can do the project for. Seems design work comes after and precise proposals come after a committment, there is too much work involved to get to that point on a large project and risk nothing for a tire kicker.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
90 Posts
how many of you write proposals for large scale projects like the the complicated basement Outback cited? For clarification, a proposal is what you will do the project for....an estimate is what you think you can do the project for. Seems design work comes after and precise proposals come after a committment, there is too much work involved to get to that point on a large project and risk nothing for a tire kicker.
we define an estimate as the detail behind a proposal. our estimate is a technical analysis that compiles labor, material, equipment, subs, and associated costs on a line-item basis with anywhere from 10 to 100 pages of backup including take-offs, assumptions, concept drawings, specs, etc.

our proposal is a business decision, its either a bottom line or bottom line with one or two add-alternates, and our proposals don't come with the estimate from which that business decision was made.

our estimates script our competitive edge and we classify them as trade secrets. the only time we share estimates with clients is when we are negotiating a change order to a proposal they have already accepted. they don't get estimates behind our proposals.
 

·
**
Joined
·
88 Posts
Let me tell ya how to do it.

I hate giving a written quote or estimate to a future client. I learned very early in the business when I was handed other contractors plans, quotes and/or estimates. The first time I was shocked and took the info with my mouth hanging open.
What I do today is I bring a laptop and use the power point program. I can put company info on it samples of contract, change orders, license info and of course plans and 3D drawings. Then I leave a thank you letter with just the price on it. I'll tell then I would be glad to come back and go over it again if need be.
 

·
Grand Rapids Remodeling
Joined
·
3,115 Posts
I'm still working on the language but this is what my estimate form say's on the bottom.


This estimate is for informational purposes only. Upon signing this estimate the customer agrees to continue the bidding process and a written quote will be submitted to the customer containing a detailed cost of above mentioned project. A standard flat fee will be paid to said contractor prior to quote analysis and completion. The fee will cover the cost of hours applied to quote. However upon signing a written contract for the above mentioned work the fee will be applied as a credit to the final signed contract amount.



estimate prepared by____________________________________________________ Date___________________________



home owner:____________________________________________________________ Date___________________________
 
1 - 20 of 20 Posts
Top