Job Bids Can Double as an Opportunity for Customer Education

Don’t immediately rebuff people who want you to price out a job on little information. Think of it as a teaching experience and you could earn a customer for life.

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I had a discussion recently with a customer who was at a loss as he had received a request for a proposal to fix a drain, waste and vent line without any video or specification for the work to be completed.

It brought me back to over 25 years ago when I was introducing CIPP lining to people who had no idea what the process was or whether it would solve a problem with their sewer systems.

When people have a problem, they need solutions. They usually apply their own personal knowledge in trying to solve their problems and may use technology that doesn’t exactly fit or is out of date. They’re simply unaware of other solutions that may better fit their problem.

For example, if you only know about traditional excavation and you have a failing sewer line running under a busy highway, you may apply a solution of rerouting traffic so you can close that section of road while you excavate the old pipe for replacement. That worked years ago before traffic got heavier, and more and more people traveled the highway. But imagine cutting into a six-lane freeway and routing thousands of cars around your work site?

What do you do then when someone wants you to “bid” on a job with no specifications and very little information that would allow you to price it out? There are three paths you can take:

1. The first path is to walk away from the job. While this option may be good if you have an unlimited amount of work already, it usually tells customers not to look to you to solve future problems. While you may be overbooked today, cultivating new customers is always better than watching a dwindling customer base that gradually drifts away for a variety of reasons.

2. The second path is to throw out a bid that is low and plan to present change orders as the work progresses. Many contractors choose this plan, but it does have pitfalls. Change orders can cause heartburn for your customers. They may not have the money to handle the changes. They may feel you are charging them for things that you should have included in your bid. More often than not, the customers are a one and done with you as a contractor.

3. The third path is the one I chose. That path is one of becoming the contractor that helps people navigate through the process by educating them. This gives them enough information to make an informed decision and often their choice becomes you as you are the one who helped them figure out what they needed. This may include writing a specification they can use if they still need to get “bids” for the job. If you are the one writing the specification for them, you can add in features that perhaps aren’t offered by competitors giving your competitors a disadvantage in bidding the work. Working this path will make you the expert in the eyes of customers and the first choice in performing the work.

About the Author

John Heisler is the owner of Pipe Lining Supply and Quik-Lining Systems. He has more than 20 years of experience in the CIPP lining industry and 40-plus years in the underground construction industry.


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