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Post Thu Feb 06, 2014 3:26 pm

Quoting - How to do deal with potential customers?

I am currently in full time employment but I am in the process of getting my own unit and equipment and will be starting my own business in partnership with an ex-work colleague.

My dilemma is that I have been asked (by a friend) to quote for 2 vehicles and 4 building signs but the issue is the following:

1. They don't know what their budget is.

2. They want to see a design from ourselves and they have said the same to two other sign companies.

The thing is because we are still in full-time employment we aren't drawing money from our new business so we can work with the customer to get them a design they are happy with all included within the budget they agree but I just don't know what to tell them? I'd like to say (oh, im a bad boy!) off we aren't producing designs for nothing with no guarantee of getting the work even though we know we will be cheaper than the other two established companies.

Why do customers think that they can get 'free' designs from signwriters but wouldn't dream of it in other trades?

Any advice gratefully received.
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Post Thu Feb 06, 2014 4:38 pm

Welcome to the world of the self employed sign maker !
You need to develop your ability to spot messers and time wasters ASAP.

You should be able to work out rough / ball park figure you can quote for the work. ( if not then maybe you're starting out in the wrong business )

Don't get caught out by quoting too cheap to win work, its not a road you want to go down. Quote a ball park figure for the work excluding artwork, that way your making the point that artwork is a chargeable item.

However that said, it can be hard when you start out as you will not have a portfolio to fall back on so you may find yourself doing artwork (concepts) at the quoting stage to win new business. ( just make sure you arn't wasting your time )

Another trick if they have no idea on budget, ask them what sort of signs they like ( what do their neighbors have etc etc, you will then get an idea of their expectations and see if it matches what they'd be happy to spend !
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Post Thu Feb 06, 2014 4:53 pm

I've worked for myself in the past so I know all about quoting but as I was only based from home and not with the expense of a brand new VS-640i to pay for it wasn't crucial that I got the work!

I just don't like the idea of having to produce a design to get the work when this (for me anyhow) is the biggest part of the job, we can all bang out the vinyl and get it slapped on but it is our designs that separate us from the man doing it as a hobby from his garage.

As I said I know I can do the job cheaper than our two big rivals but because our time is so important to us at the moment (because of also working full-time) I am a bit reluctant to spend it setting something up that we have no guarantee of getting because we have set a job greater than their budget allowed.

I think I'll just ring them and explain my position and see where we go from there.

Thanks for taking the time to reply.
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Post Thu Feb 06, 2014 4:55 pm

I found out the hard way - don't do work for mates unless it's ALL business.
Mate's rates and being too chummy WILL bite you in the ass, as well as an over-inflated sense of entitlement, expectation of huge credit amounts and unnecessary buggering about to reach the 'perfect design' as if your time is worthless / all part of the friendship.

You are right to at least request a working budget and an idea of what they like/ /want - no point in designing £5k when they have £500 (oh, I thought that would be enough / it's only sticky plastic / the machine does all the work anyway...etc. etc.)

If it's getting hawked round every company in the land, he obviously doesn't value your skills above anybody else...and I find that to be a de-motivator when I'm told it's gone to 6 other companies to see who comes up with the best design / price. Nah...they can all squabble over it, I'm not wasting my time with those odds!

Whatever you do - whatever the price you quote - feel like you earned it and be sure it's good enough not to resent it and the friendship.

Dave
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Post Thu Feb 06, 2014 5:23 pm

Normally "don't know what their budget is." ......

.....means....

.....Nothing at all!!!...

....and as a friend/mate you'll do it for nothing.

Ask them do they have £5000, £500 or £50 in mind.

Otherwise run away from this potential job as you will find he is trying to play you and the other sign makers at the same game, and the only one who will be in pocket is him!

I mean does this customer not know how much is in their pocket?
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Post Thu Feb 06, 2014 6:08 pm

I agree with the above comments - leave the hawkers and timewasters alone. Work out a rough price and see what reaction you get. Offer to do drawings as part of the overall package, but don't supply them free unless you want to do the design work for someone else :(

At some point you have to talk money with them so it might as well be at the start

Good luck with the business
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Post Fri Feb 07, 2014 10:16 am

Hi John

This is always a tough one when you get customers that dont have a clue what they want and how much there willing to pay.

As your about to start up a new business you may not have examples of previous work to show new clients.

What you could do is go around taking pictures of other signs, the kind of work that you could do and then work out how much you would charge for doing that sort of thing.

Then build up a portfolio of the work, remember to inform the customers that this is not work that You have done, just examples, and show them a price.

If there happy with the sort of prices you charge then do them a quick sketch of what you could do for them and a price, again if there still happy but want a drawing made up then you let them know that you charge for designing a layout and show them on computer the design and charge for print outs.

Best wishes on starting up mate
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Post Fri Feb 07, 2014 4:42 pm

Here is an example of an enquiry today and how I dealt with it:-

We had a phone call asking for a price to put lettering on the back window of a Ford Ka, The following email exchange then took place:-

Thanks for your enquiry.
To supply and fit lettering as described to the rear window of a Ford Ka:-
Price - £XX + VAT

Reply
Hi Alison
Is there any chance you can let me have a preview?

Answer
Yes we always draw up a layout for approval - but this is only once we have been given the go ahead to proceed. Do you wish to go ahead with this? (There would be an artwork fee of £XX + VAT if we draw this up and you then decide against going ahead).

Reply
I would feel better if I seen some kind of drawing on how it will look. Rather than buying blind.


Answer
This is the only fair way we can provide an efficient cost effective service to our customers. If we provide free layouts with every single enquiry, it stands to reason that the jobs that go ahead are also subsidising the time spent drawing up speculative layouts that don't go ahead.

We think this is the fairest way to deal with enquiries.


I use this argument all the time to counter requests for a free speculative layout. Most reasonable people agree with the logic that free layouts are paid for by the jobs that are going ahead and why should our customers be subsidising all the other enquiries that do not go ahead
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Post Fri Feb 07, 2014 5:20 pm

Don't make the mistake of charging a cheaper price because you aren't yet taking a wage from the business. Once you start doing work cheaply you will end up with nothing but customers who buy on price alone who will drop you as soon as someone offers something 60p cheaper. It's also very difficult to justify putting the prices up by anything more than a couple of quid once you do have to rely on the business for a living.

Customer must have some idea of budget, after all they must at least have some idea of what they think this work is worth.
Not much of a friend if they have also gone to 2 established sign companies as well, based on that I wouldn't treat them any differently from any other enquiry you get.
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Post Mon Feb 10, 2014 11:13 am

Thanks for the replies...

I emailed them on Friday and said that we aren't willing to provide designs with no guarantee of work, I gave them a rough estimate on the price of a half-wrapped vehicle and said that we will work with them to get a design that they are happy with included within the quoted price but we aren't willing to give away our ideas as they could be copied, not necessarily on their vehicles but by whoever happens to see the designs, and used on some future projects.

I too did it find it strange that they had no idea of budget?

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