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Author Topic: Free quotes and system design  (Read 4717 times)

Alex Thompson

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Free quotes and system design
« on: August 21, 2014, 08:59:41 am »

Hi all, I was wondering if anyone had a good idea on how to deal with this.

We do new installs and upgrades mostly for churches and use EASE + measurements of the current system to provide a complete recommendation on acoustic treatments and sound equipment upgrades.  When possible we will provide before and after coverage maps for SPL and STI.  To put it simply, we spend a lot of time producing a design.

I suspect a few potential customers may have been using me simply for a comparative quote (when they already had someone else in mind to do the work) or else to produce a design only to have another company install or do it themselves.

Almost everyone wants an itemized list and I feel it is necessary to provide it so the customer is able to make an informed decision.  I'm afraid sometimes my equipment list + detailed description of the proposed system is giving away too much.

What do other installers do to protect themselves from someone else using their designs?  Is charging for the initial consultation/ design work the only way?



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Alex Thompson
Joy Audio Visual, LLC
d.b.a. Central Ohio Sound
www.centralohiosound.com

John Roberts {JR}

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Re: Free quotes and system design
« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2014, 10:47:40 am »

Charge a fee for the review/design, that can be deducted from the final job. So they only pay for it if they don't use you to finish the job.

JR
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Alex Thompson

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Re: Free quotes and system design
« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2014, 01:30:07 pm »

Charge a fee for the review/design, that can be deducted from the final job. So they only pay for it if they don't use you to finish the job.

JR

I think you're right that this is the best way I'm just afraid I may lose some potential customers by making them pay upfront.  I guess if we all would charge for estimates

I have already started asking to be paid for mileage for the first visit for longer distance customers with some success.


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Alex Thompson
Joy Audio Visual, LLC
d.b.a. Central Ohio Sound
www.centralohiosound.com

Rob Spence

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Re: Free quotes and system design
« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2014, 02:40:52 pm »

I think you're right that this is the best way I'm just afraid I may lose some potential customers by making them pay upfront.  I guess if we all would charge for estimates

I have already started asking to be paid for mileage for the first visit for longer distance customers with some success.

I would not call it an estimate.

Sell your thoroughness. You are being hired to design an upgrade.
If they use you for the install, subtract the design work (or not). If they choose another installer, you have been paid for the design.

Perhaps they only get the detail design if they are paid up? Perhaps a conceptual along with recommended products but not a detailed bill of material?



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Hal Bissinger/COMSYSTEC

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Re: Free quotes and system design
« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2014, 05:16:45 pm »


Almost everyone wants an itemized list and I feel it is necessary to provide it so the customer is able to make an informed decision.  I'm afraid sometimes my equipment list + detailed description of the proposed system is giving away too much... only to have another company install or do it themselves.

Why do you think they want an itemized list? First is so that they have a "shopping list" and second so they can troll the net for lower prices and nickel and dime you to death so that you won't make a profit- assuming that they give you the job in the first place. My first rule is to NEVER itemize on a quotation. It's OK on the final invoice but don't give them fuel to go out and price shop or help the competition. And believe me they will show the competition your quote.

For the amount of work you put into a proposal (I agree, you shouldn't be calling it an estimate) you definitely should be charging something which could be credited to them when they give you the job.

-Hal
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Alex Thompson

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Re: Free quotes and system design
« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2014, 05:39:24 pm »

Why do you think they want an itemized list? First is so that they have a "shopping list" and second so they can troll the net for lower prices and nickel and dime you to death so that you won't make a profit- assuming that they give you the job in the first place. My first rule is to NEVER itemize on a quotation. It's OK on the final invoice but don't give them fuel to go out and price shop or help the competition. And believe me they will show the competition your quote.

For the amount of work you put into a proposal (I agree, you shouldn't be calling it an estimate) you definitely should be charging something which could be credited to them when they give you the job.

-Hal

An itemized equipment list is usually requested and I think the customer needs to know what they are getting, at least all the key components, before signing the contract.  I've NEVER had anyone try to negotiate the price of individual items (it may be regional/cultural thing of my area) and I always make enough profit to be worth my time.

I never itemize prices.  My service is priced as a whole package not individual pieces. I even avoid separating labor from equipment cost.  If they want to know what each item costs, I tell them MAP price for the bigger stuff and lump together all the miscellaneous cable, connectors, hardware, etc.

I think from now on I'll:
1.  Present potential customers very tactfully with a confidentiality agreement that they are not to share my designs/proposals/any other info from me with anyone outside their own organization.
2.  Give examples of previous designs with coverage maps, 3d simulations etc and offer to sell them their design (which will be deducted from the total cost of the job later), or give them a much less detailed quote for free.

I hope this sounds like a reasonable new method of bidding work.



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Alex Thompson
Joy Audio Visual, LLC
d.b.a. Central Ohio Sound
www.centralohiosound.com

Hal Bissinger/COMSYSTEC

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Re: Free quotes and system design
« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2014, 11:29:38 pm »

I never itemize prices.  My service is priced as a whole package not individual pieces. I even avoid separating labor from equipment cost.  If they want to know what each item costs, I tell them MAP price for the bigger stuff and lump together all the miscellaneous cable, connectors, hardware, etc.

That sounds good. I should have been more clear and said itemizing prices is not something you want to do.

-Hal
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Ivan Beaver

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Re: Free quotes and system design
« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2014, 07:29:45 am »

I guess part of the question is "what is considered "design""?

Providing a general equipment list and a price to install is one thing.

Providing a complete set of drawings is quite another.

Yes some people will 'steal a design" by purchasing the gear somewhere else and either installing it themselves or having somebody else install it.

HOWEVER just having the gear is a LONG WAY from having a working system that works properly.

If it is only about the gear-then the legit companies are going to lose.  But if it is about customer relationships-having a system that works well, is serviced well  etc, THEN there will be a difference.

It is VERY important for the customer to understand that what is being provided is a SOLUTION and gear is just PART of that solution.

When not installed/aligned properly-even the  best gear will fail to provide acceptable/good results.

But if it is only about price to the customer-then they will often end up paying more in the long run-and the whole time have less than optimum results from the gear.
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Scott Carneval

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Re: Free quotes and system design
« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2014, 01:28:16 pm »

I've had to deal with this quite a few times and unfortunately had to learn the hard way. I now charge a design fee that ranges from $500 to $2k, depending on the scope of the design and if they want EASE predictions, floor plans, rack diagrams, wiring diagrams, etc. This is typically deducted from the install price if they choose to go with me. 

If it's someone I've done business with in the past, then I'm typically more lenient. But if I spend a full day or even a couple days on a design, I expect to get paid. If the client comes to me with a design from someone else and just wants a bid, I may consider it, but I've yet to see a design from someone else that I haven't had to significantly modify. 
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Luke Geis

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Re: Free quotes and system design
« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2014, 02:29:17 pm »

Most companies deal with it by not providing part numbers and of course there is a fee for the design service. Basically there is no usable information given to the client unless they have paid for the service of having it.

The trick many clients do is just as you have mentioned. They have someone come in, design a system and then get all the part numbers and pricing. Then they turn around to their " friend in the sound business " or competitor and use that info to leverage a better deal.

The easy fix that I have seen with companies I work for is simple. You pay this much for the system design ( which includes blueprints ) and if you decide to use use us we will release the part numbers and per item cost. It keeps the client from getting pricing on specific items and of course without part numbers they have no way of knowing what the total cost is for. This way they cannot turn around and make a bidding war over it.
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Re: Free quotes and system design
« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2014, 02:29:17 pm »


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