Volume 37, Issue 7, July 2002

BUSINESSbasics

Bidding, Wishing and Chasing
        A Thing of the Past with Up-Front Contracts
by John Baker

The Up-Front Contract (UFC) can be a powerful tool to pre-qualify new prospects and save a great deal of time and energy while chasing new jobs and opportunities. The UFC may be used by a variety of glass industry companies including glass shop owners, estimators and project managers.

Before most sporting events, the umpire or referee usually meets with both team coaches to discuss the basic ground rules and possible conflicts before the game. At this time there is very little pressure or animosity and any expectations or differences are out on the table and resolved rationally—up front. 

Items to Specify in the UFC
Some of the items that can be clarified in your verbal up-front contract include:

    1. Time allotted for the meeting (30 minutes minimum);

    2. No interruptions (cell phones, secretaries, beepers, etc);

    3. Whether other decision-makers will be present;

    4. Whether it is OK to talk about money and budget issues.

You can see that this will force the issue and cause a percentage of your prospects to decline and avoid you—good! When do you want to find out if your prospect is really interested in doing business with you? Early? Or late in the game after you've put together a ten-page bid package with addendums, cut sheets and color samples?

Then there are the revisions, follow-up calls and multiple phone messages with no response. Although your number of prospects and shoppers will naturally decrease, the number of qualified buyers interested in meeting with you and learning about your glass business will increase with your closing ration rising sharply. 

Save Valuable Time
If you're like many in the glass industry, you probably spend an inordinate amount of time chasing prospects, driving all over town, doing take-offs, bidding, re-bidding and lowering prices (see April USGlass, page 16). Potential customers will seldom tell you to go away; rather, they will often bleed you for free consultation, get some good check figures to use against their current glass dealers, then start the dance (chase). 

Knowing all this going in allows you to fortify your position, ask a few questions and set a strong up-front contract. Some of these qualifying questions could be:

    1. With what glazing contractors do you currently work?

    2. What other criteria do you use other than low prices to select a glazing contractor?

    3. Will you have time to look at the job and discuss options?

    4. On a scale of one to ten, how interested are you in having a contract glazier on whom you can depend close up your building/project?

    5. If we prove to be an excellent glazing contractor, will there be future jobs and opportunities?

All you're really asking for is a clear-cut playing field, with a fighting chance when you meet a new prospect or start the bid process. 

Although the world is changing rapidly (ask Montgomery Ward and Encyclopedia Brittanica), tradition and customs have relegated the contract glazier to a bidding, wishing and chasing lifestyle. But it doesn't have to be this way. 

Just look at the Long Beach, Calif., glass shop owner who has cut down on his travel and chase time by simply using UFC's when dealing with prospects and new customers. He uses e-mails and faxes to quote and convey information, unless there is a real, dual benefit from meeting face-to-face.
Some of these new sales ideas are tough and counter-intuitive, but I challenge you to get stronger and give these a try. What do you have to lose? Just a few prospects that probably never intended to work with you 
anyway? 

 

JOHN BAKER John Baker is an instructor for the Sandler Sales Institute in Irvine, Calif. Baker has been involved in sales training for more than 15 years and has several years of experience working with companies in the glass industry. 


USG

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