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No, The Second Best Answer We Can Hear

Just about every day I receive a call asking for an estimate. Usually, I receive several. I do my best to gather information from the prospective customer and provide a "ball park" figure either right then, verbally, or within 15 minutes, via return call or text. I avoid RFP's (Request For Proposal) like the plague. Or should I say these days, like the Corona Virus?

I've learned in my 24 years since I got my first contractor's license, that most RFP's come from GC's (General Contractors) searching for the lowest price. Generally, they're for more complicated work. Proposals that requires a significant time investment going over plans and calculating labor costs and materials costs. Subcontractors are typically expected to offer, in a legally binding document, to not only do the work for the lowest price, but to basically donate their time preparing all the proposals for jobs that they aren't awarded.

No thanks! I'm not interested in competing to be the cheapest guy. The cheapest guy almost always, invariably lets everyone down. They can't afford to make any mistakes. They can't afford to do anything extra. They can't afford to purchase new equipment. They can't treat their employees "like family" as they all claim they will. A lot of them can't even afford to take weekends off. They just don't have the money for any of it. Why they are even contractors in the first place is beyond me. I know this: many won't be contractors for long. According to the Small Business Administration there are about 100,000 small businesses started each year. One in five will fail within the very first year. Fifty percent don't make it to five years. That's a quarter of a million businesses started and shut down in five years! What are they all doing wrong? A lot, I'm sure. We can be pretty sure they're all mismanaging money: things like focusing on constantly trying to be one of the lowest bidders responding to RFP's. Live by RFP, die by RFP. R.I.P.

So what do we do instead? Something needs to be in writing, right? Right! The contract. When you call Mesa Masonry LLC, I will generally offer you a conditional estimate verbally, very quickly, contingent on a site visit to confirm materials, site conditions, access, etc.. Once I've provided the estimate I will ask if this price is acceptable? I'm not obligating anyone to any kind of verbal contract here. I want to know if the customer can't pay us what we need to be paid. The best answer to this question, is obviously, "Yes!" The second best answer, isn't quite as obvious. "No!" Hearing "no" really is the second best answer I can get to the question, "Is this price range acceptable?" If you can't or won't pay me what I need to be paid, there's not much else to discuss, right? We can both thank the other and move on.

As counterintuitive as this may sound, when you call me for an estimate, I try to make it as easy as possible for you to tell me "no" as soon as possible. If my price is going to prevent any possibility of a signed contract, let's get that figured out right away. I also try to quickly look for reasons for my own "no." I'll ask when, where, what questions. When does this need to be done by? Where is this job site? What are you building? With what materials? If we are going to be a poor fit for your project, regardless how much you're willing to pay us, we want to get to our own no quickly in the conversation. Getting to a quick no, I have learned, is excellent customer service. And it's free!

When you call Mesa Masonry LLC, you can expert a straight-forward answer to your request for pricing information. One thing I can not stand is when someone trying to sell me something won't tell me the price until I tell them how much I am willing to spend. Man, that aggravates me. Recently I received a call from an SEO optimization company. I usually just hang up, but for some reason this time, I listened. I know my website isn't slick and professional. I know I could use some professional advice on how to improve it's effectiveness and reach. So I listened to their pitch. It sounded good. I said as much. Then the guy asked me, "how much do you have budgeted for SEO?" I said, "I don't have anything budgeted for SEO. How much is it?" This began a back and forth with him trying to pry a dollars-per-month figure I'd be willing to pay for their services. This guy refused to give me any indication of a minimum engagement price. I stayed patient and reiterated that I'm just a small time contractor with a small time web site, asking what is the smallest amount that is worth their time? At this point I could have thrown out a number, but I decided not to just on principal. I don't know why, after probably buying my information off a list, after calling me multiple times, after spending 30 minutes on the phone selling me, why they don't have packages and pricing to offer. I finally gave up and said "if you're not going to make me an offer, I guess I'm hanging up." His response? "I don't know your budget, go ahead and make me an offer." I sat silent for about 10 seconds, shaking my head, and hung up. He's never called back or messaged me. THE POINT of this story: I won't pull this B.S. with my customers. My prices are based on my costs based on my expenses. If you believe the value matches or exceeds the price, as I do, no need for any fancy sales techniques.

Final thought; "NO is a complete sentence. It does not require an explanation to follow. You can truly answer someone's request with a simple No." Sharon E. Rainey

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