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Customer wants quote for a sign. Has no design or specs

Discussion in 'Sales, Marketing, Pricing Etc.' started by signmeup, Nov 29, 2009.

  1. signmeup

    signmeup Major Contributor

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    I have recieved an email from a potential client who wants a sign. This is pretty typical of the sort of inquireys that I get. Here is the message with his particulars edited out:

    Greetings,

    I would like to get a quote on a exterior sign for a new business.
    Basically 1.5 x 8' , white border, navy blue background and gold
    letters. "*********Clinic Ltd."., I would need a sketch to
    present to the town of ******ville before proceeding with the order.
    Dimensions open to your opinions. We would need it ASAP.


    I am guessing he has no logo or design as none was mentioned and that all the local sign shops have received this same email. I would like to respond in such a way that he ends up useing my services for designing his logo and subsequently his sign, business cards, stationery etc. In the past I have just sent a sketch and a price for my best guess as to what they want (and can afford) but I have got to stop doing that and start making money and wasting less time. I also hate seeing my ideas on someones sign that I didn't make.

    Here is what I have for a responce so far:

    Bob,

    I will need a little more detail before I can give you a quote. Can you send
    me a picture of your logo so I can get an idea of the "look" you are going
    for and how I might incorporate it into a sign? What is the project's
    budget?


    How can I work in that I want to be paid for comming up with this sketch for the town. Note that he needs something good enough to get the towns approval so he can get the required permits, not just some scibbles on a napkin.

    I know I should have figured this out five years ago but better late than never, right?
     
    Tags:
  2. FatCat

    FatCat Very Active Member

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    Personally, I would prefer to talk to a person directly on the phone to get a feel for the entire situation before proceeding.

    Bob,

    I appreciate the consideration for your upcoming sign project. In order to submit a detailed and accurate quote I will need more information regarding the specs of your sign. Please give me a call and we can discuss all of the variables in detail.

    Thank you.
     
  3. CES020

    CES020 Very Active Member

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    Also let him know it's more than "what's your budget", it's "what's your budget, because there are many options and I'd like to present you with the options that best fit your budget" type of discussion. That way you are asking for the budget so you can HELP him rather than asking for his budget so you can run your price right up to his budget.
     
  4. signmeup

    signmeup Major Contributor

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    Thanks Fatcat....that sounds better than what I wrote.

    CES020 that's a good line too. I thought we were supposed to run the price right up to their budget?
     
  5. signmeup

    signmeup Major Contributor

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    How's this:

    I appreciate the consideration for your upcoming sign project. In order to submit a detailed and accurate quote I will need more information regarding the specs of your sign. Can you send me a picture of your logo so I can get an idea of the "look" you are going for and how I might incorporate it into a sign?
    What is the project's budget? There are many options and I'd like to present you with the options that best fit your budget"


    I really want to ask him about his logo because I'm pretty sure he doesn't have one and I would like to start out by offering to design one for him. The rest is easy once he knows that design isn't free. I can also design him a logo that can be used to make a sign instead of something with lots of odd fills and special effects. There are a lot of carved and gilded signs in his town and I kind of like that sort of work.
     
  6. imagep

    imagep Active Member

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    Reminds me of the "how much do you charge to print tshirts" question that we average getting 5 times a week. I ask them how many, they respond "depends on how much you charge". I have gotton so tired of playing that game I have started telling people "well, we are in a mexican standoff then, I cant give you a price because the price depends on the quantity".

    The truth is that customers who ask that question almost NEVER place an order. All they are doing is placing games. If someone wants tshirts, they know how many they need, or at least about how many they need.

    I played that game with a guy a few months ago, and he said "100", I took him to be perfectly serious and gave him a quote for 100. He actually got mad at me and said I was being a smart arse and stomped out. The only thing I can think of is that he actually thought that 100 was a ludicrisly high quantity (like he only really needed three or four) and he thought he was being funny when he said "100". Our average order is probably well in excess of 100.

    Had another guy come in two weeks ago and wanted business cards. When I asked him if he had a logo or a particular type style that he had been using he just looked at me kind of befuddled and said "I am starting up this business". Now we really dont make any money on business cards, it is honestly a waste of our time unless people are going to order something else, we just offer business cards as a convienience to our customers. So I said "if you are starting a business you are going to need a lot more than business cards, you are going to also need invoices and letter head and envelopes, you are going to need company tshirts printed, you are going to need graphics on your vehicles, you are going to need advertising specialty items printed so that you can promot your business". We have a seperate order form for most everything we offer, so I gathered up one order form for each of those items and gave them to him and told him after he fills them out we will work with him on coming up with a company identity package with a logo and standard formats to use for advertising. The guy said "thank you" and never came back. Mission accomplished.
     
  7. iSign

    iSign Major Contributor

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    Adrian,
    I feel your pain... I get that same vague inquiry... and getting it in email is even worse in some ways... this person has now "invested" all of 5 minutes in the potential business relationship... unless as you suggest, they sent it to 10 shops... now he's invested 30 seconds in you...


    ...and you're supposed to read his mind, or state all the obvious questions he hasn't answered, so you can train him how to order a sign up the street?

    It frustrates me too, and like ImageP says, the more vague & tire-kicker the mentality, the less I ever end up getting the work...

    I've gotten to the point of not investing a lot of time in people who don't invest a lot in me, yet I try to be careful not to come off disinterested, just busy...

    I might tell your client:

    I do basic building signs from $500, although we often do much more elaborate signs too.

    Design & permit applications are harder to quote, so I would need to meet to discuss these.

    If you have a design for the specific size, shape & material choices for your sign, I can provide a more formal quote in writing.

    If you don't have a design yet, feel free to stop in to discuss the project. We offer a free 10 minute consultation to go over the options we offer, and identify your specific needs, and the message you need to communicate & who you are trying to reach, as well as any criteria specific to the proposed location of your sign. That should be enough time to establish a design budget & if you wish to proceed we will accept a design deposit & get some sketches drawn up.

    By throwing in a low price at first, the price shoppers still have you on their list, but by separating out the design, you can end up selling them on the merits of $500 just in design work, even if they end up wanting a 3x8 flat MDO sign for $500..

    And I get in there that a FREE personal consultation will be needed to establish more detailed price quotes, because i find if I get someone in my shop, they have invested something, & if I really got the goods (an impressive shop with samples & a portfolio, & the sales skills to build confidence & trust) ...I seem to have good conversion rates on closing the sale.

    It also leaves open the possibility that they only have to purchase design work now, and only pay a design deposit now. This works in 2 ways... spending less money today creates less resistance for the client... AND, you are more free to leave the door open for a much more expensive sign, based on the design work.. they migh leave thinking they will buy a $500 sign... but once the design is done (and paid for) ...you might show them some elaborate sign production options, that cost 3 or 4 times what your low end option was... BUT you have already made them proud with a new design, and you can explain how the sign will last 10 years will PAY FOR ITSELF!... and a more expensive sign, is a more EFFECTIVE sign, and will often pay for itself FASTER, and will pay for itself many times over the several years a higher quality sign will last!
     
  8. CES020

    CES020 Very Active Member

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    Nothing wrong with pushing to their budget, but some people get very offended it you outright ask them for their budget, as they can typically be purchasing agents and part of their creed is that you don't give vendors pricing information, you make them all quote and you pick the one that best fits your time/price requirements.

    By asking them their budget, you've immediately put them in the mode of "this guy is going to screw me", so they can tend to give you a false number. Keeping in mind, there are honest people out there that will freely give you the right information. However, if you play the game and tell them you need the information so you can better fit their needs and make sure that you are quoting the best solution for their needs, then you become a trusted adviser on the project and they look to you for help and advice. That's a step the guy that emails a price back will never get, so it can give you a leg up.

    I think Doug's nailed the approach and wording.
     
  9. Craig Sjoquist

    Craig Sjoquist Major Contributor

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    thinks fatcat said it best , meaning few words are better with no prices, but making sure they see 3 tiers of ways this sign project could go
    by showing your pictures of your fine work and what a good design can do VS poorly cheaper project ..clinics can afford the better job and will pay for it
    will help in finding budget then you can relate 3 tiers of pricing , also going one step at a time being internet find, they are price shopping more then quality shopping
     
  10. Craig Sjoquist

    Craig Sjoquist Major Contributor

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    thinks fatcat said it best , meaning few words are better with no prices, but making sure they see 3 tiers of ways this sign project could go
    by showing your pictures of your fine work and what a good design can do VS poorly cheaper project ..clinics can afford the better job and will pay for it
    will help in finding budget then you can relate 3 tiers of pricing , also going one step at a time being internet find, they are price shopping more then quality shopping
     
  11. signmeup

    signmeup Major Contributor

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    Thanks Doug. You summed up the problem very nicely. I suspect there isn't a single member of this forum that hasn't been there/done that with customer inquiries that end up as time wasted/design/idea rip-offs. Not saying this guy isn't sincere...he may well be.

    I'm planning on putting together a "canned " responce that I can tweak a few words or phrases in and send out when I get emails like this. I need to steer it towards the notion that I get paid to make designs and proposals without scaring off the potential client. I would never spend this much effort on a single email but if I can save it as a word doc and paste it into an email I think it will be time well spent. I think I will be able to put together a rather decent responce by combining the three excellent suggestions I have received thus far. Even if I don't actually cut and paste it into the email I can at least read it to refresh my memory as to what I need to say.
     
  12. iSign

    iSign Major Contributor

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    Years ago, I attended one of Dan Antonelli's workshops at the USSC show in Atlantic City. I believe it was about selling website design, but some of the information could help selling anything.

    One of the comments I've always remembered was about this topic you just brought up.

    Dan mentioned how the budget is of critical importance, so he asks... but those chickenshit paranoid folks (my words, not his) who can't have a genuine conversation with someone trying to help them will act like this is privileged information.. so Dan simply stated that he picks a (high) number out of thin air & says, we can't discuss this without a baseline... so lets just use $3000 for example, to discuss your project... "Oh no, we were thinking more like $1500 - $1800" they interrupt ...OK, now we have a number Dan says, with a laugh! ...great line in the class... and a great concept I think.. I honestly don't recall if I ever used it exactly like that, but i never forgot it either.
     
  13. signmeup

    signmeup Major Contributor

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    Yup....you nailed it. I see this as a separate problem. But I can't quote what doesn't exist.

    I run into this all the time. People want quotes on yet to be determined designs with no specs. (wait a sec...that's the same problem) If they had a real project they could then shop it around to a few reputable shops and get a real quote on what they need. But they are cheap (or don't know any better) and won't pay for a proper design and spec sheet so they wander around lost hopeing several sign shops will design something they like for free so they can go with the best free design/cheapest fabricator.

    Craig is also onto something that needs to be addressed. I need a "good, better, best" illustration to send out so people can get some idea of what things cost. The "signexpert" documents come to mind.

    I want to be a design and fabrication company. Not "just" a sign maker.
     
  14. onesource

    onesource Very Active Member

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    He is just making the basic........ investment and will have to invest, don't feel obligated by manipulation. Charge him something fair and move on.
     
  15. CES020

    CES020 Very Active Member

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    Also remember, there's no way to tell the difference in someone that's holding info out and budget shopping and someone that is just unaware of what it takes. They both sound the same in the beginning, but one of them just doesn't know and will appreciate your help and education, and caring about his/her business, and you'll build a great customer from it.

    I've had totally clueless people call and found out later, they had big projects and they just didn't know. They weren't sign people, and someone dumped a project on them and they're sinking. If you can help them from sinking and make them look successful, you'll be in good shape.

    But they do sound the same as stupid people in the beginning :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2009
  16. Deaton Design

    Deaton Design Very Active Member

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    Just be hopeful he doesnt tell you his wife will handle all the details...lol.
     
  17. signmeup

    signmeup Major Contributor

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    Groan..... been there/done that.:rolleyes:
     
  18. signmeup

    signmeup Major Contributor

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    Here's what I sent. Short and sweet.

    I appreciate the consideration for your upcoming sign project. Can you
    please send me a picture of your design and a list of specifications,
    materials, etc. so that I can provide you with a detailed and accurate
    quote?


    I'll let you know what happens next.
     
  19. iSign

    iSign Major Contributor

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    my fear is someone else will say "from $500" ...and 2 other someone's will say $700, or $900... and he will choose the low bidder, and ignor the guy who wanted him to do homework before giving a price...


    ...and CES020 is on the money about the stupid sounding people falling in 2 camps... one you can do well with, and one you can't... but hard to tell the difference at first.

    Anyway, good luck with your response.
    Looking forward to your follow up report!
     
  20. signmeup

    signmeup Major Contributor

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    I'm hoping he is sincere and responds with "I don't have a design" so I can extol the virtues of having a proper logo, offer to design him one etc.

    I know he's been to my website because of the email address he used to contact me so he's seen my work. I don't think any of the other shops in my area have websites with any pictures of their work on them(!) so I may have a leg-up there.

    If I get a responce I will post it up. Thanks for the help.
     
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