As follow up to my blog post, “What Electrical Estimators Want, Part 1: The Bid,” I want to now take a look at the post-bid.
After you’ve turned in your proposal, your follow up and responsiveness is critical to building a relationship of trust and respect with an electrical estimator. Face it: you probably aren’t going to win your first bid with an electrical contractor. However, even if you don’t win, each bid is an opportunity to build a stronger relationship that is based on much more than your ability to provide a number.
First, it’s fine to call an estimator a few days after the bid date to see how things are going. At this point, you might get some feedback on your proposal or some questions if your number seemed to be out of line with the other bidders. They will appreciate that you took the time to follow up, but don’t expect a lot of comments on the content or details of your proposal. At this stage, they probably haven’t looked at your proposal for much more than the price. It’s also likely that they’ve shifted their focus to the next bid that is due; such is the endless work cycle of estimators.
Unless the bid was a public opening, the estimator probably has very little feedback on how their number compares to other electrical contractors. They probably won’t have any real clue until the general contractor calls them in for a post-bid or de-scope meeting. The purpose of a de-scope meeting is for the general contractor to be sure they are comparing apples to apples when reviewing all of the electrical bids. This could take one week, two weeks, or even longer, depending on the size of the project and the urgency to get the electrical scope under contract.
If the general contractor is looking seriously at an electrical contractor, there will always be follow up questions that come out of a de-scope meeting. The general contractor will ask the estimator to double-check specifications, verify scope, break out line items, etc. They always need something and will give extremely short deadlines to respond.
This is your opportunity to be as helpful as possible. If you hear from an electrical estimator after their de-scope meeting, that’s a positive sign. Clear off your desk, put everything else on hold and respond to their requests as quickly as possible. Their questions are part of an important list they need to submit to stay in the game. If you don’t give them an answer fast enough, they’ll move on to your competitor. They will also judge the quality of your responsiveness during the de-scope phase as an indication of what it would be like to actually work with you during the project.
This is also when any non-standard exclusions or omissions that you had in your proposal could come back to haunt you and reflect poorly on the electrical estimator. Now they will be reviewing your proposal in detail and looking for any errors or exclusions that could become a liability. For example, if you excluded the cable installation or included unacceptable product alternates, it’s going to come up. During the de-scope, the last thing an electrical contractor wants to do is inform a general contractor that a price is going up because something was missed. If it’s because of something you missed, it’s going to reduce the chances that you’ll be asked for another proposal in the future.
At the end of the de-scope process, even if they aren’t awarded the project, the electrical estimator will remember the responsive bidders who gave them a complete, on-time, and easy to read proposal. If they are fair and your price is competitive, eventually your companies will find the right opportunity to work together on a project. So, hang in there, answer their questions (no matter how bizarre) and you’ll quickly become a go-to AV bidder.
Jimi Gonzales was raised in the systems integration industry and currently manages the technologies division of Ion Electric, a large electrical contractor based in South Florida.