The Numbers Game

Jun 22, 2023

             In sales, your closing percentage is a key tracked metric. Do I believe that closing percentage fully represents the salesman’s skills? No. Not in construction at least. There are so many factors that go in to a project being awarded like customer budget, timeline, the decision maker, etc. Especially if you do work for property management companies who represent the owners. Sometimes the owners live 10 states away and they are only selecting the lowest bid. No matter how much cologne you spray, hair gel you use, and nice your proposal is, you cannot always sway the decision maker who is purely cost-based.

               In my opinion, construction sales and estimating is purely a numbers game. It is very simple, the more bids you send out, the more jobs you will sell. This is why I think it is imperative as a estimator to perform a time audit on yourself to assess where you are wasting time. For me there were a few things I noticed that were time wasters. Some of those were driving to the office frequently, marking out jobs, and the constant bid adjustments.

               If you live in a large city like Denver, you understand how much time you have to factor in by sitting in traffic. As much as I hate to admit it, sitting in standstill traffic allowed me to stay on top of my email, calls and text messages. For me, my goal was to scope and send out as many proposals as possible. Everything I scoped, I would attempt to send the same day. What allowed me to do this was using my mobile hot spot. My truck was my mobile office. I would scope the project, would jump back in to my truck, pull out my laptop and fire up my hotspot. From there, I would complete the estimate there right on site. This worked effectively because I wasn’t wasting time driving around the city to and from the office just to complete the bids. My motto was, the more my truck tires are rotating, the more jobs I could scope & sell.

               Part of the many hats of an estimator is the handoff from sales to production. This handoff is when you provide all of the necessary documentation, scope of work, maps, pictures, etc. of a project so that you can set your production team up for a successful project. The goal is to have such a great hand off that anyone on the production side could easily pick up right where you left off with understanding the project needs based on how you estimated it. Part of our handoff was to mark out (literally spray paint) all the repair areas. We made it a company standard to have our jobs marked out 72 hours before the project started. For me, I already made a trip to the jobsite when I created the scope. Sometimes, I would have to make another one to the jobsite during the bidding process to meet with the customer. The LAST thing I wanted to do was to go back again to mark out the repair areas. So, I would mark out the repair areas WHILE I was on site. Indirectly, I noticed that this gave me the advantage to control the scope of work everyone would bid off. By doing this and notifying the customer, I essentially did the upfront leg work for them. This prevented the property manager from having to wait a month for all of the bids, review them, and realize they all are completely different scopes of work.

               I would be on a roll scoping jobs, cranking out estimates, and sending proposals. Then right in the middle of everything a customer would call asking me to remove a line item on a bid, or our crews would send pictures and would call stating they need a change order because the concrete is 6” thick, not 4” like I originally estimated. This isn’t necessarily a time waster, but it is for sure a momentum stopper. If enough of these change requests add up over a course of a few days, and not documented or taken care of immediately, they will fall through the cracks. This obviously will make your customers unhappy having to remind them of something you owe them. So I would stop what I was doing, where I was at, would pull out my hot spot and would make the adjustments or send the change order right away.

To reduce these inefficiencies, we put our heads together and decided to try a different strategy. We decided to create estimating micro teams. One estimator would be in his/her truck all day scoping jobs, meeting customers, and marking out jobs while the other estimator would be in the office in front of the computer all day cracking out estimates and proposals, making adjustments to proposals, sending change orders, and gathering all documentation for project handoffs. This simple adjustment allowed our sales team of four to send out over $115,000,000 in maintenance bids alone. Now, I know some of you are already thinking about how to structure commissions, customer communication, staffing problems, etc…It is up to you to figure out what will work best for you and your company.

               As an estimator, you and your processes can be your limiting factor to how much work you can sell in a year. Deciding what is most important for what you were hired to do (sell jobs) is crucial for your success. Estimating is a game of speed and efficiency while being able to juggle many different things at once. By cutting out unnecessary driving time to the office, to the job sites and working in micro teams can allow you to nearly double your sales production. 

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