A good electrical estimator is a master at unlocking opportunities for their clients.
You play a key role in the tender process, the gateway to potentially lucrative contracts for your (or your client’s) company. With this is mind, your client wants to know they’ve made a safe bet in hiring you.
Is their project in good hands? There are a few things that your clients look for to reassure them of this and it’s important to keep these in mind if you’re to be successful.
Let’s take a look at some of the top things your clients really want out of their project:
#1. Good communication
There’s nothing less reassuring than leaving your project in the hands of someone who goes silent. Communication might be a “soft skill” compared to your knowledge and experience in the industry, but it’s also considered one of the most important skills within any type of electrical or construction project.
Your client isn’t necessarily in need of constant updates, but it’s a good idea to figure out at the start of the project what they need from you and their preferred communication methods. Do what is needed to open appropriate lines of communication, including engaging with project stakeholders or subcontractors.
There has been a view in the past from electrical estimators that they just want to get their head down and get on with the job. You could, sure, but look at it this way; if you want your company to get offered the opportunity to submit a tender next time, or, if you want the client who has hired you to do so again, you’ve got to do what you can to create a good impression. Soft skills like communication play a big role in that impression. Given a choice next time, a client will probably lean towards whoever did communicate well because that would have helped to build a relationship with them.
It is widely acknowledged that communication is key, possibly the key to success on construction projects, as reported by Ventura Consulting:
“Communication, or how we express our positions, interpretations and requests is the key to success on construction projects. This is not theory. It has been proven. A Harvard Business Review article about a study at MIT’s Human Dynamic’s Laboratory showed that communication was not only the number one predictor for success above all other variables—more than education, experience, etc.—but that certain modes of communication were more effective and led to higher degrees of success than others.”
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What is the impact of a late estimation?
For starters, your client may be left scrambling to have a tender in on time. Just one day late might not sound like much, but it can make a huge difference. If the client is then late in submitting their proposal, more often than not they can say goodbye to any prospect of winning the tender.
The other possibility is that there is a rush to put the tender proposal together, meaning that there is insufficient time to check it properly. If errors in timelines or costing were to be submitted, this could either cost the company the tender, or cost them when they have to honour their initial low estimate.
There’s an old saying often used in aviation and military circles which applies: “early is on time, on time is late.” Your client expects timeliness so it’s a good idea to set yourself up to exceed expectations. If you can do so successfully, along with providing clear and accurate documents, you should find yourself on their “preferred list” for future projects.
#3. High work standards
High work standards, accuracy and timeliness all tend to go hand-in-hand. Your client wants to know that you’ve done everything possible to maintain accuracy throughout because the consequences of mistakes can be very destructive to a company.
EC&M discusses the potential problems associated with inaccurate estimates:
“One of the negative outcomes of a bad estimate is “killer jobs.” You know the ones — those jobs that can single-handedly make the difference in a year-end profit or loss, result in tarnished relationships with employees, customers, and vendors, and sometimes even bring a company to its knees.”
Poor estimates are often a main culprit behind “killer jobs”, but EC&M advocate that estimators can improve their accuracy by mining data from previous jobs and learning over time, or “job performance-based accuracy.” They state that “comparing the estimated versus actual achieved profits from past jobs is the first step of data mining.”
Counting take-offs is just one part of the job where accuracy is required (and you can virtually eliminate counting errors by using automated software, such as Countfire). You need to have accurate estimations for labour and all other costs too, so it’s a good idea to keep reviewing jobs so that you can find ways to improve next time.
An estimator with high standards checks processes on site and ensures that they have an accurate picture of what the job entails. Sometimes it’s hard to get that from drawings alone, especially as there may be missing details. You may find that there is more scope to the project than initial appearances.
“Estimating a project blindly is like purchasing a used car without “test driving” it.” – Qualified Remodeler.
#4. Reliable supply chain
It’s not just about you and your own work standards, but those of any subcontractors and suppliers you use too. Your clients want to know that a reliable supply chain is working on their project and doing their best to provide high quality services in a timely manner.
If you’ve recommended or brought on the suppliers, then it’s going to come back on you if they don’t prove to be reliable. Another key “soft skill” that successful electrical estimators need to help with this is an ability to build relationships. Get to know the right people and develop a rapport with them. Your clients will love it if they can get a “package deal” of quality contractors.
#5. They want to win
Well of course, an absolute key part of your job is to help your company or client win lucrative electrical tenders. If you can be quicker and more accurate than the next estimator, you’re going to the top of the pile.
It’s not just about winning the tender, but doing so with a bid that actually turns into a profitable project for the company. As we looked at, your client doesn’t want to end up with a “killer job” on their hands – that wouldn’t be winning by anyone’s standards.
We wrote an article recently about the key elements of a winning electrical tender, but one extra thing we would highlight here is that it can come down to your own professionalism and integrity. Construction is a big industry, but there is still a lot of work awarded on a reputational or “who you know” basis. Be a networker and make sure you’re known for quality work. This can certainly help with winning tenders.
Factors that go into winning might include:
As an electrical estimator, it helps to think about projects with a client-centric focus – that is, from the perspective of your client or electrical company. Consider what they really want from a project so that you are better able to provide a successful result.
A real “win” for your client is when they can not only win the electrical tender, but come away with a profitable project because all estimations were accurate.
Be accurate and timely, but also work on those “soft skills” such as communication and building relationships. These can make you stand out as a “preferred provider.”