View Full Version : Quoting over the Phone.
2004-10-07, 11:08 PM
With all the excitment of Revit 7.0, let's see if I get any responses!
Where I live, Architecture and Design has been loosely regulated for who requires qualifications for the design of housing and small buildings. (It all changes in July thankfully!) The problem is, almost anyone with a stolen CAD program is creating working drawings for housing during the weekend (their real job is usually at a factory.)
Most of my clientel is by referral. However, I do often get cold calls from people looking for services. Their first question is how much? This drives me batty!!! I know if I can get them into my office to see that they're not comparing apples to apples then the project would be mine. I usually try to convince them to set up a meeting at no obligation. Then I can educate them about the differences and what they are getting for their money.
I am finding myself selling my services over the phone which isn't something I enjoy doing.
Does anyone else have this problem? If so, what do you do?
2004-10-07, 11:43 PM
Les, are you a member of the OAA?
Les, the problem is global! and has been for years. My first reaction to that is that you did not want them as clients anyway. For me any new client creates the possibility of a new relationship and then I ask the question - do I want to spend the next week, month, year in this relationship - working with them on their project.
If I cannot say yes honestly, then I don't take the commission. The funny thing is that the more I use this as the first test, the more contacts that are made that are successful.
The next thing that I do is to (not tell them the price - because I have no idea what they want and in most cases nor do they) get them to talk about what it is that they want to do and why. I then arrange a meeting at their office or house etc and meet face to face - that is when I really decide whether I want to work with them. If I decide to work with them then I talk about what needs to be done to solve the issue that they face - in other words flesh our a scope of services they require and then I can discuss fees.
They understand the process they need to go through but they also see that I am there to help them get to where they want to go.
However the solution is wider than selecting a relationship.
The medium in front you is a powerful marketing tool. Build a web site to display your work; provide information and enable people to make enquiries via the site - get them connect to you.
Use yellow pages - linked to the web site. Exhibit your work at local display centres in conjunction with co-professionals - we are at the end of Architecture Week here in Oz – and that national event (each year) gives me an opportunity to exhibit project boards with other members in defined forums and to meet potential clients through publicised forums – like talk with an architect for 15 minutes which is organised through Archicentre ( a small practice division of the RAIA) http://www.archicentre.com.au.
Get the local paper to publish your work (in a weekend edition) and the work of others of your professional group - when the column becomes a known resource for building, design and environmental information (and that may take a year or so) people will refer to it and use it as an information source - when in reality (for you) it is a medium to get you in front of them.
What I am saying is that when the phone is the primary medium for client contact and price is nearly always the discussion point, it can get pretty frustrating and disappointing. However if you have other means of being contacted and you become an integral and indispensable part of someone's project, the possibility of getting contracts that don't rely on phone calls about fees, increases.
Les we are all in the same game. Just play it with fun and in a variety of styles and enjoy it no matter how the play goes. :smile: :smile:
2004-10-08, 01:09 AM
Unfortunately, No. I am a member of the AATO (architectual technologist). We're not very popular with the OAA at the moment. LOL.
I totally understand what you are saying. I am already doing all those things, however I will disagree slightly about wanting that particular client. In most cases it is true that I wouldn't want them anyways. I am pretty good at filtering the troublesomes. However, since people are accustomed to getting "plans" from many different outlets, they really are not educated in the differences between qualified and unqualified designers. They do not understand that the difference in price is ALL the difference! They think "if they're designing then the must be qualified". I can tell by their voices that they're simply naive to the whole thing. They may be great clients that just need a little grooming and guidance!
I've been messing with the website idea for too long. I've got it all designed......I just haven't given the Webdesigner any money to go ahead!
It just stumps me how people plan on spending $500 000.00 - $2 000 000.00 on their project and skimp on the design. I could easily save them the difference in the design fees by the way the project will be constructed. Why can't we live in an intelligent world!!! :-)
Les, IMO the world is about as intelligent as it is going to get - unless we can change peoples basic responses. :banghead:
Houses are items that embody emotions - in all areas. Needs, wants and dreams + status (and a notion around respect!!! - I don't get that one but it creates clients in the upper socio economic echelons of Perth) and most clients (usually) want something 30 - 50% bigger or more expensive than they can manage financially! :screwy:
These days I feel it is one of those conditions that I have to wear as part of the job!!
By treating the client as a person within a relationship the project becomes a by-product of that relationship and those phone calls (that can twist me around if I was to let them) don't bite as much!! It is probably just a defense mechanism - but there it is!!
2004-10-08, 04:43 AM
Unfortunately, No. I am a member of the AATO (architectual technologist). We're not very popular with the OAA at the moment. LOL.Out here in BC the AT's write an exam to get certified by the AIBC. The exam is all about how to be the noble sidekick of the architect and not even remotely encroach on the scope of the architect. The grand neurosis of it all is that UBC's M.Arch doesn't teach architects to do their job in the first place: they'll learn All That Other Stuff on the job. (Or get the AT's to do it -- not only are they taught about construction: they're usually fine CAD monkeys, too.)
Seems architects from elsewhere have a broader education... I've known a few who have told me that their faculties taught design and construction side by each. The firm I'm helping with Revit at present do the most outlandish designs... and get them built because they are evaluating constructability from square one. The sinuous curves they like to use are evaluated in Rhino and sliced and diced and physical models are made and mock-ups are built outside the office.
Until the local U's wake up and start talking shop, the practice of architecture will continue to be eroded by (and depend upon) AT's and others who get the buildings designed and documented.
2004-10-08, 04:49 AM
By treating the client as a person within a relationship the project becomes a by-product of that relationship and those phone calls (that can twist me around if I was to let them) don't bite as much!! It is probably just a defense mechanism - but there it is!!It's also good business practice. Residential architecture is a tortuous business in my experience and I respect anyone who has the patience and wits to make a living doing it.
A good understanding of human nature is critical in these practices. Those who are successful in this genre probably have become so because they understand how to handle the human beast (and their spouse) :mrgreen:
Wes - mainly their spouses. If the spouse is happy the client (read payer) is usually happy.
2004-10-08, 08:58 AM
It is not so different here in the UK. I have done a lot of small scale residential work over recent years, though thankfully in the last two years the practice has moved away from doing that and I do much less of that work.
It has never been a great money maker for me because it is difficult to pin down client's expectations and how one is going to deliver on those expectations. Particularly where, working in outer London, people are so often trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot and I can expect to go through many more iterations than are really needed, just to demonstrate to someone that Option 2 was best - as I had told them in the first place. I have also begun to take great umbrage at 'Well, I asked a friend of mine who is a builder...' because it is never couched in terms of 'I asked a friend of mine who is a builder, who's knowledge of current Building Regulations is shaky, has a slender grasp of planning controls in my borough, likes to take the easiest route, shows scant regard for Party Wall legislation and has told me it will cost half what it will really cost because he thought I wanted to hear that....' but which is almost inevitably the case.
I'll go get another coffee...
2004-10-08, 10:47 AM
I can totally relate! LOL (sorry, couldn't resist!)
It's funny how people use the builder as guidance. I try to tell them (without insulting the builder) that he/she only follows plans. Created by us of course. Sure they may sometimes have good ideas. However, I try to make the client realise that it's a biased opinion, since the opinion is often based on the fact that they do not know how to... or are trying to control their costs. We are the ones creating the ideas and telling them how to construct it.
Most of the registered architects around here are too busy doing larger projects, so therefore pass the residential projects onto me. I have specialized in housing for over 13 years. They can't touch me when competing with price or experience. It's not because I'm setting low fees. It just that since it's all that I do, I am much more efficient to get the job done. As far as being a technologist goes, well I should have been an architect! I was one of those who went to college as opposed to university and not knowing the differences until it was too late. Life began to happen from there. Wife, kids..... I often think of b-lining my educational requirements but I am fairly well established and getting older as I speak. Besides the field of architecture seems to be getting scarier by the minute!! It's such a hot/cold industry. Then again, I guess it probably always has been.
Sorry, I seem to be rambling.
2004-10-13, 03:26 AM
Design unfortunately is a service which has an intangible value, we can’t say you will be 25% happier or even that your design will be it necessarily be better than someone else (although we might like to think so) It is therefore by definition a difficult thing to sell. I agree with Ian (ITA) that price should not be the focus over the phone but you should have at least strategies in place to deal with such calls rather than being caught ‘flat footed’ and trying to out bid yourself. I try first to find out to whom, I am talking, name address, phone number etc, basic I know! This then positions you to take the front foot “may I send you an information pack about my firm and services I provide…………..and examples of my work?” At least this way your potential client has something tangible other than price which you can follow up by either phone call or actual meeting later on. My personal philosophy is: To design well you need to understand the problem well and I don’t think it is just accident that often clients become good friends. These are people that will spend serious time with so there has to be a connection with/relationship as ITA suggests. I remember a former client that suggested a sum of money which he would be comfortable to pay for the design of his residence, my reply was “do you really want to live the rest of your life in a house that only took twenty minutes to design?” Needless to say his answer was no.
2004-10-13, 10:25 AM
Good reply. thanks!
2004-10-13, 12:56 PM
I was one of those who went to college as opposed to university and not knowing the differences until it was too late. Life began to happen from there. Wife, kids..... I often think of b-lining my educational requirements but I am fairly well established and getting older as I speak.Les, have you ever thought of the Minimum Syllabus Program through the RAIC? That's the route I've been on... gets you the education you need to get a stamp, but by distance education. Beats student loans!
2004-10-13, 03:13 PM
I've never heard of this. Tell me more!
2004-10-13, 04:56 PM
Try looking at this thread re: the syllabus program
Keep in mind that this route is not for the faint of heart. It's a long haul and requires a great deal of patience and perseverance.
2004-10-13, 05:26 PM
"..requires a great deal of patience and perseverance."
Hey that's me like you have no idea!
Thanks for the info. I will look into it!
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