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Estimating the right way

BY Andy Carlo

Phoenix — Chances are you’re not using a rotary phone when discussing business with customers.

Technology has improved by leaps and bounds in the past decade with just about everyone carrying a smart device in their pocket. The same can be said with how dealers can complete an estimate for builders.

Neil Faulkner, a 25-year-veteran of the LBM industry and a technology representative with MiTek, challenged dealers to use the latest technology to improve their bottom line while providing an excellent sales vehicle.

“The industry as a whole is using technology. Your customer as a whole is getting younger and much more comfortable using technology,” Faulkner told a room full of dealers at the 2017 Pro Dealer Industry Summit

“Technology can be part of the sale process for engaging customers.”

Faulkner began his career doing estimates with a pen, paper, and a ruler before embracing Excel at its advent. But he compares the use of Excel when estimating to a smart ruler. Today’s 3D imaging programs create 3D models of projects while actually counting the objects in a takeoff. And it’s not relegated to just studs.

“3D imaging is figuring out siding totals along with openings in the house,” Faulkner explained. “The programs provide instant feedback that can then be exported into a POS system.”

Today’s estimating and takeoff technology also provides and avenue for a bigger quote and bigger sale. “Lumber is your gateway. But why are you only quoting lumber? You should be quoting trim and drywall,” Faulkner told dealers.

A key byproduct of the programs is cutting down on material waste as well.

While some customers might be value-driven, others might be relationship driven. “The lumber price across the board is going to be the same. So, let’s make your estimate and the service you provide the best value for the customer,” Faulkner says. “Ultimately it’s the lowest cost to the bottom line they are looking for with the most accurate quotes and delivery system while reducing your number of deliveries and shortages that affect the bottom line.”

“It shouldn’t be the complete cost of materials. It should be the materials with an accurate and complete takeoff that you deliver to your customer.”

Training the right personnel to use the system is pivotal as well. As key employees reach the age of retirement their estimating knowledge might be walking out the door with them. Faulkner urges dealers to fold company intelligence into today’s technology. “Find someone who is willing to learn and learn how to read blueprints.”

By building a complete and up-to-date estimating process, dealers can improve their standard of excellence. This includes providing consistent and detailed quotes that are uniform in appearance while containing detailed, categorized breakdowns of materials. “Make your quote the standard that everyone trusts and your competitors have to live up to,” Faulkner says.

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