What to ask about the tendering process in construction

23 August 2019
Matthew Eccles

It probably goes without saying that when you’re quoting a job to a builder, the most important work is done over the phone. After all, it’s an industry built on relationships — and not many people build a relationship over a few emails.

We’ve had a chat to a couple of people who have experience taking plenty of these calls during their work as Estimators. Both of them had a similar take — they both loved to hear the ‘right’ questions.

We were all told back in school that there is no such thing as a stupid question.

While there are no stupid questions, being able to ask great questions can be just as important as knowing the answers.

Those who have worked in the commercial construction business for a while know the importance of having a conversation. Whether it is to introduce yourself or get some clarification on some of the documentation — having a chat is always the best way to get your answer.

Even if you‘re worried about annoying them, it’s always better to be the person who called too much than the unknown random who threw in a quote.

When you’re on these calls with a head contractor — it can be a bit like a quasi-job interview. Think about the difference between these two questions, and the question you’d rather hear if you were an Estimator;

“How do you want me to quote this package?”

“How can we win this job?”

Even if the first question is asked with the best intentions, it can come across like you are asking them how to do your job — and you already know how to do that.

Speaking to Jeremy Barrow — Estimating manager at ABD Group — the best questions he gets from subbies are the ones that teach him something. The estimators on the other end of the line aren’t just working out how to get the best price possible — they also need to work out how they can build the thing.

As an expert in your trade — there’s no real point ringing up asking how they would like it quoted or what they want included, leave the exclusions to your written quote.

Our own Tony Dymock has had plenty of experience taking these calls during his past life as an Estimator. For him, it was all about showing some enthusiastic know-how. Simply put, give solutions, not problems.

Think something like;

“I wasn’t able to price the specified product, but I’ve used a comparable alternative. Would you like to see a sample first?”

This question demonstrates to the builder that you’re here to help with problems, and also that you’re able to help them out reducing costs.

When you get to the bottom of it all, the only question you really want answered is “when can I start?” The best way to get a start on the site, is to show the head contractors you know what you’re talking about.

Take the chance to impart a bit of knowledge, show you’re keen for the job and most importantly — demonstrate that you really know your stuff.