As a service provider, much of my time is spent meeting with potential customers. Whether over the phone or in person I have the opportunity to ask questions about their needs so that I can assess the project and offer an estimate for the cost and benefits of working together.
I don’t charge for this. Do you?
A great majority of the time after our meeting, if the proposal meets their needs and their budget, we proceed. However, sometimes the project doesn’t happen. I suppose I am out the time and money spent on driving to the meeting, having the meeting and writing the proposal; however, I look at it as an investment in my business.
Today, while taking my car in for an estimate of repairs, I noticed a sign that read:
One free estimate per car
$5 for each additional estimate
To be honest, I had to keep myself from laughing outloud. $5? Really? I will admit that I have seen companies that charge a fee for the estimate or consultation but then deduct that fee from the entire project should you decide to work together. But five dollars to look at the body of my car for less than five minutes?
Perhaps the dollar amount is small enough that people don’t hesitate, but when you consider that most auto body repair jobs end up costing several hundred dollars – if not more, just what is the company gaining by charging $5. A better question might be – what are they loosing?
The purpose of an estimate or initial consultation is to uncover the needs but also to share your expertise. There is so much competition that consumers have an overwhelming number of choices. Why place a road block, even a $5 road block between you and the opportunity to have a new customer?