People buy from people they understand and trust. It’s tempting to hide behind your smartphone and tablet, trying to squeeze more work out of your day. Don’t do it when you are working on acquiring a new project. The risk to your company’s profitability is too great.

Write the proposal first and give your potential client the opportunity to review it, asking him to fine-tune it with you. The construction industry is still a people-based industry. Don’t forget that the estimating process is your prime opportunity to build a relationship with a prospective client, so find a way to see him in person.

Waiting to develop the proposal near the deadline means you are risking that the receiver will find gaps in your document, frustrating him as there will be no time to clarify. From a client’s perspective, a well-planned estimate delivered before the deadline says your organization will execute the project on schedule as well.

Isn’t Technology Important?

You have to keep up on emerging technology. Contractors are looking for accurate estimates that are automated using 3D modeling, pricing that is instantaneous and accurate, design software that’s linked to the model, as well as billings generated from the model. They also expect the model to reflect labor feedback and cost control.

If your head is spinning at this point, I suggest that the antidote is an acquisition process that is standardized. You need a checklist of information and tasks to be performed the same way each time.

Eliminate the chance for costly mistakes. Estimating is the backbone of the entire construction process. Give yourself the chance to define what you are going to price, price it, perform the work, and measure it afterwards.

True nuggets of competitive insight come from understanding how the project performed against the original estimate. Whether your organization is a small shop or a multimillion dollar corporation, without a good estimate you are flying blind.

Overwhelmed by Too Much Bid Work?

You need to have a standard process for deciding whether to bid or not bid, too.

Given the economy, it’s tempting to load up on work to keep busy. Understand where your sweet spot is.

Rank the customers and bid based on your available resources and abilities. Keep your company safe by dealing with customers that fit: not too big, not too small and in your area of expertise. Don’t risk not being available for a good customer.

It may be much more profitable to focus on doing a great job for the current customer than adding one more project into the mix.

And If You Don’t Get the Contract?

Be sure to call. If you have established a relationship during the bidding process, you are more likely to get valuable feedback. You should also mine the unsuccessful project for data that can be used on future projects.

This blog is excerpted from a session Jack Wilhelmi recently taught at the Construction Education Institute located at MCA Chicago headquarters.The MCA Chicago Construction Education Institute is a premier training facility in Chicagoland for educating mechanical contractors. More than 75 courses are available in classroom and online formats. Ranges of topics include use of information technologies, safety and risk control, estimating, project management, HVAC service, as well as operations, supervisory and sales management. For more information, visit