So you want a bid eh?

 

More often than not, we receive calls from potential clients wanting a bid. Our first response is that we are happy to offer a bid as soon as you send us your bid package. Our response is usually met with, “what do you mean….bid package?”  That’s  a great question because  the term “bid” is very often misused.  A true “bid is based on a definitive pre-designed system that puts the bidder on equal ground with the other bidders.  We find over and over that when we are asked to provide a bid that there is in fact no bid package available, and what the potential client is actually looking for is just a price.

 

Most people have either been to an auction, have seen one on TV, or have bid on an item on Ebay.  When you place a bid, there is some sort of item that is the centerpiece of the auction that every bidder can place his bid on.  T here may be multiple bidders, but only one item.  The auction will have either an auctioneer or a written description of the item so that each bidder knows what he is bidding on. In other words, if the item is an apple the bidder knows that he is bidding on an apple and not a top sirloin, and will place his bid according to what he perceives as the value of the apple.

 

Consider this…..Let’s say you are hungry, in a hurry, and are in position to have three restaurants “bid” on a delivery  solution for your hunger.  So, you call three restaurants  and say “I am really hungry” and I would like a bid on a meal, and I want it delivered”. Likely, those three restaurants are going to ask, “What do you like, and what are you in the mood for?”  And you say…”Look, I am a human being that likes good tasting food and I just want something that will fill me up, and is reasonably priced….I just need some food”.  For arguments sake, let’s assume the restaurants all say “oh yes, we  cook for humans all the time so let us put together a meal idea for you and send it over via email” none of which ever ask you what your dietary requirements are, or what you can afford. A few minutes later you receive three emails.  All you have to do now is decide on one and call in your order with a credit card. Easy. Right? Problem solved. Well?

 

*Restaurant 1 emails you their offering which is a stack of Premium saltine crackers, a pint of milk, and a jar of Skippy peanut butter. Cost : $5

 

*Restaurant 2 emails you their offering and it is foot-long  sub sandwich, a bag of chips, and a bottle of ice cold Coca-Cola . Cost $8

 

*Restaurant 3 emails you their offering which is a 12oz New York Strip cooked medium-well, a baked potato, and a quart of iced-tea. Cost $21

 

So, there you have it…..three emails, and three bids for a meal.  Three different meals, at three different prices. Which is what you asked for. ..

Once you get the bids you look at them and say to yourself….”well,  I don’t like peanut butter that much but it is affordable”. Next you think, “I do like sub sandwiches but I have gotten indigestion from salami in the past…so,  I’m really not sure… even though it does cost more, and it will be more filling it may give me indigestion”.  Lastly, you look at the steak dinner and think, “yes, what I really want is a great steak dinner but I can’t eat a 12 oz steak, and I don’t want to waste money on more food than I can eat”. So what do you do? Who buys food this way?   The truth is, what you may really need is a nice grilled chicken salad. It has lots of healthy ingredients, will be filling, will not contribute to your waistline, and is reasonably priced. But, since there are literally hundreds of possibilities, the chicken salad is simply never brought into the process.  You asked for three bids, and you got three. None of which are what you really needed. Each restaurant chose whatever they did for whatever reason they had. Nobody really knows.  But, you have three bids.  

 

What really happened is each restaurant took a shot in the dark for your business.  And it was a real shot in the dark, because you did not communicate nor discuss what was right for you.  Each restaurant did ask what you what you like and what you were in the mood for, but you were busy, in a hurry, and didn’t want to really think about what was best for you.

 

Ok, now that you have received your bids, (even though you did get what you asked for)  your available choices are based entirely on a guess by someone who is guessing at what you are after, none of which you are really happy with.  A better way would be to just go to a restaurant that has a reputation for great food, a really wide menu selection,  a wide variety of prices, and a reputation for great service.  This gives you the opportunity to talk with your wait-person, and possibly even the chef before you order to determine what is the best meal for you. The big difference now is you are actively involved in the process.  You have pertinent and complete information as to what is available (you’ve seen a menu and spoken to a waiter), and you have direct access to the one who will create your meal.  Basically your dining experience is now based on communication, definitive expectations, and a relationship with a restaurant who cares whether or not you are happy with your meal.

 

Now, take this so-called bid process and apply it to technology.  You call three different AV Contractors, and ask for a bid.  Except this time, it’s not $8, it’s $80k.  If you are prepared to spend that kind of money, why in the world would you do it based solely on someone’s opinion?  Or, let’s say you have three “bids”, one for $50k, one for $70K, and one for $80k.  Are you just going to buy on price, or are you going to buy on information?  If you would not blindly buy a meal for $8, why in the world would you blindly  buy a technology system for $50k? If these so-called “bids” are only the opinion of these contractors, for Pete’s sake, buy the cheapest one!  Better to spend as little as possible on a system that is guaranteed not to work, than a lot on a system that is guaranteed not to work.  Don’t be lazy or foolish on either acount!!!  If it is not engineered properly, it will not fit you!

 

The truth is, if an AV Contractor is worth his salt he is not going to just sell you what he thinks you will buy, he will want to slow you down and engage you to design a system he can hang his hat on as his reputation should mean something to him.  His design should be based on something other than his opinion. It should be based on three things:  1: Your needs, 2: Your budget, and 3: Solid engineering data. With that in mind, the contractor should understand that if it is to be engineered properly it will take time.  He should also be confident enough to realize his time is valuable and that if he is to stay in business and offer this valuable service, he should be paid a reasonable fee for his time.  If someone offers free design services they obviously have no idea the amount of time, effort and skill it takes to produce proven results. Additionally, his engineering tools should consist of more than a price list, an Excel spreadsheet, and a cup of coffee.  And the old platitudes like  “I have been doing this for 25 years” simply will not cut it.  The truth is if he has been doing for 25 years without the right tools, nor the skill set to use the right tools, he has been doing it  W-R-O-N-G for 25 YEARS. 

 

What a drag when you find you spent $50k and your system does not sound right, work right, or does not fit your needs.  Then what?  Will he come back and take it out? Not a chance.  Won’t  happen. Just like in the world of food, you do get what you pay for. Ever had a hamburger from a vending machine?  As soon as you pay for it, and take it out of the machine; regardless of what it tastes like, smells like, or looks like, that baby is yours.  Somebody, somewhere that  you have never met, took your money.  Even if they have a phone number on the front of the vending machine and you call and complain if it is bad you are likely to hear “sir, you bought a hamburger from a machine, what can you expect?…..click”   You got what you paid for…quick, cheap,  easy, and fast food. Burger is now  in the trash, and your money is now inside a metal box you have no key for.

 

If all you are after is price and you really don’t care what you buy,  just call us and let us know how much you want to spend, and we will be happy to spend your money for you.  The catch is we will require you to sign a document stating that you will not reveal to anyone who you bought your system from.  We’re not crazy, we will take whatever business we can get so long as our reputation is not tarnished.  If you don’t care what you are buying,  and price is your only motivator, why should we?  You just hold the pen, and we will move the paper.  If there is no engineering package in the equation that’s all the other guys are doing anyway, so why would we pass up on making a pile of cash with little or no thought as to what we are selling you if you don’t care either way?

 

There is a better way however.  When you are looking for an AV Contractor to sell you a system, don’t ask for a bid, ask for an interview.  Take the time to meet with them and make sure they are qualified.  Engage them to do the whole system. Engineer it, provide the gear, install it, and support it….develop a relationship!  Actually, just call us because we don’t sell opinions when our reputation is at stake.  We sell solutions based on your needs, your budget, and solid engineering disciplines.  We have some fantastic engineering tools such as EASE acoustic modeling software, Autocad, Stardraw,  some really nice calculation packages that we are trained to use and can produce proven results before you buy a single piece of wire. We also have price lists, Microsoft Excel, and a coffee maker.  We don’t charge to use any of the last three, the other ones we do charge for because they have real value and takes a whole lot more time to operate than a Mr. Coffee.  If you are going to spend a single dime, why not do it right? And if you like, we will be happy to provide you with a whole list of other clients who know us on a first name basis.

 

The most important thing to remember if you don’t remember anything else….YOUR money is buying YOUR system, that YOU will own. and have to live with.  YOU will have to live with your purchase, not the contractor or sales guy who sold it to you. Something to think about eh?  So do you really, really, just want a bid?

 

All the best….

Scott

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