As a follow-on to my post about what goes into an effective RFQ (request for quote), I wanted to talk a bit about the etiquette involved in asking companies for estimates: Estimate Etiquette.

Timing. Depending on how complex the project is, the agency you send an RFQ to needs time to develop an estimate. They may need to confer with subcontractors, look at how their resources are already scheduled, and spend some time planning your project in order to come up with an accurate assessment of the costs. In your RFQ, specify the date by which you need the estimate, and give them at least one full week to respond. Sure, when you have a pre-existing relationship with an agency and you have a rush situation, ask for it sooner — but the less time they have to prepare your estimate, the higher the chance that you’ll be asked to accept a revised estimate later.

Budget. Tell them what the budget is. For example, if you know you can only spend $20K on your project, let the agencies know that. Otherwise they may waste their (and your) time developing an estimate for a project that they envision costing much less or much more.

Who do you include? Sometimes, due to their reputation or your long-standing relationship with them, you may already know who you want to hire, depending on their price. If you have pretty much already decided on a particular agency, minimize the number of other agencies to whom you send the RFQ. Each agency will have to pay their account managers and project managers to develop your estimate. That’s fine. It’s all part of the reality of being an agency. But if you never intended to hire them in the first place, then, well, let’s just say it isn’t nice to make them spin their wheels and spend that money for no reason.

Don’t leave them hanging. Finally, as soon as you know you have decided NOT to hire an agency, let them know. As soon as they sent you their estimate, the agency probably started talking to resources, juggling schedules, and getting everything ready for your project so that, if they get the job, they can hit the ground running. Letting them know your decision right away let’s them reallocate those resources and frees them up to work on other things.

The moral of the story

An accurate estimate takes time, which costs an agency money to develop and pulls resources from other projects. Give them what they need to get you the right estimate and respect their time, and you’ll have gone a long way toward developing a good relationship with them.



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