How NOT to Negotiate Price with a Sign Provider

We had a potential client come into our shop the other day. She is a local business owner who wanted to have graphics put on her delivery truck. At the end of the discussion we told her, in very polite terms, to go to another provider. We were just not a good fit for her project. We felt we were not a good fit for the way she wanted to do business with us. And, based on ten years of business, we knew that working with her would be difficult and stressful, and we should pass on the project.

Here’s what he did to set off our alarm bells for a difficult project:

  1. In the first minute of talking, he said, “Your competitor, XXXX, said he could do it for $XXXX dollars.”
  2. She then said, “Can you beat his price?”
  3. After that, “I need this done this week.”

Here’s where she went wrong. First, I suspect she was making up a price quote. Never lie. We can spot a lie a mile away. Second, I know the “competitor” and what equipment he has. If the price quote were true, it would not be a comparable quote, as the “competitor” does not have the proper equipment to do a professional job. Third, if you are fixated on price—usually a bad idea—you can’t expect quality and a quick turnaround, too.

Price, time, quality: pick two

At the end of the day, we have several variables that affect pricing. They are:

  1. Design time
  2. Materials
  3. Installation time
  4. Shop overhead (rent, utilities, insurance, bookkeeping, supplies, etc.)
  5. Employee cost
  6. Profit

We have a very good understanding how #1-5 factor into our goal, #6.

So, based on the above, here is what NOT to do:

  1. Don’t tell us what our price should be. We know our inputs into the price. You don’t. We’ll give you a fair price quote. You are free to look elsewhere if you don’t like it.
  2. Don’t make false comparisons. Sign shops are not selling commodity goods, so you need to understand material differences, design expertise, and the installer’s skill level to understand how the same project might have a different cost.
  3. Don’t compare us to online. If you buy online, you will have to do the design work, create an account, pay upfront, pay to ship and then wait two to four weeks for your sign. If the quality is poor, you get to start over. At Kona Impact, we’ll (in most cases) make a professional design for you and have your sign done in a day or two. There are no delivery charges, and there are no quality risks.
  4. Don’t do the old, “If you help us on the price on this project we’ll bring you a lot more work.” This labels you as a price-only buyer, and we know your loyalty will be fleeting, at best. If you won’t let us make money on the first project, why would we expect anything different in the future?
  5. Don’t show us price quotes from other sign shops. Let’s imagine you get a written $300 price quote from Company A and then you take that to Company B and Company C. First of all; you are wasting your time and the time of the people who make your price quotes. Second, you may only save $10-$20, yet you have wasted $50 of your time and $75 of the time of sign company’s. Get two quotes if you must. Pick one. Move on.

Here is what to do:

  1. Be upfront about your budget and what you want. Our prices do not change based on your budget. We’ve had multi-millionaire clients and small sole proprietor clients: they all get the same pricing! Just be direct about what you want, and we’ll give you a fair price quote.
  2. Be willing to accept a smaller sign or lesser quality materials if your budget does not allow for exactly what you had in mind.
  3. For many signs, like exterior signs on posts or buildings, self-installing can save you money. Offer to build a frame or supports yourself as a way to reduce sign costs.
  4. Focus on value instead of price. Most sign shops do high-quality work, and if you want something on the cheap, you are not allowing the shop to have the resources (money) to do quality work. At Kona Impact, we will avoid jobs that do not allow us the budget to do quality work.
  5. Always be polite. Pushiness or aggressive tactics seldom get you the best work at the best price. They are a big turn-off and counter-productive. We will treat you with politely and with respect, and we expect the same.
  6. Pay your invoices promptly. Every shop has a list of clients for whom they will not do more work. The reasons are usually non-payment of invoices and being a pain to deal with.

The best way to get what you want is to be open, direct and honest in your dealings with your sign shop. This, of course, is how you want people to deal with you and your business, so doing the same to your providers should be easy to do.

 Kona Impact | 808-329-6077

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