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A Sign Broker Wonders: How Are Fabrication Estimates Being Made?

We take a crack at this query in this month’s “Ask Signs of the Times.




We are a sign broker and have found that quotes are vastly different from fabricator to fabricator. How are estimators coming to a total? Arbitrarily or is there a science?

It seems unlikely that most estimators are being truly arbitrary when determining the prices to be charged for sign fabrication. However, it seems equally unlikely that most estimators are taking a scientific approach; otherwise, estimates would be somewhat uniform. “How much should I charge?” remains one of the most asked questions in the sign industry. For answers, many sign companies use specific sign estimating software or more complete industry management software whose features include calculating estimates. Others may (still) use Excel formulas or even —gasp! — pencil and paper to figure pricing. Bear in mind that within estimates lie the profit margins built in by the estimator, and those can also vary, possibly widely. Finally, the fabricator’s location and market-cost conditions also add to the fluctuation.

How do I cultivate and keep good, loyal employees without having to overpay for the positions?

Sign companies are finding it so difficult to hire the “right employees” these days that when they do, they want to do everything they possibly can to keep them. On the other hand, increasing pay can only go so far. One way to cultivate and keep skilled, dedicated employees is to foster and maintain a positive company culture, one marked by caring, purpose, learning, enjoyment, results, safety and more. Nearly 9 in 10 of the sign pros in our Brain Squad said they “agree or strongly agree that culture is critical to their company’s performance and success” in our recent article on the importance of company culture (see St, November 2022). The feature offers 14 tips to build a driven, happy and loyal team supported by data points and industry anecdotes. In addition, offering non-monetary compensation or benefits, such as personal or comp days (or hours), access to facilities or tools for home and non-competing projects, or other valuable perks could help good employees demonstrate their loyalty by staying.

How can I help get other sales associates on the same level of sales that I am on?

Congratulations for being the highest-performing sales associate on your team! Also, you’re to be commended for wanting to bring the others up to your level. We’ll assume that their territories or markets are reasonably comparable to yours. First, you could share, in specific detail, exactly how you prepare to sell to a new customer. How and what do you research? What’s the most important thing or two to know going in? Next, describe your initial approach. Do you visit in person, call, text, contact on social media or otherwise? What’s your hook? Do you have any “magic words” or go-to phrases? What do you leave with the customer apart from your contact info at the end of the first contact (links to website, social media, printed brochure)? Then of course begins the follow-up process. Yes, process. As the top seller, no one understands that process better than you. Studies vary on how many follow-ups are necessary on average to close a sale. Some cite “at least five” and others “12 or more.” Our guess is that their key to catching up to your level of sales lies with following up more quickly, more regularly or more often.

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