Sync or Sink: Estimates Go Better When Bid Partners Speak The Same Language

In Part 1 of this article – entitled “Winning Bids” – we introduced ElectricSmart’s NetPak, a suite of eBusiness tools designed to help electrical contractors do their job in a quicker, simpler, and more cost-effective way. ElectricSmarts offers its NetPak subscribers unique access to manufacturer-supplied product information stored in IDEA’s Industry Data Warehouse (IDW), including images, spec sheets, and trade pricing for over 2.4 million products. While NetPak was developed as an eCommerce toolkit for contractors to boost their efficiency and productivity, it can also significantly benefit both the distributors and the manufacturers within the electrical industry. Part 2 of this article – “Sync or Sink” – highlights how distributors and manufacturers can use NetPak to promote their products throughout the supply chain and, thus, gain competitive advantage in an ever-fiercer marketplace.

To enter the bidding phase of a project, a contractor has to select the products he will be using and then build a maximally accurate estimate. But how does a contractor choose the products for his project material list? He could:

  • Pick those items that were pre-populated into the estimating software database he purchased.
  • Go with materials that were suggested by the project’s lead architect or specifying engineer.
  • Select the products with which he is already familiar.

However the contractor decides to create his material list, it is important to understand that, most of the time, his product selection is not cast in stone. A contractor’s ultimate goal is to get more project offers, so he will do whatever will help him win bids. Given the highly competitive nature of today’s electrical marketplace, how can a manufacturer or a distributor make the products they offer the bid-winning material that contractors are seeking?

It is a common mistake to assume that offering a high-quality product alone is enough to succeed. Product quality is crucial, no doubt, as is competitive pricing. But a contractor may not be looking to select only the “very best” item in each product category. In fact, in the context of a competitive bidding system, the most optimal products for a contractor to work with are the ones that a) come with detailed datasheets and information and b) are supplied by trusted distributors and manufacturers. In other words, it’s all about the quality of product data and the contractor-supplier relationships.

Why? Because the easier it is for a contractor to select a certain product, the higher the likelihood he will pick this product over alternative options, and the quality of product data and the relationship between the contractor and his product supplier have a strong impact on the “ease” of product selection. This is also where ElectricSmarts’ NetPak comes in handy.

A single bid can have hundreds of products associated with it, but no distributor carries every product line. So what happens when a contractor lists item A on his project material list, but the distributor carries item B? This is our so-called “Sync or Sink Point”: the distributor is either forced to return an incomplete Request For Quote because he can’t provide certain items, or he is manually checking the contractor’s product request list against his own inventory to fulfill the bid request by substituting products he doesn’t carry with the best alternative options. Both options consume valuable time and resources.

Instead, NetPricer - a resource within NetPak’s toolkit – can quickly and easily perform the same functions automatically. Contractors can use NetPak to tap into IDEA’s IDW database and access product information for their project material lists. NetPak allows the distributor to sync the information and thus avoid sinking in the market of ruthless competition. Both the contractor and the distributor benefit, because the former can get his bid estimate completed quickly and efficiently, while the latter can include more of his products into the bid.

NetPak benefits manufacturers, as well. As described in Part 1 of this article, contractors can use NetPak to tap into IDEA’s IDW database and access product information for their project material lists. For a manufacturer to gain more visibility for their product through NetPak, they should input as much accurate and timely product data into the IDW as possible in order to ensure that the product selection process for contractors is fast and effortless when they’re evaluating a manufacturer’s items. Having quality product data in the IDW means increasing efficiency and saving time for both the contractors and the distributors, which ultimately results in greater visibility and promotion of the manufacturer’s brand. The easier it is for contractors and distributors to work with a manufacturer’s product, the more trust they will put into that manufacturer as a partner, guaranteeing a long-term mutually beneficial collaboration.

The product data necessary to develop bids forms the foundation for the rest of the contractor workflow. Quality product data improves business efficiency, establishes trust among parties within the electrical supply chain, helps promote the product, and wins contractor bids. Providing comprehensive accurate data means equipping contractors with an essential tool they need to succeed, thus benefitting both the distributors and the manufacturers, as well. With the growing world of eCommerce and the rise in electronic communications, ElectricSmarts’ NetPak, and its access to IDEA’s IDW, are what players in the electrical industry need to sync not sink.

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