Every sales person hears this question sometime during a buying cycle.
If you sell jelly beans or shoes, the question might be something you could comfortably answer. However, if you are in the aerospace business and you are selling customised, highly engineered, one of a kind products, you are courting disaster to even entertain the question.
The pressure to make the customer happy, to answer questions with certainty and speed are obviously important. Talking price before you really even know what it is you are going to sell is foolish and dangerous. It doesn’t mean that the customer is asking a foolish question, it simply means you have no business answering the question until you KNOW the answer yourself.
How can we KNOW the answer?
Aerospace products are frequently built from scratch. Even when an existing product is used as a starting point, most of the effort will go into portions of the product that really don’t exist. That means, no matter how many options you have listed in your configurator, how many assembly and part prices you can aggregate or how many assumptions you might make in terms of expanding the scope of use of a product, you will have to bring in some high powered engineering and design assets to determine how much any real changes will cost.
The pitfalls are not just pricing and availability. Other questions are just as critical. Do you have the capability to build the modified or new product? Production time? Time in the schedule?
When sales people start guessing, when they start trying to figure it out themselves; things will be missed and the company will be exposed financially.
Estimating systems give you technology and processes to quickly respond to customer’s requests for pricing and information related to a special project. Your sales people will know what is available from the warehouse and what is going to require involvement on the part of engineering. They will know what the product will cost and that will drive and intelligent quote.
Your customer will be delighted because they will know a product is available, how much it will cost and how long it will take to deliver it.