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Thread: Lack of bidders

  1. #21
    MembersZone Subscriber LVFD301's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by firepundit View Post

    Anyone who has sold fire trucks for more than a year has been told, "Don't worry about the exceptions, we are open to all bidders." Or, something close only to see the sale go to the company that supplied the restrictive wording for a much higher price. After a while, the smart salesperson wises up and realizes when he is getting smoke blown up his backside.

    In the industry the saying is, "If you write the spec you make the sale." Not always true but good enough to make chasing specs unprofitable if the dealer actually has to do the work. Face it. If you had the choice of spending an equal amount of time selling trucks you would prefer the method that netted nearly 80-90 percent instead of the one that netted 10-20 percent.

    .
    When we bought our truck last year, we used specs from one of the major vendors, but we made some changes to make them fairly generic.

    We were told by three bidders that we had already decided on a vendor. I
    advised them to trust us - that we did use those bid specs, but if they dug just a small amount they would see that we had modified those specs.

    When it came to bid opening, we had three bids. Two of them were from
    the companies that told me I had already decided on company C. When it was all deciphered, it came down to companies A and B, and A got the bid.

    Although I agree that it does often happen that if a company writes the bid, then the outcome is for that company, I will also say that a good salesperson makes as sure as he can before writing off his chances.


  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by firepundit View Post
    If you want a serious assessment of the specs, please post them somewhere we can all read them. There is no possible way to coherently discuss them without having read them.

    I can, however, give you an idea of how a possible bidder might look at them.

    "Must have a service center with a minimum of two certified EVTs on call 24 hours a day within 150 miles." Take a scaled map of the U.S. and a compass set at 150 miles and set one of the needles on your town to see just how restrictive that is. When a dealer does that, he finds out who you have chosen to sell the truck.

    Some language just shouts, "DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME.
    I realized that putting in that the vendor must be licensed to conduct business in our state and have a service center within 3 hours travel time , would eliminate some sellers. TOO Bad !
    It still left four manufacturers that could meet the spec.
    The one it eliminated is the truck we currently have now thats been perfect for 13 years. unfortunately the attitude of their corporate mothership is you want us you'll just have to travel 3 states away to get our service. When we purchased last time the dealer was a couple hours away and very responsive to our needs. Then came the corporate buyout and they moved away from small dealers to big regional sales & service centers. they can kiss my grits if they think I'm traveling 7 hours one way to get their warrantee service.
    Another point is if they don't want to work a spec and just want you to take a copy of their standard form truck then why do we need sales representatives?? A trained seal could sell program trucks.

    What We want is service and a smile before and after purchasing your product, nothing more , nothing less.

    Just my own rant

  3. #23
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    On our last apparatus purchase, we selected 5 manufacturers who had dealerships and service centers that were in our area and invited them to a spec reading, all at the same time. If they couldn't be there, they had to send a representative, or they would not be invited to bid.

    At this (catered) meeting, we read through the specifics that we wanted our new unit to have. We had no contact with any sales person or manufacturer to help determine our needs, that's our job. So there was no proprietary garbage in our wants. Any manufacturer could use the Harrison generator that we wanted, for example. We did not however specify "XX" IFS. All manufacturers had an IFS system, and we wanted them to include it in their spec. From there it would be up to us to determine if one was better than the other, and exclude that bidder if we felt that strongly about it. If they had to take any exceptions, it was to be a seperate section of thier bid spec, at the very front of the package, clearly noted "EXCEPTIONS".

    All bidders were given a blank RFA (Request for information) to e-mail to us if they had questions. This RFA was then sent to all bidders with the answer by the committee chairman, so that everyone knew what the other guy was asking.

    After receiving all the bids, we reviewed each one for a good bit of time. We narrowed the field to 3 bidders, and then invited that sales person individually to try to sell us their truck. Every "Must have" was assigned a point value, and at the end, the truck that scored the highest, won the contract.

    I don't understand why anyone is buying fire apparatus if they don't take the time to specify what they want, and just let a dealer fill in the blanks. You have to do your homework before getting bidders involved. I'd have to agree that writing something too specific, or obviously proprietary, will turn most bidders off.

    Incidentally, all 5 companies submitted a bid, and tried very hard to earn our business.

  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Northeast68 View Post
    On our last apparatus purchase, we selected 5 manufacturers who had dealerships and service centers that were in our area and invited them to a spec reading, all at the same time. If they couldn't be there, they had to send a representative, or they would not be invited to bid.

    At this (catered) meeting, we read through the specifics that we wanted our new unit to have. We had no contact with any sales person or manufacturer to help determine our needs, that's our job. So there was no proprietary garbage in our wants. Any manufacturer could use the Harrison generator that we wanted, for example. We did not however specify "XX" IFS. All manufacturers had an IFS system, and we wanted them to include it in their spec. From there it would be up to us to determine if one was better than the other, and exclude that bidder if we felt that strongly about it. If they had to take any exceptions, it was to be a seperate section of thier bid spec, at the very front of the package, clearly noted "EXCEPTIONS".

    All bidders were given a blank RFA (Request for information) to e-mail to us if they had questions. This RFA was then sent to all bidders with the answer by the committee chairman, so that everyone knew what the other guy was asking.

    After receiving all the bids, we reviewed each one for a good bit of time. We narrowed the field to 3 bidders, and then invited that sales person individually to try to sell us their truck. Every "Must have" was assigned a point value, and at the end, the truck that scored the highest, won the contract.

    I don't understand why anyone is buying fire apparatus if they don't take the time to specify what they want, and just let a dealer fill in the blanks. You have to do your homework before getting bidders involved. I'd have to agree that writing something too specific, or obviously proprietary, will turn most bidders off.

    Incidentally, all 5 companies submitted a bid, and tried very hard to earn our business.
    The mechanics of your process offer us all something to learn from. If I'm still here and involved next time around (very doubtful), I'll try to incorporate some of your ideas. A catered affair will certainly bring them in running!

    At the risk of being repetitive because FWDbuff and I have both said this in several different threads here, we wrote a spec that pretty much anyone could bid on. The folks here who have read it know that it was pretty detailed in many respects, even tightly prescriptive in some. Other areas were left fairly open.

    Twelve or thirteen builders requested and received it, and most of them visited us at least once. In the end, six did put in serious bids. Four of the six could have and would have produced it. The other two could have but didn't choose to. The two lowest bid on whatever they wanted to build with some hardware that we spec'd thrown in.

    The winner actually did build what we asked for. So it is possible to spec the truck you want, as you want it, and still get several good bids. But you have to pay excruciating attention to detail and language.

    Another point that I'll repeat. To me the greatest challenge was having a vision of what we wanted, putting that vision into words and having the person reading those words come away with the same vision.

    Anyone who wants a copy, please e-mail me at chiefengineer11@verizon.net. Anyone who has one they'd like to show off, please send it to me. I enjoy learning from them.

    Stay safe out there, everyone goes home!

  5. #25
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    Default Getting Responsive Bidders

    Quote Originally Posted by firedoglister View Post


    My dept recently sent out bid invitations for a custom heavy rescue. The specs were quite detailed, maybe too detailed. We sent them to 15 manufacturers and only received 1 bid back and it was from the only manufacturer that was willing to sit down and help us design a truck. The sprecs were written as a generic spec to keep it open to all manufacturers. Another local dept recently ordered a heavy rescue and they only received 2 bids....1 from the same place we did and 1 from a builder that had just sold them 2 pumpers. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to get more bids returned and some tips on negociting the price? Has anyone else had problems getting companies to bid?

    Thanks!
    I'm curious to know based on your statement ""the only manufacturer that was willing to sit down and help us design a truck" HOW then after working with you did you not find out until the bid that the truck was too high??

    It's hard if not impossible to please every dealer or manufacturer and as a dealer we'd all like to get our spec's "written" by a FD but I much prefer a "Performance" spec that outlines the materials, brand/model and put the onus on the bidders to respond properly with detailed "accurate" drawings of what they propose NOT sample drawings... In other words put the "effort" forth to bid what the FD wants IF you can build it and meet the requirements.

    I've just had an example where a FD wrote a detailed performance spec that was open and the components were available to ALL bidders IF they wanted to use those products/components etc. The FD spec clearly stated as to what they wanted and for the reasons they clearly stated and got 3 bids back.

    The LOW bidder said YES to everything on the FD's document but when they reviewed it in detail there were at least 70 exceptions to their requirements in particular saying YES to the specified Engine Make/HP and in the bidders spec offering something different and considerably less expensive...Then came my proposal and the 3rd who offered a truck close but more of a Stock/Demo design and who was considerably more $.

    The issue I feel is that some FD's especially now only look at the price and see if the low bidder said yes to the FD's spec instead of doing a detailed evaluation of the low bidders proposal and then finding out too late that the LOW bidder says "Oh no my spec prevails not yours" and I've personally seen that in many cases where certain bidders state that their spec's prevail..

    Remember Buyer Be Ware..

  6. #26
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    Default bidding

    You can not make a manufacturer bid on anything they desire not to!

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    Quote Originally Posted by westofd1 View Post
    You can not make a manufacturer bid on anything they desire not to!
    BINGO! When you send specs to dealers they will probably make a decision fairly quickly if it is a truck that they can build competitively. We tried to put together "generic" specs in the late '80s for a pumper. The Seagrave dealer said that they weren't going to bid because it was a Pierce spec. It wasn't. We ended up buying a FMC.

    If you are going to write your own specs, get a copy of NFPA 1901. Appendix B, Specifying and Procuring Fire Apparatus has a lot of good info. You can purchase a PDF version of the new standard online for $44.

    http://www.nfpa.org/aboutthecodes/Ab...sp?DocNum=1901
    I have only 2 allegiances, to my country and to my God. The rest of you are fair game.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Northeast68 View Post
    Any manufacturer could use the Harrison generator that we wanted, for example. ....I don't understand why anyone is buying fire apparatus if they don't take the time to specify what they want, and just let a dealer fill in the blanks. You have to do your homework before getting bidders involved. I'd have to agree that writing something too specific, or obviously proprietary, will turn most bidders off.

    Incidentally, all 5 companies submitted a bid, and tried very hard to earn our business.

    Where did you accumulate the vast base of knowledge on which to base an informed decison on, for example, what Brand/model genset is most cost effective (bang for the buck, easiest/least expensive to install, to maintain (life cycle), etc? The mfg touch way more trucks (or gensets) in a year that any FD will. Their experience is what you're buying, use it. IF not the sales rep take to the factory engineer (if they actually have any REAL degreed engineers). Other wise why not just get on line, order a bunch of bits/pieces, and assemble yourself a fire truck out in the maintenance bay.

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    Quote Originally Posted by neiowa View Post
    Where did you accumulate the vast base of knowledge on which to base an informed decison on, for example, what Brand/model genset is most cost effective (bang for the buck, easiest/least expensive to install, to maintain (life cycle), etc? The mfg touch way more trucks (or gensets) in a year that any FD will. Their experience is what you're buying, use it. IF not the sales rep take to the factory engineer (if they actually have any REAL degreed engineers). Other wise why not just get on line, order a bunch of bits/pieces, and assemble yourself a fire truck out in the maintenance bay.
    That's an interesting idea...maybe I'll try that. Since our volunteer department is made up of people who are engineers of all sorts, mechanics, welders/fabricators, sales people, pretty much all walks of life, it just might work out.

    The point wasn't to say that we'd buy that type for sure, but that everyone is including the same equipment in thier spec so that the process is fair. If the sales person felt strongly enough about offering us something else, they'd have an opportunity to do that, and we'd hear them out.

    Maybe you are right, using prior experiences (and research by dedicated members) to help determine a preference is not a good idea. Us dumb firemen should just wander around like useless automatons doing what the mutts and the industry tell us to do. Thanks for your post.

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    Talking Building own trucks

    Many, many years ago some fire deptments did build their own trucks. I think Norfolk, Va. , Memphis, Tn. and Rochester, Ny. were some of those who built their own. They stopped because it really wasn't cost effective.

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    Quote Originally Posted by neiowa View Post
    The mfg touch way more trucks (or gensets) in a year that any FD will. Their experience is what you're buying, use it.
    In some cases this may be the case, but certainly not all. I've met tons of firetruck salesmen that have sold tons of different things, many not fire service related. one even sold sailboats! Similarly, touching gensets in no way should be considered vast experience. Just because Onan or Harrison gives them a great deal, a builder will push them all day long. The whole package has to make sense. You take each part of the pie and try to assemble the best apparatus. If what your salesman says goes along with what others have experienced, then great, but what if there's a significant conflict?

    Hell look at the platform fire apparatus market. It seems that very few engineers have a clue how we'll use them! Look at the big P dumpster bucket or the Sutphen or the last E-One buckets. Why is there such a push to equip master streams with $5K automatic fog nozzles when smoothbores are more effective, efficient and cheaper not too mention cause less stress on their aerials!

    Not to cast to bad a light on the sales force out there. There are a fair amount of knowledgeable salesmen with credible information and experience, you have to be able to see the difference. On the other hand there are too many FD's that have no clue what they want or need. Best yet would be to hire third party independent consultant.
    Last edited by RFDACM02; 11-24-2008 at 03:56 PM.

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    Not to cast to bad a light on the sales force out there. There are a fair amount of knowledgeable salesmen with credible information and experience, you have to be able to see the difference. On the other hand there are too many FD's that have no clue what they want or need. Best yet would be to hire third party independent consultant.[/QUOTE]



    I want to agree with that, and in theory I do. My only concern with a third party independent is that you don't really know if there are kickbacks. I'm generally the type to trust a man on his word, but money talks, and some of the best men have fallen victim to this. It's not unlike Consumer Reports, who claims to be completely independant, but if you read it enough, you'll see that they have loyalty to certain manufacturers, and if they can't reccomend them, they just won't review them at all as to not point out thier short comings.

    My comments on Third Party Consultants is completely out of school though, since I know nobody in this business and have never used one. I'm open to another side of this story...

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    Quote Originally Posted by RFDACM02 View Post
    Just because Onan or Harrison gives them a great deal, a builder will push them all day long. .
    Maybe I am just too old school but, as a firetruck salesperson I don't care what brand of generator you want. If you want an Onan then my job is to try to get you an Onan. I have never cared to work with salespeople who try to press their preferences on the customer. It is preferable, in my mind, to only offer a personal preference when pushed to do so. For all I know the Chief's son-in-law is the largest Onan warranty shop in the nation.

    The sales rep should be listening to to the customer. Most builders I have been affiliated with feel the same way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by firepundit View Post
    The sales rep should be listening to to the customer. Most builders I have been affiliated with feel the same way.
    From the side of a customer, this too is how we prefer it. I've seen one salesman be great to us and totally condescending to a neighboring FD. Sort of like a car salesman changing his pitch between a male customer or a female. If the FD doesn't know what their doing so much, the salesman can lead them. It's imperative for the FD to know what it is they want/need first.

    Our use of a consultant when we bought our tower had very little to do with brand specifics. We determined the suitability of sticks vs. towers, MM vs. RM, quints vs. trucks and came up with some rough specs. They helped us write performance specs vs. manufacturers specs. This may well not be the case with all consultants, but we were very satisfied.

    Sales people have to have some alliances with certain products and reps, it's really the nature of the game. For those FD's with a decent idea what they're doing, this shouldn't be an issue, for others: hang onto your wallet. Again, I know some great salesman who really care about the customer and the products they rep, and more often than not their good name. Keeping a good name in the sales business amongst firefighters is tough, we chew people up!

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    Quote Originally Posted by firepundit View Post
    The sales rep should be listening to to the customer. Most builders I have been affiliated with feel the same way.

    Thanks, sounds like a salesperson I'd want to deal with.

    I'm in sales too, not fire apparatus, but in many ways, sales is sales. In what I sell, people can make some serious mistakes, so I think its my job to help protect them from themselves. Of course, in order to do this you have to listem to them and understand what they are trying to accomplish at the same time.

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