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Do You Quote With A Crayon Or A Pencil?

It was early one summer morning 26 years ago, when I walked down into the dank bowels of the local branch of a Worcester bank, where I was slaving away as an electrical apprentice after getting out of the USAF. I was doing nothing short of “bull-work,” yanking 500 MCM copper through 4” conduits. I had showed up early that hot, humid morning, to meet up with my boss, George, and go over the day’s work, when I overheard the conversation George was having with Leo, the man in charge of all the bank branches.

Leo said. “Ya’ know George, if you wanna keep this account and want anymore work from me, you better sharpen your pencil.” George’s face went sickly white, after Leo dropped that bomb on his lap.

I distinctly remember the date, time and location, and most definitely remember that terrible look on ol’ George’s face. It was if he was being led off to the hangman’s gallows. I also remember that it was one hell of a work week. George treated me and the other apprentice, Jeff, like we were two red-headed stepsons. We were both at the receiving end of a boat-load of torture (mental and verbal) from George.

In hindsight and fairness to George, he saw his whole life flash before his eye’s after Leo tore into him about his pricing. And it was fear and self-loathing that was oozing out of his pores when he was taking it out on Jeff and I. George’s main fear was that he was about to lose this *BIG* account and, if the account disappeared, he didn’t have sh*t left.

George didn’t know squat about sales and marketing and, therefore, was at the mercy of Leo. George certainly knew about doing a good job, but he didn’t know how to move up the food chain of life.

I knew then at the age of 24 that I wanted to be in business and I definitely didn’t want to be held hostage by those who’d say “you better sharpen your pencil.” Shoot, I knew then that it meant a life of bleeping poverty if you caved into such demands. I’d be better of becoming a monk and taking an oath of poverty, and it would be a stress-free life, to boot. I realized back then if I was going to quote a job, I needed to be a big, fat, bright, beautiful, colorful CRAYON, not a # 2 black boring pencil.

So, long story short, I immersed myself for YEARS in high-level sales and marketing tactics and strategies to become the beautiful, vibrant, glorious crayon, that I am today, that can charge what he wants, and has a waiting list for work-to-be-done.

Are You A Pencil Or A Crayon When It Comes To Estimating?

– Pencil, Believe the business is a game of volume.

– Crayons, Understand that business is a game of margin, and not volume.

– Pencils, quote RFP’s to the spec, and don’t offer nothing more.

– Crayons, Tell the prospect that they can conform to the RFP specs if it’s mandatory, but that they have an even better, more “elegant approach” and here’s why you should look at it.

– Pencils, Always whine about it’s not an “apples to apples” comparison.

– Crayons, use the “apples to oranges” comparison, by using “Value Creation” and “EBSM” (Education Based Security Marketing) to make their competition irrelevant.

– Pencils, Are always daydreaming about hiring a cracker-jack tech, and finding an Armani suited sales rep to hustle up alarm accounts. But when you’re always “sharpen your pencil,” these no margin left over to invest in your business.

– Crayons, Are able to attract and retain top techs and sales reps, cuz they’re able to quote projects that allow them to pay their people well above the going rate.

– Pencils, Are not able to reinvest in their business to expand their business, cuz there ain’t no margin leftover to do any investing with.

– Crayons, Are able to purchase other security companies, launch other divisions, such as locksmithing, guard services, high-end home entertainment, bodyguard services. And the sharp as tacks security entrepreneurs are franchising their business.

– Pencils, usually quote the same way there old boss did, if the ol’ Boss was a known “low-bidder,” then the protege follows suit into “LBHOF” (Low-Bidder Hall Of Fame.)

– Crayons, will invest in their sales and marketing know-how, and learn super marketing strategies for attracting and retaining clients for life. They intuitively understand that if that don’t grow their knowledge base always

– Pencils, See retirement the punishing way, by crawling about bed at 5:30 AM at the ripe old age of 72, to get in a rickety old van and drive a 120 miles to swap over a system.

– Crayons, See retirement in the British West Indies, with an Operations Manager, back home running the business on a day to day basis.

Free Will
It’s your choice if you’re gonna estimate with a pencil or a crayon, it’s called free-will. Dramatic income improvement is nearly always preceded by the product of personal and professional development. If you’re attempting to prosper in the present markets conditions, with yesteryears know-how and methods, you’re in big trouble.

Stay Awesome

If Your Gonna Be at ISC West, I’d Love To See Yah!
I’d love to meet up with you if you are attending ISC West. I’ll be hanging out Wednesday (4/10/13) 3PM – 5PM at the VideoIQ booth (6095), and Thursday (4/11/13) 11AM – 1PM at the DoorKing booth (23055). Stop by if you’re in the area.


  1. Jim says

    I read with great interest, your article on “Do you quote with a crayon or a pencil”. This is the only email that I’ve read that actually makes me want to be at the ISC. If you ever find yourself near the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I be there to listen.
    Jim Overton
    Discreet Security Alarms, LLC

  2. Bob Maunsell says

    Hey Jim,

    Vegas was a blast! I appreciate the kind the words. Hopefully, we can meet up someday.


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