Tiger: Just a thought... Do you mean "prequalify" as in one of the requirements to BID on a job?? The NJ Highway Authority (Turnpike/Parkway) and a lot of other government type jobs-for-bid require that the contractor (or subs) be "prequalified" for the scale/scope of the project.
I don't really understand it, which is why I'm asking, but I get the idea that it's a system to weed out the price shoppers or bottom feeders, like people that could care less if you're insured or not as long as your price is lower.
The thing about trying to prequalify customers is the one's that you can check out don't need it anyway. I find that if you have work with the good customer you don't bother with the bottom feeders and if things are slow and you are willing to take chances it doesn't do any good to try and check these people out. I can normally tell over they phone in a couple minutes if I'm dealing with a dead beat. Then it's up to you if you want to chance it . I have gotten blood from a turnip but I wouldn't recommend the hassel.
Just to follow up a bit on HotLine's post, I work for a public agency in Los Angeles, and in our project bids, each bidder and all their subcontractors whose bid is $100K or more must be approved by our prequalification department before bid date. I think this comes from times past when we might have awarded a contact to a bidder that was not financially able to perform the contract. Our pre-qual is mostly financial data about the bidder's firm, and the information required by pre-qual is held confidential. Really - pre-qual does not share their information with anyone.
Pre-qual Dept strongly recommends to perspective bidders to not include any pre-qual documents in their bid packages because bid packages become public information. Pre-qual wants bidders to submit the forms directly to them, and get approval before bid date.
Kinda complex, but there are reasons for it. Our pre-qual is quite different than electrical contractors trying to prequalify potential customers. I thought I'd share this spin on it.
There are 10 types of people. Those who know binary, and those who don't.
I've sold remodeling and construction, never electrical services (at least not by without other work)
Pre-qualifying leads is about making sure you aren't wasting your time going out to spend an hour with every person who calls the office and just wonder's what some fantasy job might cost but will never buy.
The best pre-qualifying is just chatting with the person on the phone first, find out what work they want done, what sort of budget they have, if they've already talked to someone about financing, if they've had other types of projects done. Once you've gathered enough info, give them a price range over the phone and see if they flinch.
From a friendly 5 minute conversation, you can tell if you've got a customer who's serious or not. You make money on production. Estimating and bidding takes time away from production and costs you money. It usually happens in evenigns and weekends so you should consider its cost at overtime rates.
You can't afford to waste your time with tire kickers. I've known people who have said that every lead is a potential sale and pre-qualifying leads is a bad idea. For a small shop with no full-time sales staff, I think it's the only way to survive.