Talking with the general contractor’s estimator before a bid can be a great way to gain insight into the project being bid and your competition. Depending on the type of job I call around to all of the general contractors that I know about. Usually I can tell within just a moment or two if the general contractor is interested in having a conversation or just wants me to go away. I usually have a legit reason to be calling them but sometimes I have to search for that reason. You would be surprised what you may learn prior to a bid from a talkative estimator!
If you talk with the general contractors early on in the bidding process you can use it as a tool to vet your scope. General Contractors love knowing that they have a complete quote coming in on bid day. I have often found potential holes in my quote by talking with them. You have to be cautious about covering things that should not be part of your quote though. Whatever you do be sure to get the estimators email address. Email is a great non-intrusive way to establish on going communication and bounce potential scope issues off of the estimator without wearing out your welcome.
Sometimes due to time constraints I may not get a chance to talk with the general contractors until just before the bid. Usually at such a late date I quickly introduce myself and basically go over my scope letter and ask if they are in agreement with my interpretation of the bid documents. I usually tailor my quote to the consensus about what is included or not. For example if most of the general contractors are covering the concrete light pole bases I will exclude them to everyone. If one general contractor absolutely has to have the price I will include it as a voluntary alternate add and list a unit price.
Today’s electrical estimators rarely need to speak to general contractors because of technology such as on-line job posting web sites, email addendum notifications, faxes, tweets and etc but behind all of this technology there is someone sitting at a desk wondering the same thing as you are. Do I have everything covered and only what I need to have covered? Pick up the phone call them you would be amazed what you might learn!