Selling small quantity custom profiles

      Dealing with customers who don't comprehend the work and cost involved in the manufacture of custom knives. June 6, 2001

We often encounter a lack of understanding by the customer when it comes to running a custom profile and grinding knives specifically for their job.

One customer requested a quote for 40lf of baseboard. We added in the cost of the knives and told him the price, which he didn't like. Two weeks later, the same customer ordered the baseboard and was happy with the product.

Anybody else receive this kind of treatment when it comes to custom profiles? How do you deal with it?

Forum Responses
Been in your shoes. People need to be reminded that our time is just as valuable as theirs. As for the guy off the street who wants to get some mouldings made to replace what he has, we just explain the process, and have even let him watch the process on occasion. These guys seem to understand. Steel, grinders and moulders are a big investment. We also make a point of telling the client that once the profile is in our library, the cost per foot drops. This has gotten them to come back for more, lowering their cost per foot in the long run.

I just explain that the moulding costs so much, and that the knife is an additional charge. By keeping the two items separate, I'll often convince a customer to go with a similar profile. They're happy to save the money and usually feel the savings was more than worth the small difference in profile.

We explain that if it isn't a stock profile for us, there is a knife charge, and depending on the footage, this may make it cost prohibitive. If they squawk, I point them to someone else. We try not to do personal projects for architects, contractors or developers - it can strain the relationship.

From the original questioner:
I tried the separate cost approach. I get a response of "then that knife is mine". That becomes another controversy, because my position is that the knife becomes a part of our library, and should they want additional moulding, the cost per foot will drop.

We grind knives and supply custom router bits and shaper tooling. At least twice a week someone will come to our shop with a piece of moulding and ask for a router bit to reproduce it. Invariably, they cannot find what they want in a stock router bit and are shocked at the cost of a tool to produce what is needed. On the other side, we have ground knives for as little as 6' of moulding.

"I tried the separate cost approach. I get a response of "then that knife is mine"."

I got that a couple of times, also. I just explained that every time they brought their knives in to run some mold, there would be a sharpening charge. And if the knife wore out, they would have to pay again, whereas if I kept the knife I would sharpen it or replace it for no charge. I made sure from then on if I priced a set of knives, I charged the same as if I were selling just the knives. I've had less complaints since I separated the knife charge from the per-foot price of the mold, and made more in the process.

If the knives go through our checkbook, we keep them; if the customer wants to order the knives to my specs and pay directly for the grinding, then I'll ship them out with the moulding. Only a couple of times over the years has a customer wanted to buy the knives directly.

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