In more than 20 years in the construction industry, both as a contractor and consultant, I have realized time and time again the reality of increasing business from my number one "prospect"?my current customer. Yet I continue to get requests from contractors on how to grow their revenues through new and creative business development strategies to capture new customers.
Now, we certainly need to maintain an effort to drive new business, but too many opportunities slip by us to increase our revenues, and our profits, with those customers who we have performed work for in the past. Let me share a few techniques and approaches that may help you to raise your revenue this year by going back to a proven "fishing hole."
1. Gain the vision of your customer. Getting a clear picture from your customers about what their project objectives are should be an effort made during the selling phases leading up to the first sale. If the project is commercial, will there be additional concrete needs? What are the expansion projections? If the job is for a residential customer, will the customer be looking at additional add-ons or improvements in the future? Don't be timid when it comes to identifying future opportunities that your customer might be looking at in the future. If you don't ask the customer might mistakenly assume you really aren't interested in more work.
2. Strive to "partner" on the development & budgeting effort. Nothing ties a contractor to a customer better than having been part of the actual development phase of the project. Likewise, working as the financial consultant on developing a practical budget with your customer allows you to get close to the real emotional side of paying for the work. Once you enter the "inner sanctum" of the customer's financial world there is little else that they will be shy about discussing with you.
3. Personalize your follow-up and stay in touch with customers. This combination of efforts continues to be the leading reason why more contractors fail to get more work from the same customer. Follow-up moves to contact the customer about work that is in process to see how they are doing and what they are thinking. If the customer shares her desire for additional work in the future follow-up gives you license to call or e-mail her on a consistent basis to keep your name and interest in front of her. Even if you have sales people who made the sale it is important that you contact the customers. Often, an owner brings even greater interest and intensity to the relationship. Many contractors will send out generic thank-you cards and letters, perhaps even putting new customers on their newsletter receiving list. While these efforts keep your name out there they are not of the personal nature that brings greater "likability" to you and your company.
4. Host customers for your company's "State of the Union." Once a year you should host a breakfast or luncheon where you invite some of your better customers to share with them your firm's direction and commitment to your customers. This is a good time to invite your customers to share their needs and expectations about where they are going. I've facilitated many of these luncheons, often called "Lunch and Learns," for contractors across the United States, and the response is always very positive. You can always hold more than one of these luncheons a year and simply better segregate the customers you want there. The customers actually enjoy the luncheon since they will often fall into conversations with other customers who have also enjoyed your company's work results.
5. Provide an incentive to repeat customers. Certainly, many customers appreciate an incentive from a contractor who they have given work to in the past. An incentive might be a percentage discount on upcoming work to be performed, a "pass" on a deposit that is often required of new customers, or a higher priority in scheduling upcoming work. While the financial incentive might be the hook with customers whom you have just completed one or two projects, the long-term customer may simply appreciate knowing that you will move their job up a little sooner on your schedule when possible.