We all know how much easier it is to land work from a current client than it is with a new client. Recognizing an opportunity is one thing – taking advantage of it is completely another.
As a pavement maintenance contractor, you have four potential tactics for increasing sales from a current client. Each of the tactics is proven. Several contractors have used one or more of these methods to dramatically increase their sales.
- Sell additional services
- Increase your client market share
- Increase your client's budget
- Get referrals to new clients
Before we delve into the how-to of each method, let's take a moment to review what we know about your clients. Most of your clients are property managers of one stripe or another. They are responsible for keeping buildings or apartments rented. They are responsible for keeping their tenants or tenants' customers happy. Rent generates their company's income. Their parking lot doesn't generate income. Their parking lot shouldn't take up a lot of their attention nor their time. If it does, it's become a headache.
Your job as a pavement maintenance contractor is to minimize that headache. Until you are removing all of your client's parking lot headaches, you have room for expanding sales from that client. Now let's look at four ways to do that.
Tactic 1: Sell additional services
You should seriously consider becoming a one-stop-shop for your clients' parking lot needs. It simplifies his day. He only has to make one phone call to solve lot problems be they snow removal, potholes, trash removal, or whatever. You can do this by subcontracting the services you choose not to self-perform. If you are a sweeper, offer to provide pavement repair, marking, sprinkler repair, exterior painting, landscaping, etc.
This approach is often thought of as a General Contractor approach to pavement maintenance. Regardless of what you call it, this approach produces many attractive benefits. You close the door on your competitors. When your client is hiring separate sweepers, pavement repair, pavement marking, landscaping, etc., your client is forming relationships with several companies who could become your competition. If you can offer one-stop-shopping for your client, so can they.
How do you know what services your clients might be eager to have you to take off their hands and how much they might be willing to pay for that simplicity? Ask them "in a perfect world, how attractive would be having a single contact and a single invoice for all of your parking lot and grounds keeping needs?"
If you offer work, quality subcontractors will line up at your door to perform it. If you land enough of this work, you will be in position to negotiate attractive deals with your subcontractors. The good subcontractors will take care of your clients.
Tactic 2: Increase your client market share
Do you get all of your client's work or is the budget spread out over multiple contractors? If you are having to share the budget, try to get it all.
Arrange for a meeting, sit down, and ask your client why you are only getting part of the available work. Ask the client for honest feedback regarding your company's performance and perceived capabilities, and your competition's performance and perceived capabilities. Ask your client what his or her biggest pain is with the current arrangement.
Your objective is to uncover weak points in your client's relationship with your competition. If the relationship could be better, your client will openly express displeasure. Politely inquire as to the value of solving the problem in that relationship. "Why do you continue to hire them?" When the conversation is controlled properly, you client will let you know exactly how to earn more business from him.
Tactic 3: Increase your client's budget
How many of your clients understand how to maximize the service life of their parking lot? How many are spending enough money to maximize the service life of their parking lot? Few clients understand the long term damage created by cracks and potholes.
If you educate your customers on the physics of asphalt pavement, the diseases that shorten its life, and the cures that extend it, you will most likely convince them to start budgeting far more money for pavement maintenance. Naturally, if you're the one who educated them how to make wise pavement maintenance spending decisions, you are going to be the first one they trust with their repair needs. People buy from people they like and trust. It's human nature.
Here's what you need to do. Download the PASER Manual for Asphalt Roads from the Transportation Information Center of the University of Wisconsin – Madison (http://tic.engr.wisc.edu/publications.lasso). Take photos of problem areas in your client's lot. Sit down with your client, explain the PASER system, show your client pictures of the areas that he hasn't budgeted for repair, and offer to create a multi-year maintenance plan. Prior to creating the report, reach agreement with your client that he pay for the report upon delivery (consider $400 per lot) but you will credit the cost towards the first repair job for the associated lot.
This is a perfect way to spend your winter free-time. Create your spring and summer sales leads in November, December, January and February.
Tactic 4: Get referrals
The fourth tactic for increasing sales from a customer requires you to alter your thinking about your customer's role in your business future. Your customers represent far more than mere sales. Good or bad, they control the fate of your company.
If your customers are upset with your services, they will convince 10 others to avoid you. If they are absolutely thrilled with your services, they will convince 10 others to hire you. If they are mildly pleased with your services, they might convince 10 others to hire you, but only if you ask them to.
If you consistently under-perform, word will get out. If you consistently over-perform (deliver great value) word may get out, but only if you prod it. So, the fourth tactic to increasing customer sales is to implement a customer referral system.
You need a referral system that is going to consistently remind your current clients that you are interested in adding new clients. In order to do that, you need to be sending cards, letters, or e-mails on a set schedule. The ideal timing is immediately after the first project you perform for them then every two months thereafter.
Vary your pitch. Your referral request during the busy season needs to explain that you are looking to build relationships with new prospects who may not be in immediate need of your services but might in the future.
The slickest and easiest method to automate your referral requests is to use www.sendoutpostcards.com. From their website, you select, write, and address cards that are printed and then mailed through the postal service.
Your ultimate goal is to get your clients to clear the way by calling their peers on your behalf. Your odds of getting work from their peers skyrockets when your client calls your prospect. Whose claims about your superior services are your prospects more likely to believe, yours or your customer's?
A referral system accomplishes two objectives: (1) it persuades your pleased customers to pass your name along, and (2) it uncovers customers who will actively promote your services to one and all. Pleased customers will be willing to spread your name, but they will want to do it quietly without going out of their way. Your passionate customers will be your marketing megaphone. They will get on the phone and call their contacts. They will give you glowing testimonials. If you are lucky enough to find one, use him for marketing your business in every way possible.
Here are a couple of other tips regarding referrals:
- One of the easiest ways to get referrals is to give them. Learn what products and services your customers provide, ask them who their target client is. Try to send clients their way.
- Always send a thank you card and a gift of appropriate value for a client referral. That small show of appreciation will carry great weight with your client.
- While you're out chasing referrals, make sure to collect testimonials. Clients who give you referrals will not hesitate to give you a testimonial. The referral asks much more of them than does a testimonial.
The real trick to consistently generating great leads is systematically promoting by word-of-mouth, but that won't happen accidentally. A proper and systematic referral system could become the only marketing strategy you ever need to keep your plate full. It certainly is the most reliable, fruitful, and economical.
All four of these tactics require you to embrace selling. It's your choice to make. If you're not happy with your current progress, give these ideas a try. You'll probably be amazed at the results they produce.
Ron Roberts, The Contractor's Business Coach, provides business guidance to contractors. To receive a free copy of Ron's report, "The 10 Biggest Mistakes Contractors Make" visit www.FilthyRichContractor.com or contact him at Ron@filthyrichcontractor.com.