The Contractor's Best Friend /10-31-2012/ Trick or...Treat?

OK, call me a “sucker for sweets,” but I can’t let a good opportunity pass when it comes to playing off of an idea (actually inspired by my editor! Thanks Allan). Humor me and let me see what learning we can experience in the “Trick or Treat” of construction.

For every contractor who tries to provide a customer with honest, accurate, and cost-effective suggestions and estimates, there are three to five contractors who may try to “Trick” the customer into making a decision based on falsehoods or “half-truths.” There seems to be no shortage of contractors who will tell customers just about anything to get work, including not telling them the “whole truth and nothing but the truth!”

In this economic time that still smacks of bidding wars, lower mark-ups than ever, and more competitors than ever bidding on the same or fewer projects, it is sure tempting even for the most honorable of contractors to consider offering their own “trick.” Let’s address, however, the need for you to provide a “treat” that the customer can trust in and count on.

When Estimating…Be Thorough, Accurate, and Honest!

Determining how “sharp” your pencil should be when estimating work is normal. It’s tough bidding out there today and you need to be competitive. But for many contractors “sharpening your pencil” does not necessitate exaggerating or stretching the actual needs of the customer. Be competitive and bid to win -- but work hard at bidding what is actually needed, being honest with customers about their real needs. In the end, those contractors who are most consistently thorough, accurate, and honest, will win out.

When You’ve Won a Bid…Confirm with the Customer Your Bid’s Components!

For bids won, always walk through the bid to remind and refocus customers on their decision to go with your recommendations. This will not cause customers to second-guess their decision to go with you but confirm why you are their preferred contractor. Additionally, such an effort on your part allows you to point out sensitive areas of the bid such as those efforts the customers need to adhere to such as:

  • Clearing areas of employees or equipment for your crews to work;
  • Making arrangements to have security allow your workers to enter work areas at odd hours;
  • Signing off on proposed material choices to enable early procurement.

When You’ve Lost a Bid…Confirm with the Customer Your Bid’s Components! Part 2

No, I’ve not lost my mind. When you have lost a bid, call the customer directly and ask her to share with you what persuaded her decision. Ask her if you can address your bid to make sure you were clear in your own understanding about what you bid. Some customers may not give you all of their reasons but this effort demonstrates to the customer that you are not afraid of your bid’s price and you’re confident in your company’s ability to perform. Finishing a close second can provide first place opportunities in the future…even from those customers who didn’t choose you on the lost bid.

When Your Crews Execute a Won Bid…Be Quick to Confirm Excellence!

The “Treat” is best insured by you to see that the work you bid is executed flawlessly and to the specifications and processes projected by your bid. Too many contractors, having worked hard to win work, are very quick to go win some more work; thus not being as quick to confirm that their crews are performing with excellence. After the bid is won, it is even more critical that you not “Trick” the customer by performance that is poorly planned and even less impressively installed.

When Your Crews Complete Work…Confidently Walk Your Customers Over the Job!

You want to separate yourself from your competitors? Invite your customers to join you to walk the completed work, pointing out installed work that might have been difficult. Stop at these areas and describe what made the work challenging and how your crew worked brilliantly to deliver the best possible results. This is acceptable bragging on your part and builds greater confidence in your customers that they selected the most preferred contractor.

As a subscriber to The Contractor’s Best Friend™ you are committed to providing the best effort possible for your customers.  Let this Halloween remind you to separate yourself from the “Tricksters” out there and work always to provide your customers with the “Treat” of intelligent, accurate, and ethical work.

From selling to estimating; from work execution to follow-up and relationship building, be a giver of “Treats.” Don’t let the “Tricks” associated with getting cheap work tempt you to sell out the more professional approach that will, in the end, reward you and your customers with valuable “Treats” of excellence.

And one more thing: If you have little ones to take out this Halloween, remember to check their candy bags for the good and safe treats!

Brad Humphrey

© 2012 Brad Humphrey, Pinnacle Development Group/the Contractor’s Best Friend™


At 4:30 p.m. CST Thursday, Nov. 8, Brad Humphrey will conduct a free webinar "Year-end Secrets that Strengthen the the New Year Start Up." The 60-minute session will cover three topics and provide opportunities for listeners to ask questions. Don't miss it! Click here to register.