Using Your Competitive Advantage

Finding out why your clients hire you will help you land the jobs you want.

Ron Roberts

Why do builders or homeowners hire you instead of your competition? Did you answer that with a claim of "better quality"? Try again. All contractors think their work is of superior quality. I've got a secret to tell you. Are you listening closely? Unless your competition is really messing up, your clients can't tell the difference.

Surely you've discovered that most building owners have totally unrealistic quality expectations. Your clients probably aren't going to be wowed by anyone's quality. If an architect or engineer is involved, their specs probably border on unreasonable standards for finished concrete. They certainly can't tell the difference between contractors who are performing to standard practice and those who are not.

Now, back to the original question - why do your clients hire you? Here are some of the possible reasons your customers choose you:

  • You are the first to respond.
  • You are easy to work with.
  • You give them the lowest price (that's the lip service excuse).
  • You are courteous.
  • You are funny.
  • You help them budget.
  • You communicate well.
  • You are attractive (don't underestimate the impact appearances have on homeowners' buying decisions).
  • Your pre-construction services are helpful and well thought out.
  • You have a flawless, on-time completion record.
  • You perform superior quality work (it can be the reason, it just isn't often the reason).
  • Your crews and equipment look clean and professional.
  • Their friend recommended you.

The competitive advantage
That's a long list and it certainly isn't complete, but it's absolutely essential that you learn the real reason your clients hire you. It's your competitive advantage, and it is the one thing that you do better than your competition. You need to embrace your competitive advantage and emphasize it because your future success depends on knowing, maintaining and aggressively marketing your competitive advantage. It's the one aspect of your service for which your clients are willing to pay a premium, and it's the one aspect that will grab their attention in advertising.

You will never learn what your competitive advantage is unless you ask your clients why they hired you. And you need to ask them because you'll never be able to guess. Take another look at that list of possible reasons your clients hire you. Do you really believe you know why they hire you? I didn't know why my clients hired me, and I am tuned into this stuff.

Let me give you a quick example from my own practice. I thought my clients were hiring me to keep them focused on business building activities. As it turns out, most wanted an outsider to hold them accountable and to keep them motivated. I wasn't on the same page with my clients, and you probably aren't on the same page with yours either.

Now, don't try to run a bunch of customer feedback surveys because nobody likes to fill them out, and you aren't going to get reliable answers. People buy with their hearts then try to rationalize their decisions logically. Study after study has revealed that people rarely make the decision that they thought they would. Strangely, most of us are unaware that we make decisions emotionally not logically.

When you try to survey your customers, they respond logically. That's why survey results are rarely good predictors of future buying behavior. You need to uncover your clients' emotional drivers, and the only way to do that is to ask questions.

If you ask your clients straight away why they hired you, they will give you a well reasoned, logical explanation behind their choice, and it will be completely detached from reality.

In order to dig out the real answer, pick out your five most valuable clients, the five you can count on for solid, profitable sales. If you sell your concrete services to a diverse group of clients, say homeowners, property managers and general contractors, repeat the process for each group. Try to meet with 10 or more homeowners for a better look at this diverse group.

Take each client out for coffee or lunch. Tell them how much you appreciate their business. Tell them how much you would appreciate some honest feedback that you can use as guidance for your sales and marketing efforts. Then ask them, "Why did you originally hire me and why do you continue to hire me?"

    Then rephrase the question in a variety of ways:

  • "What problems do I solve for you?"
  • "If you could tell a friend just one reason to hire me, what would that reason be?"
  • "Prior to hiring me, what was your experience with other concrete contractors?"
  • "What do you like least about construction?"
  • "What is the biggest pain you have to deal with in your job?"
  • "Tell me your honest opinion about working with my company and field crew."

If they respond to your initial question with "low price," don't believe them and keep digging for the real, emotional reason why they hire you. Believe me, they have one. They may not be completely aware of it at first, but it will become apparent with proper questioning.

Using your competitive advantage
Once you know the reason clients are hiring you, in other words your competitive advantage, here's how to use that knowledge to turbo-charge your bottom line.

Focus your advertising copy on your competitive advantage. Use it to target prospects. Ask about it in your sales calls. Use it to qualify customers. If the prospect doesn't value your competitive advantage, move on to another one.

Knowing your competitive advantage and how to express it in words your clients relate to lets you quickly build rapport with prospects, strengthen relationships and get you past gatekeepers and on to the decision makers. Most importantly, it helps you close sales at the prices you want.

You really need to know why your clients hire you. Go ask them. Then craft your marketing messages and selling efforts around their answers.

Ron Roberts, The Contractor's Business Coach, teaches contractors how to turn their business into a profit spewing machine. To receive Ron's FREE Contractor Best Practices Newsletter visit www.Filthy