“I will prepare and some day my chance will come.” — Abraham Lincoln
Little did President Abraham Lincoln know that more than 150 years later his words would be used in a sales-focused article for contractors. But just as Lincoln finally realized his dream of becoming the President of the United States, so too can we take note of the first part of Lincoln’s own realization.
“I will prepare…”
Getting sales now means preparing “before.” That is, getting more sales is directly related to how much and what type of preparation you do. Sure, it’s good to have a little luck along the way. I’ll take “luck over skill” any day, but in the long run being especially prepared to land more sales will be what rewards you in the end.
So, what sort of preparation is best applied to position you for getting more sales now? Let’s look at a few tips that just may put some extra “oomph” in your “gitty up.”
1. Look for sales opportunities
Crazy as it may appear, too many construction salespeople and estimators still “schedule” their selling effort. But you can’t schedule sales to a particular amount of time each day or to some regimented hours. Successful contractors realize that you are always ready, and looking, for sales opportunities. And when “opportunities knock” you must be poised to respond.
2. Rehearse for “gotcha” sales opportunities
An interesting exercise I learned while playing football for the successful coach, Tom Osborne, at the University of Nebraska, was the art of visualization. The exercise included visualizing a particular play in my head, focusing on seeing each player doing what he was supposed to do. This effort included inserting myself into the visualization and seeing myself complete a successful pass. This entire experience, though a bit awkward and uncomfortable initially, became an exercise that I would carry with me and practice even when I did my own selling years later. If you will mentally rehearse potential sales opportunities that might pop up at any moment and visualize how you would execute a conversation and how you would lead a customer to buying from you, you may be amazed when the visualization is actually realized.
3. Keep sales/estimating docs with you at all times
I quit counting the number of stories I’ve heard through the years from successful contractors who, when in a “gotcha” opportunity, retrieved sales forms kept in their vehicle and did their measuring and estimating right there at the time. Their reward? Getting the sale at the exact moment of opportunity. Now, I realize that not all situations like this are rewarded immediately, and not all sales opportunities can be so quickly handled. However, if you are not prepared with the necessary estimating information and proposal templates, there is a tendency almost to turn away when presented with an opportunity. Many contractors have their bid sheets and proposal templates loaded on their laptop and can create an estimate in a matter of minutes when the opportunity arises. It does pay to keep such documents close by whether on your laptop or as paper copies.
4. Present an “instant discount” for buying…NOW
Ok, this may be a little “cheesy” but don’t get too smug too quick. “Gotcha” opportunities are often “gotcha” moments because a customer who suddenly realizes, “Oh my gosh, I need to get some work done…ASAP!” will often respond ASAP to your discount of 2 percent to 10 percent off of your calculated estimated IF he buys right now. Never waste a good customer surprise. He might say “No”, and you can go back to the old-fashioned methods of estimating, but be quick to offer an emotional teaser by “test closing” with an instant discount.
5. Offer fall-ending incentives for spring season start-up
One sure way of getting sales now is to provide an excuse for the customer to save a few bucks now to be placed on the early spring schedule. The incentive used might be a price discount as addressed in the previous point, but an incentive might also include giving away an additional service, viewed as a perk, to be included with the spring start-up. This effort can be great at building up some backlog of inventory that can give your company some much needed motivation to prepare your equipment and work processes over the winter shut down.
6. Provide premium membership perks for premium customers
Millions of air travelers have become perk “addicts” to their carrier. Obsessed with what perks they are offered, loyal fliers carefully account for all that is due them for flying their air miles with a particular airline company. You can create the same perk obsession with your customers. For example, let’s take the contractor who works with property managers of apartments or condominiums. Consider a point system that might be offered to build a premium customer base. You can play with the numbers both for work sold to a customer and the amount of discount provided, but for every:
- $5,000 work = 10 points
- $50,000.00 work = 100 points = 1 percent to 2 percent discount
- $150,000 work = 500 points = 2 percent to three percent discount
- $500,000 work = 2,000 points = 3 percent to 5 percent discount
Admittedly, this tip is more advantageous to the specialty contractor (i.e. concrete, electrical, decorative concrete, masonry, paving, etc.) than the general contractor; it is none-the-less a great sales tool that would create some interest and more commitment with many customers. Consider that if you have a growing repeat client who has contracted with you for hundreds of thousands of dollars, she will be more determined to maximize the discounts that she has “earned” by being loyal to your company.
7. Just ask for the sale
This tip is so elementary that it should have “#1.” Sales researchers continue to find that a leading reason why more sales do not happen is simply because the salesperson does not ask for the sale. I have found this to be true in the construction industry as well. Many contractors, or their estimators, will work hard at pulling together accurate numbers and perhaps even give the customer some of the best reasons for doing business with their company. However, when it comes to the “closing” time the same contractor or estimator fails to gather enough courage to ask for the sale.
Now consider the psychological impact experienced by the customer: Over the course of one or more meetings, a customer has heard the contractor (or estimator) say some pretty great things about her construction company and crews. Why then, at the time when the sales question should be raised is it not presented? For the customer, this creates an instant source of doubt. He often thinks, “You had me going, and then you don’t even ask me to buy from you. What’s wrong with your company?” Just think, the contractor (or estimator) stops at the exact moment that she has been building toward and, in the process, actually increases the chance that the customer will not buy from her now — or any time in the future.
8. Provide comprehensive “option A” before offering phase I “option B” now
Here’s a great technique that I’ve used many times in the past. Providing your customer with a more comprehensive option, at a much higher price, often clears the path for you to then offer a second option that takes a much smaller “phase” of the more comprehensive option, and provides it at a lower price. Even the most sincere customers who recognize the benefits of your comprehensive proposal may jump at the chance to get something done now, and “we’ll deal with the other later.” This is a great way to move a customer who has sort of played hard to nail down to act.
I’ve experienced and witnessed each of the eight tips presented above. While each tip might have more success in some situations over others, and with some customers more than others, the tips can be used to help build up your backlog for the next season or for the 12-month contractor who fights it out nonstop.
Get some sales…NOW!
© Brad Humphrey, Pinnacle Development Group/the Contractor’s Best Friend™