Words: George Hedley
To win more work at higher margins against less competition, you first have to identify the customer and project targets you want to attack. Then you can go out and offer what these potential customers want to win their work. Each type of customer hires contractors for different reasons. Think like a professional football team owner. To sell private boxes to major corporations or high net worth business executives requires a different approach than selling one game to individual ticket buyers who shop for the lowest price on the internet. Similarly in your construction business, selling to high-end homeowners is much different than selling to design-build general contractors, public works entities, major national corporations, or real estate developers. Each requires a unique selling and marketing strategy to be successful. Let’s look at what different type of customers want and what you can offer.
What Target Customers Want
- Public Works Contractors
- Lowest price possible
- Large crew = fast schedule
- Performance under pressure
- Design-Build General Contractors
- Fair & competitive open book pricing
- Technical & engineering expertise
- Professional presentation skills
- Trained crews & quality work
- Real Estate / Property Owners
- Fair & honest competitive pricing
- Reliability & trust
- Quality full value workmanship
- Fast full service 24-7
- National Corporations
- Fair & competitive pricing
- Financial strength & reputation
- Safety & quality programs
- Trained crews & excellent work
- High Price Homeowners
- Fair & honest open book pricing
- Trust & reliability
- Creative & innovative approach
- Reputation & referrals
- Low Price Homeowners
- Lowest price possible
- Fastest schedule
- Easy to do business with
- No hassles
- Custom Homebuilders
- Fair & competitive open book pricing
- Experience in similar work
- References & reputation
- Quality workmanship & service
- Tract Homebuilders
- Lowest price possible
- Fastest schedule & large crew
- Financially strong
- Follow systems & paperwork
In order to successfully attack your desired customer targets, determine what you can offer based on what they want and how you can help them. For example, national restaurant chains want to hire full-service contractors they can trust, get work finished promptly without disruptions to their operations, and know will keep their property clean during renovations. Restaurant owners also want to hire contractors who offer a full line of services, perform design-build and permit processing, don’t require much supervision, are willing to work during non-business hours, and can perform repairs immediately when the need occurs. Can you add this type of work to your construction business?
A general contractor told me after building several Starbuck stores, he approached them about also providing ongoing service for all of their stores in his County. Now his company has three full time service crews who do nothing but work on the Starbucks account performing service, repairs, alterations, upgrades, painting, and remodeling as well as cleaning and fixing coffee machines. This little service has added over $1,000,000 in steady revenue and over $350,000 gross profit to his bottom-line to his $5,000,000 construction business. Not bad for work he once didn’t want and thought was too much of a hassle to perform.
If you want to get into design-build services, what would you need to add to your capabilities? Perhaps you must add an engineer to your staff who can estimate, provide value engineering, and manage work. Or you can approach an independent engineer about joint venturing with your company to add that capability to your offerings. Years ago our company was heavily focused on building industrial and office parks for developers. To insure against this work slowing down, we made a decision to enter the retail construction market. To implement our strategy, I hired a full-charge retail construction division manager who brought contacts, clients, and experience to our company. This decision allowed us to expand into a new market, gain ongoing repeat customers, and grow our business as the economy changed. Adding a new market or project type will require you to add new people to your management team who can help your company grow into new areas of expertise.
Create your ticket sales strategy!
First determine who you want to sell tickets to. Then decide what each specific customer target wants so you can offer them the right services. And lastly, you must have a sales system that will deliver the revenue results you want. Effective sales is not just bidding more work. It involves proactively attacking customer targets to get them to give you more work at your price. Just like in professional football ticket sales, each of your targets requires a different selling strategy. The high end ticket buyers need the personal touch while low end buyers just want low prices.
Start your ticket sales program!
The next step is to contact customer targets to determine how to qualify to get onto their approved contractor or service provider list. Referrals are your best source of getting a meeting with the right person. Look at your target’s website to see if you know anyone on their board of directors or management team. If you do, call them and ask for a referral to the decision maker you want to see. If you know someone who has done business with your targeted customer, also ask them for referrals as well.
Now use your referral to get an appointment, or cold-call the decision maker you need to see. Use the phone as a tool to set appointments. Call the target customer and explain the purpose for your call is to become a preferred provider of services. Tell them you have similar long-time customers and have an ongoing relationships with many other companies. Ask them for a short meeting so they can explain the process to get on their approved list and determine what they need. Follow-up with a thank-you letter and a small photo filled brochure showing what your company can do for them. If they won’t return your call, revert to sending them a formal request for information on what it takes to be a preferred provider. Remember, don’t give up. Most sales people give up after the first or second rejection. But those who persevere will win. Most sales don’t occur until after the 6th or 7th try.
If you dedicate time to selling in a consistent diligent manner, you will sell enough tickets to keep your revenue flowing. By attempting to get at least two to four customer meetings every week with targeted customers, you will attack at least 48 to 96 customers every quarter. Not an impossible task. But the key to sales success is to commit and do it.
After the first meeting, your job is to stay in touch. Send them something every month like a postcard, article, job photo, birthday gift, ten-tips guide, trade magazine, or business book. To deepen the relationship, stop by or see them at least every three months. Take them to lunch, an industry dinner, a ballgame, or golfing. Ask if you can give a ‘lunch & learn’ seminar for their company on a topic you know will help their people do a better job. When you meet one on one, ask them how you can do a better job or what else you can do for them to increase your service offerings.
Sales is not easy. Most business owners are good at it but don’t like to make the effort. If you are confident in what you do, selling comes naturally. Just tell customers how much you care about doing a good job and taking care of customer’s needs. Your excitement will permeate and infect customers with enthusiasm. You can grow your business in any economy. All you have to do is go out and start selling tickets to the game. No ticket sales, no game. No sales calls, no profitable work. No new customer targets, no business growth. Stop waiting and start selling.
As a professional construction BIZCOACH and popular industry speaker, George Hedley helps contractors increase profits, grow and get their companies to work! He is the best-selling author of “Get Your Construction Business To Always Make A Profit!” available at his online bookstore at www.HardhatPresentations.com. E-mail GH@HardhatPresentations.com to sign-up for his free e-newsletter, join a peer mastermind BIZGROUP, attend a BIZ-BUILDER Boot Camp, implement the BIZ-BUILDER BLUEPRINT, or get a discount for online courses at www.HardhatBizSchool.com.
George Hedley CSP CPBC
Phone: (800) 851-8553