Note: This article references the SIMA Best Practices Procurement timeline, download it free now.
This year, early March brought 70° days to many parts of the country. As this appears to be a sign of winter exiting quickly, it raises a question for many snow professsionals: “What should we be working on now?”
As landscaping or construction bids are filling the inboxes of many sales professionals, the smart ones know that spring is one of the best times of the year to sell snow services. But this is contrary to what many contractors and clients believe to be true, since the vast majority of winter services RFPs happen in fall. That said, a property manager recently quipped that there are two times of year that snow removal is on his mind: “When a snow vendor fails, and the day of reckoning for the failure.” That day of reckoning is almost certainly in spring when the pressure of oncoming winter storms has passed. Strike when the iron is hot
Buying decisions are almost always made emotionally. So, if a salesperson can get a prospect emotionally driven about a buying decision, he or she is more likely to be persuaded. When selling snow services during season-end reviews, the “pain” that a property manager would experience from poor performance in winter is much more palpable. In contrast, by the time autumn rolls around, prospects have already set corrective actions, yelled at incumbent vendors and spent weeks on summer vacation trying to block out the nightmares of snowstorms past. Put another way, while conversations in April tend to lean toward tirades of frustrations, conversations in August are typically laced with excuses about how incumbents “tried hard,” “made improvements” or “have a better plan.” The former scenario is much more preferable to sell in than the latter.
Taking the opportunity during breaks in the weather is one of the most successful strategies to increase snow sales. By doing so, the property management industry can actually be swayed to release RFPs in the spring. This will allow all companies more time to prepare, take advantage of early buy discounts and have more successful snow seasons. Being proactive as an industry can change the behavior of end users in ways that benefit everyone while netting more sales simultaneously. What can be more win-win than that?
Ask the right questions
Just because a prospect is frustrated with recent performance does not mean that they are ready to make a change. What could be worse is that they are so willing to change that they do so when the problem and solution are not a good fit. Salespeople need to ask the right questions to ensure that their solution is correct for the property manager and that the client is right for them.
Imagine that a property manager is complaining that a contractor overserviced their account and the bills were not reasonable. The bills haven’t been paid, and the property manager is under tremendous pressure to balance their budget and wants nothing more than to feel OK by changing snow vendors. This sounds like an ideal opportunity to land a client, right?
A savvy salesperson knows that the client may not be the best fit for them because there are many opinions involved. For instance, who determines what “overservicing” is? Who determines what a “reasonable” charge for the season should be? What if the property manager switches to your company, only to later discover that the service increments are the same? Now he is complaining about your company!
By exercising some caution and asking a lot of questions, a salesperson can determine what complaints they can solve and what is simply client frustration. A little caution exercised upfront in the sales process will yield positive results later.
Having a conversation about snow in the spring can be difficult the first time around. Like any cold-calling activities, there are no shortcuts. Absolutely nothing will happen until you make the call. The best way to get started is simply to start. Block off some time on the calendar to prevent interruptions, gather a list of prospects and start dialing. The best salespeople will set a minimum daily goal and not stop dialing until it is accomplished. Whether dials, conversations or appointments set, having the discipline to complete goals is the only way to accomplish them. No matter how hard it may seem, the rewards of locking up a contract six months before the first snowfall is unbeatable. Neal Glatt, CSP, ASM is account executive for Case Snow Management in North Attleboro, MA. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.