By Mike Voories, CSP
Winning business because you were willing to do it cheaper than everyone else isn’t really winning, is it? Last October, I wrote an article for Snow Business
discussing the need for sales training, the least offered type of training in the snow industry based on last year’s State of the Industry results.
Although there are countless ways one can offer or obtain sales training, I suggested seven essential elements for any snow industry sales training program. This article is the first of a seven-part series that aims to offer some basic, practical and implementable concepts for each of the seven essentials.
Stop bidding and start selling
Bidding isn’t selling. Neither is giving a price, estimating or “sending over some numbers.” Requests for proposals (RFPs) are a common procurement method in the commercial snow and ice management industry. But most RFPs are really just requests for bids in disguise. Submitting a bid (call it a proposal if you’d like) is a rather routine and standard method contractors use to win new business and even to retain existing work. Bidding, practically speaking, puts most of the emphasis on price.
Although responding to bid requests may be convenient, efficient and traditional, there are two downsides to doing so. First, it’s very difficult to be more than just a spreadsheet number that will be compared behind closed doors. Second, responding to bid requests as a primary method to obtain business leaves snow contractors servicing the type of sites they’re awarded, instead of the ideal sites they’d otherwise seek. Responding to bid requests occupies precious limited time that could be used for prospecting, networking and proactive sales, which allow us to maintain certain control. Responding to RFPs, on the other hand, gives considerable control to the prospect.
RFPs often ask us to conduct our business in a manner we otherwise would prefer not to, if triggers, scope and even pricing structures contradict how we want to run our businesses. Sometimes, what’s asked within a RFP even contradicts industry best practices. Yet most snow professionals feel compelled to accommodate. This next statement may sound absurd at first, but hear me out. Giving a prospect or client what they ask for, just because they ask for it, makes us destructively obedient. Who knows more about snow and ice management? You or the prospect? If you were sick, would you go to the hospital and tell the medical team how to perform its job? No. So stop bidding and start selling.
Require a meeting
Refuse to response to any RFP unless you are first granted an in-person meeting. How can you expect to be anything more than a number, if that’s all you’re giving them to work with? It’s very difficult, if not completely impossible, for a prospect and a contractor to be completely on the same page without spending a little time together. Tell your prospects that you have a policy against providing any pricing without first scheduling an in-person meeting. This policy will also filter out a lot of the tire kickers and price shoppers. All sustainable business relationships need to be win-win. If a prospect won’t give you any of their time, why would you want to give them your pricing?
Start saying no
You don’t have to provide a proposal, bid or pricing just because someone asks. If it’s not the type of client you want, say no. If you’re unable to qualify the lead, say no. If it’s not the type of project where you can do a great job, say no. If they won’t grant you a face-to-face meeting, say no. If they’re not open to your pricing structure(s) and payment terms, say no. If they insist on a scope of work not consistent with your standards or industry best practices, say no. Most of us could benefit greatly from saying no a lot more. Time is our greatest and only non-renewable resource; don’t waste it out of fear of saying no.
Go after your ideal clients; don’t wait and hope they’ll call you. Maintain a list of ideal prospects. All sales professionals should be able to easily identify their top 10 prospects. This list needs to be in writing and kept with the sales professional all day. Always be listening for someone who possesses valuable intelligence or could even make a personal introduction. Don’t be afraid to ask. These opportunities do come to life, but rarely by chance.
Being proactive in your sales efforts aligns you with the type of clients you desire. Reactive selling leaves us with the low-hanging and less desirable fruit of our market space. Furthermore, if we put a measurable and reasonably predictable sales plan together, we need to control the activities. We have little control at all if we’re simply responding to RFPs.
To be proactive, set some aggressive goals (action items):
- Commit to calling five existing clients every day — do not email; pick up the phone. Check in to see how things are going, ask if they need help with anything and don’t be afraid to ask for their help as well. People are willing and often glad to help when asked. Ask for referrals and introductions, and pick their brains about the market.
- Commit to making five prospecting calls each day. Pounding the phone may seem old-fashioned, but you’ll be hard-pressed to match the return on time invested.
- Commit to one good networking event each month. I say good networking event, because a lot of the networking events that sales professionals attend aren’t all that beneficial. Going to meetings and events where you already know most of the attendees may be a good idea, but in this context, it’s not what I’m suggesting. Find opportunities where you can actively network and meet new people. Active networking is a business function that should yield measurable results; it is not a comfortable social function with existing contacts.
Give some thought, consideration and trial to these basic concepts. By taking control of your sales process, you can put an action plan into motion that will help you win the type of business you want, from the clients you want to work with, at the margins your company commands. Don’t settle for the status quo. Be different, be better, and never stop improving.
The 7 essentials of selling snow & ice
Mike Voories, CSP is the chief operating officer at Brilar, a commercial landscape & snow maintenance firm with locations across the Midwest. He also is a consultant to the service industries. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- How to overcome price objections and win business without negotiating price.
- How to be more expensive than your competition and still get the job.
- How to qualify prospects.
- How to put a precise plan in place to accomplish your sales goals.
- How to track and measure your sales activities; what gets measured gets managed.
- How to target the clients you want to work with and stop chasing RFPs.
- How to get more referrals.