Last month, we discussed the first step in the estimating process, getting to know your business. Now that you have assessed your business, know your overhead, and have a deeper relationship with your accountant, you are now ready for the next step. You know your business, but do your potential clients know you?
We know that price is a big driver in purchase decisions, however, when a general contractor, developer, construction manager or owner is faced with two similar prices, and they know one company, but not the other, who is more likely to get the contract award? That’s right—the one with the relationship. And, more the better if you have a company history in the type of work you are bidding (and please let the contractor know that!).
Building Relationships is Key
Over the years, the theme that recurs is the power of relationships. Relationships help to find the private jobs and jobs that the general contractor may already have. Contractors who have remained busy despite the economy have put time and effort into building and maintaining relationships with their client base. They make this an integral part of their business, not just something to do “when they have the time.”
Just as many have viewed the task of “getting to know your business” as daunting, some may feel the same way about establishing, building, and maintaining relationships with clients. All you need is time! Over time, with just a bit of effort, you can build profitable relationships. Just do it!
The cold call method is a very good idea. You might not get to see the person you are calling on, but you can leave your business card, some company information, and even a box of doughnuts for the office staff. When you get your foot in the door, be prepared to bid a few jobs before you are awarded one. This is the contractor’s way of getting to know you as he watches how your prices come in. Watch for potential new clients when you are driving around and stop to introduce yourself. Check out construction sites too; it’s all about being in the “right place at the right time!”
Clients can also get to know you with documentation about your company. A simple folder with slips sheets detailing your staff, capabilities, tools and equipment, and past notable projects is a good start. For the more creative, create a brochure. If you do not have any experience in graphics, contact your local college; there are always students willing to share their new craft at a reasonable price. Also, a website always adds to your company’s credibility.
Meet New Clients in Networking Groups
An excellent way to meeting new customers is networking groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, the Elks or Eagles, and other social organizations. Chances are you will meet someone that will need work done, or they will know someone who does! Check out the Associated Builders and Contractors and the Associated General Contractors too. Both represent all specialties within the U.S. construction industry and are comprised primarily of firms that perform work in the industrial and commercial sectors of the industry.
Cold calls, social clubs, and industry organizations will undoubtedly introduce you to potential clients. When you get the chance to bid, don’t expect to get a job right away, but persistence will pay off! Also, in this time of communication becoming less personal (think texting), it is still important to put your face to your company’s name and be able to explain why someone should do business with you. It’s a lot easier for a client to say ‘no’ to someone they don’t know. Make it your business to get to know them and do everything in your power to become indispensable!