This article originally appeared in Snow Business magazine.
In my 30 years as a contractor, a lot has changed in the industry…new technologies, equipment, laws etc. But even with all of these changes, the landscape of companies hasn’t changed much. There are still a lot of small companies.
There are several reasons for this: size of their market, available labor, competition, personal desire, and so on. But for those who desire growth, the single biggest factor as to why a company cannot achieve it is that the company lacks an effective sales and marketing process.
Invest in a System
Growing a small business usually lies squarely on the back of one individual or key member of the team (usually the business owner or a senior manager). When I have the opportunity to interview owners or senior managers about what they’re doing to grow their business and increase sales, they usually don’t have a system in place. This always surprises me. More contractors should be willing to invest in a system that helps them facilitate growth.
Contractors are notoriously over-equipped with iron and trucks, and very under-equipped administratively. In other words, the lack of administrative processes is costing the company a lot in many ways.
I’m going to share three tips to help you create a sales system or process that you can implement. This will require some investment, but nothing compared to what a contractor would spend on a piece of equipment or additional field personnel.
TIP ONE: Work 90 Days Ahead
Contractors should try to work 90 days ahead of where they are at any given time of the year. The standard is to get things done when you can and to take what you can get when it comes to sales. By getting started early, you will know how much demand (work sold) you have, which makes everything quantifiable and allows the company to plan. You will be able to determine the number of workers, equipment, material, etc. you will need to fulfill your promises. Next year, start the engine for snow sales no later than the end of July. Renew existing customers, and then move toward the properties you wish to solicit for new work.
TIP TWO: Inventory Your Market
Buildings and houses don’t move around much in my town, which is one of the great advantages of being a service provider. There is always the potential to pick up business. Why don’t more contractors spend the time to inventory their market so they are ready to solicit the properties they wish to service?
According to the State of the Industry survey, 71.6% of the respondents indicated they want to grow their business by adding new customers. How are you going to do this without a system or process in place to identify your prospects?
Spend the administrative time to collect and update the necessary information on the properties you want. At the very least record the name of the property owner or manager, property measurements and important information regarding service so when the time comes to bid on your “wish list” you are ready.
Inventorying your market will pay for itself over and over again. Keep the inventory updated. Building owners change hands, property management companies come and go, but that building will stay. If you do this, you will be able to proactively manage your business.
TIP THREE: Invest in a CRM
I’m amazed that more contractors don’t have a Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) or a database to keep their information in one secure place. Its crazy how much companies spend to acquire information about their customers and their market, and how poorly that information is managed.
Plus, all too often, when a company loses a key player, valuable information leaves with them. Can you imagine if you couldn’t locate all of your bids for the past three years?
Making the commitment to purchase a CRM and appoint an individual to learn it and manage it will not only solve this problem but also will provide good return on investment.
There are numerous CRMs on the market (Salesforce, ACT, GoldMine), but whatever you choose, make sure it’s compatible with your accounting software. When your CRM and accounting software communicate, it gives you the opportunity to view your business in real time.
Without a CRM and accounting software, very little of the total information highway of your business is accessible in real time, which is critical to the success of any organization-—big or small.
Plan and Implement
Once these three components of the sales process are in place, growth is in your hands. You have time because you are 90 days ahead of demand. You have your market prospects so you can see how much opportunity there is for you. And you have a database with the pertinent information that allows you to organize a plan to start getting the word out about your company.