Do you ever wonder where your sales person is? Are you uncertain of their progress in selling your construction services? You are not alone. New sales people can be scary to a construction firm in that there is no confidence building history. A contractor doesn’t know who he has hired until many months later. In between, lost opportunities and poorly sold projects may occur.
How about if your sales person is experiencing a slump or a messy personal situation such as a divorce. The resulting lack of focus will now be your problem in revenue, cost and management issues.
What to do? We submit that selling construction services is largely a quantifiable process. From our research, observations and work, we conclude there are six steps to selling. All six can be quantified. The real value to this is that anything that can be quantified can be monitored easily.
Before listing the six steps, let me share with you the keystone of all selling.
The number of qualified prospects determines sales success
If you have a rookie sales person but they have one hundred high quality prospects, they will certainly sell something in the near term. Conversely, if you have an excellent sales person and they have only 1 qualified lead, the chances of success are less than 100%. By the way, if that one prospect is not interested, price will be the number one topic of discussion to keep this one opportunity alive. Not great news if you want highly profitable work.
The natural people orientation of sales people helps here as they consistently engage others and find out more about people. A salesperson’s greatest strength is that he or she is a people magnet. They instinctively seek out people. That is essential in light of the above.
We define a highly qualified lead as:
1) Having a need for your services
2) Having a budget allocated
3) Having a deadline to make a decision
4) Open to a relationship (will not drive price as the number one criteria)
5) The decision maker
6) Having a want – this is a non-monetary aspect that is usually personal to the decision maker such as not being embarrassed by your firm in any way.
What are the six steps and what do they entail?
1) Gathering Information – This may be a form likened to “McKay’s 66” that outlines 66 knowledge items each sales person should know about each customer. To not have this kind of homework done tells you something about the sales person.
2) Meeting the Potential Client Face to Face – It is a crucial step to on the path to selling a new client. Studies suggest in the first 19 to 39 seconds of this meeting you either add or take away from the relationship with the client. Don’t forget to be a good guest and direct your attention and energy to the client. We believe that any salesperson habits may change the relationship from trusted to untrusted.
3) Asking Directed Questions – Be polite and ask for permission to ask questions of the potential client. These should be in the following order 1) A question that asks the client what they like about their present source 2) A question that reflects what they fear or don’t want from any construction contractor 3) Questions that reflects the strengths of your company i.e. ISO 9000 Registration, Safety, History etc. We recommend that 6 or so questions be asked here of this nature. These are substantial and differentiating. We limit the number of these questions as the prospect’s memory is limited. We certainly don’t believe that regurgitating a long story about the founders, present owners, and current projects helps you. Don’t sound like a sales person. It changes the relationship.
4) Applying – Once the directed questions are answered and there is interest in your attribute such as your experience modification rate, you must be able to prove it. In this step the sales person should have proof ready at hand. As the old saying goes, “if you can’t prove it in one minute, it must not be true”
5) Closing – there is only one close to use in construction selling. It is the assumptive close. That is, when you and the potential client and you are ready to move to the next phase such as prequalification. You simply pull out your day book and check your calendar stating something like, “I can bring by the information on the 23rd in the morning or the afternoon of the 24th. If they start looking at their calendar, you have closed. If they haven’t, it doesn’t matter. Any attempt to use any one of several dozen sophisticated closes will appear as an attempt to manipulate. You certainly won’t be trusted afterwards.
6) Moving Forward – Once agreement has been made, be a good guest and leave. Don’t linger and wear out your welcome. As you know, people are busy. After leaving, you should get back to the client within an hour confirming the decision to meet again. This is insurance against “cold feet”.
All of the above information can be maintained in a single notebook for inspection by the contractor. This is a very monitorable process that will reflect the current progress of a salesperson. We believe it lessens one more risk of contracting.
For more information on this critical subject, purchase a copy of my McGraw-Hill book, Managing a Construction Firm on Just 24 Hours a Day. We offer a bundle with Excel templates that are featured in the book and 5 on-line courses to help teach construction business concepts.
Our workbook companion with 10 case studies is titled, The Business Managment Workbook for Construction with Case Studies is now available. Go to www.stevensci.com and click on the book link.This text is focused as an assist for Colleges, Associations and Contractor Training Programs that teach the business of construction.
My next book, The New Business Model of Construction Contracting is planned for December 2007. Its focus concerns the changing construction environment and what processes address those changes.
Matt Stevens is President of Stevens Construction Institute, Inc. A management consulting firm which works only with construction contractors. Learn more at www.stevensci.com