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When competing for business, people often take on a completely different personality. However, it is best to just be yourself.
This story illustrates what can happen if you don’t.
A man had just started his own carpet cleaning company. He rented a warehouse and had it set up to be a carpet cleaner’s dream.
Sitting there, he saw a man come into the outer office. Wishing to appear to be somewhat of a “hot shot,” he picked up the office telephone and pretended to talk on it, working up a big deal with a potential client.
He threw huge figures around and made giant commitments. Finally, he hung up and asked the visitor, “Can I help you?”
The man said, “Yeah, I’ve come to activate your phone lines.”
The moral of the story? I think you know what it is.
Now let’s apply this information to Mary and her great run at commercial carpet cleaning sales.
The last few months have been enlightening to you, as her digging for business has caused you to shorten your own learning curve as you help her with sales challenges.
A new opportunity has arrived. A large telecom company she contacted is looking for someone besides the janitorial company to handle the carpet cleaning of a very large office campus. They have had 10 companies look at the job, and now they have settled on the final three to consider for the job. Your company is one of them.
Pricing between the final three companies, you are told by the purchaser, is very close. The decision will be based on a “demo” that all three will provide. You are told the area for the demo is one of the dirtiest and most challenging on the office campus.
You and Mary begin to put your strategy together, starting by answering a formatted questionnaire. Your assumption is that all three of you — barring unforeseen problems — will be able to make the carpet look good.
So what else can make you set you apart from your competitors? How will you look “different” and “better?” You both discuss your strategy and agree that you must be honest and upfront about who you are and what your company can do.
You must be yourself.
Define your company
You can do this on paper. What is unique about you, and why?
Do you operate your business in a different way than the others?
Is this company you are after as a client a good fit in your niche market and are they on your “A” list?
Are your employees better suited for this job than the competitors’?
Define your competitors
How big are they? What are their key markets? Who are their customers? How do they sell and what do they say to customers?
Have you seen the marketing materials that they use? What do you consider to be their strengths and zero in on their weaknesses?
Look at their websites and understand the personalities of their sales people.
Your competitors will either be “head-to-head,” meaning they are stiff competition, or “up-and-comers,” meaning they are always aggressive, or they could be “marginal players,” who may surprise you by zeroing in on this account and pulling off an upset.
Analyze great service
What does it mean to you to truly be the best from this customer’s eyes?
How do they do business, and do you respect it? What is their corporate culture, and what is important to them?
Do they value their employees? Are they looking for a company that has a charitable giving plan, meaning “Do you give back to the community?”
Focus on what you do differently with certifications above and beyond the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC).
Examples can be any awards you have received, green cleaning certificates such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Your memberships in the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International, the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), small business advisory groups, the local Chamber of Commerce and others are very important.
Capabilities fit under differentiation as well because, if commercial is your niche market, you are an expert in all the possible methods. You also have employees and equipment to perform the work on schedule and at a high quality level.
Of course, your current customers reflect your level of expertise.
Another consideration: Do you have the financial backbone to pull this off? Remember, this is a huge project you are after.
Who do you know?
Compile a list of anyone you know and whom your customer might also know.
These people or companies should be ones who would take the time to either drop a note or call the customer and put in a good word for you.
Never undervalue the “who you know” factor.
Planning the demo
With your questionnaire completed, you and Mary plan for the demo. The campus is six buildings with the tallest building nine stories high.
You know that one competitor will rely solely on hot water extraction, utilizing truckmounts. You can’t help but wonder about that nine story building.
The other company is like yours, in that you can use hot water extraction (truckmounts and portables) but also low moisture methods.
Mary said that she knows the “like you” competitor is a bit bigger and relies on counter rotating brush machines and larger, more aggressive agitation tools for low moisture cleaning for cleaning the dirtiest areas. For commercial jobs like these, they rarely use truckmounts.
You are not worried about the company that utilizes hot water extraction with truckmounts, because you feel it will be difficult to maintain all this carpet with that one method alone. You also believe the potential customer wants a low moisture cleaning method.
Your plan is to show the purchaser that you are the company that will clean this carpet with low moisture, including planned hot water extraction. Some differentials will include edge vacuuming and pile lifting, mill-approved cleaning methods, your references, your qualified employees and your solid guarantee.
The demo will be encapsulation with a counter rotating brush followed by dry compound. The goal is to leave the carpet as dry as possible at the end of the demo. All this is proposed by Mary, and you approve these details.
Be ethical (be yourself!)
Do not use a method that cannot realistically be repeated throughout the contract.
Remember, anyone can make a small area look great. As an ethical business owner, whatever you demonstrate must be sustainable throughout the contract. A “smoke and mirrors” demo will only get you into trouble.
During the demo, don’t speak negatively about the competition. Just talk about what you can do and what you can provide in the way of solving the potential customer’s issues.
The demo goes great, and you can see the results in the photographs. You won the contract!
But was it based solely on the demo? Yes, the demo went great and you know that was a large factor in the decision.
In speaking with the purchaser, you learn the company chose you mainly because of Mary. The purchaser believes Mary is key to the success of this contract, in that she will be a great communicator, will ensure quality employees will be on the job and, well… basically, they liked Mary.
Mary was just being herself.
Fred Geyen is president of the Geyen Group (www.GeyenGroup.com). His background includes commercial product sales and program development for residential, commercial and disaster restoration with ServiceMaster. He has a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED-AP) designation and is on the board of directors with the LMCCA. Geyen can be contacted at (612) 799-5111.