Most contractors know all about new business. You find people who need your services, submit a bid, and then do the job. And then you start all over. But in order to scale a business, it’s important to do more. In addition to a stream of new projects, a successful business will also build relationships that result in recurring business.
Instead of investing all sales time in prospecting, many construction pros also spend time cultivating long-term relationships with existing customers. They use momentum to build a business.
While getting business from current clientele is more profitable, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Even in ongoing business relationships, both sides will want to renegotiate contracts, pricing, and scope of work. Good relationships also require give and take, meaning giving preferential treatment in exchange for loyalty. The contractor works to build trust, develop loyalty, and increase respect.
If this approach makes sense for your contracting business, here are a few ways to get started.
Identify Mutually Beneficial Relationships
Any business relationship has at least two partners. Each partner should get a clear benefit from remaining loyal. On the contractor’s side, the firm will need to consider how they can obtain more business from a customer, and what future business is worth (in theory, at least.) The existing customer will also need to see clear value in building a deeper relationship. Will they always get fair prices? Preferential treatment? Shorter timelines? Extra attention to detail?
The benefits you provide are your value proposition. It’s the reason customers come back again and again. Once you’ve defined that value proposition, create a list of tasks and activities that clearly demonstrate that value. How will you ensure your customer knows they are getting fair pricing or preferential treatment?
You’ll need to communicate your value over and over again. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need lots of ads or slogans, but you will need to show them. For example, give your team responsibilities that ensure customers understand your value proposition. This could take the form of a thank you note or a small gift after completing a project. Maybe it means delivering status reports throughout the project, taking the client through the job site after key milestones are met, guaranteeing quality or timing, or celebrating on-time completion. Once you find various ways to communicate a value proposition, make sure you continually measure and track your efforts to ensure that customers see your value and appreciate your efforts.
Trust and Influence
To keep customers loyal, your firm will have to become trusted and have influence in your area of expertise. There are many ways to accomplish this.
- Make efforts to talk to your customers, and make sure you understand their needs and expectations
- Work towards creating exceptional customer engagement and collaboration
- Increase accountability and reliability by improving account planning and review processes
- Make sure your sales representatives are well-trained and focused
- Invest in consistent measurement and reporting so you know how well you’re doing (and know when you have issues)
Know Customer Needs
While all your customers share a need for your product or services (drywall, steel frames, etc.), they also have a range of relationship needs. For example, their satisfaction may hinge on quick responses, on-time delivery, white glove service, or regular reporting.
That’s why taking a systematic approach to understanding your customers’ needs is so important. Start by identifying key accounts. Then track account performance, financial targets, planning assumptions, and client feedback carefully. Use this information to create client profiles.
Take time to find out how decisions are made, who makes them, who else is involved in the process, and the roles and responsibilities of all decision-makers. Also, note how they communicate and prefer to receive reports, bids, and other information.
Next, your team will record your customers’ business environment. These records will include segment analyses, competitive overviews, and lists of significant challenges. Finally, you’ll compare these profiles with the products or services you provide.
By comparing their needs with your offerings, you’ll be able to see what you do well and identify areas for improvement. You’ll also be able to see how their processes work and adapt your processes accordingly.
Invest In Your Customers
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