This article is the second in a series of three I am offering you on “Managing the Customer Experience.” Last month I offered ideas to help you assess the situation, a critical foundation to a solid business relationship. This month I suggest you use that information to stop bidding and start proposing.
Contractors (and most salespeople for that matter) use the term “quote” or “bid” when referring to the offer they provide their clients. It makes me want to scream because, in this context, we’re talking about a reverse auction. Imagine an auctioneer representing your client with the words, “We have a $1,000 bid. Do I hear $950? $950! Do I hear $900?” And so on. It’s every salesperson’s nightmare.
You can eliminate the reverse auction by delivering “proposals” instead of bids and quotes. A bid is a commodity-driven offer that is begging the client to purchase while a proposal is a professional offer of services to be rendered. The bid focuses on price while the proposal focuses on process.
In order to create a professional proposal you must first realize that many of your clients (the consumers) have probably never purchased a new roof even once in their lives. You sell roofs every day and probably take a lot for granted. Thus your proposal should be written from the client perspective in order to eliminate all fears and establish your own credibility.
1. Reiterate what you learned during the discovery process. Your proposal should acknowledge comments from your client that occurred during the discovery process - e.g., reasons for taking action now, objectives for the project. Additionally, you should include comments about the condition of their roof and other house conditions that had to be considered to craft the proposal.
2. Describe the process schedule. You already know that clients do not like surprises. Thus you can shine by laying out the timing of the project, hours during which you will work, personnel that will be involved in the job. While you’re at it, introduce your crew chief to the client at some stage of the sales process in order to inspire confidence.
3. Outline the scope of work in laymen’s terms. Naturally your client will want a quality installation, but probably has little clue what this entails. Avoid confusing terms and instead educate. Describe the value of ice and water shield from the homeowner’s perspective. Explain that a new deck is required to prevent structural damage and decay to joists. Bring a sample of the material you will use if possible. At a minimum, get a sign off on the specific style and color to confirm that you and your client are on the same page.
4. Delivery the bad news up front … and how you cope. Roof installations are messy jobs that require planning, field preparation and daily cleanup. You know this and I know this. But does your client? Prepare them for the realities of the project and the safety considerations they should employ with their family during the time when the project construction is under way. This part of your proposal alone might earn you the business!
5. Discuss payment terms. This discussion makes a lot of salespeople nervous. But it is an essential part of the proposal process. Your clients should clearly understand the payment terms up front. After all, you are engaging in a legal contract and deserve to be paid. If you cannot explicitly discuss the payment factors up front, then you might be creating negative surprises for yourself later on.
Your clients want ease of mind. Put all of the details in writing so they know you are a contractor worthy of trust. Your discovery process proved that you care. Your proposal will prove that you are thorough and dependable - just what every client wants in a supplier.