You get a call for a fire or water damage job and immediately head to the site to talk to the adjuster or the property owner. The person you talk to is blown away by your capabilities, your professionalism and your ability to take care of their problem. You begin working on the estimate, overjoyed by the fact that this job will make your quota for the month. The next day you make a few more calls or visit the site again and discover that your competitor is there, busy at work and reassuring the distressed property owner. The job you thought was yours has slipped away.
You talked to the wrong person.
Unfortunately, this happens to all restoration contractors who have been in business for any length of time. Keeping a job sold is as important as signing up the client in the first place, especially in our highly competitive field where bigger jobs draw wannabes like a magnet.
The topics of selling and keeping a job sold came up several times at the Executive Leadership Conference that NIR sponsored earlier this year. My nephew and namesake, Walter Lee Lumpp of Consolidated Construction Services in Roanoke, Va., discussed the importance of keeping a job sold during his presentation on sales and marketing. A number of attendees traded stories about jobs that disappeared like a puff of smoke.
As Walter Lee pointed out, the starting point for keeping a job sold is being sure you are talking with the decision maker. Usually that person is the property owner. Even if the insurance adjuster favors another firm, the policyholder will usually have the final say on which company gets the job.
Usually, but not always.
If the damage occurs in a condominium or multi-housing development, the decision maker may be the property manager. Consequently, as Walter Lee pointed out, the first question you need to ask is who makes the final decision about repairs and restoration. You have to be talking with the right person before you can sell the job.
Focus on Quality, Not Price
Walter Lee also talked about selling your services on quality rather than on price. Most people realize that quality work costs more. Remind the property owner that your employees and your subcontractors are not pick-ups who were on the street corner this morning; rather, they are experienced tradesmen highly skilled in their craft. If the property owner continues to focus on price, maybe you should let your competitor have the job. Chances are he will either lose money or do shoddy work, in which case you may get a follow-up job.
Don’t get caught in the trap of competing to have the lowest price. Another firm will always undercut you. If you focus on quality and are still the low bidder, start worrying. You may have missed something in your estimate.
Keep Communication Lines Open
Once you have a job, be sure you stay in touch regularly with the decision maker. Write a thank-you note as an immediate follow-up. Establish regular intervals when you will communicate with the owner as part of the scheduling process.
You want them to feel vested in the process. Keep in mind that the smallest changes in work schedules can be very upsetting to the property owner, given the stressful nature of a loss.
Those regular communications will not only keep the job sold, they will also help you pre-sell your next job. Because so many in our field do not do a good job with communication, you will stand out as the exception when the owner discusses the restoration work with friends. And in those comments lies the seed for future opportunities.