Material Delays Killing Sales? Hold On

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By TOM WOODCOCK

Tom Woodcock

Are material and equipment delays are killing your ability to secure projects and orders?

Who can do business in this climate? Is there an end in sight?

These are all very common questions in this construction sales environment. If you’ve followed my articles for any length of time, you’re well aware I’m not a fan of excuses. In 35 years of selling in the construction industry, I’ve determined the best companies see any negative influences on the market as opportunity. The conventional response is to complain and find blame. This is the easy position to take, eventually throwing up one’s hands and saying, “Oh, well.”

I’m currently hearing this reaction often.

Hold on a second. This might be a better situation than you think.

It’s no secret delays and pricing increases are all over the construction arena. Bids are only good for a week and pricing on materials may only be good for a day. Pricing escalation clauses are being incorporated into contracts. Project work is held up waiting for material or equipment. This can make it difficult to complete a project on time or on budget.

Yet from a sales standpoint, this is the best vehicle to close business! It takes some guts or a good firm approach, but you can secure projects and work by closing a bit more aggressively. I’m usually not a proponent of hard closing, but in this economy, it is actually a benefit to the customer. How? It’s very simple.

You are the expert in your industry or trade. Clients are counting on you to steer them in the right direction, of course couched in integrity. You see everyday what’s happening with material and supply availability as well as pricing. By informing customers that they need to pull the trigger quickly on deciding who their contractor is, you are saving them both time and money. The next step is to simply state you need to order material and supplies asap to avoid price increases or change orders. Say this in a fashion where it’s obvious you really mean it, because you do really mean it. And although I’m describing this as a sales technique, in reality it’s simply fact.

The tough part is that many contractors fear being this firm with their clients. They would rather leave information ambiguous instead of applying a little professional pressure. They fear this will push the customer away and they’ll not get the project.

In reality, it’s the opposite. A good close can secure the project with more immediacy. Trying to massage the customer in this climate is ineffective and somewhat of a disservice. Different market conditions often warrant a different approach. The construction market has been holding, but there’s a slowdown looming as interest rates increase and construction spending cools down. Securing projects now is critical to carry companies through any dip in the market. Throw in the challenging labor shortage, and you have a recipe for a significant market shift. We’ve seen it before, and it wasn’t pretty. It’s especially true with customers that reward you with recurring business. You have an even stronger platform with this type of client to apply a little extra closing pressure. You already have the client’s trust, so your client will more readily embrace your insistence to move quickly. They’ll understand you’re not crying wolf and are looking out for their best interests. It may even deepen the relationship to the point where things improve, and they still move on your direction.  The truth is, they need your guidance as they most likely aren’t acutely aware of the circumstances in your area of expertise.

Sales can be challenging, even in times when there’s an abundance of projects. The number-one buying motive is trust. This is a great time to either establish or increase this key deciding factor with your clients.

It’s not a half-bad idea to even roleplay this firmer closing technique within your own company. The more comfortable you are being firm with advising your customers, the easier it is for them to accept the premise. Not applying that pressure can increase the bleeding.

Instead of whining about the current pricing, availability and labor issues that exist, convert that into securing a higher percentage of your opportunities. A higher close rate always beats increase your estimating volume.

Tom Woodcock, president of seal the deal, is a speaker and trainer for the construction industry nationwide. He can be reached via his website,  www.tomwoodcocksealthedeal.com, or at 314.775.9217.

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