A long standing issue facing the commercial cleaning industry is healthy margins. A strategy often overlooked for improved margins for your business; small, medium, or large, is knowing your competitive advantage and making it well known during the selling process (before the bid!).
Competitive advantage simply means what it states, you have an advantage competing and winning this customer over the other bidders.
In terms of a building service contractor, competitive advantage includes meaningful delivery services and processes by facility type, having great references that match, having a continual process improvement plan in place and working, and having the sales and marketing support materials in place to communicate your advantage.
KNOW THE BUYER
We often hear of the buyer (in your case the property or facility manager) who does not give you the time of day until its bid time. How do we communicate our competitive advantage? Use a repeatable and predictable process.
A recent example is the commercial cleaner who just landed a large corporate campus. Their sales rep had been in contact and building a relationship a year in advance of the bid. He had called several times and spoke with the facility manager once. Because their sales process was well defined, they were in a position to gather usable information to win the business. They knew when the contract with the previous contractor was coming to expiration and the issues the facility director was having with the incumbent contractor (competitive advantage).
Through that year, he had emailed the buyer his company brochures detailing services and best practices designed for the unique requirements of maintaining a corporate campus (competitive advantage). They emailed new technologies the company had implemented and the value for the buyer. How many times did the buyer respond? Zero.
When time came to submit the bid, they focused the bid on their expertise in servicing corporate campuses; they detailed their continual improvement process in terms this buyer understood. They spelled out their reporting process for upcoming and completed periodical work (this buyer had no visibility to periodic floor work and was skeptical it was being completed).
They came in at a competitive price and won the deal. Did they improve their margin on this contract….a little, about ½ percent above their average. However, they moved the needle in the right direction. Now they will implement processes to improve margins by beating their budget and continually improving service delivery.
So, was this just a case of a good sales rep or did this company have a competitive advantage? I would argue the company had significant advantages:
- They had a defined, repeatable selling process. When they had the opportunity, they got the information needed to support the needs of the buyer up to bidding time.
- The company had well established service delivery processes and was able to communicate these as value to the buyer.
- The company understood the needs of a facility manager in a corporate campus environment and had the communication and technology systems in place to make his life easier.
SPEND THE TIME
The daily stuff we do often leads us into the thick of the forest. Spending time with your team strategizing and formalizing your company’s competitive advantage (as it is or as you want it) will absolutely move the needle in the right direction to margin improvement.