Getting To The Boss To Sell Commercial Services
All commercial contractors have been in this situation: you’re at a building servicing the air conditioning and/or furnace and notice there is an opportunity to make the system better. When you finish the work at hand, you go and speak to the building engineer about the opportunity to make the tenants more comfortable or save the building money by making the system run more efficiently. The engineer thinks this is a great idea, but he is not the decision maker, so there is nothing he can do.
So, what do you do when you know you can provide services to your commercial customers that will improve their buildings, but don’t have immediate access to the “big boss” decision maker? Here are some strategies for getting your foot in the door with the building owner or manager and improving your sales and bottom line.
Why Is Getting to the Decision Maker so Tough?
It seems like it shouldn’t be that tough to get to the decision maker when it comes to offering services that will improve their building, but a lot of times it is. Many commercial building owners have managers that run their buildings and make the decisions about what is best of them. However, these property managers may not always be at the building when you are there and want to talk to them about what you have to offer.
“Before the economic downturn, property managers were more easily accessible and you often got a chance to bring up your concerns and share opportunities with them,” says Sam DeAngelis, CEO of Colorado Climate Maintenance, Inc. in Englewood, CO. “Now, however, property managers are just like everyone else, they are getting spread thinner and thinner. Most of the buildings we do work in have a property manager who is offsite managing multiple buildings from a central location. It’s tough to get meetings with them, because they are overtasked and are trying to more with less.”
Techniques for getting to the Decision Maker
So, if the decision maker is so hard to get to, what are you going to do?
If you work in new construction, the best bet is to take a Design/Build approach. This gets you in with the decision makers from the start, your ideas and plans for the building’s systems will be part of the original design. This will also make you the contractor of choice for the building when it is complete and needs maintenance and service.
However, if you are like DeAngelis’s company and focus on service and retrofits, you need to have a plan in place for getting a meeting. When an opportunity presents itself to a member of DeAngelis’s team they have a fairly simple strategy that works well at getting them the meetings with the decision makers.
“Whenever we see an opportunity, we present it to the onsite engineer, because that is who is available for us to talk with,” says DeAngelis. “The key is to ask the engineer questions that we need answers to, but that they likely cannot answer, but that the information can be obtained from the property manager or building owner.”
Part of this technique is also explaining why the answers to these questions in so important. “We let the onsite engineer know that the answers to these questions are important, because they help us create the best solution for the building,” notes DeAngelis.
The last step of this technique is to offer to be the engineer’s “assistant” when getting the answers to the questions. This is how you get an initial meeting with the decision maker that should lead to another meeting where you can present the solution you have created for their building.
Keep Their Interest Once You Are There
Once you have gotten a face-to-face with the decision maker, you want to make sure that you use your time with them wisely. And according to DeAngelis this means making sure you collect a lot of information about the building, the tenants, and the owner.
“The most important thing that you need to get from your meeting is what the pain points are, so you know how you can correct them,” says DeAngelis. “You also want to make sure you know what the plans are for the building. You have to know what the owner is thinking about short-term and long-term, as well as where they are sitting right now to make sure that you tailor a solution that will work for them.”
Once you know what those are, you can use that information, along with the building data you also collect to come up with a solution.
DeAngelis notes that you won’t be able to get all the information and come up with a solution in one meeting. You will need time to work with the data, so you will want to make sure that you schedule a follow up meeting with the decision maker where you can present your solutions to them.
When it’s time to present your solutions to the property manager or owner, there are a few things that DeAngelis suggests doing:
Make it About the Whole Building.
There is a lot of talk about building performance and the whole building approach, and DeAngelis knows why. “When you take the whole building approach when coming up with solutions, it’s easier to get your customers to listen.”
By letting them know that you are fixing not just their heating and cooling systems, but the entire building, they will be more invested in what you are telling them.
Explain Long-Term Benefits. Of course they want to know how this will impact them in the near term, but you should also focus on the major impact your solution will have on their building long-term.
“Make sure you talk about tenant comfort and maintenance to explain why they should purchase your services,” says DeAngelis.
Don’t Make it All About Efficiency. While improved efficiency is a great thing, it doesn’t necessarily resonate with building owners.
“It’s easy to offer efficiency and money savings as the benefits of your proposed solution, and that is what most people fall back on,” says DeAngelis. “If you focus on how you are able to solve their ‘pain point’ problems, the money savings and efficiency take the back seat.”
Be open to bringing in help. DeAngelis admits that sometimes the best solution for the building may require you to bring in outside help. Be willing to bring in the help you need to solve your customers’ problems. In the end you will still be the top of mind contractor who came up with the solution.
Don’t Be Forgotten
Once you have gotten to the decision and gotten them to buy into your tailored solution, you can’t fall back into the background. Keeping in touch with the decision maker is extremely important so that you will be able to get meetings with them when you need to.
DeAngelis says that continuous contact is important to making sure you are continuing to meet the needs of your customers. In fact, offering them a service that will make their job easier is a great way to keep in touch.
“Each year we offer to put together their mechanical needs assessment for the year,” says DeAngelis. “This is something that the property managers need to put together each year. It can be a daunting task, so when we offer to do it for them, they almost always respond, because it takes the work off their desk. Not only are we providing them with a valuable service, we are staying top of mind.”
While this is just one example of a service you can offer, the “extras” you can provide will ensure that your customers keep coming back to you.
So, even though getting to the decision maker may be a challenge, it’s not impossible. Having a plan in place and putting in the extra work will pay big dividends.
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