Whenever building service contractors (BSCs) get together, the topics they are most likely to discuss are bids and bidding. However, one of the most important issues—and some might say the most important issue—often overlooked during the bidding process is making the most of the walk-through.
The “walk-through” involves meeting with the prospective client and walking through the facility for a site inspection in order to submit a proposal. It gives the BSC and the prospect a chance to meet each other and to see if they can do business together. And for the contractor specifically, it offers an opportunity to show competence and professionalism.
Here are some tips on how to make the most of your walk-through to help secure the client:
Making the most of this critical interaction all starts with how you look. Some janitorial contractors may call on prospective clients in jeans and shorts, while others may wear flashy suits and Rolex watches. While there is an old saying, "It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed,” when it comes to meeting with a potential client, it’s best to be properly dressed.
For almost all walk-throughs, the proper dress is business casual. If calling on a large facility, or an important potential client, the visit may call for a sport coat and possibly a tie for men and comparable attire for women. The important thing to remember is that you are conducting business, and you should dress accordingly.
There are many questions cleaning contractors can and should ask the potential client during the walk-through—as well as one they should never ask. Before delving into these specific questions, remember the prospect is your host. At least during the walk-through, let the potential client do most of the talking.
Usually at the end of the walk-through, a contractor will be brought into the client’s office or a conference room. Now is the time to ask questions, such as the following:
Some other questions to ask include the following:
Do Not Ask The Following
While not all contractors will agree, unless the prospective client volunteers what it currently pays or its budget for cleaning services, it’s often best not to ask.
According to one facility manager’s account, all the contractors she met were told exactly what her company was paying for cleaning. When the bids arrived, all of the bids were essentially that same amount. The result: She was skeptical about all of the contractors she met.
The lesson: It is best to formulate your own bid. Submit a bid that covers your costs and produces enough profit for you to have this prospect as a client.
The Group Walk-through
In some cases, a prospect will have several cleaning contractors meet with him or her at the same time to conduct a walk-through. This is very common for government facilities and many large private companies, as well.
After the group walk-through, the prospect will look over all the bids and then begin weeding out those it does not want to pursue. If your bid is one of the ones selected for closer review, you will likely be called back, and at this point both you and the prospect will have an opportunity to get to know each other and ask questions.
During the group walk-through, it is important to be professional: Look your best, as discussed earlier; do not hesitate to ask a question or for clarification if it is important for you to submit an informed proposal; and end the meeting by thanking the prospect and sending a thank-you card a day or two later.
Ways to Stand Out
Most cleaning contractors will submit an attractive proposal, cover all the items discussed in the walk-through, and include references. But that is not enough today to win a potential client's business. The way to make a proposal stand out is to take it to the next level. Some ways to do this include the following:
The walk-through is the first chance to make an impression. If you present yourself professionally and take the opportunity to really listen to the potential client's needs, you can tailor a proposal to meet these needs and also include value-added services, which can help you stand out and win new business.