Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Closing Strategies For Contract Proposals

June 8, 2012

Locating qualified prospects and submitting competitive bids is hard work.

Especially frustrating is the failure to close a fair share of those proposals.

Exploring some new marketing strategies can perhaps help improve your closing ratios.

Implementing a process to replace your competitor is an important mission.

During your initial visit or building tour, your goal is to identify all major service delivery issues.

But, don''t make the mistake of directly criticizing the current cleaning service; it could be provided by a family member or friend.

By casually mentioning major quality breaches to the prospect, your objective will be to determine their priorities.

You want to discover the current provider''s weakness and then appropriately counter with your strengths.

Establishing differentiation is crucial and part of a process we call "penalty flag marketing."

There could be times when an on-site quality control inspection could be conducted to show the prospect firsthand the existing service inadequacies.

Theoretically, if the current cleaner''s quality rating score is 50 percent, then half of the work he or she is being paid to perform is being left undone.

Low-ball Bidders

Poor quality and unfulfilled promises are often the consequences of awarding contracts based only on price points.

This is especially evident when an account broker or low-ball bidder purposely under bids, knowing the facility cannot be cleaned for that amount.

The broker''s objective could be simply to flip the contract, regardless of miniscule profits and with little regard for quality results.

Once you have identified major service delivery deficiencies and elicited an emotional response, you are gaining ground in planting seeds of discontent.

When the prospect finally admits dissatisfaction with the current service, you can convert that pain into action.

Let''s hope your timing is right and the prospect is fed up with inferior service, because that is the time to paint a visually graphic picture of how your company would solve the cleaning issues.

Keep in mind that a third-party success story often conveys your superiority better than any other approach.

Before and after photos of your best jobs can also make a great impact.

Until the prospect is ready, able and willing to fire the incumbent contractor for underperformance, your job is unfinished.

Unmet Needs

There are other areas of disapproval that can be explored, such as poor response times, cross-contamination issues, lack of integrity, incompetency, inferior or non-existent training programs, omission of quality inspection reporting, security issues, safety problems, insufficient backend support, lack of confidentiality, inferior recruiting methods, lack of focus and unmotivated staff members.

Basically, you are on a fishing expedition to uncover the incumbent''s weaknesses and exploit — in a good way — the deficiencies that cause underperformance.

After all, if the prospect is being underserved, then you are doing them a favor by offering corrective solutions.

Be aware, however, that if your own service delivery skills require dramatic improvements, you are not ready to tackle system improvements for someone else.

As you discuss each cleaning challenge, you should ask if that particular concern is important to the prospect.

You might comment, "I noticed your floors are heavily marked and scuffed, but maybe that isn''t a priority or concern for you right now."

If the prospect responds that it is a major problem, you have just located a sore spot.

Ascertain how the prospect "feels" each month paying the cleaning bill, knowing part of the job was not done.

When the prospect owns up to the pain, you are getting closer to being asked to solve their problems.

This approach may lead to higher closing ratios because it focuses the prospect''s attention on obvious deficiencies that can be corrected.

You probably recall this advice: "A prospect doesn''t care how much you know until they know how much you care."

Contract termination is a scary process; your prospect may need some reassurance that they are making the right decision.

Hopefully, you have gained a certain level of trust and credibility by now.

You could state, "Mr. or Ms. Prospect, you are sticking your neck out for us, and I assure you that you won''t regret hiring our company."

Now, it will be up to you to keep your promises.

Penalty flag marketing may not fit every situation but, in some settings, it can get you invited in with minimal struggles.

And, working smarter is bound to reduce stress levels.

Gary Clipperton is a 40-year industry veteran, president of National Pro Clean Corporation and vice-president of the International Custodial Advisors Network (ICAN). He can be reached at