When there was no response to a third follow up phone call it became clear the sale had gone off the tracks.
You were confident up until this point that the project was all yours.
You delivered your estimate. You answered all their questions. You even let them know you could start next week.
You were sure they were going to hire you, but they didn’t. For some reason you did not close the deal.
So what went wrong?
You wonder if you came across as too anxious? Or did you make assumptions about their readiness to move forward? Was your price too high? Was there something you should have said but didn’t?
The truth is, there are many reasons a promising lead does not become a sale. There is, however, one important concept that when understood and respected, maximizes our chances of success with every opportunity.
The concept consists of three simple words:
Trust before trade.
Trust must be present before you can trade your services for money. And for contractors, it means you have to build trust with your clients if you expect to apply your trade to their project.
It is as simple as that.
Whenever we forget this immutable law of construction sales, things usually go awry. Leaving us to wonder how that project got away. In my own career, I can credit the large majority of missed sales to a failure to build trust. That’s why taking the time and resources to build a foundational level of trust in a new relationship is so important. It’s the secret sauce that results in a client choosing you for their project.
The most successful construction contractors are the most trusted construction contractors.
So what is meant when referring to trust in a sales process? Particularly, when it comes to contractors selling their services?
To understand the importance of trust we have to step away from our own need to land more work and place ourselves in the shoes of our prospective client.
For many people, hiring a contractor is down right scary.
For most people, hiring a contractor is not an everyday activity in either their personal or professional life. It’s unfamiliar territory can lead to hesitation from the fear of making wrong choices. The fear is well founded because the entire process comes with a lot of risk. Far too many stories exist of construction projects gone bad due to working with poorly chosen contractors that come with sub par workmanship, project management skills, or both.
Another obvious risk factor is money. Let’s face it, construction projects don’t come without considerable expense. Not understanding how to address a budget objection causes many new contractors to avoid talking about budget for as long as possible. Also, inexperienced contractors may try to win work by competing on price rather than competency. Both approaches are a mistake. Just because the budget required to get the work done can be an issue for a client, it’s a mistake to believe it is always the most important issue.
The most important issue is trust.
When you have built rapport and trust, the fear to saying yes dissolves and projects can move forward with confidence.
Most people will hesitate when they don’t feel that trust has been established. They may not even be able to explain why they feel hesitation. It usually comes down to a lack of confidence on some level, or put another way, they don’t yet have trust in you or your process to guide their project. If reasons for hesitation exist, they will surely lead to inaction. With inaction comes delays. Delays happen over time. And time kills deals.
How can we build trust?
If you have not taken the time to include trust building into your business development and sales process then you have to act now. It is too important to your success to wait any longer. Here are a few simple ways to up the trust factor.
#1 Create the opportunity for people to get to know you, before you know them.
All relationships start with time spent getting to know each other. Business relationships are no different. The great thing about doing business today is that you have opportunities to allow people to get to know you at their pace. Your website is the best place for this to happen.
When someone interested in the services you provide arrives at your website, they should quickly be able to understand who you are, and what you do. But more importantly, they should start to get a feel for what it would be like to work with you.
People interested in the services you provide will visit your website for one main reason: To see if they would trust you on their project.
Step back for a moment to review your current website and its content. Is it cold and impersonal, or friendly and inviting? Is it complex, or does it have a comfortable clarity to it. Is it hard to navigate, or have you created simple paths for further investigation? Does the wording come across too salesy, or is it genuine? Do you have a value proposition to makes it clear why someone should choose you over the competition?
How does your website make you feel? Would you want to contact your company after reading it?
Whether we realize it or not, the accumulation of feelings, and the associated emotions, influences our opinion. It speaks to the very mechanism that helps us decide if a person, or company is one that we can trust.
If the totality of the impressions from your in person meetings, or your marketing material, creates even the slightest conflict in the mind of a potential client, then you fail to connect on the trust level. The opportunity will more than likely move on to someone else, regardless of the fact that you could have been a good fit for the project.
Make sure your website tells the right story in order to give the visitor the confidence to pick up the phone, or fill out your contact form.
#2 Demonstrate competency at every turn.
Being competent in your trade is the minimum requirement needed to be successful in any contracting field. However, we should not assume that new clients are aware of our credentials. This is important if those credentials can be the difference in being chosen for a project.
Simply adding a listing of you and your company’s credentials wherever appropriate on your marketing material can be an effective way to show competency. Don’t make the assumption that someone new to your services already knows your qualifications.
Another level of competency is that of being able to manage and deliver a proposed project to completion, on time and on budget. All sorts of issues can arise on any construction project that affect agreed upon budgets, but poor management should never be one of them. This is a real fear on the part of many new clients, especially if they have had negative experiences hiring contractors in the past.
Deep down we all want to be assured that our money will be handled responsibly. Don’t underestimate the power that this particular fear carries. Be proactive in addressing it by making sure the person considering hiring you is aware of past examples of projects that were completed within, or under proposed budgets and time frames.
It can also help to be transparent about a project that had budget challenges along the way and the actions you took to cope with these challenges. This can be the most powerful example of demonstrating competency.
#3 Be a communicator from beginning to end.
Unfortunately, contractors have a terrible reputation when it comes to communication. A contractor that responds promptly to phone calls and emails will go a long way to building trust.
Of course, this can’t just occur at the beginning of the relationship when you are trying to make a sale, but it certainly needs to start there. You might even find yourself winning work based on how well, how quickly, and how clearly you communicate in the early stages of a sales process.
Communicating well does not begin and end with responding to phone calls and emails. Good communications speaks to expectations and process. After all, you are not just selling your trade, you are selling a solution that will be applied through a process. In this case, a construction process.
Create ease in the mind of the potential client who is not familiar with construction processes. Invest the time to talk with them about how the project will unfold so they gain a new comfort level.
This does not have to be extensive, or detailed conversations unless the project’s complexity calls for it. In most cases, you just need to paint the picture of what the process will look like including sequence of construction, timelines, and milestones along the way.
Think back to a time when you were unfamiliar with a process. It could have been the process of getting married, buying your first house, or navigating a life change. How thankful you were that someone helped guide you along and communicated with you throughout? Construction projects can be like that for many people, so remember how important clear and timely communication will be to your client.
Bonus Tip: Don’t act desperate (even if you are).
The construction industry is full of ups and downs. Especially if you are not proactively managing your project pipeline. New project opportunities appear at all different times. No matter how full or how empty your project pipeline is, act like your business will survive if you don’t make the sale.
The irony of sales is, it is easier to make a sale if you don’t need the work. When there is less riding on any particular sale you are able to relax. You can simply be yourself and communicate without coming across as desperate – the qualities we associate with someone we trust.
There is no time like the present to slow down and focus on trust.
The people you hope to work with will appreciate it. Give trust a chance and you might just find yourself applying your trade on more projects, more often.
You might also be interested in: Three Powerful Actions Contractors Should Take to Put Their New Websites to Work
About the Author: Wayne Lamarre is a construction marketing expert, speaker, and business development consultant, who specializes in helping contractors go from good to great. Contact Wayne to add fuel to your construction business.
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