Winning bids for projects is essential in the building service contractor industry — but the problem is, the clients know it, too. The imbalance of power allows prospective clients to obtain what is essentially unpaid consulting work from multiple building service contractors before awarding the contract to just one BSC.

"Prospective clients swing open their doors and invite everybody and their brother's cousin to bid the job, when only a select few might actually have the opportunity and/or qualify in the prospect's eyes to actually secure the business," explains Curtis McLemore, CEO of McLemore Building Maintenance. "There might be 10 bidders, but in reality, there are only three in the room that are actually going to be considered. If you're one of the other seven, what the hell are you doing?"

McLemore has been in the industry for his entire life. He was six months old when his father started McLemore Building Maintenance, and rose through the company's ranks over the years. Now charged with overseeing the strategic vision and direction of the company, McLemore is also an active member of BSCAI, having previously served as President and on the Board of Directors.

McLemore led a breakout session at Contracting Success+ entitled "Prospect vs. Suspect." During his session, McLemore broke down classifications for potential contract opportunities, identifying would-be clients as "prospects" or "suspects." Prospects, according to McLemore, are well-qualified buyers who are likely to award a contract. Suspects, on the other hand, are unlikely to offer paid business. If BSCs fall into a trap of consistently pitching to suspects instead of identifying strong prospects, they could be wasting important time, money and energy that would be better devoted to growing their business.

"It costs a lot of money to bid jobs, and takes a lot of time and effort. It takes focus away from the business," McLemore says.

In his session, McLemore presented tools and techniques to help BSCs determine whether a potential client is a prospect or a suspect. He stressed that the session is not a sales pitch, but a presentation of straightforward, numbers-based scenarios. McLemore hopes attendees walked away from the session with "practical, useful information" that will empower them to pitch to prospects only and therefore grow their businesses.

"If [BSCs] want to grow their business in the janitorial industry, this is a proven model to do it," McLemore says.

McLemore also touched on strategies to improve sales numbers when pitching to a prospect. And he discussed ways to retain existing clients.

Ultimately, McLemore says, he hopes BSCs learned that it is okay to be selective about bids and prospects. He believes many companies put up with being treated as subservient — or giving unpaid consulting work — because there is no other way to woo a would-be client. But he stresses that a BSC's time, money and business is just as important as a client's, and there is no need to waste time on fruitless pitches that will not result in revenue.