While it’s important to secure a client and make sure the RFP is organized, BSCs can turn one-time jobs into recurring customers through honest consulting. For Lee Building Maintenance, consulting customers and steering them in the right direction when requesting a service became especially vital in the early stages of the pandemic.

Widespread paranoia and confusion surrounding disinfection lead to many facilities offering to pay more than necessary to eradicate COVID-19 — often by requesting an entire building be disinfected. In talking with customers upfront about what was actually needed, Lee was able to save customers thousands of dollars by explaining how contract tracing can accurately pinpoint which areas needed disinfection in any given building.

“One client of ours had a 150,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. They were willing to pay $24,000 to have their entire place disinfected as a result of a positive test,” says Lee. “I explained to the general manager how we can directly trace which areas needed the disinfection and no outbreak would occur. That $24,000 price tag went down to $785, and no one else got sick.”

Although the honest gesture may have led to a short-term loss on one job, the trust earned goes a long way to securing a lifelong client, as well as garnering a strong reputation among the community.

When determining whether or not a client is requesting the right type of service at the right volume, Crowe recommends asking a series of open-ended questions to learn more about the layout of the facility and common issues. From there, BSCs can use their expertise more easily by being the responder and not the initiator of other suggestions. It can also make a client feel less cornered if their initial request goes in a different direction.

“The first few minutes talking with a customer is very important to establish yourself as the expert and problem solver, but you don’t want to go in too adamant about what you think is right for them,” says Crowe. “The worst thing you can do in these interactions is to immediately tell them what they need. You may turn out to be right, but you want them to be the ones to verbalize it so they have more confidence in the decision.”

Many clients need to be educated about the services they are requesting, and assessing a client’s true needs and guiding them in the right direction is an essential skill to develop. According to Segura, this can apply to price negotiations as well.

For example, when potential clients reach out to a BSC and promise not to entertain bids from competitors if the BSC offers a discount, a common mistake BSCs make is to immediately agree out of a desire to lock in the deal.

However, discounts are only one way to get to a better price point. Segura instead urges BSCs to review the RFP again and point out adjustments that can be made that would result in a price drop. 

“Oftentimes there are areas in a facility where frequencies or particular jobs altogether can be reduced or eliminated without any harm to the occupants,” he says. “Identifying those potential changes is a good starting step in leveling with the customer and explaining that certain levels of service are simply not feasible at a lower price.”

In a worst-case scenario where a client will not budge on price, Segura says BSCs may need to drop a client or job. Although no one likes to pass up business, doing so allows the BSC to target other jobs at a more reasonable margin.

“You never want to be held hostage. If you are doing the best job, you need to have the courage to say, ‘What I’m giving you will result in the quality of work you are requiring,’” he says. “Sometimes you have to walk away, and often they’ll come back around to you and be willing to level.”

In any circumstance, if BSCs can implement the right approach to responding, consulting and negotiating with clients, they’ll find themselves scratching their head over what went wrong far less often.

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