Are you always being used as a Price Check?
When you Sell high value speciality HVAC sub-contract products and services to larger FM organisations and corporate occupiers, it can be one of the most profitable and rewarding activities you can do. (and also one of the most frustrating!)
However you also have to be careful that you don’t become one of those businesses that these organisations come to when they want to check they are getting Value for Money.. There are countless stories that we can relate to of smaller specialist contractors, who have been busy fools and regulalrly do it, Rather than checking on whether there is a genuine opportunity to do business, all they see isthe chance to quote Big Corp.
There is a better way! What you need to learn all about relationship building with the senior decision makers and by letting them know that yes you are keen to work with them but only if they will award some contracts to you.
The bottom line is that ultimately it’s the senior executives in those organisations that make the decisions over whether your contracting or maintenance business get hired, over whether you’re seen as a preferred supplier or price check to that organisation, and whether you get involved early on and help them out, or whether you’re just seen as a supplier or specialist sub-contractor that they might call in later and then you’re just competing on price.
If you can learn how to build those high-level relationships, and you can have a very successful HVAC Contracting or maintenance business. Detailed below are some of the key steps you need to take.
When you are looking at working with larger corporate FM organisations, then your relationship with them develops in three phases.
It normally starts like this. You may have not have done any work with them, or you may just have done a couple of small M&E projects or sub-contract maintenance work, but they don’t really view you as different to anyone else in your category. Once you have gone through all sorts of corporate procurement hoops, they won’t pay you any more than they pay any of their other specialist HVAC suppliers, and you will have to provide proposals/quotes and all sorts of similar stuff.
If you continue to work with them and you do a great job, then you’ll become a regular supplier. Sometimes they may actually come back to you, to see whether you’re interested in doing specific M&E project or upgrade works or when they’re looking for help with a particular client that has a technical problem, and you may be rewarded better than if it was just a standard quote. Plus you don’t have to got through all the initial buying hoops that you had to go through when you first started working with them.
Ideally, you want to establish yourself as their trusted partner. When you’re a trusted partner, a number of things happen. Firstly the organisation sees you as being a real expert in your field, someone who understands theirs and their clients needs, who can really help them do their job quickly and reliably, so you get paid a premium.
You then get chosen in preference to all others, but also importantly you get called in early on in the project and instead of anyone else. Rather than just waiting until they need to hire a contractor or supplier for a certain job, and then putting it out to tender or calling lots of suppliers for quotes, they’ll call you in to give them some advice and guidance early on in their decision making process where they still trying to understand what the problem is and how they’re going to deal with it. That straight away puts you in pole position to win any work that comes out of it. It’s a really great position to be in.
So how do you get there? You don’t build relationships with organisations, you build relationships with individual people, in particular the senior executives and other influencers who make the decisions in that corporate FM organisation or occupier.
It doesn’t happen overnight, it happens step by step, It happens with all the small interactions you have with them. Some of those would be meetings you have when you’re working with them, or sales meetings you might have before you start to work with them, or you might be doing a presentation and they get introduced to you.
Ideally, you want need be proactive and start initiating interactions with them, because without that you’re not going to get enough interactions, and they are not going to happen regularly enough. They’re not going to happen in the right place and time to build that relationship if you just rely ad-hoc on things happening.
The type of proactive interactions is that you might give them a call, or you might email them something they might find useful. Something that continues to build your relationship with them, or even when you have a planned project meeting with them, doing the work you’re doing with them, a little bit of preparation before hand and thinking not only how can I give them an update on how the project is going and how we can get our milestones hit, but also how can I extend and build my relationship with that executive, so we build credibility and we build trust all the time, really pays off. How do you do that?
Create a short-list of 5,10,15 executives that you’re trying to build relationships with, what can you do for any of them this week to strengthen the relationship? Can you send them something useful (trade article, an ebook, case study), can you introduce them to someone that might be useful to them. Can you invite them to an event, you might have to just go for coffee with them, you might have phoned them up and just chat over industry gossip.
In order to come up with good ideas, you need a couple of things, one is you need to understand their business and their individual needs, what floats their boat, so you need to understand their business, their industry, their particular FM or occupier organisation, what it is that they have issues with and what causes them grief.
If you take that information and then review it every week, and then you can decide if there is anything you can do to help them, or that’s going to be valuable for them this week. They probably won’t want you in contact with them every week, but if you think about them every week, then every 2,3,4 or 5 weeks, you will think of something that will build your relationships. It will be far better than just relying on something coming up, or something you think of during the week.
The secret to great relationship building is to plan it properly and to take action pro-actively, and to be regularly thinking what can I do to build my relationship, to build credibility and trust with this person. If you can, position yourself as an expert in the field you work in, and M&E business in general to give helpful information to them.
It will certainly stop you being a busy fool and a go to alternative. So when Big Business comes knocking make sure you are in the best position to win their business.