The commercial cleaning industry is a tough business to get started in. There’s a lot of competition for very few clients, and the work is incredibly hard & unglamorous. But if you stick with it for a long time, you’ll find that it can be a very rewarding career.
Although most of our business now comes from word-of-mouth, it wasn’t always this easy for us to attract new customers. Early on, we had a lot of trouble getting our proposals accepted.
We’d spend a fortune on advertising… just for the opportunity to bid against 20 other companies.
And bidding often meant taking 2 hours out of my day to drive over to the prospect’s site, talk to them and look over their office. Then, it was another 1 hour on the computer… typing out a detailed proposal based on their cleaning needs.
And what did we usually get for all of this hard work?
“Umm, thanks… we’ll think about it.”
After a while, we realized that all of our paying customers would sign the contracts right away. Usually within 2 or 3 days. But after that, conversions seemed to drop off very rapidlt.
Most of our customers were office managers. These are busy people who already have too much on their plate… and making one more decision would only mean more responsibility. For this reason, many of our prospects would simply delay the decision-making process as much as possible… until they eventually forgot about us or decided that finding a new cleaner wasn’t that important.
Nobody likes to make decisions – especially if they might be held accountable for it later on.
The company that gets the contract won’t be the one who offers the best price or service. It will be the one who convinces the prospect to cross the “commitment line” and take action.
Read that line again. This is the most important realization that helped our business grow early on.
So how do you get someone to commit? Easy! You have to create a sense of urgency.
In our proposals, we would always offer 2 prices:
- The first price was our regular price. Since we knew what our competitors were charging, we would set this number at the higher end of the spectrum… establishing us as a “high-end” commercial cleaning company.
- Then, we would offer a second discounted price. This would typically be a 10% discount on the “regular” price. But this price was only available if they signed the contract within 7 days. After that, the discount would expire and the client would have to pay the regular price.
Of course, this approach brings up a few important questions.
- Only 7 days? What if the client needs more time?
- They won’t!
- All of the most important decisions in your life can be made very quickly… usually within a few seconds. Even very complex ones shouldn’t take more than a day or 2. Any longer, and you’re just procrastinating.
- We figured that office managers could decide if they liked us based on the first visit. After that they’d need about a day or 2 to get approval from the boss.
- But what if they need more time to get other quotes?
- That’s a really stupid question. Why should I help the client evaluate other competitors? It’s not my problem.
- What if they sign the contract on day 8 and insist on the discount?
- This is really your call. Most negotiating experts will tell you to say NO and stand your ground.
- But I’ve seen too many new entrepreneurs destroy their chances of success by letting their ego get in the way of making money.
- That’s really your call. But to tell you the truth, I don’t think this has ever happened to us. Almost everyone signs within 7 days.
Now that we’re successful and well-known in our area, we thankfully no longer need to resort to these types of tactics. But if your company is struggling to break in new accounts, you might find this advice helpful.
About The Author: Tom Dugas is the owner of Ontario Cleaning, a Toronto cleaning company that has some of the most experienced and talented Toronto janitorial professionals in the region.