How to Provide Value
I have been hearing Ted Garrison's [construction consultant and contributing columnist for Insights] mantra for many years now that bringing value is the key to doing business. I have to agree with that premise one thousand times over. People want value for their investment. If something is of value, people are willing to pay for it. Granted, some of it is perceived value, but nonetheless, it is value to them.
Being a consultant and recruiter myself, I have a strong grasp of this concept. In the past, many contractors would call me and discuss how I could help them in their firms. I used to quote really large sums of money and, more often than not, I blew the prospect out of the water. Why do you think? The reason that I blew them out of the water was that I had not first established the value that I was bringing to the table. So, really, any amount of money seems high if you do not establish some value on the front end.
For example, let’s say that you are attracted to hiring a certain business developer who you think highly of in your marketplace. You interview them confidentially, and when you ask what salary they want they share $200,000 as a base salary. Most contracting firms would balk at that figure, and it would end the fantasy about the hire, right?
But, let’s say instead that the business developer laid out a simple and clear annual plan of how to bring $2 million in gross profits to your bottom line on top of what you are already doing. Would it be so arrogant to request 10% of that profit as a base salary and as a reward for the growth earned? It would not be arrogant. Now the $200,000 base salary looks fair and reasonable. After all, you will be a millionaire and your business will have some breathing room. It is only a matter of perceived value and its impact on you.
It is the same with your clients. It is necessary – and very important – to establish value on the front end of every relationship, transaction, and communication. This cannot be overstated.
Here are some ideas of how you can bring that value through ideas that have been tried and true in our industry.
SOLVE THEIR CHALLENGE
Regardless of what your product or service is, your client has a need for it and there has been challenges in their past with the fulfillment of it. Therefore, it behooves you to uncover what their true needs and business goals are. Once this has been uncovered, you can apply your product/service to meeting that challenge in part or in whole. Using your expertise, it is important to express how you can – over the competition – save them time or money. If you can minimize their liability, hassle, pain, and discomfort, your contribution is golden. Taking experience from one of your markets and applying it to another could provide creative solutions that your competitors can’t offer. By showcasing what makes you unique and a perfect fit for the project, you will win a loyal client who will also let others know what you did to serve their needs.
DESIGN IS IMPORTANT
Having worked in various roles and capacities in the contracting industry, I have learned that one of the most important ways to bring value is through the design of a product, service, or project. It is on the front end, when the preliminary concepts and needs are being discussed, where the largest strides and gains can be made. Many contractors use the term value engineering. That term is important, but if you are not locked into a specific design, you may find that you can influence the overall design or subsets of it to bring tremendous value to your client.
One realm where this is obvious – not as obvious 10 years ago – is the area of sustainability. Construction has a life cycle and the initial cost turn out to be about 10% of the costs over the life of the project. This is huge. Therefore, roll-up your sleeves and figure out how to save your client time and money over the life of a project. Many electrical contractors have worked in multiple different markets at some point in their career. Draw from solutions you’ve provided to other markets to think beyond the normal scope of the initial work. Even one piece of your counsel could save them the cost of the entire project.
One of my careers was with an engineering/architecture firm where we designed and promoted tilt-up concrete construction. Because of some aggressive engineering and understanding how to use the shell of the building as sheer walls, we could eliminate the structural columns surrounding the internal wall perimeter. The savings were astronomical and, if there were initial plans drawn up by competitors that did not consider the “sheer” wall concept, they could not compete with our design.
COMMUNICATION IN RELATIONSHIPS
Business Development is all about relationships. If you desire to bring value in relationships, then you must learn to be an above average communicator. We are not looking for perfection here. But, are you responsive to your contacts? Do you keep your word consistently? Do you admit fault when it is there and eat humble pie even when it is not (I had to do that recently)? Do you have a formal or informal system in place to communicate thoroughly with your contacts? Is your attitude positive and upbeat? These are differentiators nowadays, when we are all being bombarded with the same or very similar messages. Recently, I had to decide between four vendors to aid in selling an important asset. One stood out as positive, assertive, and confident. The others were not as confident or positive, and they were more hopeful and wishful, rather than demonstrative. I went with the positive one. That is what I need to sell my asset.
It is crucial to differentiate your firm from the pack. Be clear and focused with your value proposition. Make sure your whole staff/team is trained in how to deliver and communicate that differentiation. It also comes out through your written proposals and presentations. Make sure that they are salted with strong business development ideas that demonstrate that you are paying attention and ready to consult with your clients. It makes a difference in the results of your sales, people, and growth.
Taking in these techniques and implementing them into your business model will help make you a success and win more projects than ever before.
Larry Silver is the president of Contractor Marketing Inc., a national consulting and recruiting firm specializing in the architecture/engineering/construction industry. Larry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 776-7170.