Bidding and Estimating are not foreign terms to Building Service Contractors in the janitorial industry. Contracts come, contracts go, and, ideally, contracts grow. But winning and maintaining contracts may be easier said than done. Bidding and estimating plays an important part in that process.
Remember the Basics
Some of the most basic principles in business are making all the difference for BSCs these days. So let’s look at bidding and estimating in regards to three basic steps.
Step 1 - Preparation and Surveying: Do your homework. Never go into a bid presentation with a generic, one-size-fits-all proposal. Your potential clients have several deciding factors in mind when comparing contractors. Learn about your potential clients. Discover what is important to them in relation to the services you provide, and capitalize on that information.
Step 2 - Estimating: Creating an estimate is not only about coming up with a price. It is about customizing a solution to fit the needs of your potential clients. Anyone can come up with a dollar figure, but the key to winning a bid is using the information you gathered to create a proposal that is specific to their unique needs. Effective estimates incorporate not only the raw square footage, but they also include key modifiers, such as occupant density, essential materials or processes, and a wealth of other elements that vary by facility.
Step 3 - Proposal and Presentation: An effective presentation will often bear the fruits of success and will show your potential clients that you see them as someone you want to help, rather than as a simple revenue source. On the other hand, a poor or ambiguous presentation accomplishes the opposite. Take the opportunity to differentiate your organization during your presentation. It’s likely that you will provide services that are similar in nature to those of your competitors, but emphasizing your unique company culture can help tip the scales in your favor.
Making It Work for You
It could go without saying that different bidding and estimating tools are built to fit different types of businesses. The following are five characteristics that you should make sure your solution incorporates in order to achieve the results needed to help your business grow and prosper:
Metrics: You should be able to gather detailed metrics and qualities of the building you are bidding. This information may be made available during a physical tour or walkthrough of the facility, or you may be provided with schematics, floor plans, etc. that enumerate the key features of the building. A tool that doesn’t allow you to capture the details and information you need won’t get you the results your business requires.
Customizable: Using a one-size-fits-all template will not help your company distinguish itself. You want your bidding and estimating tool to be one that accepts customizable inputs that best fit your unique business, allowing you to tailor a plan to satisfy both your customer and your operational realities.
Estimated Cost: The best bidding and estimating tools will generate an estimate of all the costs associated with servicing the facility. These costs include, but are not limited to, the labor hours required to clean the building, the supplies, overhead considerations, and any special services or projects that your potential client requests. To ensure accuracy, this estimate must be based upon the metrics and production rates you recorded during the building survey.
Modifications: Utilizing the initial estimated cost, the right bidding and estimating tool will accept building-specific modifications to create a competitive bid. These modifications are essential when a potential customer would like to engage your services at a lower price, reduced frequency, or perhaps contract some additional work not included in your survey.
Integration: Integration can be a vital aspect of your bidding and estimating tool. The ability to integrate information from a survey and estimate into other aspects of your business (e.g. quality control) will allow you to present your services in a way that distinguishes your bid from that of other service providers in the eyes of the potential client.
Substance vs. Show
Let’s examine an interesting contrast between two distinct groups.
Group #1 goes in to a bid knowing that they may not exactly have the latest and greatest gimmicks, but they do know who they are, what they offer, how to get the most out of what they have, and they can provide proof of their performance. To be honest, they may not always win the bid, but more often than not, they come away from a presentation with new business and are in a position to retain the account.
Group #2 is a bit different. They may highlight a number of frills during their presentation, but they are light on substance. They have some tools, access to some information, but they clearly don´t know how to make use of those things. Without a doubt, discerning clients can spot the difference. Sure, Group #2 can win accounts as well, but their luck often runs out at untimely junctures.
This difference can be seen in innumerable scenarios, but perhaps my experience driving around our small town while in high school is most poignant to me.
Have you ever pulled up to a stoplight and seen a gorgeous, powerful car next to you? Did the driver of that car ever rev the engine while staring you down? I have been in that exact situation several times, but maybe that’s just a product of where I grew up. The fact is, however, that even though my car was mechanically inferior to the other in pretty much every scenario, I decided to challenge several of them, and I often came out ahead in those competitions.
Why did I challenge those cars that presented themselves as “better” than mine? Simple—I knew who the drivers were, and I knew they didn’t have full control of the power under the hood. Some didn’t know how to handle a manual transmission, others were poor at timing the green light, and others failed to size up the situation properly.
In almost every instance, the person who won the impromptu drag race did so because they knew their capabilities, they were competent with their tools, and they went for it.
The same can (and should) be said for BSCs competing for a bid. It’s not enough to have a shiny new toy—successful providers will showcase their adoption of technological solutions in conjunction with their operational savvy. And, just like in high school, to the victor go the spoils.