Everything Contractors Need to Know to Close More Sales
In order to grow your contracting business, you need to close more sales — and a number of factors can impact your ability to do so.
To ensure sales success, you’ll need to be able to accurately assess your service backlog, build trust with customers, overcome sales objections, follow up on proposals, earn positive reviews, and generate repeat business.
How can each of these factors affect your sales? And how can you set yourself up for success, so that you can close more sales and gain more customers?
Read on and find out!
Assessing your backlog
A backlog is a list of planned, confirmed projects for a service contracting business. A financial index of sorts, your backlog contains the amount of income your business will acquire from each future project. And as a contractor, knowing how to measure backlog health is an important first step toward ultimately closing more sales.
Assessing your contractor backlog can help you determine how many new contracts you should look to secure and ensure you have sufficient resources to fulfill the demands of new contracts. If you know how to properly assess your backlog, you’ll be able to plan ahead, scale up, and have adequate resources to successfully complete your contracts.
In assessing your service backlog, you’ll be looking at the number of pending projects you have, their priority, how long they will take to complete, and the resources you’ll need to complete them. If you have an extensive backlog, you can be less aggressive with sales and more selective about which clients you take on.
You should use your backlog as a tool for strategizing how to most effectively meet the demands of your upcoming projects, and to scale up, if needed. If your backlog is too large, and you don’t thoroughly assess it, you may find yourself without adequate resources to effectively execute your contracts, which can ultimately cost you business.
Building trust and rapport
Knowing how to build trust with customers is an essential part of the sales process — and trust is especially important for contracting businesses.
Customers need to feel confident in all aspects of your contracting business: that you won’t overcharge them or do substandard work, that you’ll be pleasant to work with, and that you will be able to effectively meet the demands of the project in question. Depending on your trade and your customer base, you might be going into people’s homes or businesses on a regular basis, which can require an even greater degree of trust from your customers.
Building trust in sales starts with the first time you make contact with potential customers and continues all through the entire sales pipeline. Your conduct will ultimately help or harm your business’s trustworthiness.
Here are a few ways to build trust and rapport with your customers.
Be persuasive, not pushy. — When you’re building relationships with potential customers, it’s key to persuasively convey what your business has to offer, and what makes it unique, without being too pushy. A good way to do this is to give potential clients tangible evidence of your successful track record, in a personable, matter-of-fact manner. Being too forceful may indicate that you’re in desperate need of their business, which can cause them to pull back.
Provide valuable advice/information during sales conversations. — One way to build rapport among prospective clients is to give them something valuable through your conversation, even if they choose not to hire you. Gatekeeping information can make you appear manipulative and untrustworthy.
Demonstrate honesty and transparency. — If potential customers ask whether add-ons, products, or services are necessary, answer honestly based on their situation. You can (and should) still share the benefits of any add-on or additional services, but don’t try to sell people something they don’t need. If you do, chances are good they’ll be able to pick up on it and won’t trust you.
Provide clear, professional estimates and proposals. — It’s key to provide estimates and proposals that are clear, legible, and easy to understand. Handwritten and/or vague estimates don’t inspire trust from clients.
We’ll cover how to create a professional estimate below.
Want more tips for managing a growing business? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Growing Your Service Contracting Business.
Responding to and overcoming objections
Overcoming objections in sales is a crucial skill. It’s rare to go through the duration of the sales process without encountering some pushback. Objections are the primary obstacles that stand between you and successful sales. Some common objections in sales might include price disagreements, a lack of trust, or not being ready to close for any reason.
So, in order to close sales, it’s essential to be prepared to handle any objections.
To do this, determine which objections you hear most often during your sales process. For each of them, come up with tactful responses ahead of time that you can have ready. Be prepared to make your case in a polite, persuasive manner.
These responses don’t need to be overly memorized or rehearsed, but you’ll want to have a firm grasp on the issue in question, the client you’re speaking with, and the manner in which you advocate your point.
To demonstrate, here are a few examples of how a painting business might respond to common objections:
|Potential wats to respond
|“I can get cheaper painting services somewhere else”
|Lack of trust
|“I’ve had bad experiences with painting businesses in the past, and I’m reluctant to try again”
|“I need more time to think about this”
If a client has objections, regardless of any responses you’ve prepared, don’t interrupt or steamroll them. Instead, practice active listening, wait for them to finish their thought, and acknowledge their point of view in your response.
Creating professional estimates
Estimates are crucial for any contract-based business, and knowing how to write a professional estimate can go a long way toward closing sales. Here are some guidelines to follow:
Be specific about the scope.
- Clearly outlining the parameters of the contract in your estimate can help you avoid “scope creep” down the line.
- To get a firm understanding of the job’s parameters, be sure to meet with the client ahead of time to ask plenty of questions and take notes.
Show exactly what each item covers.
- Don’t approximate, or “eyeball,” costs.
- Calculate them using measures, like square feet or linear feet, and precise counts of what will be done.
Use a polished template.
- Using a template that looks polished, professional and easy to read reflects well on the professionalism of your business.
- Be precise and realistic in terms of labor costs, material costs, timeline, and overall budget.
- Don’t underestimate a timeline, and be sure to factor in any potential slow-downs related to bad weather or any other unforeseen circumstances.
- Consult your schedule to make sure your labor resources will be available for the job and not tied up in other projects.
Provide relevant information about your business.
- Include your branding (e.g., logo); contact info; and payment information, including methods and fees.
Following up to close sales
Very few customers will sign a proposal right away; often, you’ll need to give them a gentle push to keep them moving through the sales pipeline. This is where knowing how to follow up on a sales proposal comes in handy.
Follow-ups are an integral component to closing more sales. They’re typically done via email or phone (though not exclusively), and they require tact, planning, and good communication skills. When implemented properly, they can help you close more sales.
Why follow up with clients once you’ve given them a proposal?
Following up with potential clients can simply serve as a reminder to look at the proposal, in case it’s slipped their mind. But it also gives them an opportunity to ask more questions, or even raise more objections, which you can then clear up.
Sales follow-up tips:
- Summarize the last conversation you had. This shows the customer that you remember their needs, pain points, and the services they were interested in.
Offer to answer their questions. Reiterate the value your business has to offer and how your services align with their needs. Give them more than one way to get in touch. Providing multiple options — like email, phone, or in-person appointments — allows them to communicate with your business in whichever way feels most comfortable for them. Be clear about next steps. Don’t send too many emails in a short amount of time, which might annoy or overwhelm potential clients.
Sending a follow-up email can be quick and easy. For example, with Estimate Rocket, you can send automated follow-up emails according to project phase, including when an estimate is pending.
Getting positive reviews
How much do reviews matter? For any contracting business, they’re essential, as they can substantially influence customer decisions.
According to a recent BrightLocal survey:
- 49% of consumers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family members
- 76% of consumers “regularly” read online reviews when browsing for local businesses
- 55% of consumers say reviews of service businesses and tradespeople are “very important,” and an additional 29% say they’re “important”
Reviews can mean the difference between a struggling business and a thriving one.
How to ask customers for reviews
Once the work is complete, writing a review of your business won’t necessarily be high on a customer’s to-do list — especially if everything went according to plan. Many customers could use a friendly reminder that reviews are a great way to show appreciation for a job well done.
Here are some ways to field reviews for your business:
- Create an email campaign to past and current customers asking for reviews. You can also offer incentives for customer reviews (e.g., gift cards, discounts), as long as you emphasize you’re looking for honest reviews.
- Include links to your Yelp, Google, Facebook, and/or Trustpilot in your company’s email signature and on your website.
- Include a request for reviews at the end of a feedback survey.
Responding to reviews
Engaging with feedback — both negative and positive — is an important part of building relationships with customers, as it shows them that you value their feedback and will address their concerns.
Thanking customers for positive reviews is relatively straightforward, but knowing how to respond to negative reviews can be a bit more challenging. Here are a few tips:
- Thank them for taking the time to share their feedback
- Apologize for the negative experience
- State how you will address the issue/concern
- Offer to discuss with them further via phone, email, or in person
Try to think of negative reviews as an opportunity to demonstrate your professionalism. Even if the person who left the negative review doesn’t end up changing their mind about your business, you’ll show prospective customers that you take feedback seriously.
Earning repeat business
Most business owners know that it’s generally easier, and more cost-effective, to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one. Contracting businesses, in particular, need to focus on customer retention and encouraging repeat business in order to remain competitive.
Contractor customer retention strategies
There are a handful of potential strategies you can employ to retain existing customers, including:
- Loyalty programs
- Special discounts or exclusive offers for return customers
- Rewards for referrals
You can offer similar incentives to past customers. Keep in touch with them by periodically presenting them with opportunities and reasons to come back.
For example, you could create an email and/or social media marketing campaign offering 15% off for returning customers. Assuming you’ve done demonstrably professional work in the past, an offer like this gives past customers a reason to choose your business again over competitors.
Ready to streamline your sales process?
Growing your business comes down to closing more sales. And everything, from the state of your backlog to how you respond to reviews, has an impact on your ability to close sales. It’s up to you to implement the strategies that will help your business thrive.
Estimate Rocket can help streamline your sales process and win more business with professional proposals, automatic follow-up emails, the ability to let customers sign proposals online, and more.
Master your business growth with Estimate Rocket. Learn more and request a demo.
About The Author
Tom Droste, CEO of Estimate Rocket, coaches company leaders in sales and profit planning, and software implementation.
Estimate Rocket is an end-to-end software solution that enables service contractors to run their businesses efficiently, saving time and money so they can stop focusing on technology and start focusing on their customers and the work that matters. Serving thousands of successful companies across the globe, Estimate Rocket blends a unique mix of business and service contracting expertise to bring solutions that grow our customers profits an average of 34% every year.