Bidding Insights: Selling

bidinsightSelling is the firm’s personal presentation to prospective clients and is, largely, a quantitative process. The use of a personality-based sales process is of little value in construction contracting. You have to under-stand your costs and the buyer who is sitting across the table from you.

Before the selling process can begin, firms must define and identify what exactly is a highly qualified lead/prospect. Quality leads/prospects share the following characteristics:

  • Having need for the firm’s services.
  • Having an allocated budget.
  • Having a deadline to make a decision.
  • Open to a relationship.
  • The person is the decision maker.
  • Having an identifiable want.

A prospect that meets these characteristics is someone to whom the firm can market and sell with confidence. Once the firm’s marketing efforts has identified the highly qualified lead/prospect, it’s now time to engage in the six steps to selling in construction:

1. Gather Information – Know the clients and their circumstances. Subscribers to one of Construction Data Company’s products have access to a wide array of information that can assist the firm in these efforts. Either through CDC’s online product or through a call to one of CDC’s local offices, sub-scribers can begin preliminary research into the number and types of projects in which a prospective client has been involved over the past several years.

2. Meet Potential Clients Face-to-Face – This step is crucial, especially when dealing with a new client. Even though this is the age of technology, email is no substitute for a face-to-face meeting.

3. Ask Directed Questions – Questions should focus on what the prospect likes about its current source; what they fear or don’t want in a new contractor; and reflect the strengths of the firm (such as certifications, safety, etc.).

4. Support the Answers – Once the prospect shows interest in the firm and its attributes, be ready to prove your worth. It is recommended that contractors keep a binder available that includes information such as insurance coverage, bonding capacities, reference letters, safety records, etc.

5. Closing the Agreement – The only close to use in construction selling is the assumptive close. When the firm and the prospect are ready to move to the next phase, the firm’s representative should pull out their daybook, look at the calendar, and provide a date at which they can expect to meet the next milestone. If the prospect begins to look at their calendar, the firm has closed the deal.

6. Moving Forward – After leaving the meeting, the firm should follow up with the prospect-turned-client that afternoon to confirm the decision to meet again. This limits changes of heart and “cold feet”.

There are, of course, common errors that affect the selling process:

  • Sounding and looking like a sales person – Do you remember the old Joe Isuzu commercials? Simply put, don’t be that guy!
  • Introducing price before you have communicated all your benefits – Don’t be impatient.
  • Not knowing or following the marketing message – Remain on track with the firm’s stated (and previously relayed) marketing message.
  • Asking for a referral when you haven’t earned one – Again, don’t be impatient. It is recommended that firms wait until they have completed three or more projects with a client in order to ask for a referral.

One area that is often overlooked by contractors is that of building value. If the Value Perception equals Perceived Benefit less Perceived Cost, then in order to increase the Value Proposition to the client, a firm must increase its Perceived Benefit. Some ways in which a firm can increase its value include:

  • Accurate as-builts.
  • Paperwork submitted timely and accurately.
  • Seamless reporting in the client’s format and desired method.
  • Being attentive to unique construction needs.
  • Offering helpful suggestions whenever inevitable problems occur.

You’ll note that lowering costs is not listed there. Cutting project costs for the sake of cutting costs is never a good idea. Lowering costs must be conducted with the specific needs of the client in mind.


It is quite obvious that the modern construction company is one that needs to be data driven in order to obtain the success (profitability) it seeks. The owner and management team of the firm need to devote the time and resources to developing these metrics and have the wherewithal to perform a true self-evaluation. As Sun Tzu wrote, “The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.”

This executive brief is the fifth in a series designed by Construction Data Company, in cooperation with the Stevens Construction Institute, to assist your firm in adopting a data driven approach to winning more bids.

It is our hope that this series will provide you with the information you need to successfully lead your firm to growth and increased profitability.

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