Fill The Seats Or Go Broke!
by George Hedley

If you were the owner of a NFL football team, your number one goal would be to fill all the seats every week. To fill seats takes a multiple approach. You must put a winning product on the field and you must sell seats. Seats don’t sell themselves. It takes a huge effort to create sellouts at profitable ticket prices.

Over the last ten years, you didn’t have to sell very hard to keep profitable revenue flowing into your company’s coffers. If you put a mediocre team on the field, called the usual plays, and used an average business strategy, your customers would keep coming back for more, if your price was somewhat competitive. And because business was plentiful, you didn’t have to try to win over many new customers. You stayed focused on doing the same type of work for the same type of customers and your business grew. Because there was enough work, you also didn’t have to try different types of projects, customers, or contract delivery methods. In fact, you even prided yourself as a specialist in a very focused type of business niche.

Fast forward. Today it is hard to fill the seats, revenue is scarce, and customers are hard to find. Having a winning team doesn’t matter if they can’t find a game to play in. You’ve cut your overhead and reduced your expenses as low as you can to survive. You continue to bid more and more work against too many competitors at lower and lower prices. Now you are even calling on new and potential customers you really never wanted to work for. You’re trying to get on any bid list you can including public works, which you always avoided because of the paperwork and prevailing wage issues. You’ve assigned your office manager or estimator to cold-calling and emailing any lead they can find in hopes of a miracle. Nothing is working and getting new business at a reasonable price is next to impossible.

Now what? You’re thinking you’ve got to fill the seats with paying customers or go broke. If the sudden slowdown in the economy taught everyone one thing: ‘Putting all your eggs in one basket won’t work forever.’ Many contractors and business owners focused their efforts on doing only one kind of project and service for one type of customer. For example, to keep revenue and jobs flowing in, many focused on only building housing tracts, or shopping centers, or industrial parks, or custom homes, or office building interiors. Some focused on building for general contractors, developers, or home builders. Some expanded and did more than one type of project. But, most didn’t crossover into totally different or diverse types of work. And offering a service component to their revenue stream wasn’t even considered as they were too busy to mess with little jobs.  

Multiple streams of income sells more seats!
A diverse business plan includes three types of revenue streams with many different types of projects per stream. For example, here is a partial list of the unlimited revenue and business opportunities contractors have to choose from:

Multiple Revenue Streams & Opportunities          

1. Contracts & Bids  

Private Construction
Retail shopping centers
National chain stores
Industrial buildings
Manufacturing & factories
Metal buildings
Office buildings
Banks
Medical buildings
Hospitals
Self storage
Renovations
Interior Improvements
Utility Company Projects
Housing Tracts
Custom homes
Residential remodeling
Residential home upgrades
Residential replacement work
Site improvements

Public Works Construction
Schools
Offices
Hospitals
Facilities
Roads & highways
Transportation projects
Sewer & water projects
Storm drain systems
Plants

2. Service Work & Ongoing Accounts       

Ongoing Monthly Or Annual Accounts
Property management
HVAC maintenance
Electrical maintenance
Plumbing maintenance
Landscape maintenance
Site service & management
Spring & winterization
Light bulb replacement
Roof service
Road and drainage repair work
Generator service
Energy management & controls

Repairs & Service To Fix Broken Components
Plumbing & mechanical repairs & upgrades
Window replacement
Tenant improvements
Tenant relocation
Carpet and flooring service
Building damage repair
Clean-up and debris removal

3. Wealth Building & Passive Income

Own income producing real estate
Rental homes
Apartments
Shops and yards
Industrial buildings
Offices
Shopping Centers
                                   
Own income producing businesses
Rental equipment companies
Wholesale materials
Supplier
Services

Who do you want to sell tickets to?
In order for a professional football team to sell tickets, they start with a list of customer targets they want to go after. Taking out advertisements in the newspaper is a shotgun approach, expensive, and will yield a low return. You also won’t be successful in your business by bidding any customer that offers you a set of plans. To create an effective marketing program starts with determining what you want to accomplish. A football team wants to first sell their expensive private boxes, then to high-end season ticket holders, groups, individual season ticket holders, multiple game plans, and lastly – individual game tickets.

Start with a focused and diverse approach. You already have a list of past customers and project types you were successful with. In a tough economy, those targets are not enough. You MUST decide to attack and seek business in all three revenue streams to weather the long anticipated slowdown. From each revenue stream, select at least one or two new customer and project types you want to attack. From the ‘Revenue Targets’ list above, choose new revenue streams, project types, and customer types you will attack over the next several years to grow your business and keep your seats filled with paying customers.

Revenue Targets      

1. Contracts & Bids              

Current Customer Targets                   New Customer Targets
-                                                           -
-                                                           -
-                                                           -

Current Project Types                         New Project Types
-                                                           -
-                                                           -
            -                                                           -

2. Service Work & Ongoing Accounts       

Current Customer Targets                   New Customer Targets
-                                                           -
-                                                           -
-                                                           -

Current Service Types                         New Service Types
-                                                           -
-                                                           -
            -                                                           -

3. Wealth Building & Passive Income

Current Wealth Building Assets         New Assets
-                                                           -
-                                                           -
-                                                           -

What kind of tickets will you sell?
After you make a detailed target list of customers, projects, services, and assets you want to pursue, rank them in order of priority and potential. Consider what will generate the most revenue at the highest price, ease of success, profit potential, learning curve, your perception in the marketplace, and other factors that will determine which is best for your company to market and attack. Also target at least one or two new targets in all three of the revenue categories.

After you identify the targets to market and have ranked them in order, now it’s time to go out and sell tickets to the multiple games you want to play. Think like a professional football team owner. To sell private boxes to major corporations or high net worth business leaders requires a different approach than selling one game to individual ticket buyers. As in your business, selling to high-end homeowners is much different than selling to design-build general contractors, or public works entities, or major national corporations. Each requires a unique selling and marketing strategy to be successful. Let’s look at what different type of customers want and what you can offer.

What Target Customers Want

  • Public Works Contractors
    • Lowest price possible
    • Reliability
    • Large crew = fast schedule
    • Performance under pressure
  • Design-Build General Contractors
    • Fair & competitive open book pricing
    • Technical & engineering expertise
    • Professional presentation skills
    • Trained crews & quality work
  • Real Estate / Property Owners
    • Fair & honest competitive pricing
    • Reliability & trust
    • Quality full value workmanship
    • Fast full service 24-7
  • National Corporations
    • Fair & competitive pricing
    • Financial strength & reputation
    • Safety & quality program
    • Trained crews & excellent work
  • High Price Homeowners
    • Fair & honest open book pricing
    • Trust & reliability
    • Creative & innovative approach
    • Reputation & referrals
  • Low Price Homeowners
    • Lowest price possible
    • Fastest schedule
    • Easy to do business with
    • No hassles
  • Custom Homebuilders
    • Fair & competitive open book pricing
    • Experience in similar work
    • References & reputation
    • Quality workmanship & service
  • Tract Homebuilders
    • Lowest price possible
    • Fastest schedule & large crew
    • Financially strong
    • Follow systems & paperwork

In order to successfully attack your customer targets, determine what you can offer based on what they want and how you can help them. For example, national restaurant chains want to hire full-service contractors they can trust, rely on to get work finished promptly without disruptions to their operations, and know will keep their property clean during renovations. Restaurant owners also want to hire contractors who offer a full line of services, perform design-build and permit procession, don’t require much supervision, are willing to work during non-business hours, and can perform repairs immediately when the need occurs. Can you add this type of work to your construction business?

A general contractor told me after building several Starbucks stores, he approached them about also providing ongoing service for all of their stores in his County. Now his company has three full time service crews who do nothing but work on the Starbucks account performing service, repairs, alterations, upgrades, painting, and remodeling as well as cleaning and fixing coffee machines. This little service has added over $1,000,000 in steady revenue and over $350,000 gross profit to his bottom-line to his $5,000,000 construction business. Not bad for work he once didn’t want and thought was too much of a hassle to perform.

If you want to get into design-build services, what would you need to add to your capabilities? Perhaps you must add an engineer to your staff who can estimate, sell and manage work. Or you can approach an independent engineer about joint venturing with your company to add that capability to your offerings. Years ago our company was heavily focused on building industrial and office parks for developers. To insure against this work slowing down, we made a decision to enter the retail construction market. To implement our strategy happen, I hired a full-charge retail construction division manager who brought contacts, clients, and experience to our company. This decision allowed us to expand into a new market, gain ongoing repeat customers, and grow our business as the economy changed. Adding a new market or project type will require you to add new people to your management team who can help your company grow in a down market.

Create your ticket sales strategy!
First determine who you want to sell tickets to. Then decided what these targets want so you can offer them the right services. And lastly, you must have a sales system that will deliver the revenue results you want. Effective sales is not just bidding more work. It involves proactively attacking customer targets to get them to give you more work at your price. Just like in professional football ticket sales, each of your targets requires a different selling strategy. The high end ticket buyers need the personal touch while low end buyers just need low prices.

Make a list of the target customers you will attack. Start by identifying your existing, repeat, and past customers. Sort them by revenue stream and customer type. For each customer type, you need a minimum of at least 6 existing and 6 new customer targets to go after per customer and project type. Add to your existing customer target list to create at least 96 total targets. Use this chart to create your target list.

Sample customer target list chart:

1. Contracts & Bids Customer Targets                  

Project Types                          Customer Targets      
Shopping Centers                    Current Customer Targets - 6
                                                New Customer Targets - 6

Banks                                      Current Customer Targets - 6
                                                New Customer Targets - 6

New Project Types                  Customer Targets      
Public Works Schools             New Customers Targets - 6
                                               
Hospitals & Medical               New Customer Targets - 6

Major Corporate Facilities      New Customer Targets - 6

 

2. Service Work & Ongoing Accounts Customer Targets

Service Work Types                Customer Targets - 6 
Building Repairs                     Current Customer Targets                  
New Customer Targets

Annual Maintenance               Current Customer Targets
New Customer Targets

New customer targets are not hard to find. For example, if you want to target hospital and medical construction, search on Google or look in the phone book for hospitals and medical complexes in your market area. Call each one of them and ask for the manager in charge of facility construction, maintenance, improvements, or remodeling. With diligence, you can find the right person to call on at every hospital and medical facility.

Start your ticket sales program!
Next contact targeted customers to determine how to qualify to be on their approved contractor or service provider list. Referrals are your best source of getting a meeting with the right person. Look at your target’s website to see if you know anyone on their board of directors or management team. If you do, call them and ask for a referral to the decision maker you want to see. If you know someone who has done business with your targeted customer, also ask them for referrals as well.

Now use your referral to get an appointment or cold-call the decision maker you need to see. Use the phone as a tool to set appointments. Call the target customer and explain the purpose for your call is to become a preferred provider of services. Tell them you have similar long-time customers and have an ongoing relationships with many other companies. Ask them for a short meeting so they can explain the process to get on their approved list. Follow-up with a thank-you letter and a small photo filled brochure showing what your company can do for them. If they won’t return your call, revert to sending them a formal request for information on what it takes to be a preferred provider. Remember, don’t give up. Most sales people give up after the first or second rejection. But those who persevere will win. Most sales don’t occur until after the 6th or 7th try.

If you dedicate time to selling in a consistent and diligent manner, you can sell enough tickets to keep your revenue flowing. By attempting to get at least four customer meetings every week with targeted customers, you will attack at least 96 customers four times each per year. The key is to do it.

After the first meeting, your job is to stay in touch. Send them something every month like a postcard, article, job photo, birthday gift, ten-tips guide, trade magazine, or business book. To deepen the relationship, go see them at least every three months. Take them to lunch, an industry dinner, a ballgame, or golfing. Ask if you can give a ‘lunch & learn’ seminar for their company on a topic you know will help their people do a better job. When you meet one on one, ask them how you can do a better job or what else you can do for them to increase your service offerings.

Sales is not easy. Most business owners are good at it but don’t like to do it. If you are confident in what you do, selling comes naturally. Just tell customers how much you care about doing a good job and taking care of customer’s needs. Your excitement will permeate and infect customers with your enthusiasm. You can grow your business in any economy. All you have to do is go out and start selling tickets to the game. No ticket sales, no game. No sales calls, no work. No new customer targets, no business growth. Stop waiting and start selling to win in 2010.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

George Hedley is the best-selling author of “Get Your Business to Work!” As an entrepreneur, popular speaker and business coach, he helps business owners build profitable companies. E-mail: gh@hardhatpresentations.com to request your free copy of “$ure $trategies To $urvive A $lowdown!” or sign up for his free monthly e-newsletter. To hire George, attend his “Profit-Builder Circle” academy or be a part of an “Executive Roundtable Group” call 800-851-8553 or visit www.hardhatpresentations.com.

 

George Hedley  HARDHAT Presentations
(800) 851-8553  
Email: gh@hardhatpresentations.com     website: www.hardhatpresentations.com

 

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