construction team on site

Sell What Customers Want


To win more work at higher margins against less competition, you first have to identify the customer and project targets you want to reach. Then, you can go out and offer what these potential customers want in order to win their work. Each type of customer hires contractors for different reasons. Think like a professional football team owner. To sell private boxes to major corporations or high-net-worth business executives requires a different approach than selling one game to individual ticket buyers who shop for the lowest price on the internet. Similarly, in your construction business, selling to high-end homeowners is much different than selling to design-build general contractors, public works entities, major national corporations, or real estate developers. Each requires a unique selling and marketing strategy to be successful. Let’s look at what different types 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 and competitive open-book pricing
    • Technical and engineering expertise
    • Professional presentation skills
    • Trained crews and quality work
  • Real Estate / Property Owners
    • Fair and honest competitive pricing
    • Reliability and trust
    • Quality, full-value workmanship
    • Fast, full service 24/7
  • National Corporations
    • Fair and competitive pricing
    • Financial strength and reputation
    • Safety and quality programs
    • Trained crews and excellent work
  • High-Price Homeowners
    • Fair and honest open-book pricing
    • Trust and reliability
    • Creative and innovative approach
    • Reputation and referrals
  • Low-Price Homeowners
    • Lowest price possible
    • Fastest schedule
    • Easy to do business with
    • No hassles
  • Custom Homebuilders
    • Fair and competitive open-book pricing
    • Experience in similar work
    • References and reputation
    • Quality workmanship and service
  • Tract Homebuilders
    • Lowest price possible
    • Fastest schedule and large crew
    • Financially strong
    • Follow systems and paperwork

In order to successfully reach your desired 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, who can get work finished promptly without disruptions to their operations, and who 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 processing, 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 these types of services to your construction business?

A general contractor who had built several Starbuck stores approached them about also providing ongoing services 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 the bottom line of 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, provide value engineering, and manage work. Or, you can approach an independent engineer about joint venturing with your company to add that capability to your offerings. Suppose your company was heavily focused on building industrial and office parks for developers. To ensure against this work slowing down, you made a decision to enter the retail construction market. To implement your strategy, you would need to hire a full-charge retail construction division manager who brought contacts, clients, and experience to your company. This decision would allow you to expand into a new market, gain ongoing repeat customers, and grow your business as the economy changes. Adding a new market or project type will require you to add new people to your management team who can help your company grow into new areas of expertise.

Create your ticket sales strategy

First, determine who you want to sell tickets to. Then, decide what each specific customer target wants so you can offer them the right services. Finally, you must have a sales system that will deliver the revenue results you want. An effective sales system is not just bidding more work. It involves proactively soliciting 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 want low prices.

Start your ticket sales program

The next step is to contact customer targets to determine how to qualify to get onto 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, ask them for referrals as well.

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 up 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 ongoing relationships with many other companies. Ask them for a short meeting so they can explain their process for getting on their approved list and you can determine what they need. Follow up with a thank you letter and a small 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 sixth or seventh try.

If you dedicate time to selling in a consistent and diligent manner, you will sell enough tickets to keep your revenue flowing. By attempting to get at least two to four customer meetings every week with targeted customers, you will attack at least 48 to 96 customers every quarter. This is not an impossible task, but the key to sales success is to commit and 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, stop by or see them at least once 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 an easy job. Most business owners are good at it but don’t like to make the effort. 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 their needs. Your excitement will permeate and infect customers with 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 profitable work. No new customer targets, no business growth. Stop waiting and start selling.

Business - Commercial Construction Industry

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This article contains general information only. Sunflower Bank is not, by means of this article, rendering accounting, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This article is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, before making any decisions related to these matters, you should consult a qualified professional advisor.