Making "Yes" Count in Commercial Work

June 15, 2004
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Making it easy for the client to sign is key to a good contract.


"A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it is written on."
Samuel Goldwyn

We've all felt the exhilaration of hearing "yes" from that new client. After days of dilly-dallying, you finally flog yourself out of the office to make commercial sales calls, where you encounter one depressing business rejection after another. But then at last a business manager says, "Let's do it." Wow, all of a sudden this is fun!

But don't let this quick and dirty money from a one-time cleaning go to your head. Your long-term goal is not just to make this month's truckmount payment. Instead of an endless series of one-time commercial jobs, why not build a network of regular contract-commercial cleaning accounts where the money just rolls in month after month? You have already built a relationship with the client, and you are going to do a great job, so why not go for the gold and get a signed contract too?

But isn't a handshake good enough? Aren't contracts just a lot of paperwork? Here are four reasons for you to implement written contracts with all new regular commercial accounts.

  • Contracts gain respect both for your company and the agreement. Clients expect to sign something when they enter into a regular arrangement and are both surprised and vaguely worried if you say, "I don't bother with paper work. Your word is good enough for me."
  • Clearly defined expectations are the key to any successful relationship. A contract and its related cleaning schedules will force you to clearly state what is expected from both parties.
  • Contracts offer some legal protection. Of course, the very best protection is to avoid mistakes and provide superb customer service. Remember that no contract will force the customer to keep you if they don't want you on the job.
  • Contracts add great value and curb appeal to your company. The biggest reason most cleaning companies never sell for anywhere near their true value is buyers are afraid the rosy income projections will falter after they have purchased the company. But if you have a 3-inch high stack of signed long-term contracts, this cuts prospect's "fear factor" considerably. And these contracts add dramatically to the appraised sale price of your business.

    Of course, to get these benefits your regular commercial contracts need to be structured properly. Carefully consider these contract guidelines:

    Introduce the regular contract option from the very start. At your first visit explain you will be giving the client a menu of options to choose from, ranging from a one-time restorative cleaning to a full-service regular contract service that will save them money in the long run and provide a much superior appearance level.

    Ride herd on your attorney. Lawyers love to justify their existence (and their fees) by being adversarial in trying to protect your interests at all costs and in every conceivable situation. If you haul out a complex multi-page legal document it will be very intimidating to your client, and either slow down or stop the sales process dead in its tracks. So force your attorney up front to keep the document simple by limiting it to one page.

    Be creative with custom specifications. One way to set yourself apart from the pack of other carpet-cleaning companies is to do much more than quote a set price per foot and walk away. Instead, why not become a cleaning consultant for your customer? There is no business out there that needs all of its carpets cleaned on exactly the same frequency. Instead, interview the prospect and determine what will give them the most bang for their cleaning buck. Then use "assumptive closing" by not giving the prospect a "yes or no" choice, but instead either a one-time cleaning at a higher price or contract Plan A, Plan B or Plan C.

    Never let the contract expire. The beauty of regular commercial-contract cleaning is that you become "part of the woodwork," and your existence (and your invoice) is usually not questioned. But if your contract forces you to return hat-in-hand for a renewal each year, you are setting yourself up to have the contract put out to bid again. Never force your client to make the decision anew each year on retaining your services. If you think you may want to raise your prices down the road, just include a clause allowing you to do this with 30 days written notice and approval from the customer.

    Make the contract "transferable." You don't need to make a big deal out of this one. But even if you have no plans to sell your company now, just include a small clause stating that in event of an ownership transfer of either party, the contract transfers automatically.

    Make it easy to sign. No amount of legal mumbo-jumbo will force the customer to keep using your services. You will guarantee your longevity with the client by providing superb customer service at a reasonable price. So include in your contract a standard clause stating that the client can cancel the contract at any time and for any reason with 30 days written notice to you. Then call their attention to this point at the time you ask for their signature on the dotted line. This "easy out" provision will set the customer's mind at ease and won't hurt you at all.

    It's very likely you already have a successful business. But if you add regular contract-commercial work, it will bring you more income on a regular basis now and add infinitely more value to your company in the future when you decide to sell.

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