ICS Magazine

Getting to "Yes" With the Commercial Client - Part I

April 15, 2004
Dress for success


"If you think you can, you can. If you think you can't, you can't."
- Mary Kay Ash
Mary Kay Cosmetics

Let's cut to the chase. Regular contract commercial carpet cleaning is some of the fastest, easiest money you will ever earn. Yet most carpet cleaners obsessively focus only on the brutal, cutthroat pricing found in the residential market instead of plucking the ripe plums out there in the commercial sector. Why this confusing reluctance to even try commercial carpet cleaning?

  • I'm ignorant of the benefits of commercial accounts. Just read last month's "To Your Success" column to review the top 12 reasons why you should not overlook commercial accounts.
  • I've heard it makes for bad hours. Hey, that's why God created employees! In fact, one of the big advantages of commercial work is you can still make money off of your hard-working employee with the personality of a rattlesnake, but without exposing him to your residential clients.
  • I don't know any high-production techniques. Make no mistake about it: unlike the "dog and pony show" required in residential cleaning, commercial work focuses on production. The faster the wand moves, the more money you make and/or the lower you can price the job, thus letting you be more competitive (we'll cover commercial production techniques in a future column).
  • I don't know how to sell commercial cleaning. That's about to change.

    Of course, before you even start selling to commercial clients, you must avoid the "Ready! Fire! Aim!" syndrome. Assuming you have a substantial population base, it is usually better to focus on and dominate one market sector at a time. So ask yourself, what area of commercial work best matches your equipment, schedule, workers available and market image, as well as what will be most profitable and easiest to break into?

    One of the easiest ways to dip your toe into the commercial cleaning pool is subcontracting to janitorial companies. Many of these operations cannot justify the cost and upkeep of a truck-mounted unit and will cheerfully hire you to maintain their carpets that can't be cleaned with bonnets or portables.

    Just give these janitorial folks a call and make an appointment to stop by and talk about "partnering business opportunities." Stress that you are not in, and have no plans to enter, the janitorial field. It doesn't hurt to ask if they would like you to refer their janitorial services on your commercial carpet-cleaning accounts. Then mention you will happily subcontract to them. The janitorial service maintains control of the account and makes money, and you gain valuable commercial production experience without knocking on doors.

    Of course, subcontracting is probably not going to pay the rent (and may not be all that profitable either with so many hands in the pot). So how do you sell commercial carpet cleaning? As Chuck Violand always says, "The hardest door to make it through is your own."

    I'm continually amazed at the hoops all of us jump through to avoid having to personally engage in face-to-face, "belly-to-belly" selling: overpriced marketing programs; hiring sales reps (almost always a complete waste of resources); and direct-mail campaigns (into the round file!). Squandered money, every cent. Instead, let me give you Steve Toburen's five-step system to commercial selling success:

    Make a firm time commitment
    Since we don't like to sell, we subconsciously allow any little distraction to divert us from our selling goals. My suggestion is to dedicate three mornings (or afternoons) a week to commercial selling. Set a goal of four to five visits per hour. At the outset, this will give you a very reachable goal of at least 40 sales calls per week. As you make appointments for follow-up visits your cold calls will decline, but still try to make 20 new sales contacts every week. Don't let anyone or anything divert you from this dedicated selling time.

    Segment your market efforts
    Pick one industry or type of business to focus on. For example, one doctor's office will have the same type of needs as others, and after two or three mornings of pitching doctors you will be a pro. At the same time, organize your sales route geographically. After all, you're going to have to keep the drive time to a minimum to meet your 40 visits per week sales goal.

    Dress up
    All sales coaches state you should be at least as well dressed as the people with whom you are speaking. This means "professional attire" which, in most parts of the country, means a tie and sport jacket for men, and a dress or pantsuit for women. It is difficult to overdress for the business-selling environment. While you are at it, "dress up" your attitude. Remember, you are a professional businessperson, just like the individual you are calling on. But they won't respect you if you don't respect yourself.

    Carry the right tools
    Buy a quality leather briefcase. Inside you should have a roller tape, calculator, sonic tape measure, proposal forms and a small bottle of general spotter and white towels for "testing purposes." And most importantly, carry your "brag book," a leather album crammed full of photos of your people, vehicles and all the commercial accounts you do now. You may also include testimonial letters from your clients. In the course of your conversation, try to find an excuse to open the book and show the prospect your equipment or method of cleaning you are recommending. The biggest reason most people find it hard choosing a service company is because they can't "see" who they are hiring beforehand. The brag book solves this problem.

    Put yourself out there
    If you are single, you won't find a hot date by hiding in your room. You have to "get out there." It's the same with signing up commercial work: Hit the streets. Do it now and keep it up. Rigorously maintain your 40 visits per week routine. (Of course, you can just "stop in" anytime. Some of my very best long-term sales contracts I found by stopping in when I noticed a new building under construction or a new business moving in.)

    Doesn't this all make for a tough schedule? Absolutely. But as Chuck Violand has also been known to say, "Luck favors a body in motion." And hey, it's no fun just sitting around, staring at the phone and willing it to ring.