Swept’s Guide to Bidding
March 18, 2020
March 18, 2020
Getting Ready to Bid
Looking to learn more about how to effectively bid on commercial janitorial contracts? You’ve come to the right place. We’ve been doing our research, using our own in-depth knowledge of the cleaning industry, and asking other industry experts: How should a cleaning company prepare to bid on big contracts? The answers will all be revealed over the next three chapters in our newest blog series: Bidding on Contracts and Closing Deals.
Are you Prepared to Bid?
By now you’ve learned to set sales targets for your janitorial company and you’re planning on how to achieve them. (Spoiler: By getting more business.) While this is all well and good, the very first thing to consider before you start bidding big, is whether or not you’re prepared to do so. Prepared in what way? Let’s deep dive into eight questions you need to ask yourself before you should start bidding.
In Chapter One we’ll look at the first three questions:
- Is your digital presence good enough?
- Do you know your competitors’ pitches?
- How are you different from your competitors?
Let’s dive in…
Question 1: Is Your Digital Presence Good Enough?
It’s time for some tough love. Welcome to 2020 — your digital presence needs to be at a certain level if you’re going to stand out against competitors. This means a comprehensive website, social media tools when appropriate, and sometimes other digital tools, too.
You need a website. There’s no arguing that. Statistics show that over 63% of mid-sized janitorial companies had websites in 2018 and the remainder had planned on getting websites by the end of last year. But just having one isn’t good enough anymore. Here’s a basic checklist to make sure that your website content and design in 2020 is cutting it.
- Design feels clean, modern and easy to navigate.
- Your website is adaptable to mobile devices. (Quick Stat: 52.6% of world-wide online activity took place on mobile devices in the last quarter of 2020.)
- Your website includes the following information, and it’s easy to find:
-What type of cleaning you specialize in.
-What makes your company credible.
-How potential clients get in touch with you.
-What geographical area you serve.
Other Digital Tools
Depending on who you serve and the clients you’re looking to attract, using social media tools may be right for your cleaning company. For more insight on which social media channels could work for you, please revisit our blog post on just that topic. In addition to social media channels, SEO audits and Google AdWords campaigns can both be valuable tools for finding new clients who are searching your industry keywords on Google while looking for janitorial services.
Once you’ve tightened up your online presence, you’re one step closer to being ready to bid on those big contracts.
Tip: If you’re not well-versed on digital tools and website design, there are a number of consultants out there who can help you!
Question 2: Do you know your competitors’ pitches?
Your competitors are out there selling, too, and in order to gain a serious competitive advantage, you should know what and how they’re selling to potential clients. We have a few pretty easy steps you can take in order to start getting very familiar with your competition.
Step One – Google Search
Here’s where the competitive research begins. Just get online and Google-search your list of top geographical competitors and makes notes on what kind of digital presence they have. What social media tools are they using? What does their website look like? Are they using any tools you haven’t thought about, or even heard of before? Dig a little deeper. Do sponsored ads pop up when you Google search them? This will give you a better idea of what they might be investing in their online presence (and if it looks impressive, it could help you figure out what you might need to invest in yours.)
Step Two – Identify Weaknesses
What aren’t they doing well? Can you quickly identify any sticking points? Is anything important missing? Maybe even do a quick S.W.O.T. Analysis [Link to: SWOT Analysis Chapter 1] based on the information you can grab, to identify their weaknesses and threats. This should give you an edge when bidding for new business.
Step Three – Get Their Pitch
Try and get actual quotes from your competitors. Perhaps they have an online form you can submit to get more information. Gather everything you can so you know what you’re up against.
Question 3: How will you differentiate your cleaning company?
Now that you’ve done competitive research, you can work on positioning yourself against your competitors when you bid for new business. Take a look back at your own S.W.O.T. Analysis and think about the things that make your company stand out. What do you do well? What do your competitors not do well? It’s time to take advantage of those differences and to show clients how you can meet their needs in a way that your competitors cannot.
Want more information on bidding but can’t wait for Chapter Two (we understand), then check out one of our latest blog posts — Your Bid Vs. Cleaning Variables.
Crunching the Numbers
Now that you’ve carefully considered the first three questions in Chapter One of our Guide to Bidding, and hopefully made changes or improvements where they were needed, it’s time to move on to crunching some numbers. We know, it doesn’t sound like much fun, but it’s absolutely important to do this in advance of bidding on big contracts—or you could end up doing a lot of work for not enough money. And nobody’s got time for that!
Let’s get back to those Eight Questions.
Question 4 – How to Calculate Quotes
Are you confident in your ability to calculate quotes for BIG contracts? We understand this can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Start by breaking it down into individual aspects of your business, and consider the following factors before you throw your hat in the ring for a bigger than usual contract.
Things You Need to Know Before Bidding Big:
- Cost of Supplies
- Labour Cost
- Operating Overhead
- Profit Margin
Once you’re familiar and comfortable with these numbers, you can more accurately calculate a quote for your cleaning company to bid on a big new contract. Knowing these numbers will ensure you’ll make money from the contract.
Just a friendly reminder that we’ve already developed a free bidding calculator that will help you map out expenses, calculate the frequency of times/week and even accurately quote labour time.
(above image: Not enough capacity? Consider a virtual assistant. This baby knows his math, and his mom is pretty skilled too!)
Question 5 – Do You Have a Professional Proposal Template?
You want to put your best foot forward when leaving a potential new client with the digital and/or hard copy of your proposal. The selling doesn’t stop when you leave the meeting. Make sure to have a professional-looking template designed that you’ll use to format all your contract bids. Overall this looks impressive and leaves the client with a better impression of your cleaning company.
You may feel that you don’t have time to be in front of the computer customizing each proposal for prospective clients. However, there are already tools out there that have been designed for just this scenario. Sign up for the free trial of Proposify, and check out their nicely designed cleaning contract proposal template. You’ll be hooked—and it will save a lot of time agonizing over a design. You want your janitorial company’s proposals to stand out, and every little thing you do to look better than the competition helps.
Question 6 – Do You Have Enough Staff?
Back to the numbers. What does your current labour situation look like and how is recruitment going? Do you have enough staff to even take on a big new contract, or do you have access to hiring new staff? We recommend getting the ball rolling on hiring before you bid on big new contracts, that way you’re not struggling to fulfill your commitments to the new contracted sites, when the time comes.
Question 7 – Do You Have the Cash Flow?
Ah, the big question at hand… do you have the cash flow to pull this off? How will you pay the new cleaners you’ve hired and purchase the supplies if you don’t yet have any payment on the books from the new client? Sounds like a chicken-and-egg scenario. Here are a few options we suggest…
Tap into Your Savings
Do you have available funds from your own lines of credit or bank account(s) that could hold you over until the payments from this new contract start to get collected? If you’re in a position to do this, it could be a great option.
Have a conversation with your new client about billing options. Is there a way to get the money up front before the contract is executed? If you can manage to make this kind of arrangement, it would be ideal.
If you’re confident you could manage this without hurting your credit rating and paying too much in interest charges, this is one option to get that big contract started.
Talk to Your Bank
Get to know your banker, talk about how you’ve been bidding on bigger contracts and the additional revenue these contracts are going to bring in—talk about your business growth plan. If you’ve signed a large new contract and can prove to the bank that you’ll easily be able to pay off new loans, hopefully they’ll be interested in lending to you.
Question 8 – Do You Have a Growth Plan?
Speaking of that growth plan… do you have one? In order to take on bigger contracts and stay on top of things, you need to be organized and prepared to grow. If you take on more than you can handle, you’ll end up losing contracts and your reputation could be negatively affected.
Think about the following factors and how you’ll handle them when you take on bigger contracts and more staff:
How will you communicate effectively with your larger number of staff and clients?
How will staff stay up to date on the schedule?
Spreadsheets can only go so far.
The more clients you have, the more problems will be reported—it’s only natural. How will you track these and stay on top of fixing things?
There are options out there to help make growing your business easier. There’s already janitorial software that has been developed to address these specific areas of running a cleaning company. We definitely recommend learning more about Swept, which was designed to do all of these things.
Are You Ready to Close the Deal?
Now that we’ve touched on getting ready to bid, improved your marketing tools and competitive position, plus made sure you have the resources to take on big new contracts, it’s time to get ready to seal the deal. This third and final chapter in our guide to bidding will cover the final steps of the sales pitch, and how to close the deal.
Let’s get those new contracts signed!
This chapter will look at these three topics:
- How to: Identify Competitor Weaknesses
- Bidding against low-ballers… it’s a GOOD thing.
- How to: Find clients’ unmet needs.
Let’s start off with some interesting facts about the janitorial industry. Brushing up on this kind of knowledge can help with your competitive position when trying to close the deal with potential clients.
How to Calculate Quotes
STAT 1: 73% of janitorial company owners feel they need to lower their bid
STAT 2: 5% loss in daily productivity can be a result of unclean working environments.
STAT 3: Over 75% of janitorial companies will lose more than half of their clients in any given year due to non-performance, poor implementation and cost-saving measures.
Given the fact that most of your potential clients will have limited knowledge of the janitorial industry and seem to make hiring decisions based mostly on price, how will you get ahead? How do you set yourself apart from your competitors in an environment where price seems so important and the lowest bid is likely to win? Well, you differentiate your cleaning company in other ways. Read on to learn how… saving measures.
(above image: Customers who use Swept as a bidding tool have reported 50% higher client retention!)
How to: Identify Competitor Weaknesses
Take every opportunity you can to gather information about your competitor. This includes paying close attention during conversations with the prospective client, and it especially includes careful observation during the building tour or walk-through.
TIP: Keep it classy. Take care not to openly criticize the current cleaning provider in front of the potential new client. They did hire them, after all.
There is a way to point out the weaknesses of the current provider tactfully. By casually pointing out oversights which identify weaknesses, you can appropriately counter with your strengths, to demonstrate how your cleaning company is different. This is called “penalty flag marketing.” If you can visibly notice the building isn’t being well cared for, it’s probably because the current contractor is too focused on keeping the cost low, instead of maintaining a high-quality service.
Question: What if they want an in-depth inspection of the current cleaning services?
Great! Then it’s an appropriate time to offer the quality control inspection and really point out inadequacies. This is also an opportunity to show how your company would maintain a higher level of service quality by addressing each inadequacy.
Bidding against low-ballers… it’s a GOOD thing.
So you’ve found out that the existing supplier is a low-baller. Don’t panic! This doesn’t mean that you have to dramatically drop your price. In fact, since you’ve run all the numbers so well (nice job, by the way), you know you can’t drop your price too much, or the contract won’t be worth your time anyway.
If you’ve found out your bidding against a low-baller, chances are that the work isn’t very high quality, and the client probably isn’t very happy. This is your chance to show how your cleaning company would solve the current issues. A great way to illustrate this is by gathering testimonials from other clients that touch on your quality of work and how you’ve solved cleaning issues for them. Before and after photos are also great to have. Include these in your leave-behind, to drive the point home, and to continue to differentiate your company.
How to: Find clients’ unmet needs.
There are a number of other ways this client’s current cleaning provider could be dropping the ball. Here are a few things to look for…
- Poor response times
- Cross-contamination issues
- Lack of integrity
- Inferior or non-existent training programs
- Lack of quality inspection reporting
- Security issues
- Safety problems
- Insufficient back-end support
- Lack of confidentiality
- Inferior recruiting methods
- Lack of focus
- Unmotivated cleaners or supervisors
If you’ve identified areas where the client’s needs are unmet and are confident in your ability to handle these needs sufficiently, you’ve found a few new talking points. If you’re already using janitorial software like Swept, you’ve got your bases covered on most of these points already. Find out how you’re ahead of the competition and make sure to find ways to include these points in your sales pitch and conversations.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, we are only scratching the surface here. With one this final chapter out of the way, fear not, we have a lot to say on this particular hot topic!
And now we come to the end of our guide to Bidding. We hope you’ve found this to be, not just helpful, but aspirational for you and your business.
Swept is dedicated to highlighting stories that touch everyone in the janitorial industry. Having started as a commercial cleaning company ourselves, our hearts go well beyond the janitorial software we offer. Want even more info on avoiding potential risks and identifying advantages in your commercial cleaning company? Check our guide on using quickbooks to increase your profitability, and prepare better for the future. And to be prepared for those big contract wins, check our Guide to bidding, and our Complete Guide to Cleaner Retention.
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