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Typically the Get Work activity for a project in construction is focused 95% on getting the "right" number and 5% on showcasing that number to the client (i.e. the proposal). Most companies don't have a Get Work department or Business Development; instead they have an estimating department. Why is that? It is confusing to me, because most contractors insist that they sell work by having the most complete bids and provide the best quality. So if they claim they are selling on more than a number, why the large focus on producing the number and not on selling the project?

If your company is providing a commodity service that is the same as everyone else in town or you do not stand out versus the competition, you should save some time and quit reading this now; however, if your company is unique and each project you go after is done in a unique and special way I would recommend reading further.

Construction is a very unique process. Every time that a building is contemplated; the outcome is a one of a kind process. Like a snowflake, no two projects are exactly the same. The designs change, the sites change, the logistics change, the weather changes and the list can go on and on. So as an industry, why do we try to commoditize the pricing and the selling of the projects? Do a small experiment in your company. Go and grab the last 10 proposals that were sent out on different projects. Do they look the same? Is there anything unique about them with the exception of the project name, price, and the exclusions? If you were a client, is there a compelling reason to utilize you with the exception of the price? Companies are making a large investment when it comes to building something and your clients are making a profit/loss/risk decision when selecting your specific trade, so why do we all sell as if there is no better reason to pick us except for our number?

I would recommend that at least 20% and maybe as much as 75% of the total effort for winning the project is put in the sales and proposal end of the effort. Someone needs to be focused on not only showing the client the merits of your company's approach, but also selling them on that approach. Effective proposals tell clients why they should use you. They should stand out from the rest of the group with unique solutions. Your company has made a $10k-$25k commitment in producing an estimate on the project and during that process different ways of solving the Owner's problems have been solved, so tell them that. Always focus more on what you have and how you will solve problems and less on what you don't have. Proposals with 5 inclusions and 30 exclusions will not win any projects (unless of course you are cheap).

In the end remember that sales is a total commitment and not just a number. Proposals are the most common medium between you and your client and the Owner. The more attention you pay to proving your unique capabilities and solutions, the more projects you will win.

About the Author

Craig Pierce

Craig Pierce has been working in the construction industry for the past 25 years helping subcontractors master their trade. Currently he is President of Atalanta Enterprises which provides consulting services to contractors And software solutions through ConstructionMonkey.com.