Recently, I was listening to a talk radio station in my local area and heard the host become silent in the middle of his show. As you are aware, dead air on radio is uncommon. You could hear the excitement in his voice when, after the pause, he said they were breaking in with a live call from Donald Trump.
See, Trump had been trying to purchase a failed real estate venture from a local businessman in our area. The radio host started the conversation by asking why Trump was calling the show. Trump’s response was nothing short of brilliant. He simply said his phone had stopped ringing, and he had not heard from the potential seller of the property.
What Trump said next impressed me even more. He went on to mention how the good people in our area would benefit from a name like his entering our market. From the coffee house to the lumberyard, the restaurants to the landscapers, everyone within 50 miles of this development would benefit from this venture. The reason he knew this was because he had witnessed this ripple effect from dozens of other developments in the past. Trump had heard nothing from the seller, so he was making his phone ring using outside influence. Before the close of that business day, the city’s mayor was beating the drum for continued talks. Very smart.
It all starts with a call. I don’t care how talented or artistic or expensive or cheap you are, all new business starts with a call. New work is the lifeblood of your business. If your company is busy now, please save this article, because I assure you, there will be a time when your phone activity will slow. If your business phone is quiet right now, then grab your highlighter pen, because we will be running through ways to increase your phone bill.
Now let’s face it, we are not trying to close million-dollar sales, but we do need new business. The thing I have noticed is most of us are good at decorative concrete but scratch our heads when it comes to options that will increase leads. Someone has to constantly be out promoting new work for our companies to prosper. All the creativity, training and talent will do little good without those things being implemented in a paying project.
Let’s take a look at a few ways to generate leads.
Answer the phone
Does this sound kind of basic? Then when was the last time someone live answered a call on your business line? Let me ask you this. If you are looking for new work right now, why would you let an automated machine be the first impression of your top-notch decorative business? Our “now society” wants to talk to someone when they want to talk to someone. You are losing jobs by not answering the phone. This doesn’t mean you have to hire someone to just sit there and wait to answer calls. The technology is available to have your business line forward calls to your cell phone. This is something that can be switched on in your slow times and forwarded back to your machine when you’re busy. Yes, you will be interrupted by calls, and yes, you will get sales calls from people who can hold their breath longer than Mark Spitz. But the upside is worth it — live calls from real buyers. You may have to screen some calls or let voice mail pick up others, but be sure to return the call immediately.
Take a look at all jobs
I have lost count of how many natural gray sales calls have upgraded to decorative concrete in the last few years. Most buyers said the same thing in that they were unaware of the options with concrete. Take a look at jobs you feel will be a waste of time. Educate your potential clients about some options available, and let them make up their own minds. We sometimes assume that everyone knows about overlays or coloring concrete. The decorative market has grown, but many folks are still simply unaware of what is available or what it will cost. The goal is to make something positive happen when your business needs it most.
Put colorful pictures into the front pages of your portfolio book. Sometimes this is all it will take to open a conversation about the possibilities of concrete. Again, people only know what they know, so educate them.
Get out there
It is so easy for us as contractors to accept slowdowns or weather seasons as an excuse to not promote new business. Don’t accept this with your business. Of course this market is harder to squeeze buyers from, but getting into a comfort zone will not help. Get out in front of people, and talk about the exciting things your business is doing. Don’t talk about how slow work is but how you are looking for fill-in work until your next scheduled project. Write down leads and possibilities, next spring and this fall, and follow up with them. If someone is interested in doing a project next spring, educate the person about the savings if you do the work this fall. You need the work, and who doesn’t like to save money? Creating opportunity, like Trump, keeps us motivated and lands new projects.
Years ago I was giving my uncle a bad time about his two-hour lunches at a cafe not far from where I grew up. He was in the rock and sand business and had been for years. He laughed and told me how, when his business was slow, he would spend a couple of hours at the cafe with one of his dump trucks parked outside. This would usually lead to several customers approaching him with “I have been meaning to call,” or “Can you deliver a load or two?” Sometimes exposure is as easy as being seen.
Up to this point the only cost invested to promote new work has been your time. You may be willing to spend a few dollars, so try signing up with one or two of the many publications that compile new projects or new permits. They often provide contractor contacts. Organizations such as your local Builders Exchange will have information on public works projects, engineering jobs, sub-bid requests and so on that will include contacts for new work.
Another option is the Construction Monitor. This publication shows commercial and residential permits in your area, along with contact names and phone numbers.
Builders Exchange and Construction Monitor data can be accessed online and will provide loads of information with little cost to you. Keep things moving forward, and let me know how it goes.