If business is slow, bidding low on a landscaping job may seem like the only way to acquire business. But with the right strategy, landscaping contractors can justify a competitive, profitable price to homeowners.
“It’s important not to compromise your company’s vision and values just so you can earn a quick buck,” says Kevin Fontaine, co-owner of Fontaine Landscaping Inc. in Cary, N.C.
Scope Out the Right Bids
Before you submit a bid, decide whether pursuing the job is worth your time.
Scott McAdam, president of McAdam Landscaping in Forest Park and Joliet, Ill., recommends asking how a customer found your company. If he or she was referred to you, there’s a good chance you’ll get the job. However, if the customer already has a landscaping plan, they might be comparing several companies to solicit the lowest bid. Those looking for the cheapest route may be a waste of time, he cautions.
If you’re working with a client to design a landscape plan or if the potential client is familiar with your work, the odds you’ll win the bid increase. “If a customer is a relationship customer, then you will have a good chance on getting your price,” he says. “But you must deliver the quality and service they expect.”
Fontaine says he uses bidding software that measures every facet of a job to ensure he’s bidding carefully and accurately. He first takes measurements manually, then enters the information into an elaborate spreadsheet. The software calculates the time it takes to complete a specific task — such as mowing 80,000 square feet of grass — given his measurements, the efficiency of his equipment and average employee labor rates.
McAdam also stresses the importance of careful bidding, adding that you can’t price a job unless you know your direct, indirect and overhead costs, and add an appropriate profit margin. If you’re not aware of the costs and potential profits of a project, you need to hire a consultant or CPA to help you develop a budget.
“You simply cannot deliver a quality project and expect to be around if you do not know if you are making money,” he says.
Provide Evidence of High Quality and Service
Offering credentials will help justify your services and your price. Fontaine says he stresses his reputation, longevity, experience, capabilities, licensing and insurance to differentiate his business from the competition. “[Those are] basically all the hoops a company has to go through to become truly qualified for landscape contracting,” he says.
Provide potential clients with pictures of past projects, proof of certification, testimonials from your clients and a list of references specific to the project, Fontaine says. If you’re bidding on a project to build a patio, provide the contact information for people willing to give a positive testimonial about the patio you built for them.
Fontaine often directs potential clients to his website, which highlights jobs he’s completed and features client reviews and photos. Tailoring these resources will emphasize your experience and ability to do the job well, he says.
Present Yourself as a Professional
Presenting a positive image is vital to winning the respect and trust of clients, which can ultimately win you bids. “The buyer today is so much more sophisticated than 10 years ago,” McAdam says. “If your truck is falling apart, if you’re not clean, if you’re late, you’re not going to get the bid.”
Focus on the Client’s Needs
A potential client is more likely to accept your bid if they’re comfortable with you, so it’s important to respond to their needs and concerns, and perform warranty work. “If they get a good feeling with you, though your price is a little higher than the competition, you may still get the bid,” McAdam says.
To keep bids coming, Fontaine provides seasonal discounts and rewards clients who refer his company to others with $50 to $100 in “Fontaine Bucks,” money they can use toward current or future projects.
“The best advertising is word of mouth from a happy customer,” he says.
Be sure to join the Lowe’s ProServices LinkedIn Group to read additional content and interact with other Construction/Trade and MRO professionals.