Better bidding: Finding quality bids and being selective

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Updated Sep 28, 2018

Bid proposalCompetition for customers is fierce in the green industry, and winning bids for your landscaping company can sometimes prove difficult.

While it may seem like a good idea in the moment to underbid yourself in order to win a project, this can ultimately hurt your profit margins and cause you to overwork and underpay employees.

Take a look at a few tips that can help your landscaping company find quality bids, improve your bottom line and help you enjoy the ability to be more selective with projects down the road.

Pre-qualifying potential clients  

When it comes to choosing job bids, it’s important to stay realistic instead of idealistic. Yes, you want to do as much as you can to get more customers, but if you don’t have the labor force for it, you won’t be able to do the job as well as possible.

Don’t waste the client’s and your time by bidding on accounts that don’t match up with the abilities and strengths of your company. By being selective and only bidding on accounts that seem to be a good fit for your company, you can increase your closing ratio.

For Will Greathouse with The Greathouse Company, LLC. in Nashville, Tennessee, changing the bidding goals and process of the company has allowed them to move from primarily commercial bids to more residential and higher-end commercial design/build work.

“We’re trying to become more selective in what we pursue,” says Greathouse. “(Bidding is) something we’ll always do, but it’s really more of us diversifying what we offer on the project side.”

By making this move, Greathouse says the company has been able to manage their design/build and sales processes better, maintain better client relationships and keep a better grasp on scheduling.

Quality services, staying educated

While it may seem daunting at first to consider backing away from bigger projects, it’s important to remember that quality will speak louder than quantity. In terms of your company’s reputation, will it really matter if you have 20 projects but only 10 of them wrap up with amazing and worthwhile results?

It’s true that businesses can’t operate without a healthy profit margin, but consider making yourself more valuable to customers by providing higher quality services and excellent customer service. Don’t place the focus on being the cheapest bid in your area because this will send your bottom line into the hole over time.

The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) encourages landscaping company owners to come to terms with saying “no” to some projects because as a company continues to grow, it’s important to take stock of what kind of projects could ultimately become distracting and unprofitable.

To help prove your service quality, be sure to reach out to previous clients about providing testimonials, and always be sure to document your work with high-quality photos.

If potential clients need in-person convincing, you could even consider taking them to previous project sites to show off your handiwork up close. This allows you the chance to give them a tour and explain in detail what your company can offer that puts you above your competition.

The overall goal is to show and convince future clients that you will be able to provide them with excellent service and keep them happier than your competition, even if your prices aren’t lower.

Another good practice is to visit the site in person to see exactly what will be required of you if you win the project. Take notes on any problem areas, map out what tools and methods you plan to use and why you chose them over other methods.

When it comes time to present this information to the potential client, be sure to go over it in great detail, as this shows them exactly why each service will cost what it does. Be sure to also emphasize how some of these higher charges now could help keep them from having to fix bigger problems later on.

Face-to-face interaction is preferable when discussing pricing with potential clients, as it gives you control over how the information is presented.

Don’t back down, stay connected

Let’s face it, spending money is a touchy subject in every industry, but this is especially true when it comes to landscaping.

Since there can sometimes be an “I’ll just do it myself” tendency from customers wanting to save money, be sure to have information and statistics on hand that shows them proof that a professional needs to be involved.

It’s true that you won’t win every project, and if it comes down to either gaining the client or selling yourself short, it’s perfectly acceptable to let some customers go to lower bidding companies.

If your company is already established as a higher quality business, don’t lower your profit standards just because someone refuses to pay your prices.

“Start targeting and marketing to clients whose projects you can make money with and with whom you enjoy working,” NALP says. “Then, have the confidence to sell to them and never, never apologize for your price.”

While it is perfectly understandable and acceptable to cut back on a few services that might not be consistently necessary to keep a customer, such as frequency of mowing when grass won’t be growing as much or how often you fertilize, avoid any low-ball offers that could sink your reputation of higher quality service.

By making the switch from the typical process of bidding to one where the company simply lays out straightforward prices and services, Greathouse says the company has already seen positive results.

Greathouse says they’ve already met this year’s set residential design/build goal from a sales standpoint, and next year they plan to raise the goal, which, he adds, gives them more confidence in being more selective on the commercial side.

His advice to landscapers wanting to move away from the traditional style of bidding is to ensure your company has a talented and dedicated sales team willing to go to bat for you daily.

“I think having a salesperson, someone who’s out there selling proactively for you, selling your product, what your company vision is and what your company tries to be (is important),” he says. “We try to be more focused, and quality is key. We’re willing to go the extra mile and really try to stand out.”

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