Elite snow teams celebrate winning snow partnerships with premier sites – the game-changing referrals, the pride of our region, the majority of our revenue – but not everyone is good at earning their business. What does it actually take?
The best snow contracts are gone in September – often by Labor Day. Most markets' average first snow is November, with higher October risks for the north and the mountains. Thus, elite snow contractors run final logistics and training in October to be "day 1" ready. We achieve this by solidifying in August and September who our big sites will be, then filling in around it to "sell out" our fleet capacity. (That also means landing our costs and availability back in July!)
The catch isn't that the best snow contractors have figured this out. The catch is that the best property managers have figured it out, too! They want to work with the best - not get stuck with the rest once we're gone! - so many have learned to bid early. Let’s get our teams out there!
SECOND: THEY MATTER, NOT YOU
When we secure a first appointment, think through smart questions in advance that will give the prospect the opportunity to share what matters to them… then do the patient work of listening! Maybe a medical campus wants immaculate safety at any cost, whereas an office complex might hate volatile price structures that result in angry tenant conversations, whereas a church may need world-class service on Sundays but tiny treatment areas otherwise. The only way our proposal can show we are capable to deliver what the prospect cares about… is if up front we find out what they care about.
THIRD: BEST EFFORTS ONLY
Fishermen know “big fish” rarely break off the line and come back, so make your first shot your best:
- Take A Drive. Nothing replaces the value of a property drive-through. Try using a dash-mounted phone for video and speaking notes as you spot things – “That flat roof has truck bays and stairs underneath”, “Those islands won't work for snow piles because of hydrants”, etc. Back at our desk, that helps our proposal catch things others miss, establishing the perception of superior attention to detail. (My favorite prospect compliment is, "I think you understand my site as well as I do!")
- Measure Everything. Whether we capture it aerially through a product like SiteFotos or onsite via wheel or laser, this is a must! Grow to love challenging lazy competitors here: "These are my numbers; where did theirs come from?” “If their numbers are just a guess, their price - and your safety – are just a guess, too."
- Production Driven Estimates. We can get everything else right but over-bid and lose everything. (Or, equally bad, under-bid and work really hard to lose money!) This is hard to do without snow industry specific software, such as BOSS, but using science instead of “swag” empowers us to speak from confident authority about exactly what delivering their desired service level at their site requires. (It also means if we have to negotiate we know our options!)
FINALLY: SPEAK THE LANGUAGE OF VALUE
Yes, "checking the boxes" matters: insurance, tenure, experience, fleet, safety, etc. (If your company needs to grow in this, check out outstanding development tracks from industry-leading groups ASCA and SIMA!) But these are usually requirements to even get to the table to bid, not things that separate you from the crowd.
The goal is to tell their story in your presentation and written proposal, not yours. When you mirror back what they shared are their values, their goals, and their concerns, and a plan that delivers what they want, suddenly you aren't in the mountain of maps, details, and numbers; you've shown that you care by delivering an emotionally fulfilling picture of what they wanted.
For decision-makers, this is critical. Perhaps Simon Sinek explains it eloquently in his now-world-famous TED talk: "The (brain's) neocortex is responsible for all of our rational and analytical thought, and language … Our limbic brains are responsible for all of our feelings, like trust, and loyalty. It's also responsible for all human behavior, all decision-making, and it has no capacity for language."
If at the end of the day decision-makers "go with their gut", that gut is value. Establish yours.
David Rempfer is a veteran operations leader of multimillion snow operations and one of less than 300 professionals in North America to be both ASCA Certified and SIMA Executive CSP certified. He now consults landscape and snow industry executives in their pursuits of business improvement and quality-of-life.