Do you ever “lose on price” to some chuck-in-a-truck, fly-by-night, Karen-in-a-Lebaron, Stan-in-A-Van, low-ball contractor that you KNOW is cutting corners in their proposal to who SHOULD be your client?
In today’s episode, a highly successful commercial landscape contractor shares his BEST sales secrets to prevent this from happening. The key, he explains, is to rewrite your client’s RFP with an almost absurd level of specificity -- and then get the low ball contractor to detail out their proposal like yours.
This way - you level the playing field - and things enter a healthy level of competition instead of unethical corner cutting.
Hey it’s Jack and welcome to the Landscaper’s Guide. This show is all about helping you grow your snow and landscape company with sales, marketing, and leadership ideas.
Last month we hosted our third annual Landscaper’s Summit, and I invited three of my clients to share in a segment.
Today, I’m excited to share footage from one of my favorite moments of the event. Before we get into it - make sure you check out landscapersguide.com/events/ to see a list of our upcoming virtual and live education events.
And now, without further adieu, please welcome Jim Turcan who shares over 20 years of professional landscape experience in his presentation of How To Rewrite Your Commercial Landscape Client’s RFP.
How To Rewrite Your Client’s Commercial Landscape RFP To Win The Sale
My name is Jim Turkin, uh, otherwise known as Turk with Cornerstone Partners Horticultural Services Company. And, uh, today what Jack thought would be most beneficial is to go over one of the techniques that we've changed or that we've done in our business, which is, uh, um, helping our clients, right, their RFPs, I'm sure being in the commercial industry with landscape and snow and ice that we've all received. Um, ignorant RFPs. Uh, things that don't make sense. We're, we're located in the Midwest. And I can't tell you how many times I've received, uh, rfp that was totally a cookie cutter corporate copy and paste. Uh, there were line number 17 was scalp the grass in the fall. Well, if we did that, we'd be fired from the site. So it's, uh, you know, it's pretty comical to see those kinds of things.
Bidding In The Landscape & Snow/Ice Service Industry
And it's even more comical to bring 'em to your property manager's attention and have them say, I, I, I don't know what number 17 means either. Um, but yet I'm supposed to bid on it. So, you know, doing a, doing an RFP and going out to bid every year or every three years is, is just a facts. You know, it's, it's one of the facts of life. And, um, rather than fighting, and I used to get really bent outta shape saying, you know, we've done awesome for this client over eight years now they gotta put it out to bid because there's a new dog, you know, new top dog and bean counter that says, we gotta go and we gotta shop. Hmm. Um, and I used to get really frustrated with it. And then when the RFP would come in, I used to get more angry when I'd see it's a copy of our own contract language, like to the error on the comma and period.
Um, and that used to irk me. And then finally somebody hit me between the eyes and said, You know, the best form of flattery is imitation. So they're using your spec. You better win this bit . And so, um, so that really, that's really when the light bulb went off. And I said, You know, we can help these folks. Um, I'm certainly not a perf a commercial roofer. I had to put a new roof on my house and you better believe I learned everything there was to learn before I started meeting with contractors about roofing. And it was the gentleman who walked me through the process and educated me that I, that I knew I was going with before he even submitted his bid to me. And low and behold, he was the most expensive. And low and behold, seven years later, I'm still his biggest sales rep.
Most Clients Dred The Bidding Process As Much As Contractors
Mm-hmm, because everybody that I talk to, it's Jeff, if you need a roof, Jeff's your guy. Um, so I, I kind of wanted to bring that into our own business here. So hopefully this will give you guys and gal some, uh, some ideas of how to tackle this, uh, this topic. The first thing you know that we need to realize is put ourselves in our client shoes on a commercial portfolio manager, a, uh, uh, you know, class, a office complex, or a third party procurement company. They dread going out to bid as much as we may putting it together. Um, that's why you get a bid on Monday for 14 properties that's due on Friday. It's because it's on the last of their to-do list as well. So, you know, it's our, our, we have the earnest to call a timeout, meet with them, and if they're not willing to meet with us and they're not willing to go through our sales cycle or our sales process, that's a really big red flag to us to say, We're just a third bid.
They already know who they're going with, or this is not of importance to them. So it really shouldn't be of importance to us. And we do that humbly. We don't do it arrogantly. Um, you know, and there are sites where we'll roll over and say, Man, I'd really like to put that in our portfolio. So yeah, I guess we're gonna hustle to get it done by Friday. But really understand, our clients don't necessarily, they're not landscape contractors. They're not snow and ice contractors. They just know they need their jobs to find the most effective proposal. And, uh, unfortunately they don't go through much training as to what it is that they're evaluating when they get back so many different bits. So with that, um, you know, I, I would, I would encourage that we actually write the rfp, write the proposal for them, and we've done this.
How Can We Make The Process Even Easier For Them While Providing Added Value And Leveling The Playing Field?
So I'm not just speaking outta hypotheticals here. We've done this many times and many times we have not won the bid. Um, however, we solidified so much credibility with that client by taking this daunting task off of their to-do list, giving them the language of our industry, giving them the right criteria so that when they are receiving the bids back, they actually, that they'd send it out to seven people. Uh, it used to be three bids, right now it's seven to 12. Uh, you know, that, that, that are bidding on a property and the low bidder, you know, usually gets it. And then we would go back and say, Wait a minute, you know, we included edging of the beds, all the beds, not just the two tree rings at the front door. Uh, we actually included all the beds. We actually included turf fertilization across the entire property, not just the front doors.
Give Them The Tools & Process
Um, so those were the kinds of things that were really upsetting to me to say, how are these guys getting away with it? And why isn't that property manager not beaten the drums saying, Hey, this is, this is part of my scope. So it's gone a long way, even to the point of us not not winning the bid. Um, but the client usually calls us back and says, Yeah, I made a mistake and you guys were there and you went, you rolled up your sleeves and helped me. So I appreciate that and I'm gonna, I'm gonna look at you, uh, when it's time to terminate this contract. So given them the tools, uh, is really helping them understand it's not just a matter of emailing and faxing out RFPs that say, Do Friday, send me your bid. I don't have time to meet with you. You have to go through this very, very diligent process. And if you want to get real numbers and get a qualified contractor in here, do you ever feel.
Landscape Maintenance RFP
Oh, uh, if you, you know, if you go through this, uh, if you go through the process and teach them how critical it is that you're, you're creating a partnership in a marriage with this contractor for the next three, five, however many years your RFP is for, you better not have buyers or sellers remorse after, after the ink is dried. So the first step of of writing an RFP for a client or for a prospect is learning what their needs assessment is. We use this, uh, this is a Google form, um, that we send to our prospects, uh, both if they are asking for an rfp, if they're just asking us for a bit. And this Google form fills out the blanks for, for us, because it's really hard to get in front of folks nowadays, as I'm sure we're all aware of. Mm-hmm., we have one specific to landscape maintenance.
We have one specific to snow and ice. And so we'll send this form to them to have them fill it out and really narrow the criteria for us from that. It's, you know, asking them on a snow and ice, Is this a seasonal contract or are you looking for a per visit contract? Are you on the maintenance side of it? Are you know, rank turf care? Is turf need to be golf course green? Or is this an industrial building that's vacant and we need to keep it maintained and keep the city off of you? So this form allows them to rank with little radio buttons and, and tell us what kind of scope of work we're putting together for them from there. The other really cool thing is, is that we, we, we include contractor qualifications. So sure, you're welcome to send this out to the 20 contractors in your area, but only three or four of 'em are probably gonna be able to meet the cr meet the criteria.
Contractor Qualification & Proof
And what I mean by that criteria is are they CLTs, are they certified landscape technicians? Cuz that's, that's bullet point number one in paragraph one on the rfp, you, you must be a CLT to be on my property if it's snow and ice. You must be a csp, a certified snow professional through Simon, you must be an asm. The people on the ground, boots on the ground must be ASM certified. Um, so all of a sudden that narrows that playing field from 10 to 12 to down to three, three qualified bidders. Now we're talking that apples to apples scenario cuz they likely meet all the insurance criteria, all of the, uh, other information that you know, they need to have in order to step foot on the property. The other cool thing that we add in the RFP template for them is a scoring criteria.
And the scoring criteria allows the property manager to really hone in on why am I gonna choose this contractor over that one? And you'll notice that cost estimate and rate sheet, we only rank it at 10%. So the low ball bidder is, does not necessarily mean that's the winner of the ballgame because how you approach the project, all of the background material, your references, your testimonials, your company overview, how, how much effort you put into presenting to me to manage my property, showing me aerial maps, showing me where you're gonna place the snow, showing me where I have existing irrigation leaks on the site where I have diplodia and the Austrian pine trees. All these things that you brought to my attention during the proposal process, you're gonna rank very, very high here and I have a high credibility without even having worked with you yet.
So we're gonna put, we're gonna encourage our, our, our bid receiver, our property manager or prospect, a much higher value to that in the, in the job approach than just the cost sheet. Does that make sense? So that's, this is something very unique to a lot of folks where they say, you know, I'm sorry we love you guys, but we gotta go out to bid every year. And you know, you just, you guys were too grand more and we wanna stay with you, but I can't, Well, if you put this into their RFP and allow them to see the schedule, this is the ammunition that those property managers need to go back to their regional and corporate folks and say, This is why I'm staying with my contractor and this is why I'm making this decision. Even though they weren't the lowest bid there. This is, um, this is a 52 week timeline that we built with Simon.
Uh, we utilize this in our sales process and we actually give this to our prospects and our clients to say, Hey, October 10th, October 6th is not the time to be calling us for a snow bit for this year., uh, definitely not the time to be calling us. This is what you want to do this. And, and they don't have these tools and resources. So again, putting yourself in their position, um, this is all available for you. I gave you some quick, um, resources here and I'll tag toggle over, uh, Jack if we're okay on time. I think we're about a minute over, but I think we started a little late. We okay?
Yeah, that's cool.
Resource: National Association Landscape for Professionals
Okay, so now the National Association Landscape for Professionals, outstanding resource, outstanding resources.org, the Snow and Ice Management Association. And also I would encourage you to take a look at your prior RFPs, uh, that you've received and bid on and, and, you know, cherry pick, cherry pick the, the language that's in there, um, the, the, the ones that, that you were, you felt really good about and felt really good about bidding on. Um, I'll show you here if I can, uh, skate, uh, toggle over real fast to one of our templates. You can still see my screen.
This is gold, Turk. Thank you. This,
This is, this is how we start out our, our RFPs. We put a hyperlink in here for your all of the snow ice. Yes.
I can see your slides. Is it one of the tabs at the top?
If you unshare and then go to that screen and reshare, that'll pre a
Quick, There you go. Thanks for that. Appreciate it. Yeah. How about now?
Um, try that. You did it.
Uh, so as you can see here, we spell out everything for, for the, um, request for proposal template that we give to our clients. And they can fill in the blanks with their logo, their addendums, their sort of insurance. But this is all of the language, what a per visit means, uh, what the level of service means. And we get all of this based upon that needs assessment that they gave us. And when we get down here into, we actually include from SIMA, this is why I encourage you to go to SIMA site. And if you're not a member, you definitely should be. We put into our terms and conditions, actual definitions of weather. This is what black ice is, this is what a blizzard is, this is what freezing rain is, and this is how much ice, every one 10th of an inch of ice equals one inch of accumulation.
All that stuff is spelled out and they don't have any clue where to find this stuff on their own accord. So we build this for them to say that, Hey, no one's gonna slip under the radar here and slide a fast one in, and it takes off the table, you know, weed beds as needed, Well as needed according to who the property manager or me, the contractor who was the low bidder who said, Ah, they're not that bad. I don't think it needs it. Um, you know, it takes out of the equation all snow clear by 6:00 AM when it stops snowing at 5:45 AM you want 14 acres crystal clear by 6:00 AM. So this just really helps in all of this. All of these definitions are not biased. These are right from Simon, from the Snow Ice Experts and Industry Association. So it, it's, it's huge, uh, you know, to give unbiased, tangible information to our prospects and to our, uh, uh, leads so that they're able to make some educated decisions and put out, uh, proper, um, request forward proposals. So, you know, with only 10 minutes on the, on the books here, I, uh, I hope that that wasn't too much overload.
Turk that was awesome. I, I love hearing you talk about your sales process and today one of my favorite things was yeah, as needed, right? Like, as needed. There are these little things that people are sneaking into their proposals and hey, they might even be in yours currently, right? But you're gonna sell against the guy like Turk who's gonna come in and define that stuff. So I, I love it. And, um, bonus points, um, for including the Rambling Jackson logo in your presentation. So I appreciate that Turk, , you
Got it. You got it, brother. Thank you for inviting
Me. Well, let's give Turk a quick round of applause, cuz that was awesome. Um, that was so cool.
Jim is a wealth of information and is well known throughout the SIMA community for his generosity of great ideas that push the snow and landscape industry forward. It’s been amazing working with Jim on SEO, video, web design, and more - check out his site cphort.com as an example of Ramblin Jackson’s work.
So what do you think of Jim’s sales process idea? WIll you take control of the sales process and educate your customers on how to buy? Will you cut corners?
It certainly gives a lot to think about. In the coming months, I’ll be inviting more of my clients to come and speak at my events and I hope to see you there. Check out landscapersguide.com/events for more information.
I’m Jack Jostes, and I look forward to talking with you next week on the Landscaper’s Guide.