Property Managers Provide Ideas for Selling to Their Peers

The following questions and answers are from the National Pavement Exposition. Notes of the session were taken by WSA’s Executive Director, Ranger Kidwell-Ross. Question: Do BOMA, IREM and similar ‘club’ memberships matter? Answer: Yes and no. These types of  memberships in the various different clubs that are out there don’t really matter unless the property manager you are talking with is also a member AND you both go to the meetings. If you see each other at the club meetings, then there is a real possibility that a relationship will be established on a personal, friendship, level. In addition, the property manager will be able to see how you or your company representative conduct themself and they will make judgments based upon that. Membership in an industry Association doesn’t really matter in and of itself, either. How that can make a difference, though, is when you are able to differentiate your company because of the advantages you have gained through your Association. Especially in a recessive economy, pricing is very important. However, the job a contractor needs to undertake is to differentiate his or her company from other, run-of-the-mill contractors, such that there will be a motivation to pay a higher price. Question: What can a contractor offer to a property manager in order to get on a preferred list? Answer:  Most property managers want to be convinced that a contractor is large enough to handle any issues that might come up. If they have a breakdown with the sweeper, for example, will they be able to provide a backup unit such that their service will not be disrupted? Again, a way to not make lowest price be the largest determinant is to differentiate your company. If you have advantages that other contractors in your area do not, then be sure to talk about those. Remember that property managers talk among themselves on a widespread basis, and one of the things they talk about are the reputations of the different contractors working on their properties. The reputation you have among the property manager community in your area is extremely important. You will find that contractors also do not want to see someone bad-mouthing their competition. It is much better if you bring up all the positive aspects that your company can bring to the table, instead. If you have services that the competition does not, it’s fine to discuss that fact. However, you do not want to single out any specific competitor in any type of negative manner, even if they are the one that is currently doing a poor job. PropertyManagementHandQuestion: Is having GPS installed on sweepers important? Answer:  Most property managers like having a contractor with GPS installed on the sweepers. One reason is that accidents do happen, and in the event of a slip-and-fall injury it can be important to show when the facility was last swept. It is also of potential importance to the contractor because you never know when people are going to deposit a load of trash onto a lot. If a property manager gets a complaint from a tenant, it’s good business for them to be able to prove to the tenant without a doubt that the sweeper did its job and when. Some property managers may also believe that if you have GPS units installed, you may be more professional in other regards, as well. This might mean that you have a better preventive maintenance program, for example. It could also indicate that you have a superior idea of how much time you are taking for each stop so that your pricing can be more accurate or more competitive. However, the fact is that property managers don’t want to pay extra for you to have a GPS, or that you are a member of particular clubs or that you do drug testing or good training, etc. It’s up to you to do an efficient, professional job. How you do that and stay competitive is up to you. You want to come across as being professional and competitive, but that is just something that is expected. Don’t expect to be able to openly charge a premium for those types of issues. Question: What are some other topics or items you recommend when it comes to contractors? Answer: When you screw up, admit your mistake and be upfront about it. Never lie or you’ll never have credibility again. We want to see that your equipment is well kept up and that your operators at least look presentable. Some property managers would prefer that your operators are uniformed, so if they are be sure to bring that point out. And, it’s okay to talk about your training and drug testing, and so forth; just do not present that information as a way to then say that you are more expensive as a result. Most property managers would like to see your name and contact information on your sweepers and other vehicles. If not, then someone with a complaint won’t know who to call. It also shows more company pride. Whatever you say you will, or can do, is like a promise you must keep. On the whole, it is much better to under-promise and over-perform than vice versa. You also want to set up a system to ensure that your customers are, and remain, satisfied. Although e-mail is good for this on a routine basis, picking up the phone once in a while when there are no issues to report is generally a plus. The amount of contact a given manager wants to receive from you is a somewhat personal choice. Communication with each individual property manager is key to contacting them at the correct frequency, and in a preferred manner. Question: Do you prefer a contractor that just does sweeping, or one that provides a number of additional exterior and pavement-related services? Answer: The answer to this question varies from property manager to property manager. A factor is often the location of the property manager. If they are located a distance away from the property, they will usually prefer having more services provided by a single contractor. Often, they want to establish a relationship of trust, one where they are comfortable that if something is wrong on the property they will hear about it. The flip side of do-it-all contractors is if the contractor company ‘goes south’ then you have to get new contractors for many services.  If you do not perform other services besides sweeping, the recommendation is to at least have a list of contacts you can use for referrals for the other general maintenance and pavement repair services that might come up. The more indispensable you can be to your clients, the better. If they are used to being able to call you and have their problem solved, they will be more reluctant to move to another contractor because they will then shoulder more uncertainty. Question: What is the best way to communicate with the property manager? Answer:  For any issues that are discovered on a property, by the sweeper operator, for example, e-mail is generally the best. You want to also include photos that illustrate whatever the problem is and, if this is something that your company can handle, include a price for fixing the problem along with a timeline for when you could complete the job. Many times, the property manager will need to consult with a higher-up manager before making the decision. By being able to forward the e-mail to that person they are able to quickly explain the problem, along with the photo, and get an answer. This also serves as a tracking device for all concerned. Communication via e-mail also minimizes the amount of time that a given situation takes up. However, you will want to establish what the guidelines are for each property in terms of when an immediate phone call should be made and to whom, or when you should call the police. Having these guidelines in place before there is a need to use them will result in a better outcome when these types of situations come up. Again, it is important to establish with each customer what they would like to see in terms of type of communication and communication frequency. Although most property managers won’t mind hearing from you by phone once in a while, the frequency of doing so will become a nuisance to different people at different rates. One thing you probably will not find that your property managers want you to do is to text message them. One reason is that some do not use text messaging; however, for any type of situation that needs to be documented they would prefer an e-mail because then there is a tracking capability. Whenever you start with a new property manager as a customer, go over with them the ground rules of what they would like to see in terms of communication, as well as what type of communication is best and how often. Everyone appreciates it if they can see that you have the best interests of their property in mind. If you say that you will be watching out for the property, in terms of emerging potholes or signs that are down and so forth, then be sure to do that. You might consider having some type of award program for your operators so they remember to notify your company management so that, in turn, you can efficiently alert the customer about any problem areas on a property. Have them take pictures with their smartphone, or install a low-cost digital camera in your sweepers so it may used when your operator spots something that needs attention. Author’s Note: If there is one central thread in this article it would seem to revolve around the word ‘communication.’  If you notice, many of the answers given revolve around different ways, frequencies, and types of communication. It also seems clear that, although there are some generalities, emphasis is placed on finding out what each individual customer wants to see from you and then providing that to them. You might consider developing a check sheet for each new client, where you note what their answers are to any topics you can think of in terms of how they want notifications on their property handled, as well as the handling of any other situations.

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