In previous posts we have seen how customer relationship management software can be leveraged in a wide variety of industries. Doctors and the healthcare industry can benefit, law firms can benefit, and even the financial industry could benefit from the best CRM software. With so many advantages, it’s not hard to see how so many businesses, large and small, are clamoring to adopt CRM.
Today we are going to add another business that could benefit from CRM software. We are going to cover construction companies, and contractors in general, and expound on the benefits they can reap from sales and marketing automation software like CRM.
Contractors and construction companies face some stiff competition. There are many quality firms out there, as well as some unlicensed individuals and small teams who will undercut prices (and provide commensurate quality work) in an effort to woo away budget conscious consumers eager to remodel their homes. All of this adds up to a highly competitive environment in which any advantage needs to be taken to ensure the long term survival of the business.
Traditionally, small contracting firms would have the owner track sales and the pipeline. This basically forces the owner into a dual role. Since they often participate in the planning of projects, also having to act as a marketing expert is extra loading on an already busy individual. Worse yet, the systems in use for these tasks are usually archaic at worst and inefficient at best. Contractors may use customized paper forms for keeping track of information by filling it away in a cabinet. A particularly savvy individual may have adopted the use of spreadsheet software, but this isn’t too much better as it still requires many manual processes. With this in mind, we can see how contractors and the construction industry are ripe for the adoption of the bust CRM software out there.
Pipeline Tracking for Construction Firms and Contractors
As with many other industries, the pipeline of current and upcoming projects is the lifeblood of the contractor’s organization. If the pipeline goes dry, the business will have to subsist on savings, which is never a pleasant situation. If the pipeline is gushing with new business, then the contractor is going to have to have solid systems in place to keep up with demand and make sure nothing falls through the cracks.
This is where CRM software for construction companies come in. By keeping track of all the projects in the pipeline, the business can focus their efforts on those projects they are most likely to get, and those that are most likely to prove profitable. Let’s face it, a small construction or contracting firm isn’t going to have a huge chance of winning that bid to build the next local sports stadium. It doesn’t make sense for the business to spend resources chasing this bid, as it is going to take time and energy away from bidding on projects that are more within the realm of possibility. Even among the projects that are within reach, some are not going to be worth the effort. They may require the purchasing of new capital equipment, or hiring new personnel. Who knows if that physical or human capital will be able to be used down the road? The contractor must be careful about bidding on projects, and CRM software can help streamline this process.
The software can keep track of a wealth of information to help the management of the firm keep tabs on what is going on and make sure the organization is spending resources in areas they are most likely to get a return. Some of the information the software can track is:
- What projects are we bidding on?
- For each project, what part of the sales process is it in?
- When are bids for projects due? Are we going to miss a deadline?
- Whose turn is it to act next? If we have submitted a bid, have we received a response?
- What was the last thing we did on each project?
In addition to tracking all of the above information (and more!) CRM software allows the business to standardize its sales process. This helps fine tune the process as it is tested, and allows the firm to maximize the chance of getting any bid. This is great since it allows the business to more accurately predict demand and cash flow, which of course are both critical to the long term viability of a business.
Account Management for Construction Firms and Contractors
CRM software lets the firm keep track of each customer account and designate its status. Is the customer long term? Or are they merely prospective? This is essentially tracking the relationship of the customer to the firm, hence the R in CRM. Not only can the software track customers, both past, current, and potential, but it can also keep track of all the business relationships for the firm.
Architects, attorneys, general contractors, sub-contractors, and even competitors can be entered into the database so they can be tracked over time. This allows the contractors to quickly and efficiently find information on everyone that is relevant to their business. The benefit of this over the old paper tracking system should be pretty apparent.
With respect to the sales process, this gives the company a complete picture of the situation at any given point during a sale. They can quickly contact the relevant individuals at any time. Suppose a new project will require an architect, the CRM software can quickly list all the available architects including their past working relationship with the company (quality of performance, for instance). This streamlines the process of project management, and makes life easier for everyone involved. In a phrase, this is proactive project management, rather than reactive project management.
Contact Management for Construction Firms and Contractors
In addition to managing all the various accounts active (and past) with the company, the software can also track contacts. For anyone who does business for any period of time, new contacts are formed. When new members join the team, the new team gains access to those past contacts. Perhaps the new employee knows a highly skilled engineer or accountant that could prove useful to the new company. CRM software allows the construction firm to accurately and easily manage all of these contacts so they can be recalled at a moment’s notice.
Opportunity Management for Construction Firms and Contractors
One of the most critical processes for a contractor is assessing the viability of bids. Once again, CRM software can streamline this process by keeping track of key information such as:
- Opportunity name
- Potential value of the contract under consideration
- Bid dates – either submitted or deadlines
- Project type
- Market segment – e.g. commercial or residential
- Sales stage – prospect, bid, etc.
- Tasks that need completion
- Who are the relevant players
Clearly, this is essential information to the success of the business. Keeping it in one location, where it can be accessed and easily analyzed, and makes life easy for the management of the business. This will allow management to do their most valuable job, which is project management. The value of project management should not be underestimated. More contracts is not necessarily better. Overlapping tasks and dates can cause friction with potential and existing customers, which is bad business for the contractor. The firm must be able to devote the correct amount of resources to each task to see that it is completed on time. This will maximize good will with the customers, which is the point of customer relationship management software.
Sales Streamlining for Construction Firms and Contractors
Most of the best customer relationship management software packages come with integrated sales software, since the functionality is so critical. As we alluded to above, this functionality can help streamline and standardize the sales process.
The importance of standardization may not be obvious, but consider the following scenario: You have two salespeople. Person A is following the script and achieving no success. Person B is going off script and closing all the deals. You might incorrectly conclude that Person A is incompetent, and needs to be let go. Of course that would be wrong, and anybody you get to fill their shoes will run into the same problems. By standardizing the business can experiment and find what works through collecting enough data.
Aside from standardizing the process, the software allows the business to keep track of the stages of a particular deal. Usually, a sale will have something like the following steps:
- Qualification – identify the decision makers, timeframe of the project, and the scope
- Proposal Development – crafting a plan to complete the project and its associated cost
- Negotiations – back and forth to settle on a price for the price and finalizing contracts
- Close – closing the deal and getting the project ready to rock and roll
The software will typically incorporate standardization into the process by associating tasks with each stage of the sales process. A sort of checklist of tasks makes sure that everyone is executing the same steps and therefore getting repeatable results. Better yet, tasks like sending emails can be accomplished with the mere click of a button. The salesperson doesn’t have to craft the email for each and every bid, they simply press the bid button and off the email goes after fetching the relevant information from the software.
Here we have covered some of the basic functionality of customer relationship management software and how it can help contractors and construction businesses. Of course, there are many more advanced features we didn’t discuss, like in depth analytics of the wealth of data the software collects. This was left out because it’s icing on the cake. The real value of CRM software for a small to medium sized business is how it streamlines and standardizes the sales process. It is standardization and streamlining that will allow the business to reach the next level, which is what the business owner wants.
Of course, one thing must be kept in mind. There is no software in the world that is a substitute for customer service. Always take care of your customers and they will give you referrals, which is the best form of marketing. If you neglect this, do so at your own peril!
That’s all for now. We hope this has been informative. Should you wish to get started, please check out our list of the best CRM software and the associated customer relationship management software reviews.