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Hunters, farmers and a steady diet of new cleaning accounts
Our columnist Ed Selkow, who through more than 35 years in cleaning has stacked up an impressive depth of experience and knowledge of the industry, argues the case for being a farmer rather than a hunter...
If I can save myself some time, then I figure I am ahead of the game. I have to explain hunting and farming almost every day so now I can just send this post and save some time.
The feast or famine growth strategy in a janitorial company maintains a constant state of panic, confusion and disarray. In 2012, the only way feasting happens in the janitorial industry is with a 'slash and burn' competitor's pricing strategy. The problem is that it works but a revolving door is created with accounts lost almost as fast as they are signed. Some rapidly growing franchises take this approach, as do some national multi-location cleaning management companies. It is not a new strategy and it never worked to build a profitable, healthy operation.
Janitorial sales famines are customary with inexperienced business owners who have bought into the "just grab a broom and a mop and make a million" touted by business opportunity magazines and the now pervasive Internet cleaning gurus who will teach you if you buy their book of secrets. Sales famines also happen to hunters who are subject to hunting seasons or when they get around to it.
What do hunters do? They move from place to place looking for targets to shoot at. The take a shot and hit or miss and then move on to hunt their next target. They may stalk their prey for a little while but as soon as they get tired, they quit and go home empty handed. They got all dressed up, went out, worked hard but sit down and eat what they caught previously.
They continue to hunt because they have scored in the past. New ways of doing things is not a big issue with hunters; in fact, some cling to old ways for the sport of it so there are hunters with bows and arrows.
A hunter catches his prey after relatively FEW points of contact.
One time through, smoke stack, (door to door) prospecting all by itself is hunting. Blasting one time through networking meetings is hunting. Purchasing janitorial sales appointments all by themselves is hunting. Going from one prospect to the next, making a presentation and then moving on to the next one, is taking a shot and either hitting or missing.
One of my first questions to janitorial company owners is how many proposals have you done in the last year. What do you do with the contacts you made during the last year AFTER those presentations have been made? It is at this point I know if I have a hunter or a farmer.
What do farmers do? Farmers stake out a piece of ground as their own. They go over that piece of ground, remove rocks and tree stumps and plant seeds. They again cover the same area and water all of their seeds until seedlings appear. They eliminate weeds so the seedlings absorb water. They apply nutrients and fertilizer and continue to remove weeds. They water it regularly. They watch over that ground and are aware of what is happening with a laser beam focus... nothing gets by them. New ways of doing things is a big issue for farmers; they are constantly on the lookout for improvements to increase their yield.
A farmer harvests his yield after MANY points of contact.
A farming system of janitorial selling starts with a map. Removing rocks and trees and then stumps is the sorting out of the types of businesses you will not do business with and identifies the business types you are going after. Seeds are your unique selling proposition and your elevator pitch, backed with an operational structure. Nutrients and fertilizers are your tools, your phone, your personalised direct mail and email templates, your online strategy and presence and your community networking groups.
Water is delivered by way of irrigation systems, timed release of the key growth factor water and delivered regularly. Watching your plot of land is your daily scan of the local business news that may mean new business to you, not the comics, not your horoscope, not the sports pages, the business news about local companies, promotions to new positions and construction (or business failures).
Finally, keeping informed about what is available that may increase your yield of profitable contracts is key. History is a wonderful area of study but how things were done 20 or 10 or even five years ago is a study of what used to work... a trip down memory lane.
I will confess here to being city born and raised. I do not own a pair of bib overalls or a straw hat but I did figure out early on that hunters score every so often but farming is the correct approach to build a profitable cleaning company.
20th December 2012