5 Lessons for Winning Commercial Contracts

Hispanic businesswoman smiles while showing a document to a male associate.

By Gip Erskine

Competing on price is for losers. Nobody wins. Even if you win, you lose. You lose credibility, brand recognition, and profits. Cutting your margins to the bone forces you to chase anything that comes your way. One of the benefits of winning commercial contracts is having reliable, quality customers that provide stable payments, so why erase that benefit?

Playing the low-bid-wins game

Winning low-margin business requires you to make up lost revenue with volume. When market share is the only way to make up that difference, you’re sacrificing the effort you made to create a quality business.

If you’re cheapening your price, you’re weakening your brand. You’re telling the world you’ll sacrifice your standards to win at any cost, even though you know your platform is worth more— much more.

I’m with you

As a property manager who regularly signs deals for services like yours, I don’t want to be forced to use the low-cost provider. I’m sick of getting stuck with the low bidder and cleaning up their messes!

They do just enough to win the business, then drop the ball once the contract is signed. This has forced me to learn how to weed out the quality service providers from the ball-droppers. The good news is, I’ve found a way to do that and level the playing field.

Even better, you can leverage what I’ve discovered to your advantage, and use these five simple steps to win more business without dropping your price. I like to call them the ABCDE’s for winning new business.

They’re a sure way to get property managers like me to hire quality companies like yours at the rates you deserve.

If you find yourself in this low-bid-wins scenario but would rather show off your talents and keep more of your profits, adopting the following ABCDEs will help you start winning commercial contracts without losing profits.

#1 Add value without sacrificing profits

Simply “adding value” may sound too vague to get your head around, but it’s key to winning better business. This can be as simple as sharing industry trends or workflow improvements you’ve recently made.

Share the unexpected, yet valuable, things that make your client feel like they’re a hero for hiring you. In the sales process, share what you’ve done for others or what you see in the marketplace—better yet, on his or her property—that could benefit your client.

#2 Become an extension of the management team

Show how you view the property through the eyes of a property manager. If you’re carpet cleaning, for example, show how your crew will keep a log of cleaning, set a cleaning schedule based on traffic level, and provide specific security concerns.

#3 Compete on your platform strength, not price alone

You’ve invested blood, sweat, and tears into your business. When you’re able to highlight your experience, investments, service standards, and management philosophy proudly, you tell your client you’re worth every penny spent.

If you’re invested in becoming industry certified, then tell that story. We want to know what investments you’ve made in yourself so we can appreciate just how valuable your service really is.

#4 Determine what your client truly wants

Assuming your client’s wants and needs is a dangerous business. It can veer you off course quickly. Recovering from that miscalculation can be lengthy and costly.

It makes far more sense to ask key questions that will tell you not just where it hurts, but also will reveal the results that an ideal scenario will provide. A question like, “What keeps you up at night?” allows them to share their pain. “What’s the one thing that would make your life easier?” allows them to share their dreams.

Sure, your client may have a roof leak and water damage, but what they truly want is not only a tenant who’s not complaining, but one who expresses their appreciation for the measures taken to address the issue.

#5 Elevate service levels beyond the scope

Everyone wants 13 bagels for the price of a dozen. They feel special. They feel they got a deal. They feel like you value them. Send a personal note thanking them for their business or a link to an inspiring video they might find useful.

Send them pictures of their property as you perform your service. Give them something they can share with their clients to validate why they awarded you the business. These beyond-the-scope measures will pay you in relational dividends.

Start winning commercial contracts without sacrificing price

Applying these ABCDEs will make a world of difference for your organization by allowing you to win profitable business that you want to work with. Done well, they’ll not only reward you with a more profitable business, but they’ll be your biggest banner wavers. Property managers like to tell others about the exceptional companies they work with.

When you recognize what your client truly wants and can speak in those terms (and how your service gives them exactly that), then you’ll win them over.

At the ISSA Show North America Virtual Experience, I pulled back the veil with a deep dive on the strategy and success of applying the ABCDE’s to win commercial contracts. Watch it on demand with an All-Access Pass through March 31, 2021!

5 Lessons on Winning Commercial Contracts with gip erskine

Visit show.issa.com for more information.


Gip Erskine is on a mission to change the way service partners sell and property managers buy. For service partners, he provides powerful insights for business owners and sales teams who aspire to earn the trust of property managers. He shows how to learn their values and speak their language to win better business. As a Property Manager since 1984, Erskine has managed over $5 billion in real estate and negotiated over $100 million in service contracts. In 2013, he founded Want What Works LLC and launched Eversmarts as an informative, inspirational platform to share universal truths and experiences. Reach him at [email protected].

Cleanfax Staff

Cleanfax provides cleaning and restoration professionals with information designed to help them manage and grow their businesses.

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