The contract cleaning industry is very competitive. This means that the potential client is forming an opinion about you-and comparing you with your competitors from the minute you walk into his or her office.

To make the best impression when meeting with a potential customer, contractors should know proper “walk-through” etiquette, says Terry Sambrowski, executive director at the National Service Alliance, a group purchasing organization for leading cleaning contractors that negotiates agreements with manufacturers to purchase products at reduced rates.

Among her “do’s” and “don’ts” when it comes to walk-through etiquette are the following:

  • Do be pleasant, courteous, patient and professional with the receptionist; often, the receptionist will be asked about her impression of you.
  • Do dress in proper business attire. This no longer means suit-and-tie, but instead wear conservative and appropriate professional clothing.
  • Do carry information about your company, but present it after the walk-through is over. The meeting always starts with your potential client discussing thoughts, concerns and cleaning needs.
  • Do point out areas in the facility that could use more attention, but do it tactfully. Instead of being critical about soiled grout in the restroom, say: “We use a new machine (technique, cleaning solution, etc.) that’s perfect for cleaning grout areas.”
  • Do ask if the client is taking bids but only if they contacted you; however, phrase it like this: “May I ask you why you contacted me? Are you taking bids?”
  • Don’t ask how much they are currently paying for janitorial services; this is none of your business and prospects do not like being asked this.
  • Don’t ask what their budget is for janitorial services; this is just another way of asking what they are paying.
  • Don’t ask what company is currently cleaning the facility or how long it has been cleaning the facility; again it’s none of your business.
  • Don’t criticize the current appearance of the facility or the cleaning currently being performed; that is your prospect’s decision to make.

“While we don’t want to criticize the current [cleaning] contractor company or the service it is performing,” says Sambrowski, “it can work wonders to offer helpful suggestions. Even if you are not hired, this prospect will remember where those helpful suggestions came from.”


National Service Alliance (NSA) is a leading group purchasing organization for larger building service contractors and related businesses in the United States. Membership requires meeting specific standards and criteria and being a member of the Building Services Contractors Association International (BSCAI) is recommended.

The NSA has more than 70 contract cleaner members-most of which are the leading names in the professional cleaning industry-as well as members in other service industries such as security and plumbing. Total membership is now nearly 300 members. Terry Sambrowski is the NSA executive director.