Running a successful construction company requires understanding the importance of relationships and how those interactions drive new business. In fact, for most contractors, the largest source of revenue comes from repeat business and referrals. With the right information technology (IT), business leaders can improve the quality of their relationships to create new clients, more loyal customers and greater project opportunities.

 

CRM: Making every client contact count

Good customer relationship management (CRM) software makes it possible for contractors to manage key interactions—starting with marketing and bidding efforts, followed by closing a sale, and continuing through the post-sale or post-construction activities that build ongoing customer loyalty.

CRM software provides a 360-degree view of the company’s interaction with current and prospective customers by centralizing the data so it can be shared—security permitting—across the organization. The accounting department will know what the business development department is doing and what projects might be coming in. The service department will know what customers are asking about when they call, regardless of who answers the phone. Everyone on the team will better understand the needs of customers and prospects,ultimately establishing more profitable relationships.

Some CRM systems can integrate with the back-office accounting or enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to provide visibility into current and past business building activities. In addition, many CRM systems provide self-service portals that allow customers, partners and suppliers to view and update specific information as needed.

The software is still a relatively new concept for many construction firms. In a recent construction IT survey conducted by Sage, only 11 percent of contractors indicated they use CRM software to obtain new business. But, contractors that use CRM effectively report they’ve found a competitive edge in their sales and marketing efforts.

 

Achieving mindshare

Regardless of whether the company uses the local newspaper, Angie’s list, direct mail, LinkedIn, phone calls or other marketing and business development channels, it’s critical to stay in front of current and potential clients so the company is top-of-mind when a new project comes up. A CRM system provides customizable email templates and automated workflows so company leaders can create a regular cadence of email communications. By targeting a list of key contacts, leaders can announce a new project, company expertise, special awards or the completion of another successful project.

The rising popularity of smartphones and social networks also provides a new way of communicating and making an impression on past, current and future clients. Today’s CRM systems work with key social media applications (including LinkedIn, Facebook, Yammer and Twitter), helping reach and engage with business contacts across multiple touch points.

How do contractors know what marketing efforts are paying off? With a CRM solution, leaders can track the source of business leads back to the originating marketing activity, enabling them to fine-tune marketing strategies toward the best lead-generating activities.

 

Bringing the bid home

Bidding jobs is vital to keeping a healthy backlog for the company, yet many contractors struggle with maintaining the workload, paperwork and follow-up required in the bidding process.

Sealcoating Inc. uses CRM to stay on top of its bids. During its busy season, Sealcoating submits three to five municipal jobs, and quotes general contractors on one or two projects each week. With only three salespeople covering a large geographic territory, details could easily fall through the cracks. To prevent this, Sealcoating’s sales team tracks its entire sales pipeline. At any time, team members can see the status of all bids and quotes so they know what needs attention.

Sealcoating also tracks results over multiple years. When a bid is due, the firm use its CRM system to see how many times it has bid it in the past, if it was successful in getting the job, what its price and its competitors' prices were, and whether the job was profitable. “One reason for our success is we look at each customer’s job individually,” says Sealcoating President Biffy Wuori. “We can see what’s gone right and what’s gone wrong in the past.”

With customizable workflows and automated reminders, a CRM system can help a company simplify the bidding process and make the most of every opportunity. In addition to providing accurate forecasts and sales reports, it can also track the bids it has won or lost to reveal the best bid-hit ratios and which projects were the most profitable. Rather than bidding on or accepting any project that comes along, leaders can choose to bid only on jobs that best fit the company.

 

Customer satisfaction equals repeat business

In an ultra-competitive landscape, contractors that achieve the biggest success will be those that can interact with customers frequently to meet client expectations. That can be especially challenging in today’s virtual world in which businesses are expected to operate 24 hours a day and seven days a week, and respond quicker than ever before.

Because a CRM system provides a full view into all customer interactions whenever needed, the contractor can deliver an exceptional customer experience every time. Staff can have more meaningful conversations with customers and be more productive whether they are in the office or on the jobsite.

Sealcoating’s Wuori points out that CRM has been especially beneficial for her company’s superintendents. In the past, for example, the superintendents would often be in the dark if a general contractor called them about an upcoming job. Now, before they ever see the work order, they can view the scope of work quoted, if a subcontract has been completed, and any related communication so they can speak intelligently about the project from the very start.

Also important is capturing customer feedback once the job is completed. A CRM system helps gather and store customer feedback to ensure leaders know what they did right to earn the client’s loyalty, or what they did wrong so they can fix it next time.

This blog post, written by Diane Haines Senior Director, Product Marketing- Sage Construction and Real Estate for Sage North America, was originally published on http://www.constructionexec.com