The season is over, for sure now. You’ve just finished getting out those last few bills that were hanging out there. Some negotiations are underway for those customers demanding you give them a credit for the overbilling you did during that last big storm (or, so they say, anyway). Time to think about getting the spring cleanups completed before the grass starts growing too fast.
One other task that needs to be at the forefront of your mind is (ok, wait for it...) next winter's business.
Yes. Next winter.
But, this winter has just ended? Can’t we take a break for a couple months?
True, snow contractors think snow all year round even if they do not consider snow and ice management as their core business. Some think “Whew, winter is finally over, I can relax now.”
Not if you want to play with the big boys.
Progressive snow contractors are already out obtaining renewals. Signing up last season's customers today is the right way to do business. Do you really want to take time in late summer/early fall to pay attention to last season's customers – or do you want to concentrate on securing new business?
The contractors I deal with are out there doing end-of-season evaluations with their customers. This is the reason for the in-person visit to the customer's location. After the postseason evaluation has been completed, and before ending the meeting, this is when discussion about next winter begins.
Here's how that conversation should go: "We won’t raise the price, you love our service, you believe us to be fair and honest – let’s sign the new agreement now so it’s all taken care of and out of the way."
By June 1st any old customers you want to keep (if their contract term has ended) should be signed, sealed and ready to go. Oh, I’m sure some will tell you they don’t want to deal with it until October. This is where salesmanship comes into play. You need to convince the customer signing up now is the smart play – for them as well as for you. You must convince yourself first that this is the smart play before you can think of trying to convince your customers they should renew NOW. If you don’t believe it, then neither will they.
An arrogant customer will say something like “Oh, if you want my business you’ll hold the price until winter starts, anyway.”
My advice to you on how to deal with this: Don’t budge.
Your response should be along the lines of: "Costs are going up. My people want raises. Everybody is getting squeezed. We want your business, but we must make a profit. And as such the pricing may just have to be increased to cover costs."
Work at it. Reason with them. And if they won’t come around to you way of thinking, then be prepared to lose the customer come fall.
Remember, if you think you can, or you think you can’t -- they you’re probably right.