Put Your Best Bid Forward: 6 Key Steps to Winning Large-Scale Commercial Paint Jobs 1

The new complex was called Sierra Plaza. It was a three building complex downtown and sported great views of the skyline. The general contractor was taking submissions for both interior and exterior painters and the word throughout the business community was that he was from out of town and came with no prior allegiances. This was just the break the owners of Bruton Commercial Painting were looking for.

Bruton Commercial was a three year old paint company with fifteen painters and an administrative staff of five. The business had grown quickly in the commercial sector by being professional and offering high-quality work at a fair price. Even when Bruton Commercial wasn’t the lowest price bidder for a job, they often still won the business because of their great reputation.

“If we win this job, our business will double in size almost overnight!” Jerry Bruton and his brother Steve were excited about the possibility of winning such a large job. There was only one problem: despite their recent successes in the paint sector, their local business would be competing with large-scale commercial paint companies from all over the state, and neither Jerry nor Steve had any idea what it might take to win a job of this size.

office building under construction

A large-scale commercial paint job can open new doors for your company.
Image courtesy of Lo’s Contracting, Inc.

Every business has “blue birds,” or opportunities that come out of nowhere and change the entire scope and scale of the operation. Whether you sell goods or services and regardless of your market, the possibility exists that the phone will ring five minutes from now with the opportunity of a lifetime on the other end. Are you prepared to take the call? If you’re a professional painter, here are six tips to help you win the types of large commercial jobs that can change your company’s fortunes overnight:

  1. Properly calculate your expenses.  One common mistake when bidding on large commercial paint jobs is miscalculating true costs. For example, a commercial job that takes three weeks to complete means that your setup time and cleanup time will be substantially shorter than if you were painting at a different location every day for three weeks. What does that mean for your cost of labor? Conversely, do you need to expand your insurance coverage to be eligible for larger jobs with larger customers? If so, what cost does that carry? There are a number of financial elements that make large commercial jobs different from smaller, more common jobs. Make sure you have your eyes wide open and your pencil sharpened; commercial paint bids that appear profitable at first glance can turn into money-losing paint jobs if not properly calculated early on.
  2. Do your research.  Who are you bidding against? Do you know who has worked for this client before, and if so, are they bidding on this job or not? Does the client have more work in the future that you could be positioned to win if you win this job, or is this a one-off project unlikely to lead to any future work? Does the client pay their bills early or make vendors wait to collect? Getting as much information about the client and competition as possible will help you understand the landscape of the job much better, and can help you determine if it’s even worth making a bid. And if it is worth it, having a more complete understanding means you can craft a bid that is mutually beneficial for the client and your own business.
  3. Demonstrate value.  If your proposal only offers paint services, then you are doing a poor job distinguishing your offering from the competition. All things being equal, the lowest priced vendor will win the business. Winning large commercial paint jobs takes more than that. Think of ways to add value to your offering that separate you from other providers that are just offering paint services. Can you offer design services during the planning phase or provide a discount on paint and materials to the customer that other bidders might not be able to offer? Every add-on helps and even though large commercial paint jobs are very price-driven, the client is looking for the best overall value in the solution, not just the cheapest painter.
  4. Look the part.  We’ve talked extensively about looking professional during a job, but what about looking professional with your bid or proposal? It is staggering how many paint companies – even in the commercial paint world – still provide hand-written estimates and quotes on carbon-paper forms. It’s time to wake up! Every visible part of your business is under scrutiny when being considered for a large commercial job. Increase your chances of winning the job by presenting your proposal on quality paper and in a binder or folder. Take the opportunity to combine the bid with literature or a brochure about your organization’s offerings. Include the names and numbers of references willing to speak on your behalf. Let the competition submit a bid that offers nothing but a price – your bid should be a presentation that sells your company to the client; the price is just a detail.
  5. Submit your bid in person.  If at all possible, schedule an appointment with the decision maker on the project and present your bid in person. Emailing or calling in your bid will reduce your offering to just the price, which is a terrible idea. Even if you are only able to meet with the potential client for a few minutes, letting them put a face to the name and see the professionalism and respect with which you treat your work will go a long way in solidifying your status as a painter to take seriously.
  6. Follow up until completion.   All too often, professional service providers offer an estimate, quote, or proposal, and then wait for the phone to ring. The client’s sense of urgency to hire for the job may not match your urgency to win the job, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow up regularly to inquire about the status of the job. In many cases, simply being visible and available while the client is choosing which provider to use is enough to win the job. Letting the potential client know that the job is important to you can go a long way in their decision process. My suggestion is to follow up two to three business days after submitting your quote to (1) confirm that they received it, (2) answer any questions or address any comments they may have, and (3) confirm that your are still under consideration. Following up no less than once every five business days thereafter is a smart idea unless the client expressly tells you a different timeline.

Winning large commercial paint jobs is about doing the little things to separate your business and your offering from the competition. What makes you special? What makes your offering the best value for the client? What can you do that will make them glad they chose your paint team both now and after the job is done? Answer those questions and you can count on winning more large commercial paint jobs. Click here to learn more about marketing and business development for professional painters!

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