In the United States alone, construction is a $1.3 trillion industry.
With all that profit potential, it’s no wonder that competition is steep among construction sales teams. The sales cycle has a high learning curve and can take months to complete, but with an average project backlog of 9.3 months, there’s plenty of opportunity for growth.
In this guide, we will show you and your construction sales field team all the tools of the trade for closing more deals more effectively and efficiently.
1. How to set up a sales field team in construction
One reason construction is such an interesting industry to work in is the diversity of the workforce.
Despite being extremely technology-focused, construction isn’t dominated by younger generations—instead, you’ll see people of all ages represented, from Gen Zs to the “Silent Generation,” and people of culturally diverse backgrounds. Plus, now more than ever, you’re seeing more and more women thrive in the industry.
With such a rich pool of talent to choose from, how do you build the most effective sales team for your firm? How do you position your team for success?
Let’s break it down.
Top 3 skills needed by construction sales representatives
Just like with any successful sales team, you need reps who are driven team players. But in construction specifically, you also want to be sure every team member has these three traits.
Here is what to look for as you assemble your dream field sales team.
Knowledge of the construction industry
In construction, your sales representatives need to understand the business inside and out.
We break this down more specifically in section three when we look at how to qualify prospects, but in general, each representative needs to know:
- Your firm’s capabilities (equipment, technology, employees, etc.)
- The project’s demands
It sounds simple, but it’s absolutely essential. Your reps need to be able to “speak the language” and know construction jargon. For example, in the industry, payments are known as “draws”—and likewise, a payment schedule is called a “draw schedule.”
While it’s not necessary for every rep to have a background in construction, you should expect to spend some time training and educating them before they go into the field if they don’t.
Willingness to constantly learn
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point—the construction industry is constantly evolving and changing. For example, did you know that 37% of construction firms are experimenting with drones?!
Technology is moving fast, and so even if you hire a rep that knows absolutely everything about the construction industry as it is today, they will need to constantly stay up-to-date if they don’t want to get left in the dust.
As of 2020, there is an emerging trend of construction firms focusing more on Building Information Management—or BIM. BIM is a relatively new technology that allows you to digitize your construction site and connect different workflows throughout the entire process. Your reps should be able to talk about BIM confidently when pitching prospects!
The bottom line is that all of your construction reps need to be passionate about staying up to date on the emerging technology and trends within the industry.
Comfort with hearing “no”
When your sales rep invests a ton of time and energy into securing a prospect and it doesn’t go their way, are they going to be able to use it as a learning experience?
The sales cycle in construction is long, and it can be especially discouraging to lose to another firm—but it’s going to happen sometimes. And your representatives need to get comfortable with that disappointment.
Now, it’s important that your representatives get good at identifying the difference between a real “no” and an “ask me later.” Sometimes, leads need a follow up (or ten) to get them over the finish line.
One way to identify a hard “no” for what it is to determine the reasoning. Is it the wrong time? Then that’s a “maybe later.” Does it not meet their needs or they went with a competitor? That’s more likely a true no.
Utilize territory management to divide and conquer.
Position your sales team for success by assigning sales territories for each rep.
Traditionally, we think about “territories” as geographical areas enclosed by specific boundaries. While this certainly can be the case, the definition has expanded to include any way you want to divide and conquer sales:
- Geographical location
- Company size / type
- Deal size / type
By assigning your reps their own individual territories, you’ll make it easier for them to collect and analyze the efficacy of their efforts later as they optimize.
Fortunately, CRMs and other technology is incredibly helpful at helping your reps manage their territory. For example, you can use territory management software to do tasks like:
- Color-coding territories
- Geo-filtering based on criteria like client type, size, distance, etc.
- Automating client and prospect check-ins
- Optimizing driving routes and schedules
- Logging sales reps’ efforts in real-time
Any intelligent tool you use is going to help your reps collect data that they can use to optimize their efforts down the road. To improve, you have to be able to measure, and territory management is a great place to start.
Embrace activity tracking technology to optimize your time.
As of 2019, only 57% of construction companies were considering on-site employee tracking, which shows a massive opportunity for optimization. Get ahead of the curve by hooking your sales team up with apps to help them maximize their time.
Customer Relationship Management software (or CRMs) helps your sales team to track every “touch” (or interaction) they have with a prospect or client. In the long-run, this helps you to identify trends and discover what actions lead to success and what techniques aren’t cutting it.
2. How to generate the right leads in construction
Once you have your team assembled, it’s time for them to put their ear to the ground and start finding opportunities for your firm.
Construction is a mostly B2B industry with big deal amounts—which means that even more than usual, reputation is everything in landing new projects.
Attend trade shows
It’s hard to be in construction and not hear about the trade shows. Trade shows represent an excellent opportunity to network, show off your work, learn what other firms are up to, and stay excited about the industry.
Encourage your sales team to find the most relevant, interesting trade shows and conventions for your firm. For instance, you may choose to do the big ones like The Associated General Contractors of America Convention, or you may hone in on a niche, like Groundbreaking Women in Construction.
If your team decides to hit the circuit, be sure to not just fly in and out. Maximize the opportunity before, during, and after the show itself by creating a trade show checklist with items like:
- Identifying speaking opportunities
- Registering for a booth (sometimes a full year in advance)
- Advertising your attendance in advance
- Developing unique calls to action for attendees
- Coordinating in-person meetings
- Devising an efficient way to collect email addresses
- Reporting on the event (on social media, content marketing, etc.)
- Sending follow-ups afterwards
While trade shows aren’t a do-or-die necessity, construction is a very tight knit industry that can be difficult to break into as a newcomer. Build and maintain relationships by making these types of get-togethers a priority for your team.
Help leads find you with social media
As of 2017, 75% of construction firms were promoting themselves on social media—and that number is only rising.
(Although, it is worth noting that like in automotives, a lot of the biggest construction companies have been around a long time. So if you’re a newer firm, it would be worth looking at groundbreaking successful startup social media presences for more ideas.)
As for your social media content, consider promoting the interesting ways your company is leading the pack in construction innovation. Fascinating, attention-grabbing content will help people to remember your name, like the ways your firm:
- Goes green / makes smart choices for the environment
- Utilizes cutting edge materials, like self-healing concrete and transparent aluminum
- Uses drones around your construction site
- Takes advantage of modular construction
- And more
A general rule of thumb for social media (and all marketing, really) is to think carefully about the type of content your ideal client would want to see.
Invest in local advertising
Don’t let your sales team underestimate the power of local advertising! So much of construction business comes from word of mouth referrals in the local area. Help get your firm’s name front of mind by investing in local advertising.
Little things go a long way, from branded trucks and vehicles to billboards, sponsorships, and signage. Get your name out in the community!
Diversify your money- making potential with equipment rentals
If your firm isn’t already renting out your unused equipment, this is going to blow your mind. Did you know that, on average, equipment rental accounts for 47% of revenue in the construction industry?
Instead of letting your equipment gather dust when it isn’t being used on a job, generate extra cash by renting it out. Typically, construction equipment is borrowed for only 6 days at a time—which makes rentals the perfect way to maximize awkwardly short periods of time between gigs.
Offering equipment rentals is also a great way to diversify your offerings and expand who you can serve within your niche. Rentals are an affordable point of entry for a new, lower-budget client. For example, 15% of equipment rentals are for individual construction projects, which represents a market you may not have been able to serve before.
Offering equipment rentals also position your sales team to upsell or cross-sell rental customers down the road—it gives your company a chance to “wow” them on a budget and then seal the big deal later.
Construction equipment rental sales are expected to reach a whopping $59.4 billion by the end of 2020. So, get in on it!
Embrace technology and automation
Now more than ever, machine learning and AI have the ability to streamline tedious and time-consuming tasks. Lead generation and sales prospecting is no exception.
These days, more and more tasks can be handled at the push of a button thanks to intelligent sales prospecting tools. For example, there are applications if you want to:
- Dive deep into demographic details (LeadFuze)
- Predict outcomes using AI (Leadspace)
- Identify most successful sales call “plays” (Gong)
- Automate your social media (Hootsuite)
- Manage customer support with real-time chat bots (Intercom)
- Build sales funnels (Leadpages)
- Find nearby customers while on the road (MapMyCustomers)
In terms of lead generation, there is software to find leads in general and software for construction leads specifically, like Building Radar. Experiment and see what works for your team! Often, you can dabble in free trials before committing to pricey packaging, so give it a shot.
3. How to better qualify prospects in construction
Not all leads are created equal. You want your sales team to devote the most time, energy, and resources into the most valuable leads—which is why you need to qualify your prospects.
Qualifying prospects is when you evaluate or rate the quality of your leads and determine if they’re worth pursuing. Here are some questions your team needs to ask each and every time.
What you need to know about your firm
To effectively evaluate leads, your team needs to know the capabilities of your construction firm like the back of their hand.
- Are you qualified for the project?
- Do you have the staff available?
- What’s your current backlog and schedule?
What you need to know about the project
Of course, since you’re bidding on a project, your team needs to know exactly what it entails.
- Is the project presold?
- Is the project funded?
- Is there a good profit potential?
- Is the project wired for another firm?
- Would you need an easement or right-of-way?
You should also research if the project will require a bid bond and a performance bond, and if that’s something your firm can take on right now. (We will talk more about bid bonds in section three.)
What you need to know about the client
An incredible client can redeem a less-than-ideal project. Especially in an industry with such large deal sizes and long-term projects, you do not want to waste your time with a troublesome client. Do some digging into their reputation to find out:
- Is the client litigious?
- Does the client pay on time?
- Do you have an existing relationship with the client?
- What other firms have worked with the client?
- How have the client’s previous jobs gone?
4. How to create a killer proposal in construction
Since we’re dealing with big dollar amounts, your sales team will rarely ever close a project without a formal proposal and presentation.
Identify your target’s needs
It should go without saying, but check and double-check that your proposal addresses every single one of your target’s identified needs.
It’s your team’s job to ensure your proposal not only addresses the pain points specifically called out by your clients, but also knows enough about the industry to identify squeaky wheels even your prospects haven’t complained about yet.
This is where your sales team’s experience and expertise comes into play. By referencing other jobs and case studies and identifying what was effective for them, you could be well on your way to an upsell or cross-sell opportunity.
The trick here is to be sure that everything you show actually fits their needs—that you aren’t throwing them a curveball for the sake of putting together a bigger proposal. If the client sees they’re being taken care of—not taken advantage of—it’ll go a long way.
Create a benefit-focused presentation
Use relevant data and case studies to highlight the results you can deliver as specifically as possible. Focus on the business benefits your previous clients have seen.
90% of all global infrastructure projects are either over-budget or delayed. So if you have past results that show you stay on-budget and can deliver on time, highlight that to set yourself apart.
For example, you may share how often you complete projects on-time for your clients and what that has meant for them in terms of revenue.
Give an accurate bid you can commit to
When you bid on a project, you’re giving an estimate for how much time and money you believe it will take to get the job done. Obviously, you can’t possibly know how much a project will come out to be exactly, so be sure to include allowances for unknowns.
Keep in mind that you may be required to pay a bid bond, which is like a jail bond but for your bid. Essentially, a bid bond is a security deposit that you put down to tell the prospect that you won’t pull your bid and run—that it’s a serious offer.
Bid bonds are guaranteed and issued by a third party (known as a “surety”). Like with a security deposit, if you back out, the prospect will get to keep some or all of the payment. If you don’t win the contract, you get it back.
To make sure you left no stone unturned, you can use construction bid estimating software. It’s relatively affordable and is an excellent way to give professional quotes and estimates with less stress.
Close the deal
So you won the job—congratulations! But your work isn’t done. It’s time to lock down the contract. There are many different documents that should be delivered to cover all of your bases, like:
- General construction contract agreement
- Scope of work
- General conditions
- Special conditions
- Bill of quantities
- Cost estimates
- Insurance coverage / bonds
Many times, you’ll need to replace the bid bond with a performance bond. (This is always the case for jobs for government jobs).
Performance bonds are essentially a security deposit promising that you will “perform” in the way you promised—yet another reason why knowing your firm’s capabilities when you bid is so essential.
5. How to optimize your construction sales funnel
Once you have a working sales funnel, your sales team can get to work making it run more effectively and efficiently to generate even more revenue with less hassle.
Make your website more functional
Like with many long standing industries, construction websites can be a bit notorious for being out-of-date and difficult to navigate. It makes sense—after all, construction has been around since the beginning of civilization and websites have only been around for what, half a century?
Fortunately, this presents an excellent opportunity for your construction company to get ahead of the pack. If your website is intuitive and streamlined, you’ll be able to capture the leads that clunky sites miss out on.
Have your field sales team work with your developers so that a visitor’s experience on your website mirrors the typical customer’s journey. What kinds of questions do your customers usually ask first? What information is most valuable to them? What calls to action are most enticing? Nobody knows the answers better than you reps!
Articulate clear values and targets
At every step of your funnel, it is imperative that your team is on the same page about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
According to research by McKinsey, the construction industry suffers from reduced productivity rates overall. One way to combat this is by setting clear company values and goals for your sales teams—that way, everybody is in agreement as to what success will look like.
McKinsey points out that while SMART goals are important, intangibles are also essential:
“To track performance, engineering and construction organizations typically focus on hard metrics such as cost efficiency and productivity.
“Our work suggests that they are more likely to reach their goals if they also manage cultural, values-based, and employee-commitment metrics (such as perceptions of accountability) that are directly related to their ability to deliver projects.”
Offer continued education opportunities to your team
Like we mentioned at the beginning, the construction industry is constantly evolving and innovating. Help keep morale high and your field team in the know by offering additional educational opportunities.
For example, McKinsey recommends offering partnerships with local civil engineering programs or universities. While this is more common for employees actually on the sites, there’s no reason your field sales team can’t benefit as well.
Another way to help your team to continue to grow is through internal mentorship opportunities with higher-ups—maybe even grabbing lunch off-site one-on-one with the CEO. Not only is this an excellent learning opportunity, but it shows your team you value them which in turn motivates them to give their all every day.
6. Additional best practices for sales teams in construction
Still looking for other ways to supercharge your sales? Here are some timeless strategies to help you step up your game.
Create a referral program
Word of mouth is everything in construction. Build out a referral program that benefits the referer and encourages happy customers to spread your name.
Offer meaningful incentives for connections, like discounts and gift cards. Remember how much a new deal means to your business and consider how big of a reward you can spring for! For inspiration, Ohana Home and Design offers up to $500 cash back for jobs worth $75,000+ while Lemon Remodeling offers up to $1000 cash back for you and the person you refer.
Remember that setting up the referral program alone isn’t enough—you also need to get the word out. Even thrilled customers may need to be prompted to send new business your way, so add reminders into email newsletters.
Build a positive presence in your community
It’s always better when a prospect has heard good things about you before you even start your pitch. And who doesn’t like doing good?
Especially if your construction firm is local, encourage your sales team to establish a positive presence around town by getting involved in the community. For example, you can attend charity fundraisers, sponsor local sports (runs, youth teams, etc.), or host your own drives.
By getting your name out there, your firm will become more likely to be top of mind when someone is thinking of who to hire for their next construction project. It’s basic psychology!
Utilize location intelligence and data visualization
If you’re tired of looking at spreadsheets, you’re going to love data visualization and location intelligence.
These two techniques go hand in hand: data visualization is when you represent numbers pictorially (like graphs, maps, charts, etc.) and location intelligence is when you do the same thing with a geographic data point included. Both help you to analyze your efforts and more easily identify trends.
Location intelligence gives you the unique advantage of looking at several data points at once. For example, you can cross-reference things like:
- Sales rates
- Market saturation / competitor presence
- Average deal size
- Trade show proximity
- Average profit margin
Or anything else you believe may be relevant. Once you input all the data, you’ll see what data is actually extraneous—and what data is surprisingly helpful.
Construction can be a difficult industry to break into, but with a solid strategy, your field sales team can position your firm for major success. Experiment with the suggestions in this guide and see what gets you the best results!