The landscape industry is in growth mode again. This increases the competition and forces all of us to re-examine our bid processes and to lower our costs, bid smarter and close more sales.

How can you be competitive, continue to be profitable and win more bids? Follow some of these rules before, during and after the bid process and you’ll win more bids.

Prequalify each and every bid request. Ask qualifying questions before you accept the bid request to save time and money. Knowing your niche will help you focus on the type of work that will allow you to become more profitable in the long run. Some jobs may be too large or too small. Some may be out of your service area or not part of your specialty. Be careful about chasing these jobs.

The location of the property will be critical if you focus mainly on residential work. The smaller the job, the less revenue it will provide you and the smaller the profit margin. Fuel prices are increasing again, causing your vendors to increase their prices, too. The combination of windshield time (unbillable time) and fuel costs is reason enough to build route density. To do this you must put extra effort into marketing and selling.

Also, ask why prospects are requesting a bid. Many commercial property management companies require three to five bids. Are they calling you just for an extra bid? Figure out how large the job is to help determine if it can be measured in the time allowed. You don’t want to lose a bid by not giving yourself enough time to get the bid together. If it helps, put together a questionnaire for all your prospects when they call for a bid request.

Once you’re confident that you want to bid the property and you can cover your costs (including overhead) and still make what you feel is an acceptable profit, set up a time to meet with the property manager to review the specifics. Walk the property with the manager if possible. Find out what kind of quality the manager is looking for. This is also a good time to investigate further the reason they’re going out to bid. Are the property manager looking for a lower cost due to a smaller budget? Or is the manager unsatisfied with the quality of service that the property is presently receiving?

Prepare a portfolio

Put together a portfolio of your current or past jobs and share it with the property manager. This will provide them with confidence that you can deliver a high-quality service. Everyone says they provide the best service and top quality for the price, but giving them proof that you’re reliable and can deliver value will help justify your claims.

If you find out that price is a big factor in their decision process (When isn’t it?), don’t become discouraged. Price is always a key factor, but an equally large factor is trust. By building a relationship of trust with them, they may pull for you if the price differences of the bids are close. While you’re walking the property, point out improvements you can make to their property, such as any irrigation leaks that may need repair, possible plant replacements, or anything that shows you’re taking an added interest in the curb appeal of their property.

Building a relationship will take time and effort. If you’ve built that relationship and feel comfortable, ask what the budget constraints are for that property. If you know you cannot stay within that budget be prepared to offer budget alternatives. This can include changing the amount of services included in the monthly price of a maintenance bid. Providing the client with the bare minimum of services will greatly lower the monthly cost to them.

Be proactive in providing the client with a proposal to complete enhancements when they come due: for example, overseeding, weed control, flower change-outs and fertilizations. Excluding these enhancements from the agreed price can also help you better plan your costs and make increases when gasoline or vendor prices increase to you. If you bid the monthly low, you can try to pick up some profit in the extras by more closely controlling labor.

Under promise, over deliver

When you receive the job, perform the way you said you would perform. Don’t lower your price and then cut corners to make money. Do your best to make a profit or break even while providing the service you sold them on. You may find that the economy has caused you to lower your prices. If you ride the wave while the economy recovers, remain true to your quality of work, and do your best to keep your own budgets tight you will come out on top and beat the competition in the long run.

If you’re a newer company, it may be harder to build brand awareness and get property managers to trust in your service. The first few years you are in business you may have to charge a lower price and earn a lower profit than competitors in your market. But over time you should win over the clients as long as the level of the quality of the service that you provides meets clients’ expectations.

Ask for the opportunity and prove the value of your services. If you stay committed to providing a high level of services you will eventually be recognized as a premium brand that will allow you to charge a higher price. Consumers pay more for high-quality branded products, such as Apple, Mercedes and Coach, because they know that they are superior products.

The landscape maintenance industry continues to grow and your business must stand out from competitors. Find out who your real competitors are, what they’re doing, and find ways to exceed the level of their services. But, don’t neglect what you do best. Continue to build upon that so that you are recognized as the best in whatever that particular service is.

Show the property manager how you can make their life easier by being proactive, taking an interest in their property, and convincing them you will be an extra set of eyes on the property.

Take pride in the work that you do and it will show through referrals and your reputation. It will take time to build your up a respected reputation, but it could take only a day to ruin that reputation by a bad referral. So, even if you do not receive the bid, respond with respect and be thankful for the opportunity.

This article is from the 2014 Green Industry Guide. Read the rest of the digital edition here. You can find products, brands, companies and dealers in the industry on the main homepage.