The hard truth of the day: the janitorial industry is known for contractors who compete primarily on price.
They swoop in with their promises of being the best / the greenest / the most reliable, then they underbid on the contract, and underperform on the job.
This means that janitorial companies like yours — who work hard, pay their employees well, and keep happy customers — need to bake your unique awesomeness into every aspect of your sales process to win the contract without lowering your bid.
In other words, your efforts to impress a potential client can’t stop when you leave the walk-through.
The good news is that a cleaning services proposal is a great tool for driving home how your company is different from the competition — and it’s one many janitorial businesses don’t use to its full potential.
In this article, we’ll look at how to write a commercial cleaning services proposal that allows you to seal the deal, without lowering your price.
We’ve divided this article up into one major “DON’T” and a few key “DO’s”.
First, let’s get that “don’t” out of the way:
Don’t focus too much on cleaning
That’s right. If you got as far as sending your potential new customer a cleaning services estimate, then they trust that you have the proper supplies and equipment and that your staff knows how to clean.
And believe it or not, the average person isn’t all that interested in commercial cleaning (strange, I know).
Instead, your business proposal should focus on a few key things that make you stand out to get the prospect excited to hire your team.
Side note: I know the client getting excited about their cleaning company sounds unlikely, but when Swept CEO Mike Brown ran a janitorial business he had a client tell him his company was “cool.” A cleaning company? Cool? Mike thought he misheard the person.
But the lesson here? That is exactly the kind of comment you should aim for!
So now that we have the “don’t” out of the way, here are six things your company should communicate in every cleaning services proposal, introduction letter, quote, or any other communication you have with your sales lead.
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1. Communicate why you do what you do
If you’re a business owner and have never heard Simon Sinek talk about starting with “why”, it’s worth the 18 minutes.
If you don’t have 18 minutes, here’s the Coles Notes version:
Most businesses understand the need to communicate what they do.
Example: Janitorial services in Philadelphia.
Some businesses talk about how they do it.
Example: Quality services dedicated to meeting all client expectations.
Very few businesses communicate why they exist.
Example: To create meaningful jobs where cleaners feel valued, recognized as individuals, and that their work impacts the lives of others.
Sinek lays this out in what he calls, “The Golden Circle”:
What Sinek shows is that shifting the conversation to talk about your ‘why’ can have a huge impact on a customer’s perception of your business.
Using this approach, the what you do is simply the proof of what your company believes — your why.
So the question becomes, what is your why?
The best place to describe your ‘why’ is in the introduction letter at the beginning of your proposal. For a great example of an introduction letter, check out this cleaning services proposal template created by Proposify.
2. Communicate how you’re different from the competition
This is probably the most important “do” on the list. How you’re different from the competition shouldn’t live in just one specific section, five pages in. It shouldn’t be subtly hinted at, as if you’re afraid someone might notice you do things differently.
Your differentiation should be woven throughout your whole business proposal, loud and clear.
As I eluded to earlier, so many companies refer to themselves as ‘the best.’ Hopefully, I don’t need to explain the problem with every business owner and their dog using that title.
As long as you know that ‘the best’ isn’t a great way to make yourself stand out, we can move on to more unique qualities you can highlight for prospective customers.
If you’re not sure what makes you different, think through the various processes in your business that impact customer satisfaction.
- Do you have low cleaner turnover rates because you treat your employees so well? That certainly benefits the customer, although if this is the first time they’ve hired a cleaning company you may need to explain how you make it a great place to work.
- Do you use a unique strategy for ensuring a certain standard of quality? We’ve heard of companies who go into each location they service and hide a small coin or object, and the cleaner who finds it while working receives a prize!
- Do you use innovative technology? When asked if the use of technology to improve communication and quality by a cleaning company would influence their decision to hire one company over another, 96% of business owners said yes!
3. Communicate what your clients think about your services
The fact that you think your company is the bee’s knees is good (confidence is crucial!), but what’s even more important is what others think about your cleaning company.
That’s why every good cleaning service proposal has social proof sprinkled throughout. Social proof is when you use the opinions or actions of people to influence behaviour, so like reviews, case studies, ratings, endorsements, and number of customers or products sold (Think McDonald’s – “Over 99 billion served”).
This is where customer testimonials come in.
Businesses in some industries might be able to get away with generic testimonials from any Joe Schmo, or even go the other direction and quote a client with some level of celebrity status.
You know, like Betty White endorsing Snickers:
But the janitorial industry is way too competitive for irrelevant testimonials to have an impact, and it doesn’t exactly lend itself to celebrity endorsements, either.
Your best bet is to have testimonials on hand from a variety of existing customers so that you can choose the ones that are from clients who are most like the business you’re selling to.
For example, if the proposal you’re working on is for a dentist’s office, choose a testimonial from another dentist office that you clean, if possible. If not, try to look for a testimonial that speaks to the same pain point your prospective client described to you in the walk-through.
4. Communicate how your services will impact their organization (or life!)
As a B2B (business to business) salesperson, it’s easy to forget that even though you’re selling your services to other businesses, it’s a real human being deciding to hire you, and signing the cheque.
In a large organization, the impact of a fresh, clean space could improve team morale, result in fewer sick days, or even increase productivity if employees are otherwise left to do the cleaning themselves.
In a smaller organization, the impact could be more directly on one person, such as the administrative staff responsible for ensuring the space makes a good first impression on clients who come into the office.
Be specific enough that your potential client can picture what that improvement will look like. For instance, at a daycare, a cleaner space means fewer runny noses and feverish kids — something every child care worker (and parent!) loves to hear.
5. Communicate your commitment to them
This one can be tricky.
How do you get across just how serious you are about customer satisfaction to someone?
When the founders of Swept ran their own cleaning company (before transitioning into janitorial software) they told clients this:
We’ll pay you to fire us.
Yup, you read that right.
They offered to pay the bill for their client’s last month of services if they wanted to find a new cleaning company.
A bold statement, but guess how many times they were taken up on that offer? None.
No matter what your schtick, clearly communicate what the customer can expect when they hire your commercial cleaning company.
6. Communicate the next steps
This is less about selling and more about ensuring your first few interactions in your new relationship as client-contractor are positive — that you start off on the right foot.
The most important thing to outline here is how and when you’ll collect payment so that there are no surprises.
Hint: A word of advice — especially to those of you just starting out — bill at the beginning of the month, not the end. It often takes customers two, three, even four weeks to pay you. Best practice is to charge them on the day you begin working so that you have the cash to pay your cleaners for that period of time.
Some final thoughts…
At the end of the day, bidding on cleaning jobs is hard work.
It requires you to identify the prospective client’s daily challenges and needs, the reason they’ve decided to hire a new contractor, and how your company can fill that gap.
From time to time you’ll spend several hours speaking with a customer, walking through their space, and writing a proposal — only to have them go with the lowest bidder.
While this can be incredibly frustrating, (you know as well as I do they won’t be satisfied with the lowest bidder’s services in two months time) it’s often better to dodge those bullets altogether than to invest more time into the relationship.
If you take nothing else from this article, know that each quote you deliver should be wrapped up in a well designed, well thought-out proposal.
It takes time to communicate each of the things we’ve listed above, but doing so will often mean the difference between winning a commercial cleaning contract at the rate you quoted, being bartered with, or worst of all, losing the bid to a competitor.
And the good news is, by using Proposify’s cleaning services template you’ll only need to do most of this work ONCE.