Post written by Mark Ciccarelli, manager of Neave Group’s snow and ice management department.

This time of the season is the absolute worst for a snow contract sales person! Getting contract “decision makers” on the phone and getting property managers to think about snow before we’re buried knee deep in the stuff is quite the task.

Are we pricing our properties correctly? Are we too expensive? Are we too cheap? Does this property manager really want the service we provide? Can they “get by” with another contractor who’s not so professional in order to save a buck? Well the answer to all these questions, in my mind, and many other questions like these is an astounding “maybe?” Huh?

This year I’ve heard more horror stories about other contractors than ever before. Was it worth the buck they saved last season when we had so much snow the contractors simply stopped showing up, or refused to come and repair damage they caused?

There are many different views on value, or “perceived value”. To each individual the idea of value or what someone is willing to pay in exchange for a service is very different. The best part is when the decision on the service for the site is made from four states away. I love that one.

Not to mention we are already behind the eight ball because those who work in the snow and ice management industry are, for the most part, already thought of as one of those “anyone with a truck and a plow can do it” type of services. Unfortunately for most, that couldn’t be further from the truth. With our public “sue first and ask questions later” mentality, professional snow and ice management services are a necessity now more than ever before.

So why is it so hard to get these properties contracted? How do you set yourself apart from other contractors who are offering the same service at a cheaper price? The bottom line is that each contractor is not offering up the same service for a cheaper price. It’s really the perceived value that the property manager is looking at when their decision is being made.

This couldn’t be truer when you hear they “went with the low bid”, or “we were too much”, or “our price was too high”. All that really means to me is we didn’t explain our value to the client properly.

Granted someone’s always going to know someone else personally, or the property manager’s third cousin on his mother’s side owns an excavating company and I owe him a favor… that kind of stuff. But for the most part it is our job, as snow and ice professionals, to explain our value to the potential client, to reduce their risk and provide a much needed professional service to their properties, all the while being compensated for providing that professional service.

Now…on to my comparison.

So, my lease is up on my truck and it’s time for a new one. Comparison = my contract is up and I need a new contractor? I equate my looking for a new vehicle to that of a property manager looking for a contractor for their snow and ice management needs. What am I looking for in a vehicle? I’m looking for a vehicle that will mitigate risk for me. I want something safe for my girls and wife. I want something that looks nice, gets good gas mileage, and is roomy for the family. I want something that I can drive and feel I’m getting my monies worth. Something that won’t break down and cost me an arm and a leg to repair. I want something that will show up to work every time I turn the ignition!

Isn’t a car a car? Aren’t they all the same? Isn’t a Kia SUV the same as a Mercedes SUV? Although KIAs are nice they certainly aren’t a Mercedes. But don’t they all get you from point A to point B? If that was the case wouldn’t we all be paying for and driving around essentially the same car? Then why do people drive a Mercedes? It is perceived value.

Comparison time. Aren’t all contractors the same? Don’t they all service your property in the same professional manor? Won’t every snow and ice contractor provide the client with the exact same service for the exact same price? Why would I pay $30,000 for a vehicle (or a service) when I could get that same vehicle for $20,000? I think the answer is simple. I cannot get the same vehicle or service for 20k. The reason I would be willing to pay the 30k is the perceived value I’m obtaining with the more expensive vehicle. I can get my risk mitigated and my “wants” fulfilled at 30K.

It’s our job as professionals to educate our potential clients on our value.

I truly feel we provide an outstanding service to our clients. I know for a fact we offer more value to our clients than our competitors. How? By going the extra mile for our clients, by offering mandatory daily site checks, offering 24 hour time stamped call in center for all services we supply, and by having staff held solely responsible for their individual sites. The training program our staff is required to fulfill is second to none.

It’s so difficult, expensive and time consuming to get our “book of business” established. I feel it is our obligation to not only fulfill our clients expectations, but to exceed them. This might sound a little cliché but our retention rate speaks for itself. We retain over 95% of all our clients which has led us into the top 100 snow and ice contractors in North America for the past three years. I’m convinced it’s because of our commitment to our clients that this has happened.