Jarrod Warkentin explains 14 key tips that have helped his company, Spartan Pest Control, acquire commercial accounts over the past 10 years, from small locations, to large corporate multi-account set ups.
Numerous studies that have been completed in recent years concerning the pest control field indicate a large percentage of pest management professionals (PMPs) get their sales from residential services. Almost 70 percent is residential, while only 30 percent of sales are from the commercial sector. This is a surprising imbalance and of course can vary from company to company. These tips will help you get a head start and begin to build your own commercial empire.
When creating a pest control marketing strategy, it’s best to have one for residential and a separate plan for commercial. This is mainly because the markets are completely different. Clients resonate differently with diverse content; therefore, the commercial sector requires a unique marketing strategy, more reporting and accountability. Gone are the days of “I’ll be there between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.” If a customer’s business is facing an active pest issue, most want it resolved right away.
When it comes to marketing a pest management company in the commercial sector, create a plan of action with detailed steps. Here are some suggestions on how to acquire those guaranteed monthly contracts that will cement your position in the pest control industry for years to come.
1. Utilize your digital assets.
The use of social media platforms, websites and other technology is now more important than ever. Social media is not only a tool to get exposure but a necessary time investment for the expansion and growth of your pest control business. You can incorporate ads on your Facebook business page and create a direct channel with your commercial clients on Twitter. LinkedIn is also a great social media platform to market not only your business and services, but your personal image as a PMP as well.
Creating a blog for your pest control business is essential. For instance, it helps your business get its name out through posts and associated data in the industry. However, keep in mind that one of the primary keys of blogging is updating it frequently. Another strategy is to completely optimize your blog (and website) for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Having a website with good SEO cannot be underestimated in the era of continuous Googling. Spend the time to learn about how SEO works or hire an expert to make sure your website is primed for high performance on search engines. If Google doesn’t like your website, say goodbye to organic search results.
Key tip to try: Posting a simple social media update, with a photo of a wasp nest being removed or skunks being relocated, every 2-3 days on Facebook can help build trust between you and potential customers.
2. Don’t service commercial accounts with residential experts.
It won’t take long to understand the various services needed to thrive in the field of commercial pest control. Your PMPs should be held to high standards and will need to adhere to the customer’s business requirements all while operating within their scope of practice. Operators who used to show up at home within an 8-hour window will find it hard to adjust their schedule to tight deadlines and after-hours work. Additionally, the PMP will be required to check and update the pest sightings log, complete application reports, trap scanning, fly lights, bird control, fumigation and much more. In some cases, it’s good to have one or two PMPs who specialize in commercial services as this ensures the customer gets someone with the experience and knowledge suitable for their commercial pest issue.
Key tip to try: Do not push your accounts to the next day, week or month as there are several businesses in line behind you just waiting for a slip up to swoop in and take over the account.
3. Improve your online brand presence.
Place your pest control brand as an authority in the industry by using superior quality content that offers value to commercial clients. Use elements like testimonials from other commercial accounts and always post images that showcase your work, progress, and success. Post images from jobs that involve anything pigeon related (this can be netting, exclusion, trapping, baiting). Presentation is key and will make your level of authority in the industry much greater while putting building managers at ease knowing they are hiring professionals.
Make sure you are consistent with your branding. For example, on every image you post online, put your logo in the bottom corner so customers see it often. It’s common for businesses to use numerous channels to connect with clients such as their website, social media networks or blog. Optimizing your website for higher performance on search engines is a better way to drive traffic to a site and enhance brand visibility.
Key tip to try: An online gallery is a great way to show customers a wide variety of services you offer, from cockroach infestations to mouse clean up and sanitation services. For example, before and after shots from pigeon clean up services and waste removal.
4. Commit yourself and plan your strategies.
Invest the effort, time and resources to train a commercial sales teams at your pest control company. Keep in mind this is not like most residential selling strategies. Commercial sales reps must understand the unique prerequisites of commercial clients. Apart from being energetic salespeople, they must be educators as well. If the client understands the treatment process and what’s required of them, the sales rate skyrockets. Organize your strategic sales procedures and training properly. This is not only a sales pitch but also a means of allowing people in the commercial spectrum to understand the services your company offers and how it will benefit their business in both the short- and long-term. Make sure your sales team or PMPs are trained and well-equipped to respond to tough questions, particularly the money-related ones. It’s also OK to say “I don’t know,” but make sure to get them an answer right away. Follow up is key.
Key tip to try: A great sales pitch for any commercial account is to offer a free audit. Take the 15 to 30 minutes and do a thorough inspection of the entire property taking relevant images as you go. Nine times out of ten there is something their current pest control provider isn’t doing properly or not keeping up to date. It’s as simple as a glue board not changed in 6 months or fly light bulbs that are 3 years old. Even if the commercial account chooses to continue with their current provider, know they will be watching the services more closely moving forward. If the company doesn’t shape up, they know who to call.
5. Be confident.
Don’t allow the speed of the marketplace to scare you. You are a professional in the pest control industry, and regardless of how big or small the account is, speak with confidence and above all, be respectful.
Key tip to try: Confidence is not something you are born with, it comes easier to some more than others, but it’s all a mindset. I found listening to audiobooks while driving from one account to another helped me understand the basics on facing rejection and moving forward. It is not personal.
6. Understand the industry.
Create an effective marketing strategy and follow it. Structure is key when selling commercial contracts. Always have a plan in place for each specific pest control issue a commercial account might face. While selling, you must be highly personable but also hold the knowledge of basic chemical application and problem solving. For smaller pest control providers without an active sales team, this is the easy part. As a PMP, there’s nothing easier than selling something you completely understand and can provide an immediate answer to. If you do have a sales team, take them out for a few days in the field and have them experience firsthand what commercial accounts encounter.
Key tip to try: Once you build a strong relationship with one property manager, ask them about their other properties. In a lot of cases they manage more than one building. This is a great way to gain new accounts all from one solid business relationship.
7. Transform potential customers into high-quality leads.
Reach potential clients by identifying and transforming them into high-quality leads. This can be achieved with the utilization of elements such as networking in Facebook groups, forums, email lists, friends and family. Strive to identify potential buyers and motivate the decision-makers to understand your business and services. You can use strong advertising and recommendations from other clients. The number of individuals you meet in a commercial spectrum has a larger impact on the amount of business you get.
Key tip to try: A simple online search for “business networking” will pull up a list of sites to find business owners and staff contacts. Take restaurants for example, everyone knows at least one person who is a bartender, server, front of house, cook or manager. Getting a quality lead is the easy part, so much information is available online, it’s what you do with the lead afterward that matters.
8. Create and maintain a lead list.
Create a list of leads and make sure that it’s being kept up-to-date daily. There are many software programs out there that automate this process and allow the creation and addition of team roles, edits, updates etc. I found Google Docs works great at tracking most details regarding a lead, status and actionable steps moving forward. Corporate individuals are always busy, so getting on their bad side by annoying them with endless calls is the last thing you want. Instead, create a spread sheet that shows when and how you contacted them. I found that once every 3 to 4 weeks is ideal, anything more and you could become an annoyance, anything less and they may forget about you and hire a competitor.
Key tip to try: Don’t write a 3,000-word email and expect a potential lead to read it. Make an easy to read, bullet point form, single paragraph email showcasing your company’s strengths and differences. I always like to offer a free audit at the end and phone call to answer all questions pest control related. Once you have created a template, you can use it for all prospects in the future.
9. Don’t oversell current customers.
Overselling customers can lead to cancellations. It’s hard to find the perfect balance between cost and service, but I found breaking the total monthly cost into separate categories or services works well. For example, if the customer has a rodent issue in their restaurant, don’t sell them a program that covers rodents plus 30 more pests, they don’t need it. This tactic works great for residential customers as the jobs are quick, and straight forward. However, for commercial clientele, the pest issues tend to involve much more work and problem solving. If you do an initial inspection and find they have a secondary pest issue, offer that pest as an add on service.
Key tip to try: I made one big mistake during the first few years of selling commercial pest control, I thought the customer would prefer a lower monthly rate, and that the cost for materials upfront wouldn’t be an issue, I was wrong. Most commercial accounts tend to lean toward the product rental option over buying the materials outright.
For example: Let’s say a tin cat costs you $9, you sell them for $20, and a restaurant needs 15 for an effective rodent program. Instead of charging $300 upfront with a monthly service fee of $75 per month, charge $86.25 per month and include the rental of the 15 stations. If a trap gets damaged or goes missing, the customer would then be charged the $20 rate to replace it. Yes, it’s a larger upfront cost to you, but after a 1-year contract, the client just paid the entire cost of set up, and they are yours to keep. If they cancel, collect the traps, and use them at the next account. This returns 100 percent profit as the traps are already paid for, yet you can still charge the rental cost. If the customer signs for a second year and they don’t cancel, you just increased your monthly revenue without having to charge your customer extra. This same tactic can be used for interior and exterior bait stations, fly lights, tin cats, washroom care, etc.
10. Synchronize your business.
Synchronizing your business sales objectives and your marketing policy will help you gauge your success accurately. Keep an eye on your resources and make sure that you’re utilizing them to the best of your capability. Manage your online presence and measure your return on investment any time you can. One of the best ways to manage your online presence is by ensuring you maintain a good reputation. For a great online presence, avoid the things that might damage your reputation. Information and data on the internet get transferred at lighting speeds. So, if you post rude, snarky, or inappropriate content it can ruin your reputation and will be seen by past, current, and future customers.
Key tip to try: When customers leave a positive review on Google, reach out and ask them to post to other platforms like Facebook or Yelp. If you have 100 reviews on one platform and 10 on another, it can cause confusion not only in Google’s eyes, but the eyes of the customers as well. You want clients to search your brand and be hit with a wave of positive feedback from multiple sources further indicating you are a trustworthy brand. This goes for both residential and commercial clients.
11. Diversify the accounts you sell and prepare for cancellations.
Question, would you rather have 10 large contracts at $1,000 per month, or 100 smaller contracts at $100 per month. I would choose 100 accounts. Why? Accounts cancel — it’s a fact. Cancellations can be due to many reasons, but unless it was a direct cause of poor service on your part, don’t take offense. Of course, it’s best to have both in an ideal scenario, but make sure all your eggs aren’t in just one or two baskets. By diversifying your commercial portfolio, you can remain profitable during a recession.
Key tip to try: Don’t only focus on one industry. There are hundreds of potential industries you probably haven’t even thought of that require pest control and monitoring services. As mentioned above, if you diversify your commercial accounts and spread them between categories like warehousing, restaurants, hospitals, oil and gas, residential and recreational, you will stay strong during an economic downfall. Create a spreadsheet with all current commercial customers and their correlating industries, you should have a clear understanding on diversity and what needs growth to become diversified.
12. Don’t undersell your services.
When providing a formal quote to potential commercial clients, do not undersell. In most cases, if the client chooses a pest control firm solely based on price, let them. I have come to realize that you get what you pay for. Remember, you are the professional, the customer is paying for expert advice, service and recommendations. There’s a reason you need training, experience and specific licensing to offer commercial-grade pest control services. Not everyone can do it. Know your worth and above all else, go above and beyond for the client to justify the contract price.
Key tip to try: Always have a base price for each industry. For example, I never take on a restaurant for less than $55 per month. Why? It’s not worth my time, chemicals, vehicle wear and tear, experience, etc. The last thing you want is to take on a commercial account for a less than desirable amount and dread every time it’s their turn for service. This will lead to poor service, and cancellations.
13. The customer is always right… right?
As a skilled salesperson, you need to understand when to drop a lead and focus your efforts elsewhere. Too many times have I signed a contract with a client just to get the sale who I knew deep inside would be a hassle and honestly not worth the trouble. The “customer is always right” motto has some truth behind it, but when clients choose to ignore your professional advice yet proceed to blame you for their constant pest problem, it’s a battle you won’t win.
Key tip to try: When a restaurant owner makes initial contact and is willing to sign a contract right away, half the time it’s because they are unhappy with their current provider, but not for the reasons you think. Often, I show up and the kitchen is a complete mess, has several unfixed entry points, and many open, competing food sources. These accounts are tough. On one hand it’s recurring revenue, on the other hand track record shows that the owner and staff likely won’t follow recommendations given and the pest issues will continue with blame being pointed at you. I approach these accounts in three ways.
- Charge for the initial inspection, provide a detailed report, take several images, and note clear recommendations to follow. Then, once the recommendations have been completed you take on the account.
- Charge as a one-time service with guarantee for the pest control issue at hand. If they fail to follow proper sanitation and structural guidelines, void the warranty.
- Take the account and hope they understand the reasoning behind their current pest activity and what needs to be done to resolve it. Always have a stipulation in your contract that allows you to cancel at any time, for any reason.
14. Tap into your business software.
One of the most important tools when selling and servicing commercial accounts is pest control software. There are several service providers that charge a monthly or yearly fee for an all-in-one program that’s specifically designed for pest control. It’s always best to sign up for a free trial and find out which provider works best for you. Most offer 14 to 30 days free.
Key tip to try: Trap scanning, whether you’re a one-person operation, or employ 100 PMPs, trap scanning and image reporting are the easiest ways to monitor pest activity and trending data. Not only does it allow your PMP to view and report real-time data, it’s also a great selling feature when promoting your services to clients. It gives customers the ability to view items like invoices, trending reports, traps conditions, bait feeding levels, chemicals used, and images. It’s so incredibly efficient and easy to set up, in my opinion professional software is well worth the money. Being able to offer trap scanning and reporting to commercial clients is a great way to show the service is being completed and provides peace of mind.
Boost company growth
Commercial pest control opportunities are growing as more and more buildings are being constructed. The time is now to build your commercial pest control clientele. If you want to grow a sustainable, recession proof and successful commercial pest control business, use the tips above. Remember, in the pest control industry, it’s far better to be proactive, than reactive.
Jarrod Warkentin is a Service Route Manager for Spartan Pest Control in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He can be reaching at email@example.com.