Sales is a Numbers Game

Construction & Engineering

What business activity makes the most $$$ for your construction company? I bet you didn’t say: ‘sales!’ To most contractors, their total sales effort is no more than picking up a set of plans from a customer, estimating the job, turning in a bid, and then waiting for the results. They rely heavily on price to sell most jobs. As the competition has increased and the profit margins continue to stay low, many company owners have thought about how to increase their sales and make more money. Some have even decided to hire a salesperson to increase their revenue. But then what? These frustrated owners don’t know how to manage a salesperson to get the results they need or want.

Sales is simple & easy

It’s a numbers game. When professional salespeople make regular sales calls on the right targeted prospects, your company will get your share of their business. When you don’t make the calls, you won’t get the business. It’s like professional hockey. The team that takes the most shots, usually wins the game. The more sales calls, the more new business. Simple and easy.

Most business owners don’t like to make sales calls. So they try to encourage their estimator to make them. Most estimators are not built to sell. They’re built to analyze a set of plans, use their calculators and computers, and put a price on a specified amount of work. Like business owners, estimators also don’t like to get out of their comfort zone, go out and make sales calls, and spend any time selling.

Why do companies stop growing?

A major reason small to medium size construction companies struggle is caused by not having a focused sales and marketing plan. They mainly rely on old customers to call and their reputation to earn the right to be awarded enough work to make any profit. Successful companies have written sales systems and marketing plans to pro-actively and aggressively look for and attack new customers.

As I observe successful subcontractors, there is a common thread. They have a plan to find and attract new customers and follow it diligently. Every week they come by their customer’s offices as a part of their regular sales routine to meet with project managers, and build relationships with those who award contracts. They always seem to be in the right place at the right time, are always in the selling mode, and ready when an opportunity arises. The majority of contractors wait until customers call them, while successful contractors are already there waiting for an opportunity to attack.

A pro-active sales plan starts with a required standard of performance excellence. These winning standards include the number of sales calls per day, number of customer lunches per week, number of face to face meetings per week, number of proposals, and total proposal volume per month. To know how you’re doing, you’ve got to keep score.

Keeping score with salespeople is often difficult, as they tend to not want to be tied down to a set number of calls required. They like to let their instincts take them through the day. They don’t like to be held accountable to a minimum standard, and don’t like to track numbers. They also don’t like to write, don’t like discipline, and don’t want to follow a written plan. They generally feel their gift of gab will get them through and reap enough results. But without numbers to hit, most salespeople will fail and not meet your expectations.

Sales numbers to track:

  • The type of customers you want
  • The markets you want to attack
  • The project locations you like
  • The project sizes you want
  • The minimum fee per job
  • Sales calls per day
  • Leads from calls
  • Face to face meetings per week
  • Proposals from leads
  • Proposal follow-up tracking
  • Proposals or bids hit
  • Referrals from customers
  • Average job size
  • Average profit margin

What’s your sales success system?

To win more jobs, you must know your numbers and keep track of your weekly sales efforts. Every Monday you must sit down with your sales, estimating, and project managers to review the sales progress from the previous week, and layout a sales plan for the next four upcoming weeks. Without a weekly sales meeting, everyone stays busy doing their jobs, working with existing customers, bidding, building projects, and don’t put a top focus or priority on winning new contracts or building relationships with existing customers.

Laying out a sales plan starts with determining how much business you need to cover your overhead plus meet your profit goals. Follow this example to review how tracking sales numbers works:

Acme Construction Company

1. Annual Overhead $ 750,000
2. Annual Profit Goal $250,000
3. Total Overhead + Profit Goal $1,000,000
4. Average Gross Profit Margin anticipated 20%
5. Annual Sales required to meet goals ($1,000,000/ .20) $5,000,000
6. Average Job Size $250,000
7. Jobs Needed 20
8. Average Bid-Hit Ratio @1/5 20%
9. Annual Bids needed 100
10. Bids & Proposals needed per month 8.3
11. Face To Face Meetings Per Bid @1/3 33%
12. Face To Face Meetings needed per month 25
13. Sales phone calls per Appointment made 25%
14. Sales Phone Calls needed per month 100

In this example, Acme Construction needs to do $5,000,000 in sales to generate $1,000.000 in overhead and profit for the upcoming year. Based on the market they are in and their track record, they are averaging awards on one winning project for every five they bid. With an average job size of $250,000, they need to be awarded 20 jobs this year. This equals 100 bids or proposals will be required for them to hit their goals.

To convert your business plan into a sales plan, follow the Acme Construction’s tracking example. For every 3 customer face to face meetings they generate which appear to be real opportunities to bid on, they convert one into a bid or proposal. In order to gain enough bid opportunities someone from Acme needs to meet with 25 potential customers per month. For every sales phone call made, one in four convert to an appointment or face to face meeting with a potential customer. To keep on target, at least 100 sales phone calls per month to generate enough revenue, bids, proposals, and activity to meet their overall sales and profit goals.

The question is, how many calls can a salesperson make or how many sales people does it take to keep this sales plan working? In most companies, a portion of new work opportunities come from existing customers and referral lead sources. And another portion must come from your sales effort. How many sales phone calls, face to face meetings, and appointments can a salesperson make in a week? The best way to find out is to ask your salesperson and then keep track. You’ll find that at a minimum, a good salesperson should average a minimum of two to four phone cold calls per hour and at least two to three face to face meaningful meetings a day. That doesn’t sound like much, but it will be enough if they are calling on the right customer targets.

Based on the Acme example, 25 meetings are needed every month. If a sales person makes 2 face to face meetings a day, they should be able to meet the companies goals. Based on Acme’s needs, they would set the salesperson’s performance goals as follows:

Sales Performance Goals
Phone Sales Calls per week 25 to 35
Customer Meetings per week 7 to 15
Bids & Proposals needed per month 8 to 10

Sales Tracking Report

In order to keep your sales people focused on the right projects and new customer targets, you will have to manage the process. Every Monday, review every lead, sales phone call, and customer meeting with your salesperson. Review which customers targets were attempted and which are still needed. Create a new list of leads to attack and keep the salesperson focused on the big targets.

This meeting will insure your sales efforts continue. Over time, some salespeople tend to stop going after new accounts as they get comfortable on their route of customers they know. The tracking system will keep them on track with existing and new customers to call on.

Sales Tracking Log

Date Customer Target Contact & Information Opportunity Follow-Up Type

The ‘Type’ refers to the type of contact your salesperson had with the customer. It could be a Phone Call, Meeting, Meal, Event, Bid, or Proposal. I am a firm believer that a phone call or email are tools to set meetings with your customers. In hockey, you don’t win the games making good passes, only by taking good shots at the goal.

In sales tracking, I don’t give salespeople credit for phone calls. Only face to face meetings or appointments count. On the phone, customers don’t always tell you everything you need to know about the potential project. In a face to face setting, you can start to build relationships, read your customer’s body language, and get to really know them. So the more meetings, the more success you will have. And frequency is the key to unlocking success in your sales team. As J. Paul Getty once said: ‘Rise early, work late & strike oil!” To be successful in sales: “Rise early, work late & strike often!”


Only deposit products are FDIC insured.

The information provided is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice or recommendations for any specific individual, business, or circumstance. TowneBank cannot guarantee that it is accurate, up to date, or appropriate for your situation. Financial calculators are provided for illustrative purposes only. You are encouraged to consult with a qualified attorney or financial advisor to understand how the law applies to your particular circumstances or for financial information specific to your personal or business situation.

Back to Top