Follow "By the Number$"

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hiring Sales People in the Construction Industry

One of the hardest challenges in any business is hiring good sales people who can sell. If you are looking to hire people who can sell, are good estimators, and do well at managing projects you might be destined to fail before you even start. They are three different skill sets that make up good sales people, estimators, and project managers.
To be a great sales person one must be driven and communicate well with customers. To be a good estimator one must be detail-oriented. To be a good project manager one must be organized. Unfortunately, the really successful sales people are neither detail-oriented nor organized. The ones that have all three skill sets are typically running their own companies. The chance of finding a person with all three skill sets is slim to none. If you do find this prospect, you may soon discover they will be out on their own doing it for themselves.

What is the solution?

Since most of us in this economy cannot afford or compete with all the extra overhead of two extra people many successful contractors are turning to automated estimating tools that allow good sales people to become better estimators and project managers. We’re talking about automated estimating systems that allow sales people to estimate faster, create more accurate proposals, and once the proposals are signed to be able to communicate what was sold more effectively with their vendors and internal employees.
There are many adequate unit price estimating systems that can generate proposals for the customer to sign. The problem with unit price estimating systems is that it is very difficult to order or budget from a unit price. Once the job is sold, someone has yet to complete a detailed estimate/budget and communicate that information to the vendors and internal employees.
You could also invest in estimating systems that allow you to communicate more effectively with vendors and employees. These estimating systems allow you to estimate in greater detail; faster. They also automatically generate budgets, purchase orders, subcontracts, and work orders from the estimate. Unfortunately, many of these estimating systems do a poor job of generating proposals for the customer to sign creating redundant work. Another issue is the proposal/specification are not integrated and transferred automatically to the purchase orders, subcontracts, or work orders. There could be an overlap or error in communication between what was sold to the customer, the vendors, and employees.
Contractors Software Group (CSG) has developed two estimating products that incorporate both philosophies into one solution. With an integrated solution, your sales people can become better estimators and project managers. CSG has incorporated within their estimating software the ability to build bid sheet templates of cost items and assemblies broken down by category of work and/or by location. Attached to these items and assemblies are specifications. Once you merge these templates into your estimate and enter quantities, footages or lump sum amounts, you are generating the proposal for the customer to sign at the same time. This way, what is sold is also being estimated. Since CSG is attaching vendors to cost items in the templates you can automatically generate request for quotes, purchase orders, subcontract agreements, and work orders for vendors and employees. This way what was sold to the customer via the proposal is automatically transferred to these documents, which improves communication. With fully integrated estimating, proposal/specification, and purchasing software your sales people can be better estimators and project managers.

Contractors Software Group also develops lead tracking, follow-up marketing, customer service, scheduling, and job cost accounting products. These products are fully integrated with their estimating software products so everyone involved in the project are working together for the same common goal. In this economy, when everyone is asked to do more with less, fully integrated software streamlines your business.

Written by Jeff Knutson / J. Knutson & Associates' President
1-800-866-3083 / /

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What Makes a Software Implementation Successful versus a Failed Attempt?

There have been many cases where builders and contractors have purchased software and the implementation was unsuccessful. There can be many reasons for an unsuccessful implementation of a new software package.
It could be a lack of skill sets in employees, lack of commitment to invest in proper training, or the lack of dedication from employees to change. It simply could be the product just wasn’t a fit.
The skill sets of employees are very important for a successful installation of software. One of the biggest mistakes builders and contractors make is assuming someone who knows computers is the right person to setup their computer system. Just because someone in your office knows computers does not also make them an expert in setting up an automated estimating system, CRM, or job cost accounting system. No different in asking your accountant to setup your estimating system or vice versa.
The person delegated to setup the system should be the one in your organization who fully understands the processes and procedures you are trying to automate. It is very important they have the knowledge or the skill set for the process of procedures you are asking them to automate. This is not to say that an individual without the pertinent skill sets cannot successfully implement a software system but the in-depth training could significantly raise costs and time. This leads to the next reason for failure of a successful implementation.
The lack of commitment from management to invest in implementation training and ongoing support can result in an unsuccessful installation. Implementation services includes: training staff on proper setup, conversion of current data, and training on the proper day-to-day use of the software capabilities. Ongoing support is helping staff with problems after the implementation is complete. In order to receive full benefit from a software system, you need to fully understand all the features of the product. The whole purpose of an automated system is to make your business run better. Investing in training and support to better understand each feature will ensure success.
Another reason for a failed software installation is a company’s employees’ unwillingness to change. People get comfortable with their present way of handling a current process or procedure so they avoid change. For many of us, change is hard because there is fear of the unknown. In many cases, a company that provides expertise in implementing software can overcome fear of change or the unwillingness for change with proper training. If that does not work, take a moment to reflect back on the skill sets of the people designated for the tasks of the position.
Lastly, a failed installation of software is you simply purchased the wrong program for your business. Typically, if you have done your due diligence this is unlikely. Most people would like to suppose this is the main reason for failure but if you worked with a professional provider they would have helped you select the right solution for your business and made an honest recommendation. If a program is unfitting for you and your company and you have exhausted all of the above alternatives (training, support, employees, etc.), perhaps there was not enough education or research done on the product itself.
The key to a successful installation comes down to getting your company fully educated on the software products you purchased. Moreover, invest in the proper training and ongoing support to get your system up and running for swifter results and long term success. Working with a qualified provider of construction software who has a complete understanding of your operations and experienced staff to aide in the implementation will help to guarantee a successful software installation.

Written By JKA President / / / 800-866-3083