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Monday, October 11, 2010

By the Number$: Eeny, meeny, miny, moe; Purchase Orders save Lots ...

By the Number$: Eeny, meeny, miny, moe; Purchase Orders save Lots ...: "It is an undeniable fact! Just pick 3 of your best suppliers and implement a Purchase Order system with them and see what happens. Two weeks..."

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

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sell More by Automating Your Sales, Marketing and Customer Service Process

Written by CSG President Jeff Knutson e-mail: 800-866-3083

“Whoever controls the leads controls the destiny of their company,” is a simple but successful principle to follow. As word-of-mouth referrals lessen as an outcome to the construction economy, many homebuilders and contractors are turning to CRM programs. A fully integrated sales, marketing and customer service warranty software system will help you generate more leads, sell more, and build happier customers.

Going back to the simple principle, many homebuilders have found out the hard way what happens when you are not in charge of your leads. Many have invested hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars on models and developments only to let outside realtors control their lead management systems. When the housing bubble busted many realtors left with the buyers and basically took their leads with them leaving builders with no prospects and no sales.

Whether you generate a lead from paid advertisements, your web site, search engine optimization, social networks or a happy customer, it still takes time, hard work and money to produce that lead. It is in your best interest to control, track and follow-up on each lead to the best of your ability because each lead is incredibly valuable.

Automated sales and marketing systems have been in existence for years with the intention to help manage prospect and client information. Lead management systems help contractors turn their hottest leads into sales. Most lead management systems track client names, postal addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and demographics. With software programs like SalesBuilder Plus from Contractors Software Group, Inc., builders and contractors are also able to capture ongoing notes and continuing traffic/activities. Several contractors are taking their lead management system to another level by attaching pictures to their blueprints, documents and e-mails. The same contractors are turning programs like SalesBuilder Plus into a central portal for client information for everyone in their organization to access. With the use of laptops and new wireless 4G cards sales people, superintendents or office staff engaged with your clients can have access to contact information anytime from anywhere, thereby reducing communicational errors.

It would be ideal if every lead turned into a sale, but we understand that not every lead qualifies as an “A” lead. Sometimes we come across “B,” “C,” “D” leads. When times are good many of us focus only on the hottest leads, which can be normal. It is not until our ‘sales funnel’ of qualified leads dries up that we start to follow-up on the other leads. Unfortunately, by the time you address your cooler leads, it’s too late. The cool lead has likely purchased from someone else. Wait! There is a solution for reducing the chances of losing these sales!

Using a lead management system, set up pre-defined marketing action plans that are scheduled with telephone calls, e-mails and direct mail marketing campaigns. The action plans can be assigned to prospects and follow suit based upon their ranking (i.e. “A”, “B,” and so on). For instance, perhaps the marketing action plan assigns your “A” leads to receive two calls and one e-mail in one week while your “B” leads receives one call in two weeks with a direct mail item. Based upon the marketing action plan that is scheduled with each lead, the system will automatically notify your sales people and staff that certain marketing tasks need to be completed at a specific date and time.

Software programs like SalesBuilder Plus integrate your e-mails and direct mail allowing for your marketing plans to be done in minutes rather than hours. Once tasks are completed they’re taken off the list. This process provides creates accountability and assures marketing tasks are completed in a timely fashion. Saving time and being organized is cost effective.

Another excellent benefit in using sales and marketing software is the ability to reach more people via e-mail or direct marketing. This especially rings true when you are introducing new products or services. Programs like SalesBuilder Plus are completely integrated to Microsoft Outlook and third party e-mail services making it easy to do broadcast e-mails to hundreds or thousands of contacts in minutes. SalesBuilder Plus also integrates with third party direct mail services so you can get marketing pieces mailed directly to your clients or prospects.

The sales process can be improved and managed as long as you can measure the results. To increase sales Contractors Software Group incorporated within SalesBuilder Plus the tracking and management of job opportunities. Job opportunities are sales opportunities that are attached to prospects or clients. Each opportunity tracks the job type, creation date, job description, sales stage, forecasted close date, % close, the estimated price, selling price and the date sold. With SalesBuilder Plus’ flexible reporting, you can measure the success of your sales process by sales person, job type and by sales stage. You can also generate reports by creation, forecasted or by contract date. These reports can be used to help manage sales people, the sales process and ultimately in the closing of more sales.

You can have the greatest product and market the product well but if you do not have happy referring customers it makes the process of selling much harder. Our best leads come from happy referring customers. To increase the chances of attaining happy, referring customers many contractors are relying on customer service software to generate and track customer ‘Request-for-Service.’ Rather than purchasing a separate customer service application, they are adding to the same program like SalesBuilder Plus that is already tracking their leads and follow-up marketing. When adding features like customer service and warranty to a lead tracking foundation you are eliminating double or triple entry of information. When a customer calls in requesting service, employees can view all information easily, make informed decisions, and quickly generate and track work orders.

Another reason for integrating the follow-up marketing with customer service is that once a prospect is classified as a customer or owner, they can also be assigned a follow-up marketing action plan of phone calls, e-mails and direct mail. With this automated process, your customers can be informed on a regular basis of new products, services or new projects. How many times have you called one of your old customers only to find out their working with a competitor? The common phrase, “out of sight, out of mind,” rings true in the construction industry. Your company will be more likely to attain your contacts’ attention with consistent communication.

The old days of waiting for the phone to ring or having a full supply of referrals has passed. If you are not marketing, tracking your leads and providing good customer service, your competitors will be. Investing in integrated automated sales, marketing and customer service software is going to help take your business to the next level. An integrated system will help you sell more, generate more leads and build happier customers quickly with fewer costs.

SalesBuilder Plus is one solution within the Plus Series from Contractors Software Group. The Plus Series is a fully integrated lead tracking, follow-up marketing, customer service/warranty, estimating, proposal writing, purchasing, scheduling, and job cost accounting system. The Plus Series consists of four solutions; SalesBuilder Plus, TakeOff Plus, Scheduling Plus and Job Accounting Plus. The Plus Series is modular so you can invest in the SalesBuilder Plus today and add-on the other applications as your needs grow.

For more information, please go to or call 1-800-866-3083

Monday, July 12, 2010

Communicate More Effectively Using an Automated Purchase Order Create and Management Software System

You have spent hours or even weeks putting together a detailed estimate. You have presented a proposal to your customer listing out detailed job specifications by category of work with a total price. The customer signs it. Now the work begins. The problem is, you need to communicate what was sold to your customer to the vendors and employees working on the project.

One method of communication is the telephone game. We’ve all played the telephone game; the kindergarten game where your teacher sat you and the other students around in a circle and told you a story and you told that story to the person next to you and that person told the person next to them and so on. Once the story got back to you the story was completely different.

Today, there are contractors and vendors still playing the telephone game. They’re still communicating verbally with their vendors and internal personnel. These are the same companies wondering why the wrong materials are being delivered, completion dates are not being met and their accounting people are still overpaying or double paying vendors.

We all want to make sure the job flows smoothly because we all know mistakes in communication costs us time, money and can very well create unhappy customers.

To get away from the telephone game many contractors are incorporating automated purchase order management systems in their business to communicate more effectively with everyone involved in the construction process. Purchase order management systems have been around for years to communicate more effectively. In the last few years, technology and construction software developers like Contractors Software Group, Inc. (CSG) have made such systems faster, better and quicker.

The first step in any purchase order management system is to create the purchase orders and send them to your vendors for delivery and performing services. Purchase orders have been around for years as a means of a written agreement between two parties that define what products and services are to be delivered or performed at an agreed upon price. The typical information on a purchase order includes the: vendor’s name and address providing the materials or services, the job name, number and address, directions to the job, the specific materials and sizes needed, work to be performed, delivery dates, specifications or additional comments, and pricing. To speed up the process of purchase order creation, a select few construction software developers like CSG have integrated the purchase order creation with their estimating and proposal writing system. CSG’s philosophy is simple, “What gets estimated and sold needs to be communicated to everyone on the project. This way what is in the estimate and the customer proposal is showing up on the purchase orders to reduce any mistakes.”

The next process in a purchase order management system is to provide the purchase orders to the field personnel for approval. The purpose of involving field personnel is to ensure they are clear on who is providing products and services to the job. Now the vendor and the field personnel are referencing the same information. With this process, the field personnel are responsible and accountable for receiving the correct materials and approving work performed. This process is saving contractors thousands of dollars in mistakes. With the use of wireless laptops, 4G cards and CSG’s Field PO Approval module field personnel can approve purchase orders remotely in the field. By automating the PO approval process reduces the need for field personnel to come into the office and shuffle paper.

Once the purchase orders have been approved by the field the final process in a purchase order management system is the invoice/payment approval process. This is where you match the purchase order with the vendor’s invoice. As long as the vendor’s invoice matches the purchase order and the field approves the purchase order, the invoice is okay to process. The benefit of this procedure is eliminating the chance of paying for undelivered material or unfinished work. It also eliminates the chance of overpaying or double paying vendors. The procedure reduces invoice posting errors in your job cost and financial accounting because the purchase order knows what job and category of work the invoices are to be posted to. Some contractors are even getting away from entering invoices altogether by creating the invoice from the purchase orders once the work is approved by the field.

With the latest in technology, thousands of contractors benefit from the use of purchase order management systems to control costs, communicate more effectively and to make more money.
They are turning to construction software developers like Contractors Software Group, Inc. who incorporate these successful processes and procedures into their products. In today’s economy, CSG’ systems will help you do more with less.

To find out how you can save time, money and communicate more effectively with CSG products, please go to or call 1-800-866-3083.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Software Integration and What It Means to Contractors

Software Integration: What does it mean to contractors?
By: Jeff Knutson President of Contractors Software Group, Inc.

In this economy when builders and contractors are asking their employees to do more with less, they’re discovering integrated software is helping them sell more, generate more leads, build happier customers, estimate faster, create more accurate proposals, communicate more effectively and make more money than they’re making now.

You’ve heard the catch phrases; integrated software, A-Z integrated software, and fully integrated software, but what exactly does integrated mean? In comparing software, the word “Integrated” is being used so frequently to describe software it has become ambiguous.

The word Integration, as it relates to software, basically means taking a process or procedure and having it communicate with another process or procedure. Integration turns multiple processes into a single entry solution. There are many processes within a contractors’ business that can be integrated. To make it easy, Contractors Software Group, Inc. has broken down a construction company into four departments.

1. Sales, Marketing and Customer Service Department
2. Drafting and Estimating Department
3. Project Management and Field Staff
4. Job Cost Accounting and Administrative Department

Within each department there are multiple processes and procedures that should be integrated. Even within an individual department, processes should be integrated. We highlighted some of the integration benefits that should follow suit within your company.

Sales, Marketing and Customer Service
The benefit of automating and integrating the sales, marketing and customer service department is to sell more, generate more leads and build happier customers. One of the most popular procedures to integrate is lead tracking with follow-up marketing process. A marketing process is a series of activities that includes: follow-up phone calls, e-mails and direct mail. The integration of these two processes will streamline and standardize the contractor’s sales and marketing by turning more prospects into sales.
Learn more!

Contractors are also integrating their lead tracking and marketing with the tracking of their customer‘s request for service. Builders and contractors are integrating this process to increase time savings. They understand the value in keeping their customers happy, informed and produce a potential referral.
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By integrating the sales process, contractors are discovering they’re selling more, generating more leads and building happier customers.
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Drafting and Estimating Departments
Many successful contractors are integrating the process of drawing a blueprint with the building an estimate. Incorporating the drawing of blue prints with estimating of materials and costs has been around for years but it is becoming even more popular today. When you integrate these two processes you have an integrated Cad Estimating solution. Another phrase that is being used for the same process is Builder Information Management system [BIM].
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Contractors are also integrating digital takeoff devices like electronic digitizers or digital takeoff software with their estimating program they can create more estimates. Digital takeoff devices speed up the process of taking off footages and quantities of blueprints.
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Another process contractors are integrating is the creation of a proposal/specification directly from the estimate. Integrating these two processes reduces mistakes because the proposal that is presented to the customer is actual estimate.

The idea of integrating the CAD, estimating and proposal writing into a single entry solution is helping builders and contractors estimate faster and create more accurate proposals.
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Project Management & Field
Once a job is sold the work of completing the job on time and on budget is typically the responsibility of the project manager running the job. To accomplish this task the project manager must communicate what was sold to all the vendors and field staff.

Many contractors are turning to the use of written purchase orders, subcontracts and internal work orders to communicate more effectively with their vendors and internal employees. Since all of the costs and specifications are in the estimate many successful contractors are integrating their estimating process with the creation of these documents to speed up the process. What once took hours is now taking seconds.
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Typically the construction site is not in the same location as the contractor’s back office. For this reason, many contractors are using wireless laptops in the field and integrating them to their software in the office. Many contractors now have the ability to update their schedules, approve work, and receive materials in the field all remotely from their wireless laptop.

The combination of improved communication along with integration between estimating, project management, the field and back office, a construction company can communicate more effectively and produce higher quality construction.
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Job Cost Accounting
Many successful contractors are investing in fully integrated Job Cost Accounting programs to help them reduce time, control costs and better manage the financial side of their business. Most integrated job cost accounting programs will integrate, streamline and manage payables, bill paying, job costing, payroll, billings, and financial reporting into a single entry system. Having financial information at your fingertips will help you make more informed decisions and bring more profit to your bottom line.

Integrating the estimating process with the job cost accounting process has many benefits. Tracking and managing one’s actual cost versus budgeted cost aides in reducing the chance of cost overruns and verifies that your estimating process is working.

By integrating estimating with job cost accounting, a contractor can reduce the time to re-enter job information, contract amounts, budgeted hours and budgeted dollars by category of work, purchase orders, subcontract agreements and any new customers into the job cost accounting program.
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Fully Integrated Software
A fully integrated construction software solution will integrate the four departments together into a single entry solution. The information from the sales, marketing and customer service department will flow over to the CAD/estimating department so there is no re-entry of information. The information from the CAD/Estimating department will flow over to the project management department so that all bids and purchases are communicated to the vendors and the people in the field. The information from the estimating and project management department will flow over to the job cost accounting department verifying what was ordered, delivered and completed so the job comes in on budget.

When provided with the correct automated tools such as a fully integrated program, it enables contractors and their business to streamline their operations and increase business productivity and longevity.
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Construction software vendors can’t guarantee that you will make millions of dollars by using their integrated software but they can guarantee if you use their integrated software correctly you will be able to sell more, generate more leads, build happier customers, estimate faster, create more accurate proposals, communicate more effectively and make more money than you’re making now.

Learn more!