Top 10 Mistakes People Make When Selling Cleaning Services To Customers

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by Tom Watson on October 16, 2010

When your just starting out in the cleaning business, you are going to make some mistakes.

There is nothing really wrong with that because that is the only way to learn most of the time. As in life, business is a lot of trial and error. You learn from your mistakes and make adjustments along the way.

I know that I’ve made more mistakes than most anyone I know. Yet despite all those mistakes I’m still standing, I’m still in business and I’m probably better off than I would be otherwise.

With that said, some mistakes can be avoided all-together by just following in the footsteps of someone who already walked the path you are just starting out on. In other words…

why learn from your own mistakes when you can learn from mine?

I want you to know that I have made each and every mistake listed below. I still regress from time to time and short-circuit a deal every now and again, but who doesn’t. My point here is to clue you in on mistakes that can hurt your bottom-line. Knowing what the common problems are should help you minimize their effect on you.

Now lets get the process started. You will get more cleaning accounts (and have happier customers) by not making the following mistakes (like I did).

# 1 – Not listening. Listenening is a two-step process. You need to not only listen to what the customer is asking for, you need to also look past that to find out what they need. Many times you are tempted to just sing the praises of your service without hearing what the customer wants. You cannot convert the prospect if you do not know what they want. Listen to your potential customers, identify the need, then fill it.

# 2 – Overselling. A never-ending sales pitch leaves your potential cleaning client with no room to make a smart decision. There is a fine line between being a good salesperson and being pushy or obnoxious. In other words…know when to stop.

# 3 – Being unprepared. Whether you are discussing your cleaning services on location or over the phone, you need to know all the details about your service. You must be able to answer all questions so be as prepared as possible. Even if you are prospecting for new business at a networking event, know what you are going to say and be ready for questions you may be asked.

# 4 – Moving straight to the sale. In virtually any type of  business, you need to establish a relationship before finalizing a sale. Take the Internet for example, you need to have landing pages to provide complete information about your products or services before jumping to the shopping cart. In other words…don’t put the cart before the horse (don’t rush to the sale). Take the time to educate your potential customers, and they will reward you with their business.

# 5 – Not closing the sale. This is the dirty underside of the mistake # 4. Once you have provided your potential customer with the information they need, ask the customer for their business. It may seem a little unnecessary to some, but sometimes asking for the sale can be the nudge the potential customer needs to make a final decision.

# 6 – Rambling on and on. Sometimes people are tempted to go overboard in their quest for a “relationship” and create way too much small-talk. While you do want to build a relationship and make your potential customer “comfortable”, the goal is to make the sale. Too much talking can make the conversation veer into topics that are better left out of business talk.

# 7 – Not performing any homework. If you are trying to offer your services to a specific client at a meeting, you need to know what he or she is all about. Dig in and do some research before the sales meeting to get a good idea of the prospect’s likes, dislikes, interests, and overall manner of doing business. You may not always be successful but the more you know the better off you will be.

# 8 – Judging books by their covers. Many people routinely miss sales because they prejudge their customers. Go into each and every sales opportunity with an open mind and leave any preconceived notions at the front door. Do not let any negative experiences from the past stand in the way of making a sale today.

# 9 – Failure to follow up on past leads. Just because someone does not buy immediately does not mean they will not be interested later on, especially if they requested information in the past from you. Proper follow-up is a vital part of sales that is often overlooked.

# 10 – Not prospecting for new customers. Even when you have plenty of cleaning accounts, and you are making money hand over fist, you need to devote time to looking for even more customers. No cleaning company can survive without a constant influx of new customers. Turnover of cleaning accounts happens even when you are holding up your end of the bargain. Sometimes new management comes in with their own crew, some companies go out of business and others let you go for cost cutting reasons. It is for this reason you never stand put, and always should be looking for more business.

Well there you have it, some useful information that should save you a lot of the grief that I put myself through early on in my career. You may find this hard to believe but most of you folks are probably farther along than I was when starting out (I was real “green” as they say in the beginning). But that should give you all hope, because if I can succeed in this business (with zero business experience), you certainly can!

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Seth October 18, 2010 at 8:46 am

Great article. People need to realize their mistakes in order to correct them. Regards from End of Tenancy Cleaning London

2 Tom Watson October 18, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Thanks Seth.

3 carol kluke January 19, 2011 at 9:30 am

How do you start a cleaning business in a rural area and the clients before you started are used to paying that one set price of $10 an hour.

4 Tom Watson January 19, 2011 at 10:10 am

That’s a great question Carol. As to the rural aspect of your cleaning company, I see no reason why you should run your company any differently. My company is based outside of the heavily populated areas too. With that said, my company does both the rural areas and the nearby populated regions too. In general, I treat both clients the same in regards to my fee schedule. If there is a difference, the rural pays more because of travel issues for my staff.

As to having a potential client object to paying a higher wage than they are used to…that’s life. It happens all the time. Generally the folks who object on these grounds fall into two main categories.

One – They understand that the wage they were paying the “mom & pop” operator was way under the current “main-stream” pricing structure. They consider themselves lucky they were able to pay so little for so long, then they sign with you (after you educate them on this fact).

Two – They never grasp the concept I just mentioned (even after being educated on the subject). They insist on looking for someone to clean at rates that do not support the operation of a cleaning company. When you run into these types…you just need to move on. Not all potential clients are worth having. You only want the profitable ones.

To summarize, some people really don’t want a “real company” to clean their home or office. They are just looking for someone who is happy to earn only $10.00 per hour. That is not you, as you have a company to run, plus you actually want to earn a profit (which is the whole idea behind running a company).

Hope that helps!

5 ramond April 30, 2011 at 12:42 am

i think i might have a bid thats about to go through the problem is i faxed them with the monthly payment of $500 when it was suppose to be for a weekly basis what should i do? I and the decision maker were talking about a weekly plan?

6 Tom Watson April 30, 2011 at 6:58 am

Hi Raymond,

You have to let them know that a error was made, as that’s not something that you can just let slide. Honesty is always the best policy, so just fess up, explain your thinking on how the error happened and let the chips fall where they may. If they are reasonable, they will understand how this happened.

7 robert legros August 19, 2011 at 9:23 am

l’m just now trying to promote my new cleaning business through networking business cards newspaper ads but not able to secure a client how do l go from promoting myself to having clients please help

8 Tom Watson August 20, 2011 at 10:52 am

Hi Robert!

One thing you need to keep in mind is that you don’t always get instant gratification. This especially applies to networking! While networking is a great long term approach, it takes time to pay dividends. After all, people generally like to do business with people they know and trust. This act of building trust and getting “known” takes time, it doesn’t happen in 30 or 60 days. My advice to to be consistent and go to all meeting (try not to skip, as you need to be seen as “dependable”). If you show up for one meeting and skip the next two, you are wasting your time.

Concerning newspaper ads, they are tricky to master. Much like networking, you need to run those ads OVER and OVER again to make them work. This can cost a pretty penny, so if you are not in for the long haul you may be better off going another route with your money.

I would recommend craigslist advertising if you are on a tight budget (and even of you aren’t). The cost is free and it is very time effective (it only takes a few minutes to post). I did a nice post on that here

For some other ideas on getting landing your first account you may want to check out this post I did a while back

Keep me posted as you move along!

9 maria May 16, 2012 at 6:53 am

i registered a close co-operation in 2009 and am still having difficulty starting up. i’ve realised that the worsed mistake i’ve made was to listen to orther people . now am ready to start my own cleaning company. need to know about getting clients and how to manage and succeed in the coperate world. please help

10 Tom Watson May 16, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Hi Maria!

That is a common mistake, as listening to the wrong person can lead you down the incorrect path. Anyway, now you know how to avoid that from here on out. With that said, my site is loaded woth free content on the cleaning business, however if you want “step by step” instructions, then my courses would be the answer.

They walk you through the process one step at a time and leave no stone unturned in getting you started. You can check out the courses here…

If you have ANY QUESTIONS at all, just touch base via email or call me.

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