Everything you need to know about performing a cleaning bid walk through

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by Tom Watson on November 8, 2015

Going out on a bid walk through when you are a beginner can be a scary process.

You don’t know what questions to ask, and you don’t know what will be asked of you.

I’ve been in your shoes, so I know how it feels. But fret not! It’s not nearly as bad as you think it is. As I always say “You are only interviewing to take out their trash and clean some toilets”. Don’t make it anymore complicated than that.

I know you must be thinking that they WILL KNOW this is your first time (or one of the first times), but if you just relax and enjoy the process you will be just fine. Don’t over think this! It’s truly a simple process to accomplish.

The GOAL of a cleaning bid walk through

Getting back to the walk through… the goal of meeting the customer is two-fold in a sense. First off you want to make a good impression by being early, well dressed and likeable. This is something you need to focus on.

To be honest, this part of the process is just as important as the price you will come up with later on. The reason why is because the customer must feel like you are the person that will SOLVE THEIR PROBLEM (whatever that may be).

The second part deals with trying to uncover HOW LONG the job that the customer is asking you to do will take, THEN putting a price to it later when you arrive back at your home or office. When new… all you can do is TAKE YOUR BEST GUESS as to how long the cleaning will take.

How the cleaning bid walk through works

You will generally meet the homeowner or facility manager at the place in question, introduce yourselves to each other than take a tour of the place to see what is being asked of you.

Sometimes you will chat for ten minutes or more before you take the tour, sometimes you won’t chat at all. It just depends on who you meet. I generally just rolled with whatever the potential customer wanted.

If they wanted to chat for a while, GREAT. If not, that was GREAT too. I want them to be happy first and foremost, so I followed their lead. I suggest you do the same at first until you get a routine down.

Once all is said and done you will take what you learned back to your home or office and work up a price. Basically, HOW LONG will it take to clean MULTIPLIED by your hourly rate will get you your per cleaning rate. Simple stuff if you think about it!

Questions for YOU during a cleaning bid walk through

I would say that the more confident you act, the less questions you will be faced with. So if you look like a deer in the headlights to the customer, then they may pepper you with questions about your experience level, insurance related questions and past customer references.

If you simply play the role of a confident and successful businessperson meeting a client you will probably not have any questions thrown your way. In either case, always be truthful when responding. Your honestly can NEVER BE COMPROMISED.

When I was new I always did more listening than talking but just in case the customer asked me about myself I had a short story memorized about why I started my business and how passionate I was about giving people the service they deserved. That was enough to get me through those awkward first few bids.

Getting the most out of a cleaning bid walk through

You need to figure out HOW LONG will this job take to clean. That’s your mission! You will accomplish this by paying attention to what you see and asking good questions. So simply PRETEND for a moment that you are a private investigator when you are performing the walk through.

That’s what I used to do. So try to notice HOW NEAT AND TIDY the place is, as that is a HUGE CLUE. If it’s a mess now, it will be real mess by the time you go and try to clean it! If it looks organized, perhaps the homeowner or manager runs a TIGHT SHIP which will make it easier on you.

With all that said, I’ll list a set of questions that I used to ask at one time or another during the bid walk through.  Sometimes I asked all of them, sometimes I only had the chance to ask a few. It just depended on how the meeting with the homeowner or facility manager went.

I tended to keep the questions low-key and conversational when asking them. This means I didn’t sit there and rattle them off in a rapid fire type format. As you perform more bids, you will improve and find a rhythm that fits your own personal style.

Questions to ask on a cleaning bid walk through

Question – What needs to be cleaned each time my company pays a visit?

Why I asked that question – We all need to be on the same page as to WHAT IS BEING DONE. There can be no uncertainty. “Time is money” and “they will be paying for it”. So make sure you understand what needs to be done, as that is the foundation of an accurate bid.

Question – How much are you currently paying for your service right now?

Why I asked that question – I always like to “have an idea” of what they are paying if possible. This would clue me in as to what their acceptable range may be. Keep in mind, that you may get this info or you may not. It’s 50/50 as to whether or not they will tell you.

You also need to remember that they may or may not be telling you the truth if they do tell you. There is no way to tell! You also want to keep in mind that you don’t want to just COPY what they are paying currently. That is BAD BUSINESS!

If they break down and tell you what they are paying remember it’s JUST A CLUE that will help you find a price (you still have to DO THE MATH at your office to see what to charge).

I also liked this question because sometimes it may help you from UNDER-BIDDING. You may discover that what the customer told you they are paying is MUCH MORE than you “would have charged” if you didn’t know any better.

Question – Do you know how long your current cleaners are actually cleaning each visit?

Why I asked that question – The answer (if you get one) is just another clue that MAY help you figure out how much to charge or help determine what is the source of the cleaning issue. For example, sometimes if you know how long someone is spending cleaning it will be a “backdoor” method to find out what they are paying.

Also it can be a clue to determine why there is an issue. For instance if the facility is HUGE and the person is only spending an hour or two to clean then it’s easy to spot the issue (not enough time allocated per visit).

Question – What are your three biggest complaints concerning your current cleaning company?

Why I asked that question – This question is full of very useful INFORMATION! I always loved to know the “exact reasons” WHY the current cleaning company is about to be fired. Why is that important? Because I wanted to know WHAT TO AVOID DOING once I got hired!

Many times customers will rattle off “they don’t clean the bathrooms floors well”, “they never clean under the microwave” or “the kitchen chairs are never wiped down”. These are VALUABLE tidbits that spell out DON’T DO THIS ONCE YOU ARE HIRED!!!

Question – When will you be making a decision on replacing your current company?

Why I asked that question – This was always good so you can establish a timetable. Are they in a rush and need a price right away? Or are they just “shopping around” with no immediate timeframe in mind? This helped clue me in as to whether or not they were serious or the dreaded “price shopper” who was just fishing for the cheapest price possible.

Question – When will the cleaning be performed?

Why I asked that question – When cleaning homes this is not terribly important as most cleaning is done either in the morning or the afternoon. Either way you will do it. In a commercial setting this is VERY important because you want to know EXACTLY WHEN you can start cleaning.

This is a big difference between cleaning a commercial property 6 or 7 PM versus cleaning at 11 PM. Why? Because it will be a LOT HARDER to hire people to clean at that later hour. To do so you will have to PAY MORE per hour plus be inconvenienced more when someone calls out (it will usually be YOU filling in for someone who calls out at that hour).

Question – Will I be responsible for ordering the supplies?

Why I asked that question – This is more or less a question for the commercial market. When you get hired they may want you to handle ordering the paper goods (toilet tissue, c-fold) and trash liners (which the customer pays for one way or another).

If they want you to handle this, make sure you pay attention to makes and models of all the paper towel and toilet tissue dispensers. You want to make sure you get prices on the goods that ACTUALLY FIT into the type of dispenser they use. it’s a small detail, but an important one.

Question – How often are cleaning services needed?

Why I asked that question – In order to come up with a valid price, you need to know how often you will be cleaning. I wasn’t going to include this question because it’s so basic, but MANY people forget to ever ask it. You need to know! You don’t want to be calling them back a day later asking them these questions.

Question – How many people live / work here?

Why I asked that question – This clues you in to “what to expect” when you come in to clean. The more DENSE a place is, the harder it will be to clean (which will drive up the price to charge).

Question – Do you have a supplies closet?

Why I asked this question – This is only for commercial clients! It makes the job much easier when you can store everything right there and not have to carry it all over the place each time you clean.

Question – What other services does your “current” cleaning company perform for you?

Why I asked that question – I was always looking for a way to “introduce” them to the other possible services we offered. Services like carpet cleaning, window cleaning, VCT floor care or quarterly type spring cleaning are HIGHLY PROFITABLE upsells you don’t want to miss out on.

I was always trying to “plant the seed” on these added services EVEN BEFORE I WAS HIRED in many cases. They may or may not be interested “right now”, but that is not the point. At this stage you are just “greasing the skids” for possible work down the road!

Question – Did we miss any areas that we would be responsible for cleaning?

Why I asked that question – Before we wrap up the walk through I wanted to make sure we didn’t miss a thing! You need to see every single area that you will be responsible for cleaning (that means all bathrooms, kitchens, break areas, hallways, conference rooms and EVERYTHING ELSE).

At the end of the walk through you need to be able to “put an estimated cleaning time” to every single area you will be cleaning. So above all, make sure you see all areas and make a note as to HOW LONG you think that area will take to clean. Once you add all those cleaning times up, that gives you the basis to reach a price that makes sense.

My final thoughts on your cleaning bid walk through

I’ll start by saying that the more bids you perform the better you will get. The nervousness you feel now will eventually be replaced with CONFIDENCE down the road. So just fight your way through the first few bids, as they are the toughest.

I would also like to mention that no two bids are the same! What I mentioned in this post will give you a good head start as to “what to expect” when you go on your own cleaning bid. Just think things through and you will be fine.

Finally I would like to give you my biggest piece of advice (to those who perform commercial cleaning). START SMALL! When you start small it makes the process easier to learn, plus “if you mess up”, it will only be a little mistake! Don’t tackle the 10,000 to 50,000 square foot jobs until you know how to clean the 2,500 to 5,000 square foot jobs. Trust me on that one!

If anyone has any thoughts about how they handle things, or just a question of some kind, simply leave a comment below and get the conversation started! I would love to hear your thoughts!

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 HP November 8, 2015 at 11:47 am

Excellent advice and information as usual!! Thank You

2 Tom Watson November 8, 2015 at 11:49 am


3 Evan Rumbaugh November 8, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Hi Tom,

Always has been a pleasure talking to you. I wanted to thank you a gain for fixing me into a successful commercial business. Hard to believe the business has turned two years old.
To follow up with your “How to preform a cleaning bid walk through.” What would be a good guesstimated amount of time it should take to respond with a bid?
I have found that a quick follow up email as a thank you right at about 1-2 hours after I leave has helped. Also, every bid is different so would you suggest a day or two? I used to have bids back very promptly, but as I have grown very busy it takes a day or so.
Do you feel that the day or so is still a valid amount of time?
Follow up is huge and I want to pick your brian on the idea!
Thanks again for everything.
-Evan Rumbaugh
President / Owner
Primary Cleaning Solutions of Erie

4 Tom Watson November 8, 2015 at 12:24 pm

Hi Evan! I’m happy you have been successful. That is wonderful! To your question… First off… I really LOVE the email you send to THANK THEM for their time. That’s a great idea. And YES… the day or two is fine in my opinion. You need to think the pricing through to make sure it’s right (and you can’t rush that).

5 Raymon Samuel November 8, 2015 at 1:32 pm

Thanks Again, it seems that I am always saying the something,

6 Tom Watson November 8, 2015 at 2:01 pm

That’s OK Raymon!

7 Mario November 8, 2015 at 9:48 pm

Hi Tom!

Thank you very much for the very helpful information you are sharing to us. indeed it is very usefull to us because we are just starting our cleaning business. I am still on the process of advertising my business but everything is already in place because of the information that i got from you. I had alrady 3 contracts.

thank you again.



8 Tom Watson November 8, 2015 at 9:55 pm

Hi Mario! Happy to hear you are having success. Keep it up!

9 Binda Kebohula November 12, 2015 at 6:20 am

Hi Tom,

I am about to start up my cleaning business in a month or two months and do not know which pricing strategy is preferable ie rate per hour or square metre?
And how do I determine that rate per hour or per square metre(square foot)?

10 Tom Watson November 16, 2015 at 10:39 am

Hi Bindu! You have to charge per hour in my opinion. As to HOW to get to that price…. that is beyond what I can explain in one paragraph (I have an entire chapter dedicated to that in my courses). You can always call me and I’ll do my best to help you. Today is not good, but later in the week is.

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