Building Technology Podcast – Guest: Gip Erskine

Share this post:

Season 2 of the Building Technology Podcast kicks off with our featured guest, Gip Erskine who shares over 3 decades of experience and lessons learned in the service partner evaluation process. This podcast is a great resource for property managers, building engineers, and service partners alike. 

Please note each timestamp link takes you to YouTube or use the Chapter breaks within the video to jump to each section

Chapter 1
14:41​ – Gip discusses how he fights through the noise to decide which service partners to let in the door for an initial meeting

Chapter 2
20:36​ – Gip talks about his process for evaluating service partners

Chapter 3
35:58​ – Gip lets us in on how he assigns real dollars to non-monetary attributes and how he communicates that to an ownership team.

Chapter 4
45:09​ – We discuss the importance of getting buy-in from the team members who will be working directly with your selected service partner

Chapter 5
49:26​ – Gip shares some lessons he’s learned along the way from hiring some not-so-great service partners

Chapter 6
52:26​ – We talk about the single most damaging sales tactic used by prospective service partners

Full Transcript

[00:00] – Scott Holstein
Hi, everybody. Scott Holstein here with Computrols, and welcome back to the Building Technology podcast. Today I’m joined by our guest, Gip Erskin. Gip knows the life of a property manager, stress filled, which is why he’s committed to designing and living the ideal life for himself. His colleagues and the service partners who serve him get founded. Ever Smarts in 2013 as an informative, inspirational platform to share universal truths and experiences with the property management community. From the service partners perspective, he provides powerful insights for company owners and business developers and related industries.

He teaches salespeople to speak their customers language so they can win the right business together. He is on a mission to change the way service personnel and property managers by Gip is certified as a values trainer by the Demartini Institute and a certified instructor for both Beaumont and Texas Real Estate Commission. He holds KPM NCCAM designations, as well as a Texas real estate salesperson’s license, is a lifetime member of Texas Real Estate Teachers Association and earned his MBA at Baylor University.

An avid yachtsman and father of two daughters, Gip lives in Dallas, Texas, with his beautiful soulmate Brenda, who are living examples of how to live full lives. He is passionate about sharing ideas on how you can create an exceptional career and an exceptional life.

I love that bio Gip, welcome to the podcast.

[01:26] – Gip Erskine
I appreciate it. Thanks very much for having me, Scott.

[01:29] – Scott Holstein
So, you know, I was looking at your LinkedIn profile. I had this conversation. And, you know, you are you have a very unique background and that you have been on the service partner side as well as the buyer side of things. Tell us a little bit about your background. Obviously, we touched on some things there in the barrio, but tell us a little bit more about where you know, where you kind of went in your career and what you’re doing today.

[01:55] – Gip Erskine
Well, I appreciate that. I up until the turn of the century, I had a kind of a traditional commercial property management career. I started back in nineteen eighty four and really haven’t turned that that piece off. I had an opportunity to go to work for the startup company. If you were old enough to remember Roger Staubach when the Dallas Cowboys premier quarterbacks, he there was an opening to join his firm as a vice president of business development. And I wasn’t applying for that particular job, but I got slated for it.

And I went in kicking and screaming. I said, you’ve got the wrong guy. I’m a I’m a management guy. And they said, no, that’s exactly why we want to is because you can understand the operational problems and communicate that to to our clients. And so that’s exactly where we want you. And so once I got over that little lump of reality, I went headlong into business development. And so for about a dozen years, I was selling facility services and through various different partnerships and really learning the the sales side of things where traditionally on the property management side, I’m on the buyer side.

So I have an appreciation for both both the the sales, the sales industry and those mechanisms, as well as the the the buying side from property management. So I did I did recently, I did some math, went back through through my thirty six plus year career and determined that I had managed over five billion dollars worth of commercial real estate and negotiated an estimate, albeit over one hundred million dollars and and service contracts. So I’ve got I’ve got a fairly deep pedigree with respect to just experience on the on the commercial side, on the kind of the personal development side.

I’ve been a personal development. I used to call myself a junkie, but that’s a sounds a little bit dependent. But I was I’m a major consumer of of that. And you and I spoke about your appetite for for, you know, really profound truths. And and so I’ve always been been engaged in understanding universal truths and and interestingly have gotten immersed into the study of human values. And so from a from a values perspective, I’m very interested in how the actual sales process works and have evaluated both on the service partner side and their attempt to sell to us and on the property management side of our ability to buy services.

[05:03]
And they notice a big gap in in just general valuation. So I made it a mission to go into. I mean, this is a big process. I mean, this is this is something that’s been going on and will continue to go on until, you know, to where we’re best on this earth. But but I’ve noticed that that unless unless true values and true needs are determined, there isn’t a sale. There is no transaction ever. So that was a profound truth.

That’s kind of everlasting. Unless I have a need for your service, I’m not ever going to buy it. And so the convenience of those needs became kind of tantamount to to that particular process. So for the past several years, I’ve gone into how is it that service partners sell and and how is it that that property managers buy? And so so that’s been my study for for several years. And I’m just intrigued about how we can actually change it, strengthen that particular process for both sides so that both parties get get a win win out of it.

And I think what you talked about, how you really started on the property management side, went into the business development side, selling to property managers and now kind of do a little bit of both. You’re helping property managers buy, you’re helping helping service partners sell.

I think that that is a that’s something that everybody could really use. And unfortunately, not a lot of people get that type of experience. I can tell you from my own background, pretty Computrols I was doing sales for a marketing agency.

Now, prior to that, I have never been a buyer of marketing services. So for me, I was selling selling blind to some extent. I was doing my best to put myself in the shoes of the people who were buying from me. But frankly, just it was a guess. So, you know, I can imagine now having been, you know, on the on the consumer side of marketing for the last five years, if I went back to resell this product, I would do it much differently than I would have before, because I have that perspective now and can speak to a lot of those not just pain points, but, you know, understand what drives those decisions and and help people through the sales process, because as a someone beginning in a more of a buyer type role, it was there were hurdles to overcome for me because I was thinking, OK, well, how do I evaluate this?

Try to break this down. I need to get pricing from at least three different people here. And and that’s really kind of what we want to talk about today is, is how do you select the service partner? So for for our property managers and facility managers that are listening.

What are those how do you how do you find a good service partner through all of the noise? And and I’m part of that. So I have a unique appreciation for the noise, I guess. And and honestly, for the service partner side of things, I think a lot of service partners who listen to this are going to be intrigued to hear what you have to say about how do I how do I break through? How do I how do I get my foot in the door?

How do I differentiate myself from everybody else here? And, you know, one of the things we use this word service partner and we used you kind of started using it right off the bat.

That was the word that I had learned from a property manager. They said, no, we don’t call our vendors vendors because it’s different. And, you know, can you talk a little bit about the difference between what you would consider a service partner and a vendor, even though they’re kind of synonymous? Yeah, there’s a lot there to unpack. I will start by saying that we’re in twenty twenty one. I can say that that perspective is, is like hindsight.

It’s twenty twenty. And that was pun intended. But I do think, I do think that you indicated, you know, just how we positioned those, those who serve us and those we serve. And interestingly, we we we look at virtually everybody that we interact with as a customer. And if you look at it that way, even the people who are providing service to you, if you treat them as a customer, what is that? That’s that you’re beholden to them.

If they give you a service, well, you’re required to pay them and compensate them in fair exchange and in exchange for the duties and services that they’ve rendered. So so if you treat them with a you know, as a customer, as somebody who would like fair and prompt payment in consideration for the services rendered, then then that’s the very basic foundation of a partnership. If you look at vendors, vendors, sounds like they are interchangeable cogs in a in a wheel.

[10:29]
You can you can go to a vendor list and just pick three. Doesn’t matter who they are, what experience they’ve got, what investments they’ve made in their own in their own culture. None of that matters because when you’re at the vendor level and you’re just looking for the lowest priced widget. That’s what a vendor does, it fulfills kind of like an office supply. You really don’t care how cool that stapler is and what the philosophy was when the stapler, you just want a good stapler and it becomes interchangeable.

When you look at service partnerships and the actual word partner, it means it’s a dual it’s a dual party.

It’s it’s a reliance on the other four for deepening a relationship, for really understanding what, as I said before, what the needs are and in uncovering the pain and then and then expanding what the potential solutions could look like beyond what we just think they might be at the onset. So so it’s a real give and take of exchanging information that makes a partnership work. And so I got really, really enthralled by the idea of who is who are the the primary service partners that I could really focus on and I just went to who are the highest the highest cost line items.

And it turns out that their janitorial and security from an ongoing service standpoint. So I really focused in on those particular industries and and really understanding that if we are going to market on a low bid wins basis only, we are really overlooking all of being the nonmonetary, the subjective attributes of a company and just looking at them to sharpen their pencil. And and I find that in hindsight, I find it absolutely ludicrous that that we’ve just completely thrown out any investments, any any true values that they put into their company.

And we’ve just boiled it down to a particular number. And so I think when you look at partnerships that way, it it’s it’s a real understanding from the buyer side. I want to understand how valuable this service partner is to my properties, for my tenants, for my clients. What value can they can they give me in exchange for the payment that I give them so I get the most cost effective and not just the cheapest. So I think that’s that’s a good differentiation between the two.

Yeah. And I do want to get into you know, I do want to get into the differentiators beyond, like you said, just the price. I mean, price is always going to remain a factor, but we will get into that. But kind of from my perspective, I always think of things in a process and certainly in the sales process.

You know, I’m always looking to get my foot in the door now as a building engineer, as a property manager, as a building operator, as somebody who is, you know, looking out for the best interests of their facilities and evaluating new partners.

I know that people people are cold calling. People are sending you direct mail. They’re they’re emailing you. You’re getting referrals. What do you think is the best way to determine who to let in the door to have that initial conversation? Because we all know time is your most valuable asset. Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s it is a really, really good question.

And it’s one that I have been asked countless times. How do we just break in with you guys, with your company and, you know, how do I how do I earn your business? And and I think it’s in that at earning that will differentiate them. So if you if you take a cold email, for example, that is purely a numbers game. It’s somebody who bought a list or acquired a list of names from somewhere and blasted out a shotgun approach to to the market in the hopes that they can get some type of return on that particular investment or invited to bid on X, Y and Z business.

[15:18]
But they don’t care who that company is so long as they get a sale. And so unless it’s a highly researched email, that will not be cold. That will be a warm email. It will be somebody who actually looked me up on LinkedIn and said, I noticed this. I’m like, OK, that’s fine. Anybody can look me up on LinkedIn. But I also noticed that and that this particular solution might fulfill that particular need. I mean, OK, this person has actually put some thought into this without just.

Slapping a a you know, something that can be easily found on Google into the into the into the email, because I could still be somewhat mass customized, if you will. So so who are those people that we let in? It’s those people that have earned the right. I did get a recent a recent call from a roofing company, and they had a motto. I can’t remember the exact motto, but but it was something that suggested that’s why we’re different.

And I said, you know what? I will take this call because I want to understand what makes them different. And by different, I would infer that that would mean better and better than the competition. Great. Happy to to to take that call. And so I did 20 minutes in and I said, guys, I haven’t heard what makes you better. So let me just remind you what your motto says. You said you were different and that to me means better.

Tell me what that means to you. It couldn’t answer the question and it was so it was a hollow motto.

And they they tried to wrap up the call. So can we come out and survey your properties?

I said, no, you really didn’t fulfill what you were, you know, proclaiming that you could because you couldn’t answer the question even after it ended up for you. So so I do look for for for those companies who have recognized a particular maybe not a need, but but but something that says here’s why we’re different. Please allow us to explain versus those who were like, the next time you go out for bidding landscaping, please keep us in mind.

I mean, I don’t know why I should. Right. Because you’ve just reminded me that I do go out to bid landscaping or please give me five minutes of your time so I can explain our company to you. And right off the bat, they’ve undersold themselves by pleading for five minutes of my time. I’m like, holy crow, please value yourself higher than that. And and allow me to dictate the amount of time that I want to invest in that particular meeting without short selling yourself.

And so some of these tactics appear to be desperate, appeared to be, you know, either numbers driven or otherwise. But it’s those who have the bravery and and the respect for the for the party that they’re calling upon that can actually do some digging, figure out the properties that I’m responsible for and ask some some some folks to visit the properties. If you want to go so far, look at the directory and say, oh, I realize you have you know, PMG is your largest tenant in your building.

They must be a handful. We actually service some of their accounts. Can we can we talk about some synergies? Wow. Yes. Come on in. Yeah, they are. And so I use that as a as an example. They’re actually not intended to mind, but but it’s it’s someone who is actually put two and two together that says, you know, there’s there is something there that’s a value that is worth looking into. I will take those calls all the time.

So really, as a as an evaluator, you’re looking for somebody who does have maybe a different approach or a unique approach to your problem and then, you know, is willing to do a little bit of due diligence on their end to better understand who they’re speaking with. They’re not just, like you said, the shotgun approach of I’m going to give this in front of two hundred people. And based on my numbers, five people will respond. Three people set up a meeting.

And that’s, you know, that’s that is you know, I’ve seen that sales approach and it’s not ineffective. But like you said, what you end up with is you’re not necessarily able to find partners who are going to differentiate themselves. Now, you know, again, I always go back to the salesperson side of things. I think of the sales process of discovery, demonstration, due diligence proposal, et cetera. But from an evaluation standpoint, do you have a process for evaluating those service partners?

[20:25]
Well, the reason why I think that the sales process is flawed on both sides is it’s not just the service partners failed attempt at trying to get my attention, getting on the bid list and winning business that way. It’s very often the property manager’s failed attempt at recognizing value because sometimes those cold emails turn into a guilt trip. Reminder that said, you know what? You haven’t been out landscaping in a while. And I may as well just take this guy and Adam to the list.

And the absolute worst thing you can do because you’ve not done any homework on your end and you’ve done that cold caller, the cold emailer, a disservice by just adding them to it to elicit they have no idea who you even are. And so so, yes, I’ve seen obviously in thirty six plus years, I’ve seen any number of of sales tactics and processes. And, you know, can we get together? Are you free at Tuesday at 10:00 or Thursday at two, that kind of thing.

I’ve seen this been close. I think I’ve been coached and trained on it. And so I recognize a lot of them from the property management side and facility management side, very, very similar roles. We I look at things differently. I evaluate companies well beyond price. As I alluded to before, I looked for four. Where is the hidden value? Where what is this company’s pedigree? How did they become so successful? Can I talk to my to my colleagues and get good thumbs up reviews, whether you told me to ask them or not?

Often we will go out and if it’s a if it’s a large project, I will go out with my circle of property managers and just say, I know we’re getting ready to bid this type of service out. Who who have you guys had luck with and are there any any red flags out there? And sometimes I’ll get candid responses and sometimes I won’t. But at least it gives me some comfort as to as to if it’s a rave review. You know, boy, I.

I love that because property managers are not very prone to to giving good reviews only because they don’t want to coming back on them if something happened in the review when they recommended them. So we’re very, very careful about about that. But when I look at when I look at hidden value, I’m not just looking for what can I place a monetary value on. I’m looking for what are the things that are going to solve my problems and cure my pain.

And my biggest pain is, is if I ever go out to, you know, the cheapest provider out there, I know I’m going to be doing damage control. And I know I’ve got to do a bunch of follow up because they’re going to be spread so thin that they can’t manage my account properly and responsibly, and in which case there’s damage control. There is a lot of follow up necessary, and that costs me time and money. And and if I add up all that time and money, you know what?

They ended up not being the the lowest cost. They end up being sometimes the highest cost. And so one of the things that really drive through for me is can you be an extension of my management team? Can you be my eyes and ears and tell me what’s going on beyond the scope of your contract that says I’m a vested partner on your property? And oh, by the way, we just finished cleaning your building and we noticed three lights out in the parking lot.

It might be, you know, be something to put in there that they didn’t have to say that. But from a security standpoint, from a safety standpoint, for their own personal safety, I would want to know that information. And thank goodness that you brought it to my to my attention. Can you can you be responsive to my needs? You’re not going to deliver one hundred percent perfect work. This is human work. A lot of labor to it.

Can you be responsive when problems come up? And they will. And so what is your built in mechanism that ensures responsiveness? I remember going back to my Staubach days. Roger was always, always very self-deprecating and he would say, you know, we’re not going to deliver flawless work and there are going to be problems. But I will guarantee you that we will solve these problems faster than anybody else in the industry. And so I’m like, well, one of the fastest problem solvers.

[25:24]
Great. So prove to me that that responses, you can solve my problems and how are we communicating, how can I take what you’re delivering for me and equate that to value so that I can either be your biggest banner waver and tell the tenants how awesome you are because we hired you. Tell my clients who I report to on a monthly and and quarterly and annual basis how awesome you are because the tenants love you. Give me the equipment. The next conveys all the value throughout your your contract duration and you can be a partner for life.

So there’s a number of different, different factors that go into into how I look at service partners. But very often they’ll get it wrong sometimes. Can I give an example? I’m sorry, did you give an example of. Yeah, if I could just give an example of of a particular industry, it may may help tell the story a little bit better. Please do. So I was working in the security industry and having discussions with some firms, regional firms, just about how they how they come to market.

And and invariably they will make an assumption that that they’re their most prized assets are the people that work for them. And trust me, virtually every company will tell us that know our people are number one. That’s great. That’s well and good. What of those people should I care about? And they said, well, we’ve got you know, they’re all veterans and had this military background and they come in certified carrying these these type of weapons certifications and basically come in guns blazing and and trying to impress upon me that they’ve got all these particular qualifications that are very, very kind of a hard skill.

And for me, guess what? You’re not even allowed to carry a firearm on my property, so you missed it right from the get go. Right. And I love the veterans. I’m very proud of being an American in this country. That no disrespect there. But the way they’ve been marketed is look how tough we are and look at what we can come equipped to to, you know, to bring to you. And I don’t care about any of that.

And I turned it on their ear and I said I said, if you really know if you really want to know what I want, I’m looking for an answer. A person, somebody who is observant but approachable, who looks the part, who says I’m a deterrent because I’m security, but I’m approachable because I’m going to have gas coming into my building. I have no idea where the Senate is. I have no idea where the closest Starbucks is.

I have no idea how to get a cab to the airport, have no idea all these different proximate resources that they should be the answer man. Oh, and by the way, there are really, really bad assets at security, but they’re not wearing it on their sleeve was a huge eye opener for them because they made all the assumptions of what property managers and facility managers want. So that that was pretty eye opening to them. And and it was, you know, telling it like it is from from my perspective.

Yeah. And one of the things you brought up there, which I’m curious about, it sounds like that particular service partner came in guns blazing, no pun intended. The you know, they just really started firing away at you before you could even tell them what your needs were. And what was important to you. Is that a red flag for you when a potential service partner comes in without asking any questions and just start spilling out, how they’re going to how they’re going to make your life better?

Yeah, it may not be red, but it’s definitely turning orange. You know, I, I just think it’s presumptuous and and and I look at I look at one of the best doctors that I’ve had in my life and somebody who who sat down with me and and just talked to me and I said, aren’t you going to examine me? Is that I am I’m talking to you about where it hurts, what’s going on in your life. And then then I’ll get to the examination and maybe prescribe something.

[30:11]
But for right now, I’m examining you just by talking to you like, wow, that’s brilliant. How many service partners would benefit from just that simple approach? Get to know your customer, get to know about them and their properties and what it is that you’d actually like to do for them because you see a need and or you can say that you’ve got it. You’ve got a solution to a particular perceived pain point. That’s fine. But then get to know me.

Once you get to know me, then you can start to prescribe something. But he was training the same doctor was with training as a med student and and she said, OK, well, based upon what I see, I’m going to prescribe prescribe penicillin. And he said, did you ask him if he was allergic to penicillin? Because if not, you just killed the patient with. OK, so there’s plenty of service partners out there who can actually assume way too much like the guns blazing scenario.

But even on the even on the on the janitorial side. And I’m really focusing on those. You major ones, because they’re the most customer facing, the most facing and then the highest the highest costs on the property, but it’s a really, really hard sell to tell me that you cleaned better than another company like you’re cleaning is that much cleaner? I really don’t think it is. It’s cleaning. It’s a thoroughness. I get all that. But you can’t tell me you cleaned better than somebody else.

So what else can you do? There is a point where clean is clean. Yeah. So then the conversation goes, you know, 20 minutes about the company and about the investment in training and cross training. And here’s how we do problem resolution, this and that. And we haven’t talked about cleaning in the last 20 minutes. That’s a conversation that I want to have because you’re not going to change my mind if you tell me to do cleaning.

Better yet, get you covered a lot there in the last five minutes or so. So for our listeners, a couple of things I wanted to kind of bring back up to the forefront here. You had mentioned service partners bringing up things that maybe you haven’t even thought of. So service partners who are telling you, look, when you’re evaluating this service, these are some things you want to keep an eye out for beyond this initial this initial engagement.

Here are some things you want to look out for down the road. Those are service partners that you want to work with. And then another thing that you mentioned was references. I think references are a great means of evaluating potential service partners. But if you call a reference and say, hey, I heard you work with Computrols, what do they like? How do they how do they do? What you’re going to get is probably this person is a reference for a reason.

You’re probably going to get all good things. But like you said, nobody’s perfect. They’re going to be problems along the way. So when you call those references, don’t just ask them, what do you think about Computrols had that question in your back pocket of tell me about a problem that you ran into with them and how they solved. Tell me about how they communicate with you. I think that those are the things that I want to make sure our listeners take away from a lot of what you just said, because, like I said, you covered a lot.

But those are extremely important and valuable ways to evaluate potential partners there. Absolutely.

Absolutely. I incorporated some questions within the pardon me just a second.

Within the actual RFP itself is that I will ask them exactly what questions do you want me to ask if your competition so that I know that I’ve done a thorough vetting of them and you you tell me how good you are. I mean, if there are certain standards that uphold, that’s fantastic. Tell me what standards I should be mandating of your competitors. So that’s number one. And that tells me a lot about their qualifications. Number two and what you just talked about as far as references go, and I usually do this.

Yes. When when I asked for three references, you get the three most glowing references who would just die for this company? But I also asked them, give me two references of companies who you’ve just lost business with. And and, you know, if if it’s contentious, then I’m not interested in really getting into all of that, but I really want to understand what were the reasons that that that you may have lost in the account and and hear from them.

[35:08]
So that gives me a little bit better understanding as to what. Right. But more accurate depiction. You’re not you’re not going to get you know, you’re not going to get all glowing answers. So that’s a that’s a great idea. Never, never, never thought that I ever actually going to ask that either, to be honest. So, you know, one of the things I wanted to talk to you about as well, because, you know, there’s a hierarchy within organizations when it comes to purchasing.

And one of the one of the challenges that a building engineer facility manager may have is, OK, they have they have the service partner who has come in about 10 percent higher, let’s say, than the rest of the competitors. Now, they have an ownership group that historically has wanted to take the lowest number. But, you know, there’s a means of communicating that value. Can you talk a little bit about how you do that?

Yeah. So, you know, traditionally we we go out to the market, we ask a bunch of questions, we ask for proposals, and we get big, thick story books and several sections. And when we talk about price, that’s in one of the sections towards the back. And when we receive the proposals, our tendency, natural tendency, I mean, it’s almost like we’re wired in is to drill straight to the price and then, well, OK, that’s their price.

And let’s see what the other prices are. Let’s whip out a spreadsheet and stack them together and say, well, here’s where it came out. I did my job. And that’s what I have been arguing has been one of the most shortsighted elements of shopping for four service partners and a word in business based upon price alone. So what I have done and continue to refine is, is to assign real dollars to the non-monetary attributes of the firm. And so I’ll ask pointed questions within the within the within the RFP that says this is not based purely on price alone.

It’s based on how you respond to all these other questions and show, you know, demonstrate your ability to solve problems, to be have communication standards and have you raise your service standards. How do you solve problems? How do you innovate all of these various different things that I assign weights to them.

And so once the prices come in, I do spread them like everybody else does. But then I have another whole section that assigns weighted values to the non-monetary attributes and reshuffles the deck and really levels the playing field in a way that, you know, it’s apples to apples and there are discrete values that then you can go back and actually see who is the most cost effective provider based upon what you value the most. And so if your needs are, my God, we’re having nothing but problems, then you’re putting a higher weight on problem solving.

And and who is the company that’s going to outshine everybody else on that? But it’s not just limited to problem solving. We need to be able to communicate how you solve those problems. You need to be able to communicate how you’re preventing them from happening in the future. And so so by putting a real dollar value on that and actually sorting the actual values, you can demonstrate to your clients, to your manager, to your team and even to your tenants if you need to, as to how you came up with this with this fact based selection.

And you can also then use that property managers very often, they are very they hesitate to do a lot of debriefs.

And and I think that’s doing their service partners a disservice. People want to know why they lost. And all we’ve been able to tell them is you were at the lowest bid.

And that’s pretty much it, and the story click what we really need to do to give them back is some feedback that if they are a quality service provider and a lot of times it’s like, wow, this is a service provider that you really wanted, but there they were higher than the others.

Well, if you use Mire method and you put certain dollar values on the things that were important to you in the first place, you can demonstrate why they’re the lowest and most cost effective service partner for you, because the other ones are costing you money in time and effort and solving their problems that they’ve given you because they’re they spread too thin to to manage their account properly. So it’s a different conversation that you’re having with with your clients, who their bottom line oriented people.

[40:35]
And that’s fine. And on the property PNL, you’re accountable. You budgeted for it, you’re responsible for it. But if you can show them why another another service provider can actually save money, even though the real dollars may look like it’s a greater investment, it’s because you put a value on those other things that actually translate into real value at the end of the day. And I’ll add I’ll add one more thing just to to talk about how to educate service partners about the value that they convey.

And so the real dollars in in in a large sense, many, many service partners such as Computrols and others actually say, you know, by installing a particular system, it can actually save you electricity, wear and tear. So it can save costs. It can save you money in the long run. Well, you would be very, very wise to know that every dollar saved in the operating expenses typically translates to about a 10 times the value and the value of the property.

So for every dollar you save me per square foot, I have now added ten dollars a square foot to the value of the property. And that’s that’s on an annual basis, right? Yes, that’s an annual basis. So, I mean, it works for for any fraction. If it’s 50 cents, you just saved me five dollars. If it’s if it’s three dollars, I say be 30 and thirty dollars added to the to the property. Well that’s a story that I can tell my clients.

That said and here’s another reason why we selected these particular service partners. So and any piece of ammunition that you can do the math on for me or I can educate you as to what math is important to me, I’ll give another example that I seem to always pick on on security for some for some reason.

But but they will tell me, you know, they’ll they’ll quote me one hundred and sixty eight hours as a contract. And what’s one hundred and sixty eight hours is like, well that’s twenty four, seven for a week. I said, OK, but that number means nothing to me.

I would never put that together either. Why are you telling me that. And that’s but that’s the way they do it. So they are kind of forcing their metric into my nomenclature. And I really I just want to tell them like, no, that’s to me. It’s sixty five cents a foot. I deal in cost per square foot. No, my denominator’s because that’s how I’m going to convey your value to to the clients that hire me. So there are several opportunities where where the actual vocabulary is just missed because of that.

Just either they don’t care enough to to know or care enough to convert whatever their metric is into the distance for me. One hundred and sixty eight hours. That is funny. So, you know, one of the a couple of things, again, I wanted to kind of highlight that you brought up here is the importance of not only saying, hey, we can save you money, but any time as a service partner that you can say this is how much money we can save you if you can actually give hard numbers.

Obviously, that’s a huge help because you’re making you’re making your customers life easier in that evaluation process. And, you know, as as a service partner for your service partners out there, if you’re not quantifying your your value in that way and your competitors are, who do you think is going to win out there? Somebody who can say definitively that I can say to you X number of dollars or somebody can say, you’re saying I can save you.

You know, because everybody’s saying that and ultimately you need to be able to prove that out some degree so. We talked about the, you know, the. The part of the process where you’re bringing, you know, bringing potential service partners to ownership, you know, so basically we talked about going up the ladder. Now, from a property manager standpoint, you have building engineers who are often the ones who are working with these partners on a daily basis, give their opinions and their decisions, I guess, influence your decisions.

[45:18]
And is that part of your process in terms of, you know, that’s that’s a value that you put on any given quote?

It is. And again, I thank you for for asking the various different dimensions and the perspectives that you bring to this conversation yield very interesting answers. It is in this way, everyone is a customer. And so my teammates are also my customers. And so if I’m doing my job, I’m conveying what that value is to them. If they cannot do the math and do the computation or have the comfort level that says here’s, you know, on paper, it looks it all looks great.

But I hate these guys because they’re arrogant and they never return my calls.

Oh, right.

Well, that just gets factored into my valuation because they’re not responsive. And I’ve just I’ve just factored in responsiveness as having a high weight on my evaluation. So thank you for that feedback. But yes, but all my teammates, our customers, like service partners, are customers like tenants or customers. You know, the typical customers, you’d say, yeah, they’re customers. But if you look at everyone, including your team, it’s not it’s not my way or the highway by any stretch.

You know, I don’t have to live with them day in, day out. These are the guys that do. And so if their comfort is not high either, I’ve done a poor job in relating and articulating what that value is and how it’s going to be better. But my role is not to overrule them. My role is to either convey the business case on its merits or understand that there are some other factors that I didn’t put in the evaluation that may make somebody else shine.

I have an example here, too. I did get I did get a recent proposal from from a security firm. And and the idea was that, well, they do they do our other work for us. So so this will just be, you know, it’s better because it will be integrated. I said that that’s fine. And there’s probably value there, too. What if you know, I think this proposal was thirty thousand dollars. I said, well, what if what if Company B comes in at ten thousand dollars?

Do you have twenty thousand dollars worth of value just because if it’s integrated and what’s the value of the integration is like that, but it’s all the same company. So it’s better like so. So what about being the same company is better? Are there certain data that’s shared between the two systems? I mean, tell me and I was putting the put the pressure on one of my guys that said, you’ve got to think it through because just because there’s an integration into the same company must be good.

You make a pretty big assumption. So unless you can give me twenty thousand dollars worth of value, you know what? It’s all going to be computation. So so I say that just because we have to look at it from every every which way we get asked questions from ownership, sometimes out of the blue, sometimes very, very intelligent and high level. And and we always want to come to the table prepared to support the business case. But yes, to answer your question in a long fashion.

Yes, they do have a a very substantial part of the buying process and it gets factored in right in for our facility managers listening out there, you know, get Gip brings up a good point here.

That and it probably feels like to a lot of facility managers who come into this situation and you ask them these questions, it probably feels like it’s like this guy is just trying to pick me apart. You know, I don’t know why it’s doing this. And there’s probably some frustration there. But at the end of the day, it’s it’s because you want what is best. And so when you come into those scenarios and you know that you’re going to get those kinds of questions, you really need to be able to articulate that value.

So great advice there, Gip. And, you know, one of the things that I want to kind of close with this is a two sided question. Here are mistakes. So on the buyer side, I’m sure there have been one or two not so great vendors over the last thirty six years that you’ve employed. What are some of the mistakes or lessons maybe you’ve learned along the way when you’re evaluating vendors?

[50:05]
I think the biggest mistake we can probably all agree on is, is just making too many assumptions. And just because a roofing company is in the roofing industry doesn’t make them a roofing expert, a roofing professional, certified in roofing, licensed roofer, insured as a roofer or competent as a roofer. Nor does that make them timely or responsible or communicative or Problem-Solving, nor does it make them a an actual value enhancer. All those things are just top of mind, because I’ve hired a pretty poor roofer back in the 80s and came to to look at the progress that they were making in the middle of the rain.

And they were playing a a built up roof in a rainstorm. And I’m like I’m not sure that that’s actually a good idea and know that that’s actually horrible. You just wet surfaces.

So I was young and and I learned and they were fly by night and they, like many, many unscrupulous folks, were in and out of the business for for the quick buck. They did a roof job, but it wasn’t the rooftop that I assumed it would be. So I’d think making assumptions just too many assumptions is is the first and foremost, most critical mistake that you can make. Have your questions, manage expectations, ask the right questions of them and see what kind of answers you get.

Because when you ask highly intelligent, highly thoughtful questions that paint a picture of a particular expectation and your service partner can’t take you from point A all the way to point B at the end of the project and meet that expectation vision that you’ve created, then then they’re not for you. So there is something that was missed along the way. So I would say assumptions would be assumptions and presumptions would be the biggest culprit in that scenario. Yeah. And you want to give you know, I want to give the property managers out there the benefit of the doubt.

A lot of those scenarios where it’s not the only thing that they’re working on, it’s not like, oh, I have to evaluate this roofer. And that’s all I got. All I’ve got going on this week.

I understand no facility and property managers out there. You’re busy, busy people. And at times you’re just like, OK, look, we got to make a choice. Let’s just go here. So, you know, it’s it’s good advice, though. Never make assumptions. And you have to realize the important. Of those individual service partners and what they’re going to bring to your facility, so I mentioned that was a double sided question. So the other side of that question is, what would you believe?

What do you believe to be the single most damaging sales tactic used by prospective service partners?

Yeah, I mentioned it before. I think, you know, my study of values is has uncovered what what you might think would be fairly obvious, obvious discoveries. And that is that is it’s taking the assumptions a step further. Service partners and they could be some very, very good ones have assigned people with a task of generating sales without without developing relationships. And relationships will never be developed without needs in the conversation, discussion and some type of a some type of a rapport that that’s built that gives me comfort that I can go to the next to the next level.

But it’s it’s the shotgun approach of pleading for my time that not only lets them appear desperate, but it just devalues them in such a significant way right out of the gate that they are assuming I’m so busy that there is no freaking way that I would have more than five minutes to give to them to listen to them. Yeah, you just said we’re busy. It’s not the only thing that we’re working on. But please, please, please do not sell yourself short ride out of the gate.

Allow us to to dictate the pace and the amount of time invested in this discovery, because I’m learning as much about you as you are hopefully trying to discover from me. But yeah, I think that’s the that the one that that really pains me the most is to see otherwise good companies come right out of the block with a very undervalued position. And it goes into I don’t put it in the trash. I save all these emails, all these cold emails into a cold email folder that I will respond to.

[55:22]
And and my response is, I would love to give you business, but I’m not going to at least not now. And then I go off into if there are different ways you can do things. Here’s here’s a few suggestions. So I do have kind of like my call, the email response all set up. But, you know, because I don’t want to just slam anybody and ignore ignore anybody because I think it’s you know, sales are what make the world go round.

I I’m really loving getting into the sales process, the sales conversations, both sides of the party. How can we create a win win? But it extends beyond just the seller and the buyer. It goes to how we win for the companies we represent, how we win for the tenants that we serve, how we win for the clients that we serve. You know, who’s the client’s client. And when he can get to that that concentric circle as a service partner, I know that you’ve influenced that particular message.

And, you know, you just hit it out of the park. Don’t rest on your laurels. Keep investing in that particular relationship, because over time and over thirty six years, I’ve got many, many close service partners who have earned my business and continue to get more and more business because of that relationship. And so do your homework and it’ll pay big benefits in the long run. A wise man once told me, Gip, that making sales and getting new projects is a combination of timing and relationships from a timing perspective, I can’t sell you a moving truck if you’re not moving.

And from a relationship standpoint, really, everything you just talked about over the last half an hour or so, this has been a great conversation. I can’t thank you enough, really. I think this is one of those rare conversations where service partners and building operators get a lot of benefit. So I greatly appreciate your time here today. And I really would love to keep this conversation going longer. But we’re running into our time here. Anything to close out with you?

I would just say yes. I think that that, you know, any investment your service partners, your service partner audience makes is really should be into how best to understand the other side. And that’s whether it’s a business, whether it’s a personal relationship, whether it’s company to company. And B, to be understanding what drives the other side is going to allow you to articulate in that language things that will resonate with that other party. And so when that dance of words can actually be exchanged and it’s not a hundred and sixty eight hours versus sixty five cents per square foot, I mean, that’s apples and Rolls Royces, you know, when you’re talking the same language and all of a sudden that language and the conversation can be elevated.

So that deepens the relationship, that strengthens the bond, that strengthens the reliance. And when when your customer takes as much or greater of an interest in your company than you know, you’ve got something worth investing more time into. Great advice from Gip Erskin GEP, thank you again, and we look forward to having you all at our next podcast. I’m Scott Holstein with the Building Technology podcast signing off.

 

About Scott Holstein

Scott Holstein is the Director of Marketing and Business Development for Computrols where he began working in early 2016. Holstein has since entrenched himself in the building automation industry and has written articles for the Computrols blog, ControlTrends, and AutomatedBuildings.com and spoken at a number of industry events. Some of his specialties outside of sales and marketing include new technology trends in smart buildings, energy efficiency strategies, and the internet of things.