Building a commercial property inspection business takes time, effort, and money. Being able to sell commercial property inspections is at the heart of running a business. However, selling this type of professional service is different than selling a physical product. In order to successfully land deals, it’s essential to have solid sales skills to effectively gain more clients. First and foremost, it’s essential to understand the importance of soft skills—the ability to work, relate, or communicate with others.
Understanding Soft Skills: How to Communicate with Clients
Being able to effectively interact with potential clients through various communication styles is extremely important for building long-term success. Gaining soft skills is not as easily learned as gaining the technical skills of conducting property inspections because it involves having the subtle ability to accommodate different communication styles and scenarios.
One of the most important soft skills is the ability to listen to potential clients and allow them to talk. By listening to their concerns, you will allow clients to provide a clearer scope of the project, thereby setting clearer expectations of service. Clients will naturally provide you with everything you need to know about their company and building needs. Being able to repeat back these expectations to the client—and if properly executed—will leave the client with no doubts to hire you.
The following lists the five most important soft skills that commercial inspectors or commercial property inspection salespeople should master:
- Effective communication
- Influencing without authority
Effective communication is rooted in having both confidence and empathy. Having confidence in your skills and in your ability to exceed client expectations is coupled with having empathy for the client’s process and how much work was involved to reach the decision to buy the building.
Think about the first interaction with the client when answering a phone call. If you answer a call near an open vehicle window with rushing wind, it is simply not an effective way to communicate. The noise will be distorted and distract the ability to communicate with each other. Asking the client to constantly repeat themself does not provide confidence or professionalism.
Be open to inviting clients to participate—or at least attend—the property inspection. This is a perfect example that demonstrates teamwork. By doing so, you are opening the door for effective communication, showing them that you truly care about this process and that you want to help them. This also establishes trust with the client by showing that you are there to support and educate them about complex building systems.
Creating a sense of teamwork allows clients to feel that they can rely on you because you’ve established a sense of collaboration in the inspection process. They will ultimately feel secure in their decision to hire you.
Influence without Authority
Influence without authority means having the ability to persuade others to act in a certain way, even if you don’t have the formal power or authority to make them do so. It involves building relationships, credibility, and trust, and using effective communication to persuade others to make a particular decision.
The following lists persuasion tactics to positively influence potential clients without having formal authority over them:
- Understand their needs—Take the time to understand the potential client’s current pain points and goals. Ask questions to understand their specific requirements and show that you are interested in helping them find the best solution.
- Demonstrate value—Show how your service can help potential clients achieve their goals and solve their pain points more effectively than their current tool. Highlight the benefits and features that are most relevant to their needs.
- Establish trust—Be transparent and honest about what your service can and cannot do. Be willing to answer any questions or concerns they may have, and don’t oversell or promise things that you cannot deliver.
By building credibility, understanding their needs, demonstrating value, and establishing trust, you can influence the potential client to choose your service, even if you don’t have formal authority over them.
Being able to effectively problem-solve is a very valuable sales tool. It begins with listening to your clients as they express their concerns and expectations for the inspection—whether it’s during the phone call or at the inspection.
For example, you might identify that the client is concerned about the life expectancy of the HVAC equipment since it is among the top 3 most expensive systems to repair and replace in a building. With a good understanding of the ComSOP, you can tell the client that you are confident that you can provide the ages and visual conditions of all of the HVAC systems, and you will help them understand immediate and long-term expectations. Having confidence and reassurance shows the client that you will satisfy their concerns. You are thereby establishing yourself as a trusted advisor and increasing the likelihood of a successful sale by showing that you know how to problem-solve.
Leadership is demonstrating a strong sense of confidence and the ability to have others trust and rely on you. As a commercial property inspector, the ability to show confidence and leadership throughout the entire inspection process is the most valuable tool. Being an effective leader is also having humility—not being boastful and admitting when you don’t know something. Great leaders lean heavily into their strengths to put their clients’ needs first.
Leadership used as a sales tool is shown when the inspector takes ownership of the entire process and can guide the client through the entire journey, from the initial phone call through the distribution of the final report. The ability to show this ownership produces a strong relationship and confidence with the client.
When you show a strong understanding of your industry and the professional services you are selling, you are providing valuable insights and advice to the clients. You are positioning yourself as a trusted advisor and increasing the client’s confidence in your ability to deliver results.
Communicating with Various Decision Makers
Having a solid understanding of the soft skills necessary to successfully sell a commercial property inspection is extremely important before you take on your first commercial property inspection.
The phone rings. A potential client wants you to provide them with a price for a commercial building inspection. Who might be calling?
- An assistant
- Real estate agent
Each of these individuals has a different point of view or role in the inspection process and each will have a different decision point. An understanding of the role or decision point is critical in the next part of the sales process. It is important to make sure that all conversations about fees, the process, and your expertise are addressed to the decision-maker—not an intermediary. A middle person will never be able to represent your business and sell your professional services as well as you can. When speaking with an assistant or the real estate agent, you must request that the main decision maker has the ability to talk with you directly so that you can present your fees directly to that person.
Establishing Competitive Fees
There are many resources available to help establish a competitive fee structure. Within those sources, the basic scenarios include:
- Square footage
- Base fee
- Hourly rate
- Percentage of the sale
- A hybrid of them all
Establishing fees are also based on research. Many inspection companies will survey their marketplace and determine what other inspection companies in their area are charging. This is referred to as “mystery shopping.” This is a good way to verify that your fees are competitive. Visit Competitor Analysis for Commercial Property Inspectors for more information. Establishing competitive fees and having the ability to stand by and explain them are essential aspects of selling commercial property inspections.
How to Handle Price Objections and Negotiations
Inspectors must have the ability to navigate client interactions, and through those interactions, there is a potential need to negotiate. Depending on the potential client, the inspection fee may be met with immediate acceptance, reluctant acceptance, or immediate refusal. But one of the most difficult things to overcome is client price objections. These objections occur when you present your fees to the client, and they do not accept and continue to search for another inspector; they let you know that your fee or services will not be needed. Most inspectors will never know the reason behind the objection unless they specifically ask. As a business owner, it’s your goal to limit or eliminate price objections once you’ve presented the fee.
The refusal can be changed to acceptance if the fees are negotiated. Not allowing your client to say no to your fee is a very successful sales tool. If you feel that you need to adjust your fees based on your client’s reaction, a possible response could include.
“If I am able to provide this inspection for $X, would you be able to schedule the inspection for Tuesday at 10:00?”
This drops your fee to accommodate the client with a victory, as well as being able to schedule an inspection on the day and time that you want. You have an inspection, and they have the price—it’s a win-win.
Deciding whether to adjust your fees in response to a price objection is a strategic decision that comes with benefits and drawbacks. On one hand, inspectors may benefit from increased sales, improved competitive positioning, and enhanced customer retention. On the other hand, they may face challenges, like decreased profit margins, altered value perception, and the risk of setting a precedent for future pricing. It is essential to communicate the overarching value of your services and ensure your pricing aligns with your overall business goals.
Confidence in Negotiation Tactics
There will always be some clients who will need a little more nudging in order to make a final decision. One simple technique that requires personal confidence is creating a sense of urgency to help them make a decision. The following lists two examples an inspector could say to their potential client to create a sense of urgency:
- “I am booked solid this week, but I can arrange my schedule to provide this inspection on Tuesday.”
- “My fee is $2,500 for this project. As of right now, I am available on Tuesday. What time works best for you?”
The first example gives the client a sense that you are a very desired inspector, but you are willing to accommodate their request because you want their business. It will, in turn, make them feel that they are just as important as your current clients, and they want to be associated with someone who is successful and high in demand. The second example does not give the client a chance to shop around for other options, but rather, it creates a sense of urgency to make an immediate decision before your time slot on Tuesday gets taken.
Colleague + Competition = Colompetition
It’s imperative to understand that there are other inspectors in the marketplace who perform their inspections in a similar fashion by using the ComSOP. These are the friendly competitors who, when they perform inspections, build the industry; these are your cooperative colleagues. The inspectors who do not use the ComSOP tend to neglect and uphold the values required for commercial property inspections. This negligence inevitably brings down the value of the product and the competition. However, some inspectors will use the competition as a sales tool.
The competition can be easily counter-sold by showing confidence in your process and your professionalism. The following is an example of a good technique:
“I am sure you are going to talk with other inspectors about this project. As you look at their services and fees, you might find that there will be a difference between them and what I have presented. I want to make sure you understand that I am a certified commercial property inspector. This type of property is my main area of expertise—not home inspections. It is my goal to exceed your expectations and provide you with a superior commercial property inspection.”
This will leave your client with little doubt that you are serious about commercial property inspections and not just dabbling in this industry.
In conclusion, overcoming price objections in commercial property inspections requires not only establishing a fee structure based on research and industry standards, but also mastering important soft skills such as effective communication, teamwork, influencing without authority, problem-solving, and leadership.
By listening to your client and understanding their needs, you can demonstrate value and establish trust, which are key to encourage them toward choosing your service. Establishing trust and projecting empathy will show the client that you truly care about their process and want to help them find the right solution. By mastering these skills, commercial property inspectors can increase the likelihood of a successful sale and build long-term success and credibility in their businesses.
Article Written By: Rob Claus, CCPI
Additional Resources for Commercial Property Inspectors:
- How to Determine Inspection Prices and Write Proposals Online Course
- Getting Started in Commercial Property Inspections: Moving from Residential to Commercial Inspections
- Getting Started as a Commercial Property Inspector: Preliminary Walk-Through Procedure
- Getting Started as a Commercial Property Inspector: Determining Your Business Structure
- Getting Started as a Commercial Property Inspector: Do You Have What It Takes?
- Getting Started as a Commercial Inspector: Defining Your Service Area