Construction professionals shaking hands over a deal. / By Ngampol

In the first part of this series, we looked at the purpose of collaborating with other professionals to help your business grow. Now, we will look at who you should work with. Recommending a bad contractor could destroy your business. Bad reviews, losing the opportunity to work with clients in the future, and tarnishing your credibility are just a few of the downsides of improper collaboration. You should only recommend other contractors if you’re 100% certain of their expertise and confident in their business skills.

Treat your customers like friends whom you don’t want to disappoint, and you’ll have success networking. But do your homework, which brings us to our first question.

How Do I Vet a Contractor?

First, ask your clients. The sandblaster we mentioned in Part 1 came to our attention through one of our clients, who had hired him to remove paint that was coating their driveway prior to calling us for resurfacing. The sandblaster had done an outstanding job, leaving the place spotless and removing all traces of paint. In addition, he had prepped 1,800 square feet in two days. That was enough for us to look into him further.

A pool contractor we work with also came from a client, whose pool deck we resurfaced. The coping, tiling, and mastic were done with such attention to detail that we had to ask the customer for the contractor’s number.

Second, ask the contractors whom you already work with. As with other aspects of life, networking success breeds more success. If you’ve established relationships with highly credible and professional contractors, they will likely know more of the same type of people.

Third, ask the contractor you’re considering working with for references. This is an important step. You will get the benefit of hearing what other people say about the contractor you’re considering, but take into account that this is only so reliable: Nobody will refer you to an unhappy customer. A secondary benefit of this is to find out how willing to cooperate the contractor is, and to get a feeling for how confident he is in his own work.

Finally, if you’re fairly sure a contractor you’re vetting is reliable, but still have some doubts, give them a small lead first. That way, if something goes south, you can take the hit and still be straight with the customer.

How Do I Approach a Contractor (Once I’ve Vetted Them)?

Now that you’ve vetted your candidates, it’s time to reach out. There’s no one correct way to do outreach. There are, however, a few things you can do to increase its success rate:

First, differentiate yourself from spammers, telemarketers, and sleazy salespeople. A good way to do this is to establish that you’re a local contractor early on in your email or phone call—or even a handwritten letter. Think of how well you recognize spam email and telemarketing phone calls within seconds, and strive to do the opposite of what those people (or computers) are doing. For example, I don’t include a link to my website in the first email I write to a contractor. That’s precisely because most spammy emails I get have links in them.

Second, have something to offer. An excellent way to gain momentum is to recommend a contractor to a client before reaching out to that contractor. That way, when you call the contractor, you have already provided some value for them. You can also give the contractor a taste of what’s to be gained through networking by showing the demand your clients have for their services.

Third, provide the contractor with plenty of information about yourself so that they feel comfortable putting their name on the line for you. Just like you should thoroughly vet contractors before sending your clients to them, they should do the same for you. You know that you’re a stand-up guy, but the person who’s just hearing your voice for the first time has no reason to assume you’re reliable.

In fact, if the contractor doesn’t try to vet you thoroughly, that should make you question how good of an idea it is to work with them. In additon, it’s important to note that your initial email or phone call should not be too long. That’s why it’s often better to mention that you’d like to offer them more information and see how and when they want to receive it.

If you don’t have a lot of reviews and dozens of customers who can provide references, your outreach will be a lot more difficult. If that’s the case, you’ll have to stand out in another way. Show the contractor that you go above-and-beyond in your customer service, attention to detail, and overall attitude towards the way you do business.

Working with other contractors is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Like everything else in life, to be successful with it, you’ll need to put in lots of hard work and be consistent (especially until you establish good relationships). Apply all the creative and critical thinking you do to solve problems on the jobsites in trying to network with other pros. If you take the time, though, I promise it can help you grow your decorative concrete business. And even if you only get one more job per month, it’ll be well worth it in the long run.