By Kurt K. Thompson, IrriTech Training, Inc
So, you have gone through the effort to get a license or certification. Now what? It was expensive, it took a ton of time, and you are not getting any richer. That was the whole point of all that, right?
Well, yes. Being able to make more money is one of the reasons for increasing your skills and knowledge. Generating a higher net income requires one or more of three things to happen: Sell more work, lower the costs, or sell at a higher price.
Selling most work is the most difficult of the three to execute and has a smaller return on the effort. Being more efficient plus increasing your value to the customer to raise your prices slightly is the magic combination. This is where professional credentials fit in.
More Efficient, Better Margins
More skills and a higher level of knowledge leads to improved efficiency, accuracy, and quality of workmanship which lower costs. This also influences how you frame the value of the work to the customer and justify a higher price. Your professional license or certification is independent proof that you acquired and are maintaining the skills and knowledge.
Remember that your customers also benefit from your investment in learning. Therefore, the challenge for you is showing your customers how your higher levels of skills and knowledge are meaningful to them.
Let’s say, I have a super accurate (and relatively expensive) tool that I use to do my work. How is the customer going to know that they should hire me AND pay me more than the competition if I do not explain the tangible values that I and my spiffy tool have for them, in their terms? The same applies to professional credentials.
Explaining Your Value
If you are in a market where all contractors are required to have a state or local license, then the license itself is not going to make you special. It is a requirement, not a differentiator. In that case, if you want to be different (i.e. better), you will need another way to demonstrate your value to your customer that can be proven.
That’s where professional certifications come in. Certifications are independent testimonials that go to your level of knowledge and type of skills. Allow me to use my own story as an example to illustrate my point.
I am a state licensed irrigation contractor in my home state of North Carolina. When I am making a proposal to a potential client, I will explain that the license proves that I know the minimum standards and that I am registered with the state should I not meet those minimum standards set forth by the state.
The client probably had not realized the value that a licensed professional provides them in terms of safety because contractors have a tendency not to explain this to them. But because my competitors also have a license, it is not a big enough deal to get top dollar for my services and I still need to show the client the extra value that I will deliver.
That’s why I start by pointing out that I hold nationally recognized certifications from the Irrigation Association (www.irrigation.org/certification). Then I will show them the listing of all nine I hold. Why nine? Because many other contractors could have two, three, or even four of the IA certifications, but very few have all nine. But none of these mean diddly to the client and may even be perceived as bragging because I have not told them why it is important to them, in their terms.
While I can build that value bridge in many different ways based on the specific circumstances, it always comes down to showing them how technical competency means getting to the right solution, in the most economical way because I’m not guessing at their expense. The advanced knowledge and skills required in obtaining and maintaining these certifications translates into the client knowing that I can do what I say and find all of the problems, not just the obvious one.
I explain further that these certifications combined with my experience should give them the confidence that when the job’s done, I’ll leave them with a peace of mind. For sure, I still have to do what I say I will do, but that is the part where I can exceed their expectations and wow them! The point of explaining my credentials is to help show the value of me, my company, and the price I will be asking. Oh! And increasing likelihood for getting the job.
Kurt Thompson is a managing partner at IrriTech Training, Inc. (www.IrriTechTraining.com), a company specializing in online, remote, and in person training for onboarding and developing irrigation technicians and supervisors, individual technical irrigation and contractor business education, and preparation for irrigation certification and state license exams. He is also the owner of K. Thompson and Associates, LLC, a business coaching, professional development instruction, and outdoor water use evaluation and planning company. He can be reached at Kurt@IrriTechTraining.com or Kurt@KThompsonAssociates.com.