If you are preparing to solicit new business for your weld inspection company get ready to answer these 5 questions.

Do you have an Engineer on Staff or Contract?

Yes or No and get ready to tell them why its better that way

No surprise that my first point is on engineering. Customers will want to know you have access to engineering and will often ask this by saying “do you have an engineer on staff”. This is a bit of a loaded question because there are a bunch of assumptions about the level of engineering support you get if if you have an engineer on staff. If you can simply answer yes, great! Tell them about your available engineering service. If you don’t, you will need to convince them that not having an engineer on staff is an advantage not a disadvantage. Whether or not you have an engineer on staff or not try these talking points:

  • "I have access to an engineer on the phone anytime during the day to walk through any problems while the inspection is getting done."
  • "If we need it my engineer can make a site visit to review more complex problems."
  • "The turn around time on engineering documentation is ___________ (1 day, 1 week, 1 month)"
  • "My engineer has the following experience.."
  • "Ontop of equipment recertification we can offer you the following engineering services: reverse engineering, weld repair instructions, failure analysis, part design etc."

Do you know what you are doing?

Have a plan and show it to them

There are two types of inspection services out there. There are weld inspectors and there are companies that offer equipment re-certifications. Your potential customer will have experience dealing with people from both camps. The problem is that it is common for weld inspectors to come out of industry like pipeline inspections when it is slow and dabble in crane recertification’s. The major difference between the two groups is that weld inspectors get told what to inspect how much to do. Equipment inspectors come with a plan. Be prepared to show your potential customer that you have a plan and what that plan is. My strategy was to always walk in the door with a complete inspection report for a piece of equipment similar to what they had. That way I would show I had a plan and some experience doing that kind inspection. Click here if you want to download an example inspection sheet.

The company I’m using now has been really good – what are you doing different?

Make them a priority in your schedule

The problem with acquiring customers in this industry is that the customer that switch to using you easily and quickly will also switch again when the next guy walks through the door. You want to try and acquire the loyal customers which are, obviously, hard to get. You will need to sell your level of customer service because that is usually what keeps customers. My favorite trick was to tell them you have 24h service. This usually gets a great reaction without much risk on your side. Rarely will the guy you are talking to work 24h a day so why would they need inspection services? Not to mention you can always charge overtime if they do call you late at night or on the weekend.

However, the critical question they will want to know is how soon you can do inspection or how far you are booked out. Potential clients always ask this question because so few companies are organized enough to plan their inspections weeks in advance and get them booked with the inspection company. Usually, it is all last minute. If you are a startup with no work this is easy to answer since you can literally come immediately but as you grow you will need a more defined strategy for this. I always felt that keeping the inspectors at 80-90% capacity always left room to fit in a new customer or adjust if there was scheduling problems.

What are your rates?

Play up the service play down the price.

The dreaded question. We all hate to compete on price but often that is the most common question the customers focus on. I have found that people ask this question because price is the easiest way for the customer to differentiate services and it is easy to talk about (for them) and easy to compare. I however, don’t feel customers leave current service providers because of price alone. It is usually paired with bad services, slow service or them feeling cheated somehow. I recommend focusing on the services you are offering rather than the price itself. For instance, do you charge for travel, what about call backs? Another strategy I use is to try and make a bit of partnership on price by telling the customer they can greatly influence the efficiency of the inspection and the price per unit if they are properly prepared for you with clean equipment already set up for inspection or by having multiple units ready to go at one time. Go into the meeting with a good idea of what your prices are and be confident in them. After all, if the average inspection is in the neighborhood of one day rental rate on this equipment and the customer is renting it out the other 365 days a year is the 0.27% of gross cost really the issue.

The Un-Asked Question: Image & First Impressions

Work on that professional image.

This is not really a question but I think in this business image speaks volumes. You are asking the person you are meeting to make a judgement call on you personally as well as your company so make sure you show up with a polished “appropriate image.” This doesn’t mean show up in a slick suite but make sure you are have clean cloths on and you didn’t just come from your last job. Make sure your vehicle is in good shape, clean and well identified. Have business cards ready and something you can leave with the person you are meeting. I had success leaving a booklet with them that was more than just some sheets stapled together so that it doesn’t get lost on their desk. Show up with the proper personal protective equipment so you can suggest having a discussion while you get a tour of the facility so it is more of a casual conversation for both parties. You can try different things and you will get a feel for how formal of a place you are walking into once you get through the doors.

However, always keep your coveralls and equipment in the truck in case they give you a chance to do a inspection on the spot.