Why Your Mom Wants You to be a More Assertive Salesperson

BY: Joe Crisara


Do certain aspects of the selling process make you feel like you’re being pushy?

Do you leave parts out of the sales process because you worry some of that stuff might make you look like a (oh no!) salesperson?

A lot of people in our business feel that way at one time or another.

Now, it’s not going to surprise you to know that yours truly, The Contractor Sales Coach, is going to tell you that’s the wrong attitude to have.

So instead of me just telling you to “stop it”, I’ll share a story with you that illustrates my point.

Four Sticking Points

The other day I had a discussion with a tech who’s one of our newer Total Immersion students. I asked him how his sales calls were going, and to his credit, instead of just B.S.-ing me and saying, “fine”, he told me the truth about something that’s been bothering him.

He said…

“It’s going ok, Joe. At least most of it is. Except honestly, I leave out certain aspects of what you teach on my sales calls. Some of it just doesn’t feel right. It feels pushy, and that’s just not me.”

I had a good idea where he was going with this, so I asked him which parts of the process in particular made him uncomfortable. He listed four…

1. Getting the customer to commit to doing the work before presenting the price
We teach that early in the presentation, and again right before presenting the customer’s options (and the price), you should get the customer to verbally commit to the fact that you’re there to fix their problem. Not bid, not estimate… but fix.

2. Asking the customer to tell you how the competition failed
Our benchmarks include asking who did work on their equipment before and why the customer didn’t have that company come back this time. We encourage them to tell us verbally why they’ve chosen not to do business with that competitor again.

3. Offering a permanent solution to someone who called you for a minor repair
Our process is about doing what’s best for the customer and their family in the long-term. Sometimes that includes suggesting a replacement or a more major repair instead of just making a temporary band-aid repair that won’t last.

4. Asking repeatedly for the job after getting a “no” from the customer
Our industry has taught customers to get bids and choose the cheapest one. We don’t work that way in our program. Since we’ve already gotten the customer’s commitment to do the work and we’ve offered an array of solutions and prices to fit any situation, we teach that you should ask more than once for the job.

See, sales tactics are like a hammer. They’re just a tool. A hammer can be used to do something really nice – like building homes for the homeless. It can also be used for evil – like as a weapon to hurt other people.

But either way, the hammer itself is innocent. It’s the intent and attitude of the person using the tool that matters. Selling is no different.

The tech said, “You know, Joe. I wouldn’t want someone doing that stuff to my Mom, so I have a really hard time with those parts of the program.”

I thought about it for a second and said, “You know what? Good point. Let’s talk about your Mom!”

And then I walked him through the following scenarios…

About Your Mother…

We all love our Moms, and we want what’s best for them, right? So at times we encourage Mom to buy a new security system, go see the doctor, take her medication when she’s supposed to, or get the brakes on her car repaired – even when she doesn’t want to.

Why? Because we love Mom and we know that encouraging her to do these things is ultimately the best thing for her.

So why does your customer deserve any less consideration?

While you’re on the clock, your customer is the most important person in your world. It’s your duty to provide them with the best possible solutions for them and their family.

Like the hammer analogy – it’s all in your intent. If you’re a bully about it, you’ll fail. If you approach it with an attitude of caring and servitude, not only will your customer be better off, but you’ll be more successful in your work.

We’ve already looked at the four “sticking points” for the tech with the wrong mindset. Now let’s look at them with an attitude of caring, and servitude.

1. Getting the customer to commit to doing the work before presenting the price
What happens when we don’t get the customer to commit to fixing the problem from the beginning? They wait. Their small problem can become a major (potentially dangerous) problem. They take bids, go with the cheapest one, and get a band-aid repair that doesn’t last and costs them more money and suffering in the long-term.

Would you let your Mom do that in the dead of winter or the heat of summer? Or would you want her problem fixed right now and fixed permanently?

2. Asking the customer to tell you how the competition failed
When the customer tells us why the last company failed, it reminds them why they called you out – for a better quality experience. By skipping this step, you leave the door open for them to “think about it”, give the company they were unhappy with another chance to do another bad job for them, and cause more system problems for them in the future.

If your Mom was going to call back a company that did a lousy job for her or treated her poorly, would you let her? Or would you encourage her to find another company who would permanently fix her problem and treat her well?

3. Offering a permanent solution to someone who called you for a minor repair
Especially on older systems, band-aid repairs of minor parts lead to even more band-aid repairs. By not addressing the whole system, a customer can wind up spending more over time (and dealing with a TON more hassles) than if they choose a proper repair or replacement.

Do you want Mom to have to deal with a plumbing, HVAC, or electrical issue every few months? Of course not. Wouldn’t you encourage her to do the repair the right way and have it done with?

4. Asking repeatedly for the job after getting a “no” from the customer
When faced with a decision, most people stall on making a decision even when they know it’s something they should do. By saying, “Now, Mr. Customer, you told me when I got here that you wanted to fix this today if I showed you a good solution… so what should we do?” – you’re reminding them of their need for a solution – not bullying.

Again… think of Mom. If Mom’s basement was 2 inches deep in sewer water, or if it was 20 degrees in her home in February… what would you do? Would you tell her to wait a few more days? Or would you say, “Mom… you HAVE to fix this, and you have several good choices here. Pick one and get it done.”

It’s all in your attitude and your intent.

Bully, Bust, or Backer?

You have to choose. Like the hammer analogy, you have 3 choices:

You can be a bully and pressure people into buying from you. This is a terrible way to live, and incidentally, never works long-term.

You can be a total bust as a salesperson and not use the tools you have at your disposal to help people….

…or you can do the right thing and be your customer’s backer by encouraging them to choose permanent solutions they really need that will save them time, money, and grief in the long-term.

Given those three choices, what do you think Mom would want you to do?

Our Total Immersion Program will teach you how to get customer buy-in throughout the service and sales process, making the buying experience more enjoyable and effective for all parties involved. Click here to learn more and see when our next summit begins.



25 Genius Ways to Keep Referrals Flowing All Year Long

BY: Joe Crisara



We’re in a cyclical business, and those “in-between” months can be tough going for a lot of contractors. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In my last article, we covered why most shops are leaving tons of money on the table by not having active referral programs. We talked about how a good referral program benefits the company, the employees, and the customers.

I even gave you some talking points to use with your people to get them enthusiastic about seeking referrals.

Today, I’m going to give you 25 great ways to get the referrals flowing and keep them flowing all year long. Some of these are super quick and easy to implement, and others may take some setup, but I’ve personally witnessed each and every one of them work over the years.

You’re going to want to save this one!

Choose the ones that will work best for you, and start booking all those referral calls!

1. The Total Immersion Referral

You know I have to start out with my tried-and-true method of getting referrals, right? This is super easy to implement immediately. As we teach in our Total Immersion Program, have your techs and salespeople conclude each successful call by saying the following…

I really enjoyed working for you and your family today.

Is there anything about our service we could improve?

It’s always great to find great customers like you who appreciate the work we do. What advice would you give me to find more great customers like you?

It’s as easy as that!


2. Employee Discount Referral Program

Approach businesses with a lot of employees like manufacturers, hospitals, your suppliers, banks, etc. and tell them that as an added benefit for them to offer their employees, any of their employees can use a discount card that you provide them with for free diagnostic or a planned service tune up or a discounted price on the repair.

I knew one owner who had a relative working for a major airline in the area and they distributed this offer in 3,000 paycheck envelopes each month. Talk about finding your perfect customer – a busy professional where time is a premium for them looking for premium services… Jackpot!


3. Center Of Influence Referral Program

Think of the most influential people in your community. Police stations, firehouses, or any office or business that people look up to and trust. Send a pizza over to them once a week or once a month –  or pay for lunch for the office. Of course, with a note from your company on it.

When they have a question about a faulty furnace or find a carbon monoxide problem in someone’s home, who will they think of? YOU!

Buy lunch for other centers of influence like maybe your hair stylist once a month. Ask them if you can leave some flyers on the counter at their shop. You’re IN!


4. The Transaction Referral System

Many companies have a referral system that their customers never even know about – because the company doesn’t bother to tell them about the program!

Make it a habit to send out a card after each service, sales, or installation transaction letting your customers know that they get $10 cash if they refer anybody and $50 if it turns into a bigger job.

Have someone at your office hand address each postcard as they file your service tickets away or print out labels from your computer program each week sending the card out to every customer you went to this week.


5. The Stack-Up-Your-Services Referral System

When you give planned service to a customer, it’s more tangible than just giving them money. I have a friend in the business who gives a customer one more year of heating or cooling planned service for each customer they refer to him.

My suggestion is that once a customer has amassed 5 years of planned service, you start giving them $50 gift certificates that they can use for any of your services.


6. The Second Opinion Referral System

Offer a free second opinion on any repairs that a customer is considering from your competitors.

Think of how many residents might take you up on a second opinion on a condemned heat exchanger, for instance! This is an easy offer to tack on to any of your current marketing or advertising and can yield a lot of new customers!


7. Start a Small Business Referral Group

You’ve heard of referral groups in your community where non-competing local businesses get together and refer business to each other. Why not start your own?

Create a flyer inviting local businesses to become part of a referral group in your area. Let them know that the group will meet monthly and that there will be only one business in every category allowed into the referral group. Make sure you create a referral board that votes in any new members who are allowed to join.

Only include small businesses that need customers into the group – not superstores or other manufacturing type businesses.

Not only will this generate referrals from within the group, but it’s a great way to become a center of influence in your business community. You can even approach your chamber of commerce and see if they will sponsor the group.


8. The Coupon Book Referral Program

Give your existing customers two coupon books – each offering a free consultation with you about the topic of their choice: drain cleaning, kitchen or bath remodeling, landscape lighting, indoor air quality, saving money on utility bills, how to cool your second floor, etc.

Ask them to pass one of the books to a family member, friend, or colleague. You can distribute the coupon books through your techs, through your networking groups, or through other professionals you do business with.


9. Raffle Off Your Services Program

You know how the boy scouts, little league or other local organizations are always looking for a donation? Why not give them a free service like a tune up, or a planned maintenance agreement for them to raffle off?

I used to donate free thermostats (that would have to be installed by us) to the church my parents belonged to. We got many great customers from this arrangement. So much so that I began donating 6 of them to give away at a time. Once my service tech was in front of them, he sold other items like humidifiers, air cleaners, and maintenance as well.


10. Disaster Recovery Referral Program

There are disaster recovery businesses that specialize in restoring fire or flood damaged homes to their original state. They also do things like mold and radon mitigation as well. These businesses are masters of referral marketing.

They have called on thousands of plumbers, HVAC, electrician and remodelers to ask if they could do talks with their employees. I would recommend getting involved with these companies as a way of finding customers who REALLY need your services right now.

Once you get in their network and perform your services with quality and speed you will get repeat business forever. Stay away from companies that are only shopping low price and don’t value speed or quality!

These companies will roll your services into their quote to insurance companies, and they know how to negotiate. Also, many of them will give YOU a referral fee for leads that turn into jobs for them. I have seen many companies rack up over $10,000 per year in referral fees they collect.


11. Paid Testimonial Referral Program

An HVAC salesperson I know gets a written testimonial on every sale he gets. He uses this thick stack of testimonials to sell his jobs and to build credibility in the quality of his work.

After all the work is done, the customer is happy and the job is paid for, he pulls out a $50 bill and asks the customer for a letter of testimony. If the customer writes a testimonial on the spot he gives the customer the $50 bill for their time.

He gets a testimonial every time. Then he takes a picture of the customer and creates a customer of the week advertisement in the local paper. Note: He tells the customer the week before that they will be in the paper. The customer then looks for the ad and tells their friends about the ad.


12. Pardon Our Dust Referral Program

Try sending out a letter to homeowners on the same block as a multi-day job using a radius mailer. Tell them what kind of work you’re doing, apologize for the mess, and offer a 50% off a service diagnostic, a free camera job, or anything related to the work you’re doing to anyone who responds while your trucks are in the neighborhood working.


13. Employee Bonus Referral System

Institute a program to pay your own employees up to $50 for any customer that they bring in and schedule with the company. If they schedule the job, the first $50 of the job is theirs in cash.

One company I knew told a prospective employee about this program during a job interview and the next day called to schedule 17 new customers for $79 furnace tune-ups before she was even hired. You could probably guess that the company hired her and had seventeen $50 bills for a total of $850 in cash waiting for when she arrived for her first day and presented it to her in front of all of the current employees.

That week, the company set a new record – 63 jobs! All referred by employees during a slow week in March. They wound up doing an incredible $83,465 in sales from those jobs.


14. Up, Up and Away Referral Program

Wait two or three days after doing a job and then send a balloon bouquet to the customer’s place of work thanking them for their business. Obviously, all their co-workers will want to know who sent the balloons! In the bouquet, provide 50 referral coupon cards so that whoever wants to get a new system or service performed on their current unit can call you directly!


15. Business Card Referral Program

Use the space on the back of your business card to tell all your customers exactly what’s in it for them if they refer a client to you.

Print something like, “Give someone this card and they receive a $25 discount off their first call. Have your friend mention your name and you will receive $25 in cash too.”

It’s also a good idea to give the new client the same discount that you are giving as a referral fee so everyone wins.


16. Acquire a Business For Free Referral Program

Get out your old phone books or go to the library and look back at the chamber of commerce member lists throughout the past 10 years and determine which companies that do the work you do have gone out of businesses.

You’re likely to find that none of their phone numbers have been reassigned or re-sold. You can buy the number cheap, and you might be surprised how many calls still come into those old numbers. Free business!


17. Homeowners Association Referral Program

Teach your techs to ask about homeowners associations as they work in different neighborhoods. If there is an association, it’s likely they have a newsletter, a website, or regular meetings.

Find the person who’s in charge of the communication for the association and ask if they can include a page about a discount that you’re are offering to all of their residents. You could even offer to pay a portion or all of their mailing costs.

You can take this a step further by then offering to show up at association meetings to do educational talks on your area of expertise. Think this might work? I know one guy who booked over $200,000 from just ONE such community with this strategy!


19. Church Bulletin Referral Program

Ask local churches if you can help defer the cost of making up their bulletins by paying for the printing. In the case of one company I know, the church gave him their congregation mailing and phone list.

The contractor augmented this effort by offering a special deal on fall and spring maintenance for the members. You can take over your area church by church.


18. Friends of Your Parents Referral Program

Sometimes we completely overlook the best solutions. How many people do your mom and dad know? In my case it’s plenty. My mom is like the “Church lady” who knows everything about what is going on at the church. Her phone is ringing like Grand Central Station with requests from the church about everything from altar flowers to chicken dinners.

If your parents are active seniors, give them a stack of special discount cards for their friends to use with your company. Who loves you more than your mom? You know they love to brag about you, so use this power in your marketing mix.


20. Princess Diana Referral Program

Princess Di was famous for writing notes to people to enlist their help in the causes she was part of. You can do the same. This is basically a “Thank You Card” program in which all your employees are responsible for sending handwritten, customized thank you cards to your customers.

Utilize everyone – salespeople, technicians, dispatchers, CSR’s, managers… and YES… the owner.

The thank you card should have a note that asks the recipient to tell others about your greatest challenge. That challenge, of course, being that you need their help in finding and keeping great clients like them. Ask them If they were you what would they do to find more customers like them.


21. Help A Charity Referral Program

Charities love referrals! Approach a local charity and get a list of their corporate donors. Approach those donors and offer to donate a percentage of sales that result from the patronage of their employees to the charity of their choice in the name of their company. This same strategy could be used with any church or other organization.


22. Please Pay Your Bill Referral Program

If you send out any invoices to customers, offer to deduct $20 off of their bill if they refer a new customer to you. Consider what it costs you to get each new client. (More than $20!)  Another way to do this is to send out a sheet with 10 blank lines with a $20 deduction off the bill if they are filled up with names, addresses and phone numbers.


23. The Neighborhood Group Buying Referral Program

Send an ad or letter out to a neighborhood saying that you’re holding a “(Name of Their Subdivision) Day.” Explain that your trucks will be in that neighborhood for that day only and if at least 12 people order tune ups on that day, you will do them for half price or whatever discount you choose to offer it at.

Another variation of this is that when your salespeople or techs are in a home in a certain subdivision, they could tell the client that if they can get another client from the same neighborhood to replace their equipment or order their tune up at the same time that they would receive a special group discount.


24. Use My Conference Room Referral Program

If you have a nice conference room that’s often unused, you can offer the use of your room to other businesses and organizations.

You can also consider other assets that you have that customer may need. Things like having your neighborhood use your shop as a school bus stop shelter. If you have a large property you can hold neighborhood block parties or birthday parties.

This gives businesses, organizations, and people from your community a chance to come into your business and get to know you. You can provide welcome packet or a gift bag full of coupons of gift certificates to all who attend.


25. Scout Team Referral Program

How about offering a finders fee directly to the salespeople of other non-competing construction related businesses if their leads turn into jobs? Just arrange to meet with salespeople for drywall firms, electricians, HVAC salespeople, painters, and the salespeople at the home centers that sell kitchen, bath supplies and fixtures directly to the public. (All non-competing businesses!)

Eventually, most salespeople are asked if they know anyone who could install the materials they sold, or if they knew someone who does certain types of work. There’s lots of business to be had this way!

NOTE: This works best for leads directly with homeowners… not with contractors.


Time to Put it in Play!

With all of these free or inexpensive strategies at your disposal, there’s nothing keeping you from generating tons of referral leads for your business – even in the slow months.

Put #1 into action today and then pick another 3 or 4 to implement in the next couple of weeks. Try different ones over time, and eventually, you’ll find a mix that keeps your team running hard – and keeps the revenue flowing for your business!

And once you get all those referral leads, you’re going to want to close as many as possible. Our Best Ever Flat Rate Guide ensures that your techs and salespeople present the perfect options every time – and it’s super easy to use. Click here to learn more, or click the image below.



What’s been your experience with referrals?

Do you have any referral success stories to share?

Tell me your best lead generation techniques in the comments.


How to Turn Your Team Into a Referral-Generating Machine

BY: Joe Crisara

generate referrals

Pop quiz time!

What makes the absolute best business lead imaginable?

How about someone who already has a positive impression of you and your business? Better yet – maybe someone whose friend or family member has already told them they’d be nuts not to call you and has pre-sold them on how wonderful you are.

Obviously, I’m describing a referral, and I don’t think it’s new news to you when I say that they’re a gold mine. No doubt about it – referrals are the easiest and most profitable type of lead to close.

Here’s the gut-check question…

How many referrals has your team closed this week? Continue reading “How to Turn Your Team Into a Referral-Generating Machine”

Selling the Brand of You

BY: Joe Crisara


If you were around in the 80’s like I was, maybe you remember the “generic brand” at your local grocery stores.

I’m talking about the plain white packages with only black block letters and a bar code on them.

Those black block letters spelled out things like BEANS, BEER, COLA… and who could forget LUNCH LOAF.

It’s not the most loafappealing product name, but you could probably argue that “Lunch Loaf” is no less appetizing than the word “Spam.”

A far cry from all the cool brand names and catchy slogans we’re used to, the marketing strategy behind the generic craze back in the day, was simply to be cheap.

That’s it. Low price. That was the only goal, and it was also the only competitive advantage this brand had.

Today the generic brand is gone, but in its place are numerous private label store brands. And if you asked most consumers, you’d find that the majority of them believe that their local grocer’s  “private label” store brand is of equal if not better quality than the national brand.

Many recent studies have shown that private label products are growing at a steady pace, and in the grocery business, private label brands now account for a lion’s share of the grocery business.

Think about how you shop. When you buy eggs, do you feel like you have to buy a major brand? Or are you just as happy with the store brand? If you’re like most people, you’re perfectly happy to buy the eggs with your local store’s logo on it instead of the national brand.  In fact, because it’s local it may be MORE trusted as well.

All the egg and lunch loaf conversation aside… you’re probably wondering how this applies to you as a contractor.

The same principles that have turned numerous companies in other industries into profitable private label masters can also be applied to service contractors. Continue reading “Selling the Brand of You”

The Top 5 Qualities of Super-Successful Contractors, Techs, and Salespeople

BY: Joe Crisara


Stop selling equipment!

That’s right… cut it out.

I mean, you’re still going to sell equipment, but you need to totally change the way you look at it. It’s not your main product. Not anymore. Not if you want to thrive in this business.

In my last article I told you about commoditization, the REAL villain in the contracting industry, which is the reason for so many of our brethren’s financial struggles.

The products you sell at your business have become no different than a gallon of gas to the general public because they have tons of different places they can buy those exact products (or similar products) from.

And how does the general public decide where to buy gas? The go wherever it’s the cheapest.

If you continue to have the mindset that you sell equipment and parts for a living, you’ll be forced to continue to play “the lowest bidder” game and struggle financially as a result.

So is that just the way it is in this business these days? Should you just suck it up and accept it as the new normal?

Oh, hell no.

If you’re willing to make the change, I can tell you how to fix this problem.

It’s all about shifting your mindset from selling equipment to selling service. Continue reading “The Top 5 Qualities of Super-Successful Contractors, Techs, and Salespeople”

Why Increased Competition is NOT The Problem With Your Business

BY: Joe Crisara


Think about the last time you had a conversation with a group of other shop owners at a meeting, training session, or some other kind of industry get-together.

What was the “shop talk” like?

Ok, so that’s a rhetorical question because unless you were at one of my training sessions, I KNOW what the shop talk was like.

Continue reading “Why Increased Competition is NOT The Problem With Your Business”

Take Responsibility To Be Part Of The Solution

BY: Joe Crisara


See if this sounds familiar…

You’re frustrated with the way things are going at your shop.  It seems like the harder you work, the more difficult it becomes to make a profit.  When calls come in, it seems more often than not they result in low-priced, low-level tickets… or even worse, dispatch only fees.

At times it’s hard for you to see the silver lining, and it’s even harder to imagine things improving if something doesn’t change in the near future.

Now, if that DOES sound familiar, I have two things to tell you…

Continue reading “Take Responsibility To Be Part Of The Solution”

3 Keys To Get Your Team To Take Action

BY: Joe Crisara


I firmly believe that to have a successful team, you first have to understand the individual players in detail… and then use your understanding of the players to forge a winning culture.  But once you’ve taken the time to get to know each player, how do you get each individual begin to do something different, change their results and start moving in the right direction? Continue reading “3 Keys To Get Your Team To Take Action”