7 Counter-Intuitive Ways To Use Flat Rate Pricing

BY: Joe Crisara

Good Money After Bad

Pricing jobs by parts and hours of labor is like throwing money out the window.

The cost of most parts in the plumbing, electrical and HVAC worlds are astonishingly low compared to the reliability, safety and health you provide to your customers. Many of your field service techs often get major repairs or replacements done relatively quickly, often within a couple or few hours. Compared to the immense utility and benefit being given, your company collects very little revenue.

You cannot just make up the discrepancy by stating an incredibly high hourly rate, as customers have a ballpark idea of what people charge out there. When your plumbing business charges the same hourly rate as a corporate attorney or top tier computer systems programmer, customers are going to walk away, be resentful or write horrible reviews on Yelp. You need to have a pricing method that makes good sense to the customer and reinforces to them (and to yourself) the considerable value proposition that you offer.

The pricing method that will bring in the revenues and profits you deserve is called flat rate pricing. However, when instituting a flat fee policy, it is easy to stumble on the various pitfalls that exist which will seriously harm your bottom line. The following guidelines are essential to maximizing your pricing policy to run a successful service business. Continue reading “7 Counter-Intuitive Ways To Use Flat Rate Pricing”

Selling On Tough Calls: Multiple Estimates

BY: Julie Crisara

That Moment You Realize This Is A Tough Call

Carol looked at me and said, “Just so you know, we’re getting 3 estimates before we make a decision.” Not to be outdone by his wife, Bob yelled, “Four estimates,” as he turned and walked into the other room.  I thought to myself, I haven’t even taken off my shoes yet and this is what I get.  I hate these multiple estimate tough calls.  Just then Joe walked in the door and introduced himself.  “Hi, I’m Joe Crisara, the quality control manager.  How are you today, Carol?”

Carol gave Joe that same determined look and said, “I just want you to know that we have 3 estimates lined up this week and we won’t be making any decisions until we hear them all.”

“First, let me say thanks for calling us and for the opportunity to help you and your family with this issue. It’s a pleasure and an honor to be here today and it really means a lot to us that you chose our company to assist you. Carol, can I ask you a question?” “Of course,” Carol said.

“Carol, I really appreciate your honesty about getting 3 prices before making a decision.  We don’t go out for dinner these days without seeing the different options available to us and the prices alongside them thanks to social media and sites like Yelp. They’ve changed the restaurant industry.”

Joe wasn’t phased a bit by Carol’s comment and immediately followed with, “We like to think that we are changing the way service contractors do business with homeowners like yourself as well. You said you are only going to get 3 estimates.  Our company gives 6 estimates on every call, kind of like that insurance company where you name your own price.  This way you have all the possibilities right in front of you at the same time.  So why are you limiting yourself to only 3 estimates?”

Carol was a bit stunned and didn’t know what to say but was able to stumble out the words, “We are actually getting 4 estimates.”  Joe just rolled with the punches, but I could tell he was wareing her out. “I understand Carol.  I’m not trying to make you feel bad.  It’s just that if I were to show you my 6 estimates instead of only 4, and you liked one of those options, what would happen next?” Continue reading “Selling On Tough Calls: Multiple Estimates”

8 Reasons Why You’re Losing Sales and Wasting Time

BY: Joe Crisara

It’s easy to have a great, confident attitude when the wind’s at your back and victories are coming in. Those are the times when just about anybody can show the grace of professionalism. But face a prolonged dry spell or series of difficult obstacles, and that’s when you find your deep inner character. When a winner faces uphill battles, he displays the same commitment to the basics as when things are easy. He doesn’t check out or feel sorry for himself, he puts his head down and hits the heavy bag, so to speak. Luckily, you can work on your traits when facing adversity. I’ve learned from years in the service industry, and these tips will make you the kind of diehard professional for whom defeat is simply not an option.

1. Who Is At The Center of a Customer Interaction?

Who’s the most important person when you’re talking to a customer? Your ego wants to say that you are but your professional mind should know that it’s the customer. You put the customer and their needs first, and your needs will be taken care of in the long run. Nine tenths of your effort should be on finding out about the customer, and one tenth should go toward telling about yourself. Too much paperwork or show-offy materials will sink a deal fast.

You must find out about your customer’s life, family, pets, job, interests, hobbies, etc. What do they love? Do they have children with allergies or other medical issues? You can offer a higher quality AC unit with a HEPA filter or dehumidifier. Are they all about protecting the environment?  If they are, you can offer them some green, environmental-friendly solutions like solar panels or a water efficient toilet. Continue reading “8 Reasons Why You’re Losing Sales and Wasting Time”

Have You Taken Stock of Your Techs’ Toolkits Recently?

BY: Joe Crisara

You can’t expect your employees to do their best work if they have inferior, broken, or missing tools and resources for solving problems. An effective car mechanic has all of the mechanical necessities laid out neatly in a multi-drawer toolbox, with printed car manuals nearby. Similarly, your employees need to have work tools, technology and information “aid out so they can find the right piece when they need it.

Ask your workers, “If you had a magic wand, what would you wish for that would make your job easier?” Even if you perfectly equipped your employees at the beginning, industries are constantly changing with the introduction of new codes, technological standards and ever-evolving customer needs. As a service business owner, it’s your responsibility to keep the team and its tools up to date.

Expectations Equal Results

Often, managers and owners get frustrated with what they perceive as a lack of results or low performance. However, just as often managers and leaders neglect to explain the company’s goals and priorities in the first place — they just assume employees will figure it out. And we all know what happens when you assume.

As a service business owner, it’s your responsibility to keep the team and their tools up to date.

A service company has to have performance goals so each employee knows exactly what’s expected. Have a mission statement with a clear list of top goals and non-negotiable points when it comes to employee conduct and performance as well. The higher ups need to define the essential vision, which translates into actions. This will convey to workers not only what they need to be doing but also why they need to be doing it.

Training, Not Explaining

Continue reading “Have You Taken Stock of Your Techs’ Toolkits Recently?”

Caution Ahead: Getting Through Tricky Customer Interactions

BY: Joe Crisara

Let me start by saying I LOVE sports. I believe anybody who is a competitor, is drawn in by those who strive to reach the highest level of a sport they are passionate about.  When playing a professional sport, an athlete would never neglect practice. They would never choose the easiest, low-pressure scenarios as preparation for actual games. They push their bodies beyond the limit and that’s why they are the best. If they only took slow, steady grounders in the infield, they probably wouldn’t win a game or have a job for much longer.

The same scenario applies to contractors in the service business. It’s not the easy, friendly customers that you need to worry about. It’s how you respond to the ones who throw difficult curve balls that separates you from your competition.

Using the strategies below, you can anticipate conversation-stoppers or deal-killers, and break on through to create productive and profitable working relationships with your clients.

They Come By Many Different Names & Games

You will start to notice patterns in the types of frustrating answers that potential clients throw back at you. You can name them and tape those labels to the wall (where no customer would ever see them!) if that helps motivate you and your team. I have certainly noticed these repeat types of objections or challenges you hear from customers on a service call, and I’ve applied my own set of labels to them. I’ll share some of them here:

– The Gatekeeper wants you to tell him all your prices upfront and then he’ll go talk to his wife and get back to you.

– The Apple Buyer got a full proposal from another company and just wants to know your price.

– Mr. Stuck in the Past tells you he had it fixed during the Nixon years for $187 and asks if that’s still the price.

– The Broke Ass just spent a load of money on his gold-lined Jacuzzi and now has nothing left for the house electrical.

– Mystification Man tells you everything’s working fine right now but he just wants to get it checked out.

– The Know-It-All informs you that he’s already figured out exactly what the problem is and that’s all he wants done.

There’s a lot more of these colorful characters but they all really have more in common than not. The good news is that you only have to stick with a small set of simple, strong principles in order to take back control of the interaction and create outcomes worthy of the professional, pure motive service that you and your company are providing.

Continue reading “Caution Ahead: Getting Through Tricky Customer Interactions”

No is Not an Option!

BY: Joe Crisara

One of the most important jobs we have is turning a customer’s “No” into a “Yes”. And it’s not as complicated as you might think. A great tool to help bridge the gap between a doubtful or resistant homeowner and a happy, satisfied customer is the option sheet. It serves as a set of firm guidelines, ensuring that premium, pure motive service is offered every time. This helps to remind techs communicating with potential customers to be thorough and diligent about every part of the service interaction. But an option sheet is only as strong as the words written on it. That’s why it’s important for dispatchers / SWAT team members to run their own quality assurance on it every time.

The first question a SWAT team member (this stands for Strength Weakness Analysis Threat) needs to ask about the service tech’s option sheet is…

Are There Options?

The service tech should always offer 2 premium, 2 mid-range, and 2 economy options. By giving a variety of service options at 3 major price levels, we are accommodating different kinds of customers and making them feel like their particular situation with regard to needs and costs is understood by us.

The option sheet’s different price points need to reflect an even spread. Imagine if you went to Best Buy to purchase a television and the 6 TV’s you saw their cost $3,500, $1,200, $1,197, $1,150, $1,125, $1,100. You’d be thinking- where’s the one for $2,400? Where’s the one for $600? If there are excessive gaps in price between options, customers will start to think that some other service provider out there will offer something in that gap.

Does the option sheet show an absolute least expensive bottom option? This would be like finding the customer’s broken wire, even if you weren’t fixing it. It could be just a diagnosis.

Continue reading “No is Not an Option!”

Why Your Team Is Under-Performing

BY: Joe Crisara

We all know that employee. The one that shows up late every day. The one that takes hour-long lunches. The one who always has an excuse for why something didn’t get done or why they lost a sale. But sometimes, it’s hard to diagnose and even harder to fix. After all, no one is perfect and everyone has bad days. So how can you truly know who is slacking, and what can you do about it? As the business owner of a contracting company, this could take form in the following visible symptoms…

  • Trucks trashed with garbage every night.
  • Service tickets filled out poorly or not at all.
  • No money collected on repair calls.
  • Traffic tickets or accidents.
  • Broken inventory and parts.
  • Poor quality work below the standards the tech normally has set.
  • High absentee rate or showing up late consistently.
  • No communication with other team members.

Why It’s Happening

Everybody has eventually faced a personal crisis in their lives. For some, these emotional turning points can manifest itself in bad behavior at work. Sometimes stress, as a result of catastrophic changes in the personal or professional lives of your people, can show up in different ways. For most of us, that reflects the level of quality that goes into our work.

Continue reading “Why Your Team Is Under-Performing”

10 Excuses Your Clients Can’t Stand to Hear

BY: Julie Crisara

Excuses are like emergency vehicle sirens. They grate against our ears and if we hear them, there better be a damn good reason they’re being used. Sure there are some excuses that are completely warranted – your car really did get a flat tire, your doctor truly gave you a signed medical note, or your dog actually ate your computer flash drive. But a great deal of the time, excuses are just made up stories meant to buy time and goodwill from our clients, and to avoid taking head-on responsibility for the shortcoming or misstep. In the home contracting industry, if you use the following excuses on a regular basis you will find angry clients followed by a severe drop in your company’s profitability. It’s not too late to avoid these pitfalls- read on!

Continue reading “10 Excuses Your Clients Can’t Stand to Hear”

Dead Man Walking: 5 Ways to Become an Ex-Employee

BY: Julie Crisara

Everybody has a dream, and some people’s dream is getting fired. Ya know- canned, pink-slipped, see ya later alligator! Okay, I don’t know positively for sure that being let go is their dream, but observing some sales managers in the home contracting industry, it sure seems like it. I mean, if these guys weren’t trying to get cut loose then they just coincidentally happened to be doing the very same things that’ll send you out the door and down to the Unemployment office faster than you can say “Invoice attached.”

I don’t want anyone to get fired, especially if they actually like and want to keep their job. I have a special soft spot for people in the contracting industry, because I’ve spent decades actually working in that field and also as a consultant helping other contractors improve their business, using the things I have learned and observed over the years. But I realized that it’s so easy and so common for seemingly bright and well-intentioned contracting sales managers to make decisions that were really detrimental- and self-destructive- in the long run without even knowing it. It turns out, a lot of this stuff is NOT just common sense!

Instead of telling you- a current or aspiring sales manager or other supervisory position in the home plumbing, HVAC or electrical contracting field- what to do to keep your job, I’m going to tell you what to do to get fired. If you don’t want to get fired, just use reverse engineering. Continue reading “Dead Man Walking: 5 Ways to Become an Ex-Employee”

5 Ways To Make Your Brand Pop

BY: Julie Crisara

5-way-to-make-your-brand-pop

I know some people get a little uncomfortable with the word ‘brand.’ It sounds to them like an advertising term, like it’s all about the slickness and the sizzle and not about the sincerity and the substance. But if you stop looking at ‘brand’ as superficial window dressing but instead see it as specifically defining your company’s mission and making a clear case to fulfill various promises, then you see that having a well-defined brand is not dodge at all, but rather an act of integrity.

I know that contractors are people of integrity and substance, who are proud of delivering tangible products and services that improve the spaces where people live and work. I myself spent decades as a professional in that industry. I want contractors to embrace branding as a necessary part of having a respected and successful business, but also as a tool for defining and being held accountable to genuine, deliverable quality, not as a way of avoiding it.

Whatever brand you may think you are generating and spreading out there, your brand is being created every time someone tells a friend or associate about your business. In this day and age that could take the form of a tweet, status update, YouTube video, blog post, text, email or website comment. The consumer has great power these days when it comes to defining your brand, far more than they used to. Which is why it is important for you to get out ahead of the pack when it comes to defining your own brand before others start doing it for you. And that means coming up with a list of unique and powerful deliverables that you then back up with the quality of your products and services.

Continue reading “5 Ways To Make Your Brand Pop”

7 High-Leverage Activities to Improve Results

BY: Julie Crisara

7 high leverage activities to improve results

Do you know what Leverage is? Leverage is an incredibly important concept in physics and in everyday life.

When your car gets a flat tire, you lift up your car with a jack using leverage.The common emergency car jack is a brilliant example of the mechanics of leverage. Ever pull a nail out of the wall with the back of a hammer? That’s leverage. When’s the last time you used a simple pair of pliers? That’s leverage, too.

Leverage is all about doing relatively little and getting back a lot. It’s a mechanism that magnifies our actions, giving results that are often multiplied as compared to our efforts. Leverage is the wise use of energy. It’s working smart instead of over-working. But it’s all about the specificity of your actions (and thoughts) and where they’re directed.

Continue reading “7 High-Leverage Activities to Improve Results”

The Most Effective (and Ultimately Least Expensive) Way to Make Your Revenue Soar

BY: Joe Crisara

soar

As contractors, many people in our industry are facing challenging times.

Call counts in many areas are down, competition has increased, and costs continue to rise.

Those are all very real factors that influence how you do business.

But at the same time, we can all name a lot of other companies who are thriving and enjoying more profits than ever before while facing the exact same challenges as everyone else.

So what’s the difference between the companies who are struggling to survive and the ones who are hitting it out of the ballpark?

The answer is simple, but instead of telling you the answer, let me share some documented facts with you to show you instead…

Continue reading “The Most Effective (and Ultimately Least Expensive) Way to Make Your Revenue Soar”

Are You Selling to the Wrong Person?

BY: Joe Crisara

wrong-person

There you are in your customer’s house.

You’ve diagnosed their entire system and come up with some top-notch solutions to solve their problem. You’re proud of your solutions and can’t wait to present them to your customer.

As you present, you explain your solutions and tell your customer exactly why you created these custom solutions just for them. When you finish, you give them the old reliable, “What should we do?” – and you wait with full confidence that you’re about to get a yes.

Your customer examines each solution carefully and says, “These are really great! It’s obvious you really listened to me and put a lot of thought into all these.”

You think, “Here comes the yes! This is a done deal!”

Your customer continues, “…but the thing is…”

…I need to talk to my wife.
…My husband just has me gathering quotes.
…I always consult my son-in-law about financial matters.
…My cousin is a contractor, so I want to run this by him first.
…This is my sister’s house. I’ll give her your quote.

Oh, snap.

Just then you realize…

You’ve been selling to the wrong person!

You’ve just given away all your best ideas to someone who isn’t even in the position to say yes.

Continue reading “Are You Selling to the Wrong Person?”

How to Make Your Most Premium Solutions Easier to Choose

BY: Joe Crisara

contrast

Let’s say you’re having the best day of your life. Your ride to work is filled with sunshine and green traffic lights.

At work, every customer you call on loves you and they all say “yes.” You have such a great day, that the boss pulls you into his office and offers you a big, fat raise. Everything is going right and you feel on top of the world.

On your walk to the parking lot at the end of the day, you find a $50 bill on the ground. But as you bend over to pick it up, you notice a dent on your bumper that wasn’t there before.

In the scope of your best day ever, how big of a catastrophe is that dent in your car? It’s not such a big deal after a day like that, is it?

But let’s say it was your worst day ever. You got a flat tire on the way into work which you had to change in a cold rain. While changing the tire, you busted up your knuckles pretty good, and they’re now bleeding. After you change the tire, you speed to try to get to work on time and get a ticket.

When you get in late and wet, the boss chews you out for being unreliable and tells you your job is on the line. Once you do get to working, the customers don’t seem to want to have anything to do with you. They’re downright rude and don’t buy a thing. When the day finally ends, you feel totally beat down. You shuffle out to the parking lot and discover the dented bumper on your car.

Continue reading “How to Make Your Most Premium Solutions Easier to Choose”

The One Ingredient That Can Balance Your Budget, Cut Your Overhead, and Boost Your Profits Through the Roof

BY: Joe Crisara

sales-training-2

I’m not going to sugar-coat it.

Being a contractor in this day and age is tough.

The cost of equipment, employees, marketing and just about everything else you can name goes up every year.

Not to mention that, in most markets, there’s also an increase in competition.

Yep. It’s tough alright.

But only for those who are focusing on all the wrong things.

They focus things like cutting overhead, replacing “underperforming” personnel, or running more calls.

The truth is that those things aren’t usually the issue. And they certainly aren’t the solution to any of your problems.

There’s one simple ingredient that can turn your business around, and it’s not any of those things.

Continue reading “The One Ingredient That Can Balance Your Budget, Cut Your Overhead, and Boost Your Profits Through the Roof”

Doggone Good Sales Advice: The Cesar Millan School of Selling

BY: Joe Crisara

doggone

Have you ever watched a guy on TV named Cesar Millan? He has two shows you might have seen: The Dog Whisperer and Cesar 911. I admit it. I find myself kind of addicted to watching him work.

It’s a reality show, so each week you get to see Cesar go out to families with “troubled” dogs and fix them.

This guy is really skilled at dog training – but what’s incredible to watch is that he’s even more skilled at training people. In fact, At the beginning of each show, he says, “I rehabilitate dogs… I train people.”

He uses his vast knowledge of dogs to teach dog owners how to relate to their dogs in a way that is most meaningful to the dog. And the results are phenomenal.

Think about it… do you know anyone who goes out to see families with “troubles” on a regular basis?

(Hint: check the mirror!)

And do you think that person in the mirror would be even more successful if they used their knowledge and expertise to relate to their customers in a way that is most meaningful to the customer?
Continue reading “Doggone Good Sales Advice: The Cesar Millan School of Selling”

25 Genius Ways to Keep Referrals Flowing All Year Long

BY: Joe Crisara

 

REFERRALS

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!

Continue reading “25 Genius Ways to Keep Referrals Flowing All Year Long”

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

selling-the-brand-of-you

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”

3 Keys To Get Your Team To Take Action

BY: Joe Crisara

3 KEYS

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”

The Value Of Celebrating Success & Failure Evenly

BY: Joe Crisara

Celebrate succes failure

Think about one of those crazy hectic days at your shop. Your schedule is full, the phone is ringing, dispatch is buzzing, and all the trucks are rolling.

On a day like this, when everyone’s insanely busy… outside of a scheduled meeting, what sort of event would normally cause you to stop what you’re doing and talk one-on-one with one of your people?

If you can’t come up with the answer right off the top of your head, don’t worry.  Because it’s something that’s really easy to miss. Continue reading “The Value Of Celebrating Success & Failure Evenly”

Total Immersion 2-Day Advanced Class

BY: Julie Crisara

Remember, before you can attend the 2-day advanced training you have to be a graduate of the 3-day basic training prior to attending.  You can do this all in one week or by taking the basic training first and then return when you’re ready at anytime in the future.

Continue reading “Total Immersion 2-Day Advanced Class”

From Hired To Quit In 60 Minutes!

BY: Joe Crisara

aaa-hired to quit

My First Day At Work

Ah my first day at a new job. You breathe in and inhale all of the possibilities. Everyone in your family is excited about your prospects at your new place of employment. Even your Mom said how proud she was about you landing work so you could provide as everyone should for your spouse and kids. Continue reading “From Hired To Quit In 60 Minutes!”