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”

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”

Ten Ways to Avoid Price Objections

BY: Joe Crisara

The concept of value-added selling has been a popular one for a number of years. In fact, in today’s contracting world you are left with two choices.

1.       Provide excessive value for the price that you charge.

2.       Charge a cheaper price for the low value you provide.

That’s right, the natural laws come into place here. In the world today the buyer will either force you to either provide more value to get the price you need. Or they will force you to lower your price if you refuse to raise your value.

There is no doubt

Without value-added components, any product or service can be driven down to the most bottom line – price.

What is the problem with that?

When you are only selling price, you’ll never be able to make high margin sales where profitability, long term growth and sales success reside. Let’s take a look at 10 ways how you can add value to your product or service, no matter brand of equipment you sell.

Some salespeople might argue by saying, “You don’t understand, my product is different,” or “My service is different.” The truth is that every product or service can have value added to it. Let’s take a look at 10 specific ways that you can do this:

1. Providing expert advice and a high level of professionalism. Lots of professionals are paid a tidy sum for the level of advice that they provide. However, for you as a home comfort sales professional, in order for you to be able to provide value, you need to understand that you have to provide a level of advice that is significantly higher, more sophisticated and more valuable than that of your competition. Plus, you have to be able to communicate this to your prospect in a meaningful way. What this means communicating to your prospect a higher level of sophistication, wisdom and understanding about what it is you do. In a nutshell, why are you different and better than your competition? Odds are you have already purchased things like IAQ monitors, Infiltrometers, duct blasters and heat exchanger cameras. Now know when to use them. By all means, do use them.

2. Bundling and packaging. I’m not only talking here about the way your product or service actually looks. I’m also talking about desirable packages, purchasing levels and a series of added benefits that are significant in value and are, themselves, a whole lot more valuable than simply the product is by itself. Clean air packages, Silent system packages etc. Continue reading “Ten Ways to Avoid Price Objections”

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!”

7 New Solutions to Help Your Clients Automate Their Home

BY: Joe Crisara

As a service professional, the concept of “pure motive service” means constantly offering the customer the most choices possible and knowing that you are truly offering things which are beneficial and will improve their quality of life. Besides the standard machinery and components involved with plumbing, electrical and HVAC, there now exist cutting edge electronic products which enable systems and appliances in a home to be controlled through advanced pre-programming as well as in real time through wife-connected devices. A house with many of these technological products is often called a “smart home.”

When you make the human connection, when you invest yourself in your customers and really listen, something changes. You key into the details of their wants, needs, issues and overall lifestyle. You get a sense on where they stand when it comes to convenience vs luxury vs frugality vs safety. As a top service professional offering pure motive service, you can recommend specific smart home products to different customers because you know positively that they actually would be interested in such a solution and they would benefit from it.

TURNING UP (OR DOWN) THE HEAT

Let’s say that your customer is out all day at work, as is their spouse, and their children are at school for at least some of the day, too. They want to save money on heating and cooling but also maintain a certain temperature all the time so their home climate conditions don’t get too extreme for when family members arrive back home. You might suggest a smart thermostat, which allows home owners to view, modify and change their home’s heating and cooling settings from their cellphone, from across town or even while hundreds of miles away. Many of these can also sync to voice-interactive smart systems like Google Home, Amazon Echo and Apple Homekit.

If your customers would benefit from having a lot of control over their thermostat, then a smart thermostat would offer them true value and life improvement. This helps them save money on fuel while still maintaining a desirable climate at all times (perhaps to avoid frozen pipes or distressed pets).

Continue reading “7 New Solutions to Help Your Clients Automate Their Home”

How to Stand Strong with Pushy Customers

BY: Julie Crisara

In the home contracting field, you will experience what I like to to call “service terrorists”. Yes, it sounds harsh, but these folks are extremely disgruntled customers- for whatever reason- who can disrupt your day, get in your face, and make experience a temporary loss of self esteem.

You don’t have to let this happen, there are ways of maintaining a sense of control and balance during even the most trying and emotionally reactive customer service call. Unfortunately, it can be the one bad customer interaction, especially where you feel that you dropped the ball, that you’ll remember and will bother you, after you’ve had 1,000 good ones. That’s why I am presenting to you this list of 7 tools which will aid you greatly in keeping your heading and a sense of control when dealing with highly emotional, angry, out of control customers.

Use Pure Listening

Often, as a home contracting professional, we want to jump in and fix the problem before we’ve even heard the customer’s whole speech. Maybe we assume something about a customer’s issue and jump to a conclusion. Or we decide that they don’t really know what they’re talking about. Or, we say to ourselves “I’ve heard this one before.” Let them speak first and listen completely. Have no filters in your listening. Offer no resistance. Actively listen but don’t say a word, except the briefest acknowledgment that you’re actually on the line. Let them say everything they want to get off their chest, and then create a time buffer between them speaking and you speaking, so it doesn’t feel like you had your answer anxiously waiting to go.

Continue reading “How to Stand Strong with Pushy Customers”

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”

How to Use Texting to Grow Your Contracting Business

BY: Julie Crisara

In the contracting industry, you use the latest tools to make your efforts the most effective. It’s all about taking advantage of the best technology. Why should marketing your company be any different? The basic principles of marketing may remain constant but the platforms we use change over time, and sometimes rapidly. It wasn’t all that many years ago, that Internet advertising seemed like a wild new frontier. Many folks in our industry questioned this weird, far out “World wide web,” saying that they would stick with the old tried and true methods like newspaper advertising in the Yellow Pages. Nowadays, what contractor working today doesn’t have a website, and how many established contracting businesses only spend their advertising budget online?

We’re in the same kind of evolutionary period right now with another cutting-edge technology- texting. That’s right, the same text messaging you use to send notes to friends and family from your phone can be used to significantly improve your contracting business!

The first thing you need to know about text messaging (technically known as SMS) communication is that you need to make sure that those receiving your messages have subscribed to your marketing list. They need to have “opted in”. Don’t just blast text messages to any and everybody because besides being highly frowned upon, there are actually laws against this.

To start building your text message marketing list, include a brief opt-in code, or “Text ‘Start’ to this number” on all your existing marketing and customer communications- flyers, print ads, business cards, invoices, receipts, coupons, in-house signage, vehicle signage, website, emails, social media, etc.   Continue reading “How to Use Texting to Grow Your Contracting Business”