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Not once have I asked for the sale when on a sales call. What? Yup, it’s true. I was always confident I’d have a pretty good shot at getting the job without having to ask.
Promoting your business is good, but having people attracted to it makes the sale so much easier. And asking for the sale is putting pressure on your potential customer when it’s not necessary. He may have another contractor due to stop by an hour after you leave and he’s almost always going to run this by someone else before a decision is made. Why make him feel uncomfortable?
Hang on. I’m told I’m not supposed to say things like that. Oh, well. I did. And I’m not apologizing. I’m sure the professional sales managers and salespeople who read this will think I’m stoned, drunk or just plain uninformed. It’s OK; I can assure you I’m none of the above. I’m telling you what worked for me for a very long time. And it may work for you, too. You do you. That’s a popular saying now, right? Not bad advice if you ask me.
I respect people who work in sales, but I wouldn’t want their jobs. They have sales quotas and monthly sales meetings where their dismal numbers are displayed in front of all the sales superstars. Some of my best friends are salespeople and when they go from job to job, they’re often required to learn an entirely different industry and product line. I want to buy from someone knowledgeable and experienced in the goods and products that I wish to purchase.
My ‘sales’ philosophy
So, what exactly did I do on a sales call? Great question.
First off, I listened to every word those potential customers said. The easiest way to lose them is by interrupting them before they’ve expressed their concerns and their desired outcome. Listen, listen and listen. Successful sales, in my opinion, happen when you listen more than you talk. Rarely has someone asked for something that was entirely unreasonable and if they did, I would respectfully and gently offer a better plan of attack.
I had one customer who insisted that I install isolation valves on his refrigerant lines before the evaporator coil so he could pull and clean the coil annually. A competitor told him the day before this would be a great way to accomplish that goal. I assured him it wasn’t and then explained how easy it is to access the underside of a cased coil without removing the coil and all the associated work that comes with it. Right then and there is where the sale was made.
My sales technique was always to be better prepared and knowledgeable than my competitor, not be the slickest. My method of operation was to gather all the necessary information by taking notes and lots of pictures. Pictures are invaluable to put together a bid.
I’d let the owner know that my plan is to take all this information back to my shop, do a load calculation, select equipment, draw a quick piping schematic for the purposes of a generating a material list, analyze what they have, the ways to improve it, crunch the numbers, double-check it, type up the proposal and then pause — sometimes for hours — before I added the final cost. (How’s that for a run-on sentence!)
I also wanted to be certain that when it’s all said and done, my company is walking away with a profit. Profit is part and parcel to what we’re doing. Vacations, savings accounts, education, weddings and investments — somebody’s got to pay for all that, so it’s just another reason to not rush through your proposal.
Another thing: You’ve got to be yourself. If you’re anything like me, you’ve never had a salesperson on staff. You wore that hat as well as you wear your hard hat. The way I see it, I’m a mechanic, a hydronic designer, a pipefitter, an electrician and a controls expert all rolled into one. Who better to evaluate some old clunker of a boiler and a rat’s nest of control wiring than a guy like that? A professional salesman? Not in my world.
I have nothing against salespeople. Well, it’s not entirely true, but most “sales engineers” are likely going to quote a piece of equipment and that’s it. Cut loose the old one, slide in the new one, collect a check, enforce the tailgate warrant, and be on their way. And the customer is not much better off than they were at the start of the day.
I’ve got a name for those guys: the rip-and-run crews. They focus too much on collecting checks rather than doing a thorough, well-planned, precisely executed job. In my experience, if you focus on the latter, your work and your reputation will become your best sales tool, not the words spewing out of your mouth.
There’s always more. Treat every customer or potential customer as if you’re being graded because you are. From the minute you pull up to their home or place of business, they are evaluating you.
Is this guy being straight with me?
Does she know how important this is to us? Can I trust them with this big investment? Will they honor their warranties?
It’s not too far-fetched to think they’re considering these things. If you behave like a professional, you have nothing to worry about.
Treat every customer or potential customer as if you’ll need them for a reference someday because you will.
Be yourself. I wore Red Wing boots, jeans and a company shirt on these calls. No pretense. As my freaky forearmed, spinach-chugging cartoon buddy says, “I am what I am.”
Be prepared. Flashlight. Tape measure. iPad with photos of previous jobs. References. Business card. Note pad and pen.
Health and safety issues — point them out and assure them you’ll address the situation.
Tell them how you plan to attack the job, what you plan to do and how it is going to benefit them.
Let them know you’re going use clean tarps, that there will be no smoking and you’ll ask before playing a radio (if they say yes, you’ll play it at a low volume). When you leave at the end of each day, leave the place cleaner than you found it.
If they ask you a question and you don’t know the answer, say you don’t know the answer. Because if you throw some WAG out there, they’re going to sense it; and you may lose all credibility at that point. Assure them you’ll check into it and get back to them. There’s no shame in being honest.
Many of us in this great trade are heavily invested and dedicated to our craft. And it’s one of those industries where the education never stops. But at the end of the day, it’s a business and a business must make more money than it spends to be successful. Success in sales is essential in that endeavor.
My intent is to give you another way of approaching sales and the notion that it’s OK to think outside the box.