One of the biggest complaints I hear from contractors is, “I just need more leads.” And, for the most part, the more leads you get, the better. (There are negatives to having too many leads, but I’m getting ahead of myself, which isn’t that hard to do.)

Absent the need for more leads, we’ll assume you’re getting leads at rate X and converting Y to sales. Ridiculously, most contractors focus much harder on the Y (closing or conversion rate) than increasing X.

The trick to massive sales growth is increasing both.

Note that there are third and fourth elements in this equation that are the only numbers worth following in your sales stream — most everything else is just fluff.

So, delving into your current leads — the ones you’re getting today, right now — there are two questions to consider:

  1. Where did they come from (media source, which includes your own database)?
  2. What happened after the call?

About 70% of contractors do not gather the source. Since all marketing should have a return on investment, this is like not asking the bank about the interest rate. This economy rewards prudency. The days of guessing with unproven marketing are over.

As far as “what happened” after the call, slightly more than 70% only know two things: Either it sold, or it didn’t sell. And that, boys and girls, is flat-out silly.

I’ll get right to it.

The five things you should know are:

Sold: Transaction size? Previous/new customer? Attempted upsell? Attempted agreement sale? Equipment survey? (That is, do they need a new water heater, are they adding a bath, and are they discussing updating fixtures? Etc.) The survey alone is free and leads to far more gold from the database in this one step.

Sold: Follow-up procedure. Thank-you call with referral bump. Thank-you letter with referral bump.

Sold: Relationship and referral procedure started. The customer is added to your hard-copy newsletter and eNewsletter lists. A 30-day schedule of re-contact is becoming more prevalent, but if you have none, then every 90 days to start.

Didn’t sell: Reason? Elimination of reason? Set follow-up appointment? Incentive to call you back? Clearly state the next action step.

Didn’t sell: Result of follow-up contact. (Minimum of three: Phone call plus email > letter/postcard > phone call.) If it remains unsold, then start the low-cost relationship procedure, which includes email reminders and direct mail campaigns.

If you can just change your response to the outcome, you can generate far more sales with very little effort or out-of-pocket costs. You’ve already paid for the lead, so why not extract full value? (Yes, I’m cheap.)

And now for the promise to improve your customer service representatives’ performances today.

Tracking leads is important because if you do not, you might be wasting money on dud ads. It’s so easy to do. All you have to do is instruct your customer service representatives (or whoever answers the phone and fills appointments) to simply ask the customer how they found out about you.

You may be shocked by what you discover. What media brings the best ROI? How strong is your word of mouth? How many referrals are you getting now? How can you triple that?

Even better, you get a chance to prove your superiority on the phone. First, I make no secret that I hate automated attendants. The world, in fact, would like to strangle the next auto attendant they see.

Yet, even if your callers aren’t forced to press buttons for five minutes or aren’t on hold listening to some Top 40 station — a CSR can still blow it.

Here are three things your customer service reps should always avoid saying:

“Well, you’re going to have to…” No. The first thing the customer is going to think is, “Come on! I don’t have to do anything!” Ask nicely. Try, “In order for us to provide you the best service, would you mind…” Or, “Could you please provide me with this information so that we can be sure to omit any possibility for a mistake?” Let the customer know that he or she is helping to facilitate the fixing, and they’ll be much more likely to respond with something other than a quick hang-up.

“I’ll try…” Don’t try. Either say you’ll do it, or you tell them no. If you don’t give huge discounts on new water heaters, then say you can’t do that at present. Don’t say you’ll try to get them a discount if you know it won’t happen. Customers resent a lack of commitment, so don’t show that weakness.

“It’s against our policy.” It’s hard to dodge this for one main reason. The company policy is there because it needs to be followed. Just don’t use this phrase. Customers can’t stand to hear it, and it has become one of those horrid business clichés that CSRs use as a scapegoat to avoid extra work or explanation. You owe the people who pay your bills (your customers) an explanation. At the very least, substitute this worn out phrase with words like “our best procedure” or “proven approach.”

Okay, I’ve given you more than your money’s worth for today. Now, pick an action to go implement.