Increasing revenue is as simple as focusing on existing leads.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from contractors is, “I need more leads.” And for the most part, the more leads you get, the better.

We’ve spent many columns discussing how to generate more leads. Yet today we want to extract more cash from the leads you already have in your company, making this column the equivalent of pulling money out of the trash can. (Please, no discussions about putting this column in the trash can; I have a sensitive ego.)

Right now, you’re getting leads at rate “X” and converting “Y” to sales. This is a very basic “closing” or “conversion” rate calculation. Sadly, most contractors focus way harder on the “Y” (the closing or conversion rate) than they do increasing the “X.” Here’s the trick to next-level performance in one sentence. Massive sales growth happens when you increaseboth. Read that again. It is worth remembering. (I’ll give you extra credit if you can e-mail me and tell me the other two parameters that guarantee hitting another level in sales growth.)

So, looking at your current leads, there are two questions to answer today:

1.Where did they come from? (Media source, which includes your own database.)

2.What happened after the call?

Interestingly, about 70 percent of contractors do not gather the source. Bad idea. This economy rewards prudency. The days of guessing with unproven marketing are over. So, you can join the more profitable minority just by finding this out.

As far as “what happened” after the call, slightly more than 70 percent of contractors polled only know two things about what happened. It sold. It didn’t sell. And that, boys and girls, is flat-out silly.

This common mistake completely wastes the money you’ve already spent generating the lead and making the presentation. If customers don’t close the sale and were “in need,” they will find someone who did not pay to generate the lead, thus using your weak closing techniques to beat you. This costs you doubly. In effect, you’re paying for your competition’s leads.

Five Reactions Of Market Leaders

So, instead of reacting to “sold” or “not sold,” as is the case with most contractors, there are in fact five reactions that top contractors enlist to generate higher sales, higher closing rates and greater transaction sizes.

Sold:Transaction size? Previous/new customer? Attempted upsell? Attempted agreement sale? Equipment survey? That is, do they need a basement pump, drain flush-out, overflow monitor, any leaking seals? A little looking while you’re there can generally uncover additional needed services.The survey 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. This step multiplies referrals, which are free, high-closing leads.

Sold:Relationship and referral procedure started (added to your newsletter mailing list, e-zine list). A 30-day schedule of re-contact becoming more prevalent, but if you have none, every 90 days to start. This cements the relationship and greatly reduces customer migration.

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

Didn’t sell:Result of follow-up contact (minimum of three: phone call plus e-mail; letter/postcard; phone call). If still unsold, then low-cost relationship procedure started -  e-mail reminders, always included in direct-mail campaigns.

If you can 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, why not extract full value? (Yes, I’m cheap.)

The Frontline

OK, all that was for the post-appointment follow-up. What about improving your frontline CSR’s performance? Many customers say this contact either helps convince them of making the right call or completely turns them off. Most contractors never look at the importance of their frontline.

Tracking leads is one of your CSR’s most important duties, because if you’re wasting money on dud ads, you need to know. Just instruct your CSR to simply ask customers how they found out about you.

You may be shocked. 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?

First, let’s kill the auto-attendants: “Press 1 to zap me from existence.” Why not prove your customer-service superiority in five seconds? 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 CSR should never say:

1.“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 is helping to facilitate the fixing and he’ll be much more likely to respond with something other than a quick hang-up.

2.“I’ll try…” Don’t try. Either say you’ll do it or tell them no. If you don’t give huge discounts on new systems, then say you can’t do that at the present time. 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.

3.“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.”

Just by improving the response mechanism to current incoming leads, you can improve your sales results without spending a dime. We’ve used the above strategies - as simple as they are - in plumbing companies across the country to do exactly that. This money is sitting in your company now, waiting for a smart contractor to make easy changes to go pick it up. If you don’t, others will! Take action today.