Proactive strategies will get the phone ringing in a hurry.

Are you struggling to meet payroll and, in general, make ends meet?

First of all, don’t be ashamed to be in this position. But there are repercussions for not taking the steps required to fix this problem right now. Here are four ways to get the cash flowing again at your company, today.

1. Sell more service agreements, packages or other items that create recurring income and a potential to visit the customer to make legitimate comfort suggestions.

Service agreements require that you simplify your terms and train your techs on how to talk to customers about the key benefits of owning an agreement. Typically, the three strongest reasons a service agreement is in the customers’ best interest is when it offers:

  • Priority service. That means they get to go to the front of the line on freezing cold days, broiling hot days or during a flooding rain. It’s the right thing to do because they’ve committed to you and not your competition. You must reward them for doing so. As an ex-New Yorker, I can tell you we are used to waiting in lines for pretty much everything. So when I shared with my customers that they got to “cut the line,” so to speak, I didn’t have to offer much else!

  • Annual tune-up (aka start and check). That means you’ll be there to provide a professional tune-up prior to the start of the heating and/or cooling season, depending on what type of commitment they want to make. It’s the best way to keep their equipment running efficiently and to avoid costly or inconvenient nuisance breakdowns in the peak of the season. It also is a great time to talk about legitimate ways to improve comfort, safety and energy consumption and a whole lot more, including the virtue of replacement when it makes sense to suggest it. 

  • A discount. This means in your flat-rate pricing book they get the preferred rate for having chosen you as their primary contractor for their home’s plumbing, heating and/or cooling needs.

    Remember to have your techs present the service agreements to you by doing a role-play. This is how I found out whether the presentation by my own techs was weak or strong. I was better able to see where they may have been confused and passed along that confusion to customers. This gets in the way of what should have been a win-win, no-brainer decision by a customer to own one of our service agreements.

    2. Do more of the profitable service work that gets paid at the time of service by following a proven Sales Power! system. And make sure your techs are well-trained on your operations manuals to minimize callbacks.

    The tough thing to accept for many contractors is that not everyone should be considered your customer. If they don’t appreciate what you uniquely do and the level of service you can provide, they won’t be willing to pay for the responsive service, the highly trained techs, well-stocked trucks and the many other things that only you can do for them.

    Like all marketplaces, multiple types of customers have varying expectations. Those most willing to pay at the time of service are the ones who value things such as comfort, safety and responsiveness delivered on their schedule. Do that with the right customer and getting paid more and more at the time of service is completely doable, provided your customer service representatives have made this expectation known when booking the call.

    That’s why detailed scripts for CSRs are a must. Once it is in place, you will need to do phone role-plays so they can learn how to handle objections to paying at the time of service.

    For those of you doing business with longtime customers who do not pay at the time of service, you have two choices.

    You can grandfather them in, which I wouldn’t recommend. Or, you can prepare them (as I have done at my shop and the shops I have worked with for more than 10 years) by putting together a letter explaining your attempt to keep pricing down, which makes getting paid at the time of service essential. It really works with planning and practice.

    3. Fire employees who are not willing to make good recommendations and perform to a higher level.

    Instead, invest the time and energy in training the right people by hiring good people who are willing to learn. Then, make them great with great systems. These great people will figure out how to make money.

    Great employees never cost you money because they want to succeed, they want the company to succeed and they want the customers’ expectations to be exceeded. They know how to go the extra mile to make this a reality. At some companies I’ve worked at, these great employees are willing to go door-to-door in neighborhoods to speak to potential customers about the wonderful things the company can do for them. They make the phone ring, and when it rings, they maximize every opportunity.

    4. Create more calls with direct mail by having the potential customer get your direct-mail piece three times in rapid succession. Start with your own customers first.

    The trick is to make sure your lead-source tracking (this is the formalized tracking of where the calls are coming from) let’s you objectively know what marketing pieces are sent to whom, and if they work or not.

    If you use the power of testimonials in your direct-mail pieces, prospective customers will be far more likely to call. That’s because as adults, we have a basic distrust when a company tells us something. But when we see customers who are sort of like us talking about how great a company is, we are much more willing to believe it.

    Also, remember a catchy headline at the top is essential, as is a call to action that gets people motivated to pick up the phone and call now. Here are some other ways to maximize your direct-mail efforts.

  • Call using the outbound CSR script to leverage your direct-mail campaign. This outbound CSR is your best CSR who has a script on what to say about the direct-mail pieces being sent. When you do direct mail and call, the likelihood of booking new calls goes way up. You do need to be aware of the “do not call” lists if you’re calling people who are not already your customer. It works if you work it!

  • Do a shoe-leather campaign (this means get out and knock on doors) in your ideal customer towns and streets. When I entered the business, I was shy, but my dad had me out ringing doorbells in the neighborhoods we served so we could put a face to our company. We’d let them know which neighbors we already served on their block or in their neighborhood and encouraged them to call when they needed service by offering a coupon. It’s amazing how well that worked. Before you doubt this can work today, know that it’s already working for my clients.

  • Energize the full spectrum of acquisition to get your phone ringing again. For some reason, many contractors I talk to about doing acquisition assume it must be a big investment of money or just outside their ability. It’s actually the best marketing you can do.

    The reason is simple. Even the best marketing you create has no guarantee it will get someone to call you. But, when you acquire anything from a phone number to a full-blown company, there are customers already trained to call. This is the highest return on investment that I know.

    If you are thinking this is a bad time with a sluggish economy, think again. It’s actually the best time to engage this strategy because prices are down and your competition to do this is greatly reduced. To learn more about how to get your phone ringing now and start solving your cash flow issues, go to

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