Manasota Air Conditioning Contractors Association

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  • Wednesday, March 18, 2020 3:53 PM | Anonymous

    Originally published: 03.01.20 by Kelly Borth

    The goal of your advertising should be to stand out from your competition, offer a compelling solution and increase brand recognition and sales.

    Great advertising needs to accomplish a multitude of things — and in just a few short seconds. It needs to deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time when there is a need.

    It is a mash-up of research, competitive advantage, an appeal of emotions, the offering of a resolution that demonstrates how your audience can triumph over their issue — oh, and you need to place that advertising where your target market will consume it. It is both a science and an art. How is that for a challenge?!

    Balance all these things, and you’re on your way to having effective advertising that will garner results. It is not rocket science, but it does take the right amount of effort to get it right.

    Understand Your Audience

    If you could live a day in the life of your prospective audience, what would you experience? What are their daily frustrations like? What determines a good day and what contributes to making it a bad day? What do they want? What would improve their situation? What do they need to change their current circumstances?

    Understanding your audience is imperative to being able to offer a solution that incites action.

    Know Your Differentiation

    If you are unsure of how your products or services are different than what competitors can offer, you should begin with uncovering your company’s unique distinction. If you don’t, you will risk looking like — and sounding like — your competitors.

    You need to be able to deliver key messages that position your company differently in the marketplace. The goal is to stand out from your competition, offer a compelling solution and increase brand recognition and sales.

    Do you offer a simple three-step process? A simple solution? Is your service comprehensive? How can you make that part of your differentiation? Do you specialize in uncommon services? Are your service technicians factory certified? Do you offer one-day service? Create a toolbox of differentiating factors and leverage them in your advertising.

    But first, consider how that differentiation makes a difference in the world of your target buyer — how does it solve a problem, satisfy a need or a desire?

    So, before you commit to the expense of advertising, be sure you can answer a few questions:

    How is your company different from your competition?

    Are your products or services better? How? Why?

    Is your company more innovative? How? Why?

    Do you have a proprietary procedure that is exclusive to you?

    Emotional Appeal Creates Engagement

    In 2015, REI — a specialty outdoor retailer headquartered near Seattle — announced its #OptOutside campaign, closed all of its retail stores on the biggest shopping day of the year, gave employees the paid day off on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and encouraged everyone to enjoy a day outdoors with their families.

    Since then, the wildly popular #OptOutside has grown from one Friday in November to a whole source of online content on REI’s website, where people can find resources for outdoor activities near them, learn about REI’s partnership with state and federal parks and participate in REI’s Opt to Act Plan program.

    The program challenges people to make a difference 52 weeks a year by taking action to reduce their impact on the planet, such as committing to using half as many single-use plastic items, buying food in bulk and taking your own reusable bags to the grocery store.

    REI sells sporting goods, camping gear, travel equipment and clothing to people who love the outdoors. It also offers other services, such as outdoor-oriented vacations and encourages people to enjoy the outdoors. Other competitors do the same. So, what makes them different?

    When answering “why,” you’re selling the purpose, the mission and the vision of your company — the emotional explanation of why your business matters.

    This is the core of your brand and is what ultimately compels brand loyalty. This is what attracts customers who share the same beliefs and values — the customers who will become the company’s brand advocates.

    REI’s “why” might state, “We’re in business to encourage people to enjoy the outdoors. We have a responsibility to encourage people to reduce our impact on the Earth, get active and leave the world a better place to help improve the lives of others. We help people #OptOutside.”

    Using another company as an example: TOMS Shoes might offer a large assortment of comfortable shoes for men, women and children that are wearable from day to night. Yep, a lot of shoe manufacturers can claim this same thing.

    A “why” message for TOMS Shoes might state, “We’re in business to help improve lives. Many children in Third World countries don’t have adequate shoes to protect their feet. With every product you purchase, not only will you enjoy a comfortable pair of shoes you can wear all day long, but TOMS will also give a new pair of shoes to a child in need. One for One.”

    So, understanding how your solution, what you have to offer your target audience and how you can address their greater needs, concerns and issues, helps your advertising to have an emotional appeal that engages people with your brand and provides a greater reason for brand loyalty.

    Be Memorable in a Meaningful Way

    Think Super Bowl. Think about a great commercial or ad that you saw. Have you ever caught yourself talking about a hilarious commercial but forgetting which company or product it was promoting?

    That advertising might have gotten a few laughs and was memorable from a recall perspective, but it was not effective in getting the phone to ring. Your goal is for people to not only remember your ad but remember your company as well.

    That’s where meaningful advertising comes into play. Memorable and meaningful advertising compels an emotional response from the receiver. It can be humorous. It can spark empathy. It can address fears. It can elicit guilt. It can show affection. It can promote patriotism. It can exemplify unity.

    It demonstrates its understanding of the needs, wants and desires of the target audience and it shows that audience how that resolution can triumph over their issues. So, beyond entertaining and engaging, it is demonstrating how it makes their life or their situation better.

    Some good examples of memorable advertisements are Geico’s funny gecko, Allstate’s Mayhem character and Flo from Progressive Insurance — all raised the bar for advertising in the insurance industry.

    At the same time, ASPCA’s sad images of neglected and abused animals with the unforgettable Sarah McLachlan song playing in the background was such a successful campaign that it raised $30 million and has been referenced in many television shows and movies.  A memorable ad often becomes a part of pop culture. Can you hear me now?

    It is when you have an intimate understanding of your audience, when you link your company’s unique offerings and promote your products or services with a message and imagery that elicits an emotional appeal in a creative, meaningful and memorable way, that people will respond.

    And, of course, have a call to action. Tell them what to do next to help you solve their concerns.

    Be Where Your Audience Hangs Out

    Know all the places where your prospective customers are engaging. Know when they are engaging. Know how frequently your company need to be showing up to build name recognition and advertising recall to elicit action — rarely does running a single ad get the results that a company desires. So, frequency of advertising is a factor.

    And don’t forget the part of the formula where a company needs to show up when that prospect has a need. That is a tricky one, but Google has solved that for a lot of consumers. But don’t get fooled by thinking Google alone is the answer.

    Be sure consumers know your name and understand what your brand stands for when that need does arise. Create a compelling reason why — in a sea of options — a prospect in need should choose your company.

  • Monday, March 09, 2020 3:06 PM | Anonymous

    Use Public Relations to Grow Your Business

    Originally published: 02.01.20 by Melanie Rembrandt

    You’ve probably heard of public relations, but you may not be using it to your advantage.

    You sit down to enjoy your morning bagel and cup of coffee, open your favorite trade publication, and there it is ... a feature story about your competitor. Ugh. It talks all about their leadership, services and fantastic growth over the years with large photos and a link to their website.

    This is not how you wanted to start your day! How did they get this, anyway?

    Welcome to the world of public relations or PR. While you’ve probably heard of it, you may not be using it to your advantage.

    What Exactly is PR?

    Many people think that “PR” stands for press release. But it’s much more than that. Public relations is, “the business of inducing the public to have understanding for and goodwill toward a person, firm or institution.”

    Basically, PR refers to all of the communications you have with your internal and external customers, online and off.

    This is because the information you distribute affects the image people have of your business in some way, and this relates directly to sales, customer acquisition, employee productivity and so much more.

    The Benefits of PR

    PR focuses on sending the right

    message to the right audience at the right time to get specific results, and it can offer your business many advantages.

    Obtain third-party credibility: The main benefit of public relations is that it can give you third-party credibility you can’t get any other way. As mentioned above, when a well-known media source publishes a story about you, the people who read, watch or listen to it, give your business some attention and credibility.

    This is because it’s not paid advertising. It’s a reputable, outside source talking about your products and services.

    Boost positive awareness: A media story about your business can reach a worldwide audience within minutes of going live on the internet. If the mention offers valuable and unique information, people will share it with others and include comments, photos, videos, and more.

    Also, if an online story includes the right keywords, search engines will add it to the top of their rankings relative to current news about that particular topic. This news listing is usually online permanently so it can continue to help build awareness for your business for months, and even years, in the future.

    Save money: As a story spreads online and via word-of-mouth, you basically get free advertising for your business. If you pitch your ideas to media members and your discussion results in a published article, television or radio interview, blog, or something else, you can enjoy coverage worth thousands of dollars without paying a cent.

    Public relations doesn’t need to cost anything except time and effort!

    Gain a competitive edge: Not only does public relations help you save money that you can use on marketing, sales and other activities, it can also make your competition temporarily obsolete.

    For example, let’s say a potential customer is looking for a new partner to supply air conditioning systems to a large hotel chain in the area. After they read the impressive article about your business in their favorite publication, do you think they will call you or your competitors first?

    Win top-level new hires: Public relations can also help you win great new hires over the competition. After all, skilled and talented people job seekers want to work with exciting, growing businesses that are credible and newsworthy.

    They pay attention to top media venues in the industry as they search for potential opportunities. A single story about your business in one of these venues can put you in front of the best candidates, and above other competitors, without your knowledge.

    Plus, you can post your media clippings (published articles) on your website, print copies and put them in your reception area, hang them on your wall, and more. This will help you make a good first impression when top talent walks in your door for their interview.

    Increase productivity: When a media story goes live, be sure to share it with your team members. They will get excited to see your business (and maybe even themselves!) in the news.

    This can open up internal communications where you discuss monthly goals, events, charitable activities, training, sales processes, and more to build more positive buzz about your business – inside and out.

    Remember, the conversations you have with your employees also falls into the area of public relations. When you convey the right messages at the right time to them, you can create a more positive work environment, improve loyalty and confidence in the company, see productivity increase, and much more!

    What Does All of This Mean?

    PR can help you boost sales quickly and cost-effectively! With third-party credibility your competitors can’t touch, you get more positive attention from current and potential customers and reach top job candidates.

    Specifically, “third-party credibility is based on the human tendency to value the opinion/expertise of someone outside their circle of influence more than someone within (i.e. an outsider must know something we don’t),” states Bob Burg, international speaker and best-selling co- author of “The Go-Giver.”

    Why not take advantage of this using public relations in your day-to-day operations?

    Also, regular news coverage and the right internal communications can inspire your team members to share a positive brand image with others and be more productive because they want to be a part of your growing and newsworthy business!

    Public relations is no longer this “mysterious” activity you hear about on a regular basis. Now, you can make it an essential part of your action plan and experience significant growth in your HVACR business this year!

  • Tuesday, February 18, 2020 11:36 AM | Anonymous

    An Uncomfortable, but Highly Effective Sales Strategy
    Jill Konrath

    After spending months trying to meet with a perfect prospect, the last thing you want to do is blow the opportunity. Yet all too often, that's exactly what happens—especially when you only have a short time together.

    How can you ensure a great meeting instead? One that leads to that critical next step.

    Like many sellers, you probably feel an overpowering urge to cram as much as possible into this one meeting. Your prospects “need to know” about your exciting new products or services, competitive differentiation, top-notch service, unique methodology and exceptional customer support.

    So much to cover. So little time.

    The Speed Backlash

    Whoa! Slow down. Prospects who receive massive information dumps unconsciously erect barriers to derail your sales efforts. This is not what they want from you, yet it’s what they typically get.

    How do you know you're getting a speed backlash? Your prospect may do one of the following:

    §  They tell you that everything is fine with their current supplier—even if they’re dissatisfied.

    §  They raise seemingly stupid, inconsequential reasons why changing from what they’re doing now won’t work

    §  They ask about your pricing—and then tell you it’s either too high or there’s no money in the budget.

    §  Or, they thank you for the update and promise to contact you when the need arises—and then never get back to you.

    Sound familiar? It's the result of trying to do too much in one meeting.

    Prospects distrust your motives when you do most of the talking. And, despite all your good intentions to thoroughly educate them about your product/service, they don’t “get” why it’s worth changing.

    According to Forrester Research, only 15% of executives feel that sales meetings meet their expectations. As you might imagine, very few of them wanted a second meeting with the salesperson.

    That’s a huge failure rate. And, it’s a direct result of the seller’s actions.

    The good news is it doesn’t have to be that way. If we accept responsibility for the outcomes we’ve created, we can change what we do in our initial meetings.

    Slower Strategies for Faster Results

    One of the most uncomfortable things for sellers to do is to s-l-o-o-o-w d-o-w-w-w-n. It’s totally counters to our highly driven, results-oriented sales cultures.

    Yet that’s exactly what top performers do. Getting prospects to change is a slow, deliberate process. It takes time to:

    §  Demonstrate that you’re an invaluable resource, not a self-serving salesperson.

    §  Build a business case for switching from the status quo.

    §  Help your buyers navigate a complex decision process.

    §  Beat out competitors, especially long-term incumbents.

    Knowing this, top sellers put together a one-step-at-a-time strategy that advances the sales process much faster than if they tried to do everything quickly.

    It All Starts with That Crucial Initial Meeting

    How you prepare for your upcoming conversation is a huge factor in its success. Don’t just hop on the phone, log onto an online meeting or show up at a prospect’s office. Planning for success involves these “don’t-miss” steps.

    1. Research

    Learn as much as you can before your initial conversation. Review your prospect's website, LinkedIn/social media profiles. Read industry trends. Study buyer personas.

    Also, make sure to reflect on similar customers. Some questions to consider include:

    §  What were their goals/objectives?

    §  What issues/challenges were they facing?

    §  What gaps existed between where they were today versus where they wanted to be?

    §  What was their “buying journey”? Who was involved? What justifications were necessary?

    §  How has your product/service helped them achieve their objectives? What results have they realized?

    2. Establish a logical next step

    Ask yourself, “What can I realistically hope to accomplish in my initial meeting?” You might say that you’d like to close the deal, but as you know, that’s not going to happen.

    Most sales today require multiple meetings with a variety of stakeholders. Interest needs to be piqued, business cases developed, competitors evaluated, buy-in achieved and much more.

    The initial meeting is about creating curiosity—enough so that your prospect wants to investigate more … or include others in a follow-up conversation… or do some sort of analysis.

    That’s the logical next step. Doing just this is enough.

    But then the question becomes, “What creates curiosity?”

    3. Share something interesting

    One of the best ways to pique your prospect’s interest is to give a real-life example of someone who:

    §  Holds a similar job (Sales VP), working in a similar industry (Manufacturing) and at a similar-sized company ($500 million revenue).

    §  Was trying to achieve similar objectives.

    §  Struggled with some of the same issues/challenges.

    §  Chose to work with your company.

    Make this person the hero of the story. As a result of choosing to work with your company he/she achieved these results … then share them.

    Remember, your product/service is a tool. Nothing more. People buy it because of what it does for them. And that’s why you showcase a real person who achieved their desired results.

    Or … you could share emerging trends or research that impact your buyer and are relevant to what you sell.

    For example, I might talk with Sales VP about Forrester’s discovery of a 85% failure rate on initial sales meetings.

    Then I could leverage that statistic into a conversation about how their salespeople are doing. Finally, I could find out what strategies they’re using to try to increase their initial meeting success rate.

    Ultimately, this leads to a very valuable and useful conversation for both parties.

    4. Plan your questions

    Questions are key to your ultimate success. They demonstrate interest and concern. Prospects feel you’re more knowledgeable when you ask good questions.

    Good questions also provide insights into customer needs and their buying process. Finally, they’re the basis for developing strong relationships.

    Plan at least ten questions ahead of time. Write them down so you don’t forget to ask them.

    Let your prospect know that you’ve invested time preparing for this meeting and that you have questions to ask that will help them determine if your product/service might “make sense” for their company.

    YES. This Takes a Lot of Work

    It’s not FAST. Sometimes it’s painfully slow.

    In fact, it might be so uncomfortable for you that you’re tempted to skip some or all these steps. But you must realize that your prospect’s buying process can't be short-circuited.

    If you go too fast, problems are guaranteed to arise, causing your opportunity to evaporate into thin air.

    If that happens, you’ll need to find new prospects. And that takes forever too. All those phone calls and emails you need to send. Over and over. Hoping to get another meeting set up. Another chance to lose a deal as fast as you can.

    Sales is the art of delayed gratification. The slower you move, the faster the decision. Why? Because you’re doing things right.

  • Monday, February 17, 2020 2:41 PM | Anonymous

    Sales Negotiation: How to Navigate the Gives/Gets for a Win-Win

    John Barrows 11/01/19

    When it comes to negotiation, the goal isn’t a win…

    What you want is a win-win.

    True negotiations are all about coming to a mutual agreement on something where both parties feel like they got something out of the deal.

    Contrary to popular belief, you don’t “win” a negotiation by making the other person lose. Both parties need to give and get along the way. The more equal those gives and gets are, the healthier the relationship is and can become.

    So, let’s look at some smart ways you can negotiate a win-win.

    Why a Win-Win Is So Hard to Achieve

    The problem in sales is that we tend to be “givers.”

    We give and give and give and expect one very large thing in the end as our “get” (i.e. signed contract). What’s more, we think we’ve earned it because we did everything they asked for.

    However, if we give throughout the process without getting much in return, we condition the client to treat us like a doormat. They end up having little respect for us towards the end, which is why they either keep asking for things (discounts) or they just flat out disappear on us and don’t even give us the courtesy of a callback.

    We need to find a way to create and condition equality from the start of the relationship.

    Creating Equality in Negotiations

    To create equality, most negotiations focus on a quid pro quo approach to getting things in return for what you’re giving away. This is necessary sometimes, but it tends to lead to a more contentious relationship.

    The good news is, there’s something else you can leverage that’s even more powerful, and that’s a human condition called the Rule of Reciprocity. This rule effectively states that we (as humans) are all bound — even driven — to repay debts.

    It works because we don’t like owing anyone anything.

    If we give someone something, they feel obligated to give something in return. The sooner we ask for something in return, the easier it is for us to get — largely because that feeling of indebtedness is still fresh.

    By understanding all the gives and gets along the way and matching them up, we can know exactly what to ask for, and when, in order to move the deal through the pipeline to closure — or get out before it’s too late.

    Let’s dig in…

    Outlining Your Gives and Gets

    What does it mean when you give something and don’t get much in return?

    If you keep giving, people keep asking for things. Whether it be free trials, discounts, add-ons, or other requests, if you continue to give the client what they are asking for, there is no respect in the relationship. The more equal you can keep the relationship, generally, the healthier it is.

    On the flip side, if we get everything we want and don’t give much in return, the customer may not be asking for anything. This disengagement can also be a cause for concern, because it could mean your customer is looking at other vendors.

    Use this template for a response to a prospect request:

    I am happy to do that. In order to get you exactly what you want, we are going to need __________.

    Example: “I can give you the proposal, but can I get 10–15 on your calendars to make sure we get you exactly what you need?”

    Another great method is to build a scorecard. This provides an easy way to map out the gives and gets.

    Brainstorm what your client has asked of you during the sales process, whether that’s discounts, proposals, trails, etc. Prioritize them from 1–20, depending on the level of difficulty it would be to provide those items. Then link those requests to specific items that you want out of the process — and prioritize that list as well.

    Keep track as you go through the sales process.

    As you give something to your customer, add that into your scorecard. When they provide you something on your priority list, put that on the scorecard, as well.

    Your goal is to keep the relationship balanced and equal.

    There are a couple of methods I use when implementing the scorecard:

    The most important thing to get in the sales process is a defined next step. Don’t wait to get it. Ask for it.

    Next, send a summary email after every conversation, outlining what you both gained from the conversation. When you send it, ask the customer if they can look at it and let you know if it looks accurate or if you missed anything.

    When the customer says they’ll make a final decision on Friday, schedule a call for Friday. Always maintain the forward momentum.

    Don’t Jump to Discounting

    Often, sales reps jump to discounting to speed up negotiations. Discounting has such a negative impact in so many ways, it’s worth putting it into perspective:

    • The average S&P 1000 company would suffer a 12.8% drop in profitability by giving a mere 1% discount, assuming no increase in volume.
    • Salespeople make a bigger deal about price than buyers do: Salespeople (8.3), Buyer (6.9).
    • Whoever feels the most pressure will make the most concessions.
    • Discounts kill credibility and create a negative perception of you and your solution.
    • Discounts set the stage for future discounts.

    So, what’s the best way to combat discounting you ask?

    Well, there are some negotiation and objection handling techniques that can help, but the best way I’ve ever come across is quite simple. Just have a BIG FAT PIPELINE.

    The more legitimate, healthy deals we have in our pipeline, the less desperate we are to close deals, and the more confident we are in dealing with people who are trying to squeeze us.

    Be Consciously Customer-Focused

    We can also work more along the lines of the client’s buying cycle than our selling cycle. Too often we try to force a client into our buying cycle, which typically is driven by the end of the month or quarter. We all know sales should be about the client and not about us, so we need to do what we can to get them to buy when they’re ready to buy, not when we’re ready to sell.

    Therefore prospecting on a regular basis (even month or quarter-end) is so critical.

    Spend 30 minutes a day prospecting in some way, shape, or form. It can be cold calls, direct emails, searching through LinkedIn, asking for referrals, whatever. Just do it.

    If you’re sick of feeling cheap and using discounts to close all your deals, prospect every day to have a consistently full pipeline and see what happens to your confidence and abilities to deal with discounting.


  • Monday, February 03, 2020 3:08 PM | Anonymous


    The Salesperson's Guide to Organizational Selling

    Written by Lestraundra Alfred

    How you approach making a sale will vary depending on who you’re selling to. When selling directly to a consumer, you need to know basic information about who your buyer is and what benefit they want to receive from your product.

    On the other hand, when you’re selling to an organization (not just a single end-user), selling becomes far more complex.

    Organizational Selling

    Organizational selling is the process of selling goods to companies and organizations instead of to individual consumers. The buyers in organizational selling transactions use their purchased to support ongoing operations or to resell to their own customer base.

    When selling to an organization instead of an individual, you have to consider the group you are selling to, and their production needs that go beyond the buyer’s journey. Here are some considerations to help you understand and master organizational selling.

    Organizational Selling Tips

    1. Your buyer’s wants are driven by their customer’s demands

    In organizational selling, you aren’t selling to the final end-user of your product. You’re selling to a company that needs your product to conduct business. As a sales rep, you need to understand who their customers are and how your product fits into the big picture of their production system.

    When you’re on a call trying to make an organizational sale, make sure you ask your prospect thoughtful questions to understand how they use your product, and what the impact is to the end-user. Here are some questions you can ask:

    • "Who is your ideal customer?"
    • "How does your ideal customer use your product?"
    • "Where does XYZ (the product you’re selling) fit into your production system?"
    • "How long is your typical production cycle?"

    2. Orders have greater quantity and complexity

    Because your buyers are purchasing goods for their own business, organizational orders are often higher value because companies buy in larger quantities than consumers. If you are selling to another business, your product is part of their supply chain and having your products on-time, in the necessary amount, and in working order is critical to the health of their business.

    To be successful in organizational sales, you must be able to understand and work with the complexity that comes with these larger deals. Here are some factors to keep in mind when selling to organizations:

    • Your buyer’s production schedule — Know how often they produce their product, and when they expect to receive shipments from your company to keep production going.
    • Your company’s ability to supply enough product — Now that you know how much product your buyer needs from you and when they need it to ensure your company is able to meet that demand. Communicate early and often if you anticipate running into any issues that could impact your buyer’s business.
    • The organization’s sales process — Have a clear understanding of what their company’s sales funnel looks like. Do they meet their sales goals? Are they planning to scale and increase production in the coming months to meet demand? These factors may impact how they buy from you.

    3. Your buyer may have quality and safety requirements for their products

    When selling to organizations, you also want to be mindful and aware of any quality or safety requirements that may be in place for your buyer’s products. As you work with your prospect to make the sale, seek to understand what their requirements are to ensure your product can help them maintain their quality and safety standards.

    For example, if you work for a snack company and sell to a retailer that only sells food made from organic ingredients, knowing what their quality standards are and making sure your product adheres to them can be a valuable selling point.

    4. Your buyer is looking for the best value

    As we mentioned above, when companies purchase goods and services, the complexity and dollar values are higher than when consumers purchase goods and services. For any business, the bottom line is a top priority, and the organizations you are selling to are no different. In order for a company to be profitable, their expenses cannot be higher than revenue. That is why organizational buyers are often looking for the best value when making purchases.

    That isn’t to say that price is all that matters to buyers, or that the lowest price always wins the sale. It does mean that purchases made on behalf of a company are expected to deliver a return on investment. In other words — your organizational buyers are spending money in hopes of making it back (and then some).

    When going through the sales process, articulate the value your product can provide each step of the way. Whether your product can help your buyers save time, preserve equipment, or reduce costs in the long run, your ability to demonstrate how your product can help your buyer’s bottom line can be a major selling point.

    Now let’s walk through some examples of what organizational selling looks like in real life.

    Organizational Selling Examples

    Let’s say you work for a company that sells safety glasses to aerospace organizations. When the aerospace company buys your safety glasses, they give them to their employees who manufacture airplanes to protect their eyes during the production process.

    As a sales rep, your job is to understand the benefits and of your product and how they help your buyer succeed in their area of business. In this scenario, you are responsible for understanding what the safety requirements are of the organizations you are selling to, and you need to be able to speak to your product’s ability to meet these requirements.

    If while selling the safety glasses to the aerospace company you can provide reliable information about the quality and safety of your products, and share quantitative data from previous sales such as having a prior customer see a reduction in workplace injury by using your product. While yes, the company can expect to spend money on your product, they can also expect higher productivity from employees who can perform their jobs with a reduced risk of injury. These are key talking points that can demonstrate value for the organization you’re selling to.

    For another example, let’s say you work for a company that sells security software to small businesses. Your software aims to keep your buyer’s company computer systems safe and protected from viruses and security breaches.

    In this role, you need to understand what the common security threats are to companies of similar size and industry to your buyer. Additionally, performing research to understand how much a threat or breach could cost your buyer if it were to happen can provide a valuable data point to demonstrate the value of your offering.

    With adequate research and a good understanding of your buyer’s industry, you can succeed in organizational selling.

  • Monday, January 20, 2020 12:41 PM | Anonymous

    Expanding Your Service Area: When More is Less

    Originally published: 12.01.19 by Terry Nicholson

    In the land of milk and honey, where opportunity is abundant, we rarely think “less is more.” After all, who wants less money, less vacation time, less fun, less success? The list could go on and on. But as business owners, it’s hard to imagine that less may, in fact, be more. Time and time again, I’ve seen that chasing more, often leads to less.

    The situation occurs because you exemplify service excellence. You’re committed to delivering outstanding customer service. Your positive reputation is spreading in the community. Customers are referring their friends and family to you. You’re growing year after year.

    Because of your many happy clients you are serving, you start receiving service requests from homeowners outside of your immediate service area. You start thinking to yourself “more business is good!”

    That voice in your head says that one happy customer in the new area could lead to more happy customers, and you have the manpower availability at the present moment.

    In your head it’s a no-brainer, and for most service professionals in the same situation, that temptation wins out before they’ve even considered all of the pros and cons.

    Scheduling service calls outside your service area means accepting more consequences such as:

    1. More technician windshield time
    2. Increased fuel and vehicle expense
    3. Increased technician compensation paying techs for driving, instead of repairing
    4. Less gross margin dollars per hour
    5. The occasional repair requiring a non-truck stocked part
    6. The occasional call-back
    7. Etc.

    Plus, you are going to have to honor your warranties and guarantees. If you think there is nothing worse than running a call-back or warranty call, think again! Running a call-back outside of your service area is a real money loser.

    In addition to the above reasons, also consider, as is so often the case, when it rains it pours.

    Even though you may have taken the call outside of your service area because you had the labor availability, once you’ve taken the call, doesn’t it almost always seem that you start receiving more calls in your immediate area?

    Now you’re overbooked or you can’t provide timely service. The end result is, you lose business to your competitors and your good reputation is weakened.

    This is how more, quickly becomes less for your business.

    Therefore, it’s wise to develop a plan on how you are going to successfully manage expanding your service area. Here is a proven step-by-step method you might find helpful:

    Identify Your Primary Service Area

    This is where you would prefer to do business, and if you could, you’d keep your entire team busy in this radius and never leave. Circle this area on a map and post it on the wall for all to see.

    By posting a map on the wall for your call takers who are booking your appointments, they know where the best, most profitable area is located.

    Identify Secondary Area

    This is the area you are willing to serve if you can’t keep your staff fully booked in your primary service area.

    On the same map, draw a border in a different color around your second-choice service area.

    Establish Dispatch Fee

    You may actually have different dispatch fees for each service area. For example, your dispatch price in your primary service area may be $89, while in your secondary service area it may be $109.

    This will help offset some of the additional costs of doing business outside of your primary service area.

    Resist the Temptation ... Just Say No

    When service requests come from homeowners outside of your identified service area, resist the temptation and politely inform the caller they live outside your service area.

    This commitment to service excellence in your defined service zone will allow you to continue to gain market share. As you expand your customer base inside your primary zone and continue to fill in more customers in your secondary zone, you will eventually want to redefine your service zones again.

    Either by widening your service zones by expanding your primary and secondary area so each covers a larger area (see chart).

    Or, by developing a third zone that expands your service area out further, with each zone having a different dispatch fee.

    Whatever method you choose, knowing when more means less, and developing a service zone expansion plan, is how you turn your company into a real, money-making machine!

  • Tuesday, December 17, 2019 11:38 AM | Anonymous

    7 Essential Accounting Practices for Your Business

    Originally published: 03.01.19 by James Leichter

    Familiarize yourself with your financial statements and have a good understanding of your company’s accounting.

    Accounting is the basis of good business decisions. For that reason, you must familiarize yourself with your financial statements. These include Balance Sheet, Profit & Loss, and Statement of Cash Flow (or Cash Flow Statement).

    Know Your Financials

    A Balance Sheet shows the company’s total assets, liabilities, and equity at a particular point in time. Your Profit & Loss (or Income Statement) shows the revenues generated and expenses incurred during a particular date range. The Statement of Cash Flow shows details of the flow of cash (in and out) as a result of the company’s operating, investment, and financing activities.

    Don’t Be a Victim of Employee Theft

    Not a month goes by without our office hearing from a contractor that discovered an employee was robbing them. The last call I took was from an owner who discovered that a trusted employee had been stealing from him. He discovered that at least $55,000 had been stolen over the course of three years.

    Most victims have a few things in common. They are usually companies owned by a single person who has little to no interest in office work, especially accounting. There is a single primary person in charge of bookkeeping and accounting functions. The company does not have an outsider perform basic audits or even perform bank reconciliations.

    Always Use Purchase Orders

    Be sure your company uses purchase orders for all purchases. Keep in mind, a purchase order is a permission slip to buy something and it is the basis of all good bookkeeping systems for contractors.

    Purchase orders should contain specific information about what items or services were agreed upon as well as exact pricing and terms of the sale. When orders are picked or delivered to you, there should be a packing slip. Carefully compare the packing slip to what you are picking up or what was delivered. Sign the packing slip and turn it in to the office. Your next step is to acknowledge receipt of the items. In many software programs, this is called an item receipt. This is where the purchase order (permission slip) is converted to a financial transaction. You can think of an item receipt as a temporary bill.

    This process gets the item(s) into inventory quickly so that you can keep your financials up to date and get your invoices out quickly. When the bill arrives, evaluate it against the item receipt and the purchase order. All item numbers, quantities, and prices should match. Many of our clients are very surprised how often there are pricing mistakes — mistakes that are not in their favor.

    Purchase orders should also be used for ordering services. For example, if you need to call to have your copier repaired, create a purchase order and tell the vendor to include that PO number on their bill. When the bill is being evaluated for payment, the bill payer will look to the PO for verification. An old trick was for a would-be fraudster to call companies and ask for the model and serial number of a copier, or other appliance. They would then send an official looking bill for repair work. Many times, an unknowing worker paid the legitimate looking bill.

    Don’t Manage Your Company on a Cash Basis

    Cash basis is the simplest form of accounting. You recognize and record revenue when cash is received, not when the work is done. Expenses are recorded when bills are paid, not when the item was used.

    In the accrual method, revenues are recognized and recorded when earned. Expenses are recognized and recorded when consumed or when an invoice is received. Remember, when using this method, revenues and expenses don’t have to be paid before they are recognized.

    Some accounting software allows you to print your reports using the cash basis of accounting. While cash basis reporting can be necessary when paying sales tax or preparing your tax returns, it is a very dangerous way to manage your company. Do not use cash basis reports to analyze your financial performance or to help you make day-to-day management decisions.

    Never Mix Personal with Business Expenses

    Your personal finances should never be mixed with your business finances. Your company should have its own bank accounts, checking accounts, and credit cards. According to Publication 535 from the IRS, a business expense must be “both ordinary and necessary.”

    An “ordinary” expense is one that is common and accepted in your trade or business. A “necessary” expense is one that is helpful and appropriate for your trade or business. Don’t be tempted to write-off personal expenses, pleasure trips, or anything else that is not a legitimate business expense.

    Don’t Import Transactions from a Website

    Would you let your credit card company or parts supplier sit down at your desk and enter their own bills for you to pay? Would you let your banker drop by to enter all of your banking activity into your accounting software? Would you trust their work so much that you would skip the normal process of “checks and balances” to verify these transactions?

    Most people would say no. But that might be exactly what you are doing when you own software that allows you to download banking activity, credit card transactions, and vendor bills. Importing transactions directly into an accounting program can allow employees to skip critical internal control mechanisms that guard against fraud, theft, and errors due to omission.

    Hire an Accounting Firm

    When is the last time your accountant called you to ask you questions about your financial statements? Most contractors only hear from their accountant when it’s time to work on their tax returns. In this case, they don’t have an accountant; they simply have a tax preparer. Your accountant should review your financials quarterly and discuss the numbers with you. They should ask you to probe questions designed to test your accounting practices and controls. Their job should be to give your company a “financial physical” by checking all of your vital signs.

    While absolutely vital to profitability, financial structure and accounting practices are often the least understood elements within a contracting company.

  • Monday, December 09, 2019 12:10 PM | Anonymous

    You’re Headed Toward Your Goal — Know Your True Costs

    Originally published: 03.01.19 by Ruth King

    You’ve launched. You know where you want to go and how you think you’re going to get there. Now it’s tracking time to ensure you get where you want to go. First, understand all of your costs. By tracking all of your costs you can make decisions about whether the costs are acceptable or whether they should be cut.

    There are four types of cost: Direct, Indirect, Tangible and Intangible.

    Direct Costs

    Direct costs are those costs you incur because you sold something. If you don’t sell, you don’t incur these costs. Direct costs usually include labor used to produce jobs, equipment, materials, commissions and SPIFFs, warranty, freight, subcontractors, union dues and permits.

    Labor cost can be tricky. Only the job labor goes in direct cost. Vacations, holidays, meeting time and other unapplied time are overhead expenses. You can’t bill for this time. Yet, you pay the employees for it.

    Some contractors put payroll taxes for the field employees in direct cost. It doesn’t matter where you put it. Other than being consistent from month to month, gross margin doesn’t matter (see last months’ column, Prepare for Liftoff).

    Commissions are always included in direct cost. No sale. No commission. If you pay a sales person a salary plus commission, that salary goes in overhead.

    Indirect Costs

    Indirect costs are all of the costs you incur to stay in business.

    These include rent, utilities, office salaries, etc. Look at the overhead cost list on your profit and loss statement to see all of them.

    Tangible Costs

    Tangible costs are costs that you can see.

    These are the costs that you write checks for. They include the direct and indirect costs for your business.

    Intangible Costs

    Intangible costs are the most dangerous types of costs because they are “hidden” and can dramatically affect your profitability. One of the typical intangible costs is sales cost. Owners accept a lot of intangible sales cost. If your sales person’s closing ratio is 25 percent, he is “burning” three out of four leads. How much do those leads cost? Is burning three out of four acceptable?

    Lead cost includes all marketing and advertising, including referrals, web costs, social media costs and traditional advertising costs such as radio, television and newspaper. Track the number of leads generated from these types of media.

    It’s as simple as asking, “How did you hear about us?” when a new customer calls or “What prompted you to call us today?” for a customer in your database. Most software packages can track this for you. It’s as simple as putting in the data.

    Look at sales closing rate from a profitability perspective. Assume your average sale is $10,000, your desired net profit per hour is $100 and it takes two men eight hours to install a residential system. That generates $1,600 net profit for each job (16 hours times $100 per hour).

    If your sales person is given 500 leads a year (10 leads a week for 50 weeks), his closing ratio increases from 125 closed jobs to 250 closed jobs. This generates an additional $200,000 in profit ($1,600 times an additional 125 jobs). What amount of intangible lead cost are you willing to accept?

    The other major intangible costs are warranty and callback expenses. Even if you expense a small percentage of material cost for every job and put it on the balance sheet as accrued warranty expenses to cover the inevitable warranty costs, the amount on your balance sheet is not your true warranty cost.

    When a warranty call or callback occurs, the technician’s time and part cost is usually transferred to the service department to cover that cost. Most contractors only cover the direct cost, however. Some cover the overhead cost per hour too.

    None that I know will let the service department get a profit on warranty expense. As a result, the department loses the amount of profit they could have generated for a “real” service call.

    When you bill a manufacturer, they give you a labor rate, which never covers all of your intangible costs. The most expensive is lost revenue opportunity cost. Not only do you have expense of paying for the technician’s time, truck and overhead expenses, you cannot generate revenue during that call.

    If a technician takes two hours to perform that warranty call, that is two hours that he cannot generate revenue. If your average service ticket revenue is $250, then you’ve lost the ability to generate $500. Add the lost opportunity cost to the warranty expense.

    The most expensive callbacks are stupid mistakes — leaving a disconnect off, not putting a panel back on a unit, etc. How many are you willing to accept before firing that employee?

    Track all of your costs, tangible and intangible. Then make sure they are what you’ve planned for your journey. If not, take steps to correct the costs to get them back in line.

  • Wednesday, December 04, 2019 5:46 PM | Robin (Administrator)

    Marketing Campaigns that Generated $20,000 In Revenue

    Originally published: 08.01.19 by Joy Gendusa

    If growing your HVAC business has been a challenge, then have a seat and stop to read this article for a moment.

    I’m going to share 3 case studies from actual clients of mine who implemented ONE simple tactic that generated leads and sales. Let’s jump right in!

    1. Mail to current customers multiple times for a $20K revenue boost

    Most homeowners don’t think about if or when their HVAC unit is likely to need repairs, so it’s your job to remind them — and it takes more than one reminder to cut through the noise and be noticed.

    One of my clients, Glass City Heating & AC, generated a great response from their campaign.

    Here’s one of the postcards they mailed:

    Here are a few details from their mailings:

    • Targeted their current customer list
    • Mailed 5,000 postcards three times (15,000 cards total)
    • Campaign lasted one year with mailings every four months
    • Each mailing was a different seasonal design
    • Each design offered multiple offers on tune-ups, repairs and installations

    Mailing schedule: just before winter, before summer and recall campaigns in either spring or fall (they alternate and have been running this for years)

    The results? They received 10-15 calls from these campaigns. And because they use this strategy consistently, year after year, they’ve nailed down that for every 5,000 cards they mail, they receive about $20,000 in business.

    When you’re consistent with your marketing — and these guys are, year in and year out — your results become more and more reliable.

    2. Target your new prospects and book 310 appointments

    Let’s look next at an HVACR business that wanted to generate new customers, which means they had to target brand new prospects (who probably hadn’t heard of them before) rather than marketing to their own customer database.

    One of my clients purchased a large mailing list of 42,000 addresses. They chose to mail to:

    • Single family homeowners
    • Condominium owners
    • All built between 1978 and 2003

    Here’s their no-frills, yet eye-catching, design:

    Their bright orange postcard design jumped out of mailboxes like an emergency alert that MUST be noticed and read.

    Here are the rest of their campaign’s details and their results:

    • Seven mailings of 6,000 cards
    • Received 567 calls
    • Booked 310 appointments
    • Averaged $1,395 PER booking in revenue

    If you’re doing the math, that is $432,450 is revenue generated. Amazing!!

    3. Give an attractive special offer to generate 155 responses

    Most small business owners react the same way about special offers: “I don’t want to discount my services.” Right? Well, not so fast…

    A special offer that appeals to ALL consumers can be the make-or-break factor between calling you or calling your competition.

    The last campaign we’ll look at is definitely offer-forward to get an edge on the competition. Here’s the postcard design — with the special offer — from my client Kenrich Mechanical:

    As for the rest of the campaign, here is what we did:

    • Target a list of 5,000 existing customers
    • AC tune-up focus in advance of summer
    • Mail to the same list three times
    • Hit the list in consecutive months (April–June)

    Not only did 155 people respond to their postcard campaign, but it generated $12,000 in sales — again, from ONE campaign.

    So what is the overall takeaway from these case studies?

    To generate enough calls and sales from your marketing, you need to market consistently.

    Whatever marketing you can budget for, map out your mailings or ads or emails on a calendar, and ensure they go out multiple times before your peak periods.

    You’ll reap the rewards for your dedication to marketing!

  • Monday, December 02, 2019 3:51 PM | Anonymous

    Effective Email Marketing

    Originally published: 09.01.17 by David Heimer

    Email marketing can be an incredibly effective tool for contractors. Unfortunately, most contractors do a really bad job with it. I don’t say that lightly; for several years, I’ve looked at email marketing from HVACR contractors and much of it is unattractive, poorly conceived and inefficient.

    Get Your Email Opened

    When you send email to a prospect or a customer, what do you want them to do with it? Open it, of course!

    Email recipients mostly use two pieces of information to determine if they will open the email: 1) Who it’s from (the sender) and 2) What it’s about (the subject).

    Unfortunately, many contractors use a “no reply” sender email address. What does “no reply” tell the recipient? It’s like a “talk to the hand” signal. It hardly inspires a dialogue.

    Your “sender” should be a real person at your company email address — not Gmail, Yahoo or any other third-party address. If you have a company icon, spokesperson or face of the company, use that name.

    The subject line is precious real estate. You have only a small space to deliver a compelling reason to open the email. Don’t waste that space with extraneous words.

    What’s compelling? People open an email that is useful and interesting to THEM — not what is useful and interesting to YOU.

    Many HVACR contractors email technical subjects to their customers. Sure, you like that information and I like that information, but most homeowners aren’t that interested. Use subjects and subject lines that are interesting and valuable to your customer.

    “Your Latest (company name) HVAC Newsletter” — Really Bad

    “Perfect Places For Ductless Heating and Cooling” — Bad

    “Stop Fighting Over the Thermostat!” — Better

    “Inexpensive Ways To Make Your Home Healthier” — Good

    “4 Home Safety Tips You Should Know” — Excellent

    The subject doesn’t need to be about HVACR. Position yourself as a company interested in the well-being of its customers. That frees you from needing to find HVACR-related subjects. Humor is also good. People want to be entertained. Humor can backfire, however, so be careful with it and keep it family-friendly.

    In choosing your subjects and subject lines, consider your recipients — 60-70 percent of HVACR purchase decisions are made by women. It’s likely that a similar percentage of your email list is women.

    LQ Hunter, the Service Nation email guru says the lists he manages for HVACR contractors are 56 percent women. Make your email subjects and subject lines women-centric and family-friendly.

    Don’t send your email too often. Once every two weeks or once a month is about right. Once a week is the max. More often will cause your email to be ignored. Timing of the email is often overlooked.

    “Timing is just as important as your subject line,” Hunter says. “Your open rates will suffer if both aren’t well thought out. Schedule your email to arrive Monday through Thursday before noon.”

    Design for Preview Panes

    Some people use a “preview pane” to look at the first part of an email. What they see in the preview pane helps them determine whether they will open and read the rest of the email.

    Knowing this, you want the first part of your email (the part displayed in the preview pane) to be interesting and enticing.

    Don’t fill this part with boring, uninteresting factoids such as the date it was sent, information about you and your company or boring headlines.

    If you’re sending a newsletter with multiple articles, it may be good to organize your newsletter so the table of contents is displayed in the preview pane, assuming the table of contents has interesting topics written in an attention-grabbing headline style.

    Mobile Friendly

    More than half of all email is opened on a mobile device, so your email must be mobile friendly. Limit the size of the images, and make the email effective with no images because some mobile email clients will stop images or make them optional (this includes your call to action).

    Design for a narrow email window, approximately 25-30 characters wide. Be succinct (that’s a good rule for all email platforms). Don’t force the reader to click through to read your email — that’s extra slow and tedious on a mobile device.

    Use an Email Marketing System

    A few of the contractor emails I collected were sent out using massive “BCC” lists. Don’t do that. Your deliverability rates will drop and you’ll probably damage your email reputation.

    Use a good email marketing system. There are many to choose from: Constant Contact, MailChimp and AWeber are just a few examples. These systems will improve your deliverability rate and provide useful key performance indicators (KPIs).

    While we’re on the subject of KPIs, email systems generate a lot of data and KPIs. Some are useful and some are not.

    “Pay attention to open rates, click through rates, number of bounce backs, unsubscribes and spam designations,” Hunter says. “Some people pay attention to the opens by length of subject line or how soon it was opened. I think those and other similar KPI’s are not useful.”

    Call to Action

    Depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, you may or may not want a call to action. I like a call to action on every email.

    There are a lot of options: coupons, special offers, free downloads, requests for more information, quotes, free energy analyses or home audits.

    Be creative and be fun.

    Hire An Expert

    You probably didn’t join this industry because you’re a good writer and have email expertise. Most contractors don’t write well, and even if you can, your time is too valuable for that.

    Hire someone or outsource your email marketing.

    With respect to email marketing, industry expertise is important. Hiring a generic email marketer isn’t a good idea. You should look for someone who understands and has experience in the home services industry.

    They should be able to create compelling copy, provide excellent delivery and open rates, discuss relevant KPIs and show you how to measure your return on investment.

    One caution, some email marketers use your email to help promote THEM. Obviously you want to minimize or eliminate that. Their job is to market YOU.

    Email Marketing I Love

    I’ve never met John Prichett, I don’t know him, and I’ve never done any business with him, but every month I look forward to reading his email. John is a Realtor in the Dallas area.

    Near the end of every month he sends an email that lists all the major events occurring in the DFW area for the next month.

    The email is sectioned by Theater, Broadway Shows and Musicals, Dance, Concerts, Other Performing Arts, Museums, Zoos and Aquariums, Festivals and Sports. It contains the contact information for all the venues and the dates for the events. This email is useful, informative and saves time.

    John’s call to action is really simple and understated: “Oh, by the way, if you know someone thinking about buying, selling or renting a home, I’d be happy to help them.” And it has his contact information.

    Does it work? I haven’t sold or bought a home recently, but I certainly remember his name!

    Email marketing is a great tool and a great opportunity. There’s a lot more to email marketing than I can cover in one column, but I hope this will give you some ways to make your email marketing more effective for you.

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