5 Ways to Boost Fall and Winter Sales
Originally published: 09.01.09 by Ruth King
Take action now to increase profits.
In some areas of the country, contractors had cool weather and didn’t have as much air conditioning-oriented business.Other contractors had a busy summer because of the heat. But summer is over,and it is time to prepare for fall and winter. You can pray for cold weather ;or, you can be proactive, find people who are buying, and market to them. Fall is the time to be proactive and make sure your customers understand that heating and air conditioning are necessities, not luxuries. When these systems break, customers must fix them or replace them, especially in colder weather. Make sure they call you for the repairs and replacements by working on customer-loyalty programs now. These should include calling loyal customersabout products and services that will make them more comfortable in their homes and educating all of your customers about indoor air quality products, water treatments, solar, and other products and services you offer. Many contractors are making profits this year. They may not be as profitable as they were last year, but they arestill profitable. The common thread is that these contractors have found away to continue to sell, even when it ismore difficult. They
1. Check your tickler files. Last winter, as the recession began, some people probably said, “I’ll wait until next fall.”
Well, fall is here. Call them, and set up the work. Most customers appreciatethe follow up, and you’ll have work foryour technicians. During a first visit to a new customer, I asked the service manager to go through the tickets for the past fourmonths. When I visited the next time,the first words out of his mouth were “You were right. Here are the service tickets with work on them.” Then he pulled out his drawer, and there was a file with at least two inches of service tickets. This represented thousands of dollars in revenue and profit.
2. Go through your proposals from the past year.
Not everyone has bought. This is a perfect time to call. There are tax credits, manufacturers’ rebates, utility rebates, and other incentives. Your customers probably aren’t going to get a better price than right now. You’ll get more sales just by calling those potential customers and seeingwhether they made a buying decision.These telephone calls could result in additional work. They haven’t purchased anything new. However, their current system is having problems. You’ll generate revenue this way, too.
3. Create a referral program, and implement it. Keep your name in front of customers, and reward them for referrals.
New customers are critical for growth,and referrals are the best new customers because there is already trust — you have taken great care of their friend/neighbor/relative. The expectation is that you will provide the same level of care for the referred customer.
4. Send direct mail to inactive customers who haven’t used your services in the past 18 months to five years.
These customers are likely to buy since they’ve already purchased once. Make sure you send more than one letter, postcard, or newsletter. Research by JayConrad Levinson (Guerilla Marketing) shows it takes nine mailings to make a great impression and get a customer to buy.The message to current and inactive customers is to save money. That’s what people are interested in right now. Show them how they can write smaller checks to their utility companies by investing inyour company’s products.
5. Plan your advertising activities around existing customers, and track your progress.
Most of your advertising programs this fall should be aimed at existing customers. They’ve used your services before and are more likely to trust you. Educate them on the need for fall maintenance and safety checks. Give them a reason to call your company.Tracking is critical to know whatis working and what isn’t. Continue doing what is working, and fix what isn’t. Gut feelings don’t count. Know the numbers.By being proactive this fall, you’ll have higher sales and profits.
Ruth King has over 25 years of experiencein the hvacr industry and has worked withcontractors, distributors and manufacturersto help grow their companies and tobecome more profitable. She is presidentof HVAC Channel TV and holds a Classll (unrestricted) contractors license inGeorgia. Ruth has authored two booksThe Ugly Truth About Small Business andThe Ugly Truth about Managing People.Contact Ruth at www.hvacchannel.com or770-729-0258.
Articles by Ruth King
Understand Your P&L Statement: Gross Margin
Understand Your P&L Statement: Cost of Goods Sold
However you decide to categorize expenses in your P&L, it's important to be consistent.
Understand Your P&L Statement: Sales vs. Revenue
Sales are critical to survival — when revenue is actually generated is even more critical.
The 20 Percent Profit Myth
For a realistic goal, include owners’ compensation in the net profit equation.
Rethink Your Bonus Strategy
Enact a profit sharing program, rather than a bonus entitlement.