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Sales & Marketing

4 Secrets to Outpacing Your Competitors

Originally published
Originally published: 3/30/2024

Your success does not depend on beating your competition. It depends on your ability to create an organization where people go out of their way to seek you out to perform their service needs. Here are a few suggestions for developing a roadmap for success.

1. The simplest way to outpace your competitors is to not let them in the race. 
If you receive a call for service, you need a system where you respond immediately. When a customer’s AC breaks, will typically call several companies, and whoever is able to arrive first gets the business. We spend a lot  of money on advertising,  and then when the phone rings, sometimes we drop the ball. I understand when the first heatwave hits, it buries us.  I am referring to   normal times when we might be booking out one or two days. You can usually pick up at least one extra call a day by being organized. Basic strategies include:

    a.    Have a highly trained dispatcher with good software. Cut your windshield time to a minimum. By the way, one extra call a day could add up to $100,000 in extra service revenue per truck per year.

    b.    Stock your trucks fully so you don’t waste time going to parts houses. 

    c.    Dispatch the right tech to the job. Don’t send rookies to repair  complicated systems.

    d.    Be sure your techs understand they don’t have to prove they can fix everything. It is often in your customer's best interest to say don’t spend $1,000 on a 20-year-old unit,  let's discuss replacement options instead.

There has been an old adage in replacement sales that says “I want to be the last person in to see the customer. Let them get all of their bids, ask all their questions, then I can come in and do whatever it takes to get the deal.”  For most people, this means dropping your price to rock bottom since they have you over a barrel. I have always wanted to be the first person in the door. I get to maintain control and set the narrative. Customers make buying decisions based primarily on who they trust. If you ran the perfect sales call (which has been addressed many times in this publication), you would have provided the basis for the customer to make the informed decision that you have the best VALUE package. This doesn’t mean the lowest price but the best combination of guarantees, reputation, professionalism and a proper investment for the unit.  

Customers  may tell you they have more bids scheduled. However, I have used the technique above for years and once they agree you are the best choice for them overall, you’ve won the job. I also offer to contact the other companies to cancel their appointments. This removes the final issue in most cases.

2. Always make it easy for them to do business with your company.  
Anyone younger than a boomer is used to getting what they need with minimal effort. Be sure you have the following items in place.    

    a.    Have multiple financing options. Not everyone has great credit. You need at least three levels of financing. Level 1 for high credit people (scores over 750). They will care about the interest rate and other terms; Level 2 for midlevel (675 to 750). They will focus on the monthly payment and extended terms typically; and level 3 is for poor credit people. We often overlook them because it takes effort to find second-look financing. However, they are often your best sales since they need HVAC and are not as concerned about the interest rate as much as they can make the monthly payment. Many low credit customers live in $800,000 homes and are house poor but  have good incomes. There is no such thing as a bad customer. Take credit cards and look at Apple Pay and other options.

    b.    Have enough CSR’s so that you handle and book their calls quickly. People have little patience with being put on hold or having an unanswered call. 

    c.    Have a great website. People want to be able to verify that you are a real  company. Every website says they have the best HVAC in town. No one ever says, “Call me because we are pretty average.”  Ask for reviews on each call and provide the customer with the links. If a customer sees two companies, and one has 30 4-star reviews and the other 300, it becomes an easy choice. Post testimonials. This is an investment that requires a person with specialized knowledge to do this correctly.

3. Differentiate yourself. Think about why people would want to do business with you and not others.  

    a.    Have extended hours. People don’t have problems from 8 to 5 during the week. They often realize the issue in the evening when they get home from work. Identify your team as the group that is there for them when they need you, not just when it is convenient.

    b.    Monitor social media. Assign one person to review all social media for both good and bad comments. Areas like Nextdoor and Facebook can destroy your reputation. Respond immediately to all comments and go overboard in fixing the bad. You will gain an identity as the expert.

    c.    Do not identify with one brand.  This now becomes herd mentality, and you are all the same. Talk about your company, your team, your licensing and certifications. Emphasize that you service all brands and do not get locked into a group identity.

4. Do Not Compromise. 
Build a culture in your company based on the Ron Smith teaching of WIN-WIN-WIN. Everyone must understand that the customer must always win first if you wish to keep them long term. This means we must always act as advisers and never as salespeople. Techs need to understand that, at times, the right decision is to not sell something to a customer if it’s not in their best interest. If we make an error, don’t hide it, do the right thing to correct it. The second Win is the coworker. If you have a company built on honesty, integrity and professionalism, you will be the employer of choice, and people will want to work on your winning team. Design your programs so people are encouraged to develop their skills both technically and professionally with other people. The third WIN for the company happens automatically, since you have happy customers and happy coworkers, you will be successful. Remember, people deal with companies they trust, and if you focus on being honest and straightforward at all times, you will win over customers.

These may seem simple and obvious, but it takes daily enforcement to ensure that the entire team has the proper focus. Bottom line is you will never go wrong by being the most professional, honest company in your market.

David Dombrowski began his career not in the HVAC business but with the international transportation division of GE, controlling operations in seven states and South America. He was one of the first members of the consulting team with Ron Smith as he started Service America. He has worked for the past 32 years for the 1997 contractor of the year and is a Master license holder  for a large HVAC/plumbing company in Raleigh, NC.

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