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If I were cynical, I’d offer a very belated “Happy Independence Day,” which is not-so-humorously approaching hyper-dependency. The “rugged individualism” for which America is most noted seems - in the opinion of those afflicted with an “I want my mommy” mindset - to be too hard, too tough, and contain way too much personal responsibility.
Too much dependency is a bad thing. “Interdependency,” however, is fine. That’s where you benefit from my work, I from yours, others from both of us together. It’s the team concept, broadly applied. But to wait around, pacifier in mouth, hand outstretched to be snatched from self-caused harm (again), is stifling to the human animal.
You and I probably find this even more distasteful since we are generally stricken with the entrepreneurial disease. For us, no such bailout, handout, or eternal day care exists.
You, Mr. or Mrs. Contractor, are a fixer by gosh. The fan doesn’t work, there’s a funny noise, the heater’s cold, and the a/c’s hot, means, “Get to work.” When you get the call, go fix the problem and the customer; I say, “Awesome.” Yet this reaction (note the prefix ‘re’) can have some dependency dangerously hidden in the code.
See, being a “re”actor to others’ needs naturally puts the needy in control. It can understandably make a contractor develop a “wait on the weather” mindset (soon enough, a “wait on the call” outlook). Thus, a “wait for the economy to improve” thought process is not - cannot - be far behind.
Danger is written all over that.
THE PARTY AIN'T OVERI believe the next wave of financial nastiness will begin to make news in Q3 for light commercial markets, as vacancies dry up the property manager’s cash flow. (We’ve been preparing our coaching members for this for months.) A couple things happen here:
If you’re a provider thereto, your reaction had better become proaction. More in a second.
If you’re not a provider, expect a wave of these guys to enter residential more heavily as the final bastion of surviving markets.
Either way, stuff is still changing. As Einstein said, “The solution to a problem cannot be arrived at with the same thinking that created it.” In other words, you’ve got to change now if you haven’t already, and be proactive, responsible, and true to the call of your entrepreneurial spirit. Waiting around for things to change, or going to the same conference to hear the same speakers who said the same thing last year (and five years before that) won’t fix this new set of issues. In their defense, it can’t.
“So what put you in such a lovely mood, Mr. Sunshine?” You did. The above is less mood, more fact. I can’t invent facts, only make marketing steps to wade through their meaning. The rest of this article is my suggestion.
This industry deserves that the “doers” rise to the top. The self-reliant go-getters have got to dissociate from the hand-wringing malcontents. If it makes you queasy that your success will come at their ill-prepared loss, you may not be up for the game. No judgment there, but it is the competitive nature of capitalism. Truth be told, as strong competitors get stronger, the nation gets stronger; again, an interdependency of winning.
Contractors belonging to like minded groups. Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) for one, has been on a high-protein, low-fat “association fitness” program for the last few years, and it’s paying off. They aren’t sitting around waiting for things to get better, they’re making them better by revamping programs, upping benefits, encouraging more high-ideal thought in the marketplace. Hat’s off. I’m not paid to say that.
Advised: Join a group fitting this description, or if you’re already in one, plug into their resources. Half of you are paying for stuff you’re not using.
Contractors investing in regular improvement. Business systems upgrades, sales or marketing training, or regular on-site idea meetings outperform those who look at the same faces for inspiration week after week. It’s been said, “You can’t learn much from the familiar.” The time is nigh to break out of demoralizing habit.
Advised: Structured online training, monthly coaching groups (we have them, but others offer them too), or “idea exchange” groups. The key is “regular and focused.” Too infrequent or too random is hardly helpful.
Contractors who boldly lead, don’t fearfully recede. A client read one of the more recent NEWS articles on PR, decided he could do it, contacted his news station, and landed a two-minute “how to” for their audience weekly. Guess how many other contractors in his area can now follow that? Zero. Already taken. He, however, is generating tons of leads at no cost.
Another contacted an up-and-coming charity and donated time and materials, which resulted in news, which resulted in a Chamber of Commerce presentation, which resulted in several higher profile jobs, and a five-week backlog of work. Their followers complain about their “lucky break.”
Another dozen or so have run our admittedly half-wacky ads on the tax credit for HVAC and are having six-figure sales weeks as a result. (Our teleseminar CD on this topic is available free to NEWS readers.)
Another adopted our e-mail “3R” follow-up sequence (restate, remind, request) that generated 16 percent more appointments, 44 percent more forwards (free leads), and a faster sales cycle. Anyone can copy this approach; few do.
Did we do this? No, the “leadership” mindset among the entrepreneurially spirited did it. These bold opportunities are boundless, yet so is festering fearfulness.
Advised: You can get inspired from the above or request a list of “The 21 Hottest Marketing and Sales Opportunities in HVAC Right Now” (see below). Pick 1-3 things off this list and go for it. I’d love to put you in a future Pro-Active Case History!
Focus on customer retention. They’re the best group of buyers, have the most influence on others, buy faster, pay more, and want to remain your customers. Sadly, most contractors think “new leads” instead of reaping benefits from the sales tree that’s already planted. Or worse, they do nothing while aggressively focused contractors swoop in and take these customers away.
Advised: Mail back to them at least six times per year (thank you’s, newsletters, specials), put them in the e-mail loop (with retention messages, not pure sales messages), remind them of your value, and subtly request referrals.
Make a regular, repeated effort to get in front of their groups: neighborhood associations, civic groups, those interested in “energy reduction” in any capacity. You know this stuff; benefit others by teaching it and you’ll get plenty of students who become customers.
A recession requires pro-activity. “Waiting” is now on my list of highly disliked words. If you read this and say “so what,” you may be leaving the door open for someone not content to wait, only content to lead.
Many economists and business advisors agree that the strong will get stronger still, the weaker more dependent. This economy will make the comparison more dramatic.
I wish you happy independence.
Free Sales and Marketing Tools of the Month: The NEWS interviewed Hudson and sales expert Drew Cameron on a one-hour “Recession Rescue” Teleseminar. You can get a copy of it and the “21 Hottest Sales and Marketing Opportunities” from Hudson Ink with a polite request on your letterhead faxed to 334-262-1115, or a similar e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publication date: 08/03/2009