Marketing Magic: It's Your Choice - Close the Lead for Yourself or Open it for Your Competition

May 25, 2009
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OK, so maybe I need to lay off the double espresso just before bed - or maybe I need counseling - but something has really been bothering me lately: doors.

All marketing efforts are really doors into your business. The questions are how many do you have (media), in front of prospect groups (market), and how easy or inviting are they to enter (message)? This “3M Match” must be consistent, focused, and measured in your marketing.

Some HVAC companies have a really shabby door represented by a low image, but high cost Yellow Page ad; others have dozens of well-designed ones, with a consistently high image generating calls, referrals, and appointments in a steady stream.

They each may spend in the 5-7 percent range of their total top-line sales on these doors, but one gets a significantly higher traffic count. And don’t think I’ve gone soft talking about image, but as you’ve read in past articles, higher image equals a higher price.

As contractor marketing specialists, my job generally stops when the phone rings (the lead) and picks up again when the cash register rings (the post-sale marketing, or retention and referral system.) It’s that in-between part that makes contractors more profitable.



ARE WE LOOKING AT THE WRONG FIGURES?

It doesn’t matter how many doors you’ve thrown open if you don’t turn entrants into sales. If you’re not closing the sale, you’re sending these costly prospects right to your competition. For all the focus on the closing ratio, very few look at the unclosed ratio.

Manufacturers seem to love the 30 percent closing figure for replacement leads, which even without a calculator, I can tell leaves 70 percent of the leads you generated and presented, headed elsewhere. Not good. You paid to get them; your competition is paid to close them.

We just hosted a 90-minute coaching call with mega-sales trainer Joe Crisara, who regularly transforms average closing rates into 65-70 percent. (I can get you a copy of that CD if you promise to read this article to the end and send glowing remarks to The NEWS’ editors.) Clearly, you can capitalize on a much better closing rate.

We agreed that sales figures in a recession are even more important. So, if you increase lead counts through direct response marketing to a responsive group and approach sales as a process and not by winging it, your results will dramatically improve.

There are three parts of a sales visit: the presentation, the proposal, and the close. The presentation sets up the others and vastly improves your closing ratio, but it’s at the close that even great presenters get jittery. Let’s take them in order.



THE PROCESS

The presentation is when you gather the info you’ll need to close. This is generally done with a home comfort inspection. Do not ever call it an estimate. The answers to specific upgrade and price questions are handled here. Crisara recommended contrarian questions like, “Why would you want that?” and “You probably don’t even want to see the high-end option, do you?” to virtually ensure that you’ll get a positive response. Very clever. Other presentation details include:

• For Service Leads: A Green Sheet of your services, products, pricing disclosures, and guarantees on one sheet of paper. This credibility builder is something your competition is not doing (differentiation) or they use a slick brochure clearly from a manufacturer. Yawn. Hand the Green Sheet to each new customer or service call, saying, “These are just a few of the reasons that we’re glad you chose us, and hopefully you will be too.” Even better, include a small gift bag with a pen, mints, refrigerator magnet, coupon for next service call, and more. Total cost for Green Sheet and gift bag: $4. Cost of not using it: Senseless.

• For Replacements or Higher Ticket Upgrades: Add to above a presentation binder to allay fears and make comparisons to other products, even competitors. Using a comparative shopping guide, with the competition listed, is a bold way to stem shopping and build credibility. Likewise, the binder will include testimonials, guarantees, and installation before/after photos.

The proposal is where you reframe the prospect’s exact answers and put them on your proposal form. Your form had better be like a sales script and not some generic OfficeMax form. Fill it with guarantees, benefits, and comfort statements.

• Advised for Service: Show two prices - one with a maintenance agreement and one without.

• Advised for Higher Ticket Upgrades: Show the prospect a minimum of good, better, best approach to pricing for the higher ticket items. Smart salespeople put another category on the higher and lower end of that, making five, realizing that 92 percent of purchasers will accept option two or three. Once again, the psychology of selling is very real for those who employ it. Then you go right into the close.

• The Close: If you’ve done your presentation properly, you eliminated the objections on “thinking about it,” “price is too high,” and “our water heater is fine,” so the close is natural.

Closing is not an isolated step in the selling process. It is the natural conclusion to what has already occurred. Still, it’s this last part that sends techs or designated salespeople into confusion.

Any salesperson that has attended any sales training has been taught, “The most important thing in closing is to ask for the order.” But in spite of all that attention, many salespeople do not close. In fact, a study conducted through a major industrial firm noted that 47 percent of sales people who called on that company did not attempt to close.

Closing is perceived by salespeople as one of the most difficult parts of their jobs. In a national survey of sales representatives, over 35 percent identified closing as their No. 1 sales problem.



SELL YOURSELF, BUY A CUSTOMER

Studies also revealed that one of the largest closing problems is lack of confidence in the benefits he is promising. It is difficult to ask a customer to buy when a salesperson is not 100 percent convinced that buying is in a customer’s best interest.

The solution to this problem is simple: be a buyer. Know your product or service, talk to those supporting it, and gather testimonials from those who have gotten the benefits you profess. Then present it and the value effectively.

Another large group expressed that the problem with closing is they don’t like to close. Why? It represents the potential for rejection. They enjoy the customer interaction and rapport that is built up during the sales interaction. They like finding out about the customer and his/her needs, and they enjoy talking about their product or service and their sales proposals.

But they don’t like having to ask the customer to buy. They don’t want to mess up a good relationship or pressure the customer. They’re unsure whether the customer is really sold, so they avoid the risk of this altogether by not finding out.

Sorry to disappoint you here, but unless you offer them a solution - that is, ask for the sale - your visit has been a waste of time.



USE THE NEWS TO CLOSE

The assumptive close, my favorite close, merely assumes they’re getting what was proposed by saying something like, “We can take your old system out and install one that runs more smoothly, quietly, and saves you energy. It’ll solve all the problems you told me about in my initial interview (point to benefits listing). Plus, if you choose this system, you can get a $1,500 tax credit. That’s like the government helping you buy a better system. This benefit is three times higher than it was just a few months back, but we don’t know how long it will last either. To schedule the installation, just sign here (hand pen). I can call the warehouse to try and secure one of these now if you like.”

See? Nobody ever said, “Are you buying this?” It was easy and assumed. There are nine more closes we advise clients for service and sales, but this has always been a favorite of mine.

Bottom Line: You can either close more sales or you can leave your business open to your competition. Closing more sales means you’re serving more customers. And that keeps lots of doors open.

Get two NEWS Reader Freebies this month: First, “3 Instant Closes for More Sales.” Close more calls and avoid window shoppers and those who just want to think about it. In that report, we’ll show you how to get the 90-minute audio “HVAC Sales Explosion” interview on CD. Just send a polite request to freestuff@hudsonink.com. If you e-mail, be sure to include your full company information, since some of our free items are mailed. Or you can fax your request on a company letterhead to 334-262-1115.

Publication date: 05/25/2009

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