CONCORD, Calif. - Matt Michel, president and CEO of Service Roundtable, has held engineering, marketing, and senior management positions at major HVAC manufacturers and contractor groups. He recently offered contractors some ideas they can use to boost their sales at a seminar hosted by Aprilaire, “Thinking (and Selling) Outside the Box.”

Among his activities he publishes Comanche Marketing, a popular Internet small business marketing e-zine. One of the first things Michel discussed was the importance of “Me, Inc.” Even though the companies they work for may write their checks, “Comanches know they work for themselves.” They invest in their business and tend to take a long-term view of business.


Michel pointed out the following steps contractors can take to improve their sales numbers.

New toys.It’s important to “make technology work for you,” he said. This includes the use of:

• Cell phones.

• Voice mail and answering services.

• Computers and software.

• Automated phone butlers and forwarding systems.

He recommended that HVAC contractors purchase reverse directories, those that look up resident information by address rather than name. Using this type of directory, contractors can identify the names of neighbors of current customers and send follow-up mailings.

Old tricks.Another way to contact neighbors is through the use of simple door hangers. Salespeople print these door hangers at their expense, with their contact number. Michel said that placing two on each side, and five across from every estimate and jobsite can be effective.

Comanche marketers work to identify high-potential neighborhoods, he continued. “Look for tracts where there are lots of old condensing units visible and just a few new ones.”

Customer referrals.After a job is completed, “ask for referrals, often,” he continued. “The simplest way to get a referral is to ask for it.” In fact, Michel said he recommends that contractors commission (i.e., start up) their systems, “because that is the best time and place to ask for a referral.” A follow-up customer satisfaction call is another great time to ask for a referral.

Give me a sign.Placing yard signs is another great way to expand your marketing reach. These signs announce that your company is performing work on this property. “Yard signs go up the minute the sale is closed,” Michel said, adding, “Comanches conveniently forget to retrieve them and try to leave them in place as long as possible.”

Knock three times.Finally, don’t forget to knock on doors. “In the afternoon and on weekend mornings, knock on 20 to 50 doors,” he said. “Introduce yourself as the neighborhood specialist,” and hand the prospect a brochure, business card, and magnet. Target high-potential neighborhoods - the ones with the old condensing units - with this approach.


“Make it a point to remind everyone about what you do,” said Michel. Make a list of family, friends, neighbors, and church acquaintances; then send them letters and business cards reminding them of what you sell.

You do business with a lot of people on a daily basis; why not ask for reciprocity? “Give a business card to every business you patronize,” he said. Another approach is to paperclip a business card to every bill you pay by mail.

Get others to scout for leads. You could offer to pay others for leads they provide that turn into sales. Make sure you target centers of influence, “or people who interact with lots of people,” Michel said.

Many contractors know the benefits of networking, even with people who are not in your field. “Join every organization in sight,” said Michel. “Join service clubs and attend meetings at every chapter in the area.” Volunteer for civic organizations, attend chamber of commerce meetings, and join or start leads clubs with other business leaders.

Michel also provided pointers on creating a database of prospects and customers; giveaways such as magnets that are picture frames, newsletters with high customer interest, business cards, and anniversary cards for existing customers. In fact, he recommended sending greeting cards year round. “Everyone sends Christmas cards. Commanches send Thanksgiving cards, Independence Day cards, Memorial day cards, etc.”

Use children’s art to attract attention, he continued. “Mail out coloring sheets featuring the products you sell as part of a children’s coloring contest, giving the winner a $50 savings bond, and keeping the rights to use the art in postcards, brochure covers, or marketing material. Send the winning art to the local papers, along with a picture where the child is presented the savings bond.”

He summarized by pointing out the importance of treating people right. “Your mother always said to treat others as you would like to be treated. This is the Golden Rule. Mom may have been right, but not when it comes to sales.

“In sales we need to follow the Platinum Rule, which is treat others as they want to be treated,” he said. “To treat our prospects and customers as they want to be treated, we must first understand them. We must read their observable traits.”

For more information, visit and

Publication date: 01/15/2007