Randall Murphy

Contractor Dan invested in expensive, well-stocked, graphic-wrapped vehicles and a state-of-the-art warehousing system with a stockpile of all the major brands. He also invested vast amounts of time, money, and energy in his Yellow Pages ads and Website. Once Dan had every aspect of his company’s operations up to date and restructured, he felt he was poised for a slam-dunk. Unfortunately, he soon became flabbergasted when he realized his company continued to generate the same low-level profits. Why was this so? The truth is it doesn’t matter how fancy a company’s vehicles or Yellow Pages ads are if employees don’t know how to sell. If they can’t get the company’s products and services into the hands of their customers, the vast investment is a waste. Profitable sales with quality products and services determine the success of a company ... period.

If you’re looking for greater profits, here are five keys for success:


Phil Knight started Nike by selling shoes out of the trunk of his car; this is the same method Ron Rice used for Hawaiian Tropic. Phil Knight and Ron Rice didn’t need high-tech, expensive vehicles to launch their empires; they only needed a trunk. Hewlett-Packard, Google, and Apple Computer started out in a garage. Steve Jobs didn’t need a state-of-the-art warehouse or production facility; he used a wooden bench in his father’s vacated garage to assemble his single motherboard Apple computers. These hugely successful companies, worth billions and billions of dollars, all had two things in common; they created fantastic products and they made profitable sales … lots and lots and lots of profitable sales. I find it a shame when I run across great products that aren’t big sellers, or fantastic movies that are sleepers, and I think to myself:What a waste; if they only knew how to sell.


I think it’s safe to say that most contractors agree the industry has become highly competitive. My question is, if the industry is so competitive, why do most Yellow Pages ads and Websites look the same? No wonder why so many companies have such low profits; they aren’t differentiating themselves from their competitors. Prospects are looking for good reasons why they should do business with your company … tell them.


No matter what marketing piece I’m developing, whether it be a sales letter or a Website upgrade or a postcard or an interactive marketing CD or a video for our Website, with every line of text I write I determine if it works within the WIIFM guidelines. WIIFM stands for: What’s In It For Me? Why is WIIFM so important? Because it’s on every prospect’s mind. Always remember that it’s all about them; it’s all about the customer. By constantly asking WIIFM, it keeps your focus on the customer and not on you.

When I conduct onsite training, I ask techs why I should do business with their company. A tech will say, “We’ve been in business 20 years.” My reply is, “This might mean a lot to you and those involved with this company, but it means very little to prospects. That’s because there are 50 other ads in the Yellow Pages saying the same thing!” “We’ve been in business X amount of years” doesn’t fit the WIIFM guidelines. However, “We’ve been in business X amount of years and this is what it means to you Mr. or Mrs. Customer” does. Always ask with every statement or fact, how does this benefit the prospect and what will they gain from it?


Whether it’s a Website or a Yellow Pages ad or a customer service representative (CSR) answering the phone, you need a great hook. In every book about copywriting, they ALL agree without a great hook, hard work and effort will end up in the garbage can. Realize that when prospects look through the Yellow Pages, there can be hundreds of ads to choose from. When prospects hit your Website, they’re viewing it at the same speed as someone on the highway reading a billboard at 65 miles per hour. If you’re going to motivate me to place a call to your company, you’d better do it quick because there are hundreds of other Websites to visit. I’ve got a mouse in my hand and I’m not afraid to use it!

The best advice for Website design is: Make it simple. Provide easy to read, non-complicated pages that are easy to navigate; are you interested in this or this? Never make your visitors hunt for information because chances are, they won’t. Business owners, family, and friends generally love a good story about a company’s history; however, visitors usually don’t because, again, it’s not about them. I seriously doubt that a prospect who is interested in buying a HP computer will base their decision to buy on the fact that the company started in a garage. If you spend any time evaluating Websites, you’ll read the same things over and over; we are three generations of or Grandpa Smithy came over on a steamship with five dollars in his pocket and the rest is history. If you want an “Our Story” page, place it somewhere away from your selling pages.

So, what catches the eye and how do we hook visitors? In order to create a solid hook, you must know your prospects; they must be accurately profiled. Are most of the decision makers women? If so, an image of a furnace or a HEPA filter or a toilet augur is a total waste of valuable marketing real estate. A photo of something like a man holding a baby and promoting heath, security, safety, and peace of mind will outsell clipart of a toilet augur every time. Remember that sales are based on emotions. What makes your prospects warm and fuzzy?

If your CSRs are saying, “We’re having a great day at [your company’s name]”, please stop. It’s awful for three reasons: 1) it seems nine out of 10 companies are using it, so individuality goes right out the window; 2) when they say the line, they don’t sound like they’re having a great day; it comes across as a corny, routine, canned line; and 3) it doesn’t fit the WIIFM guidelines because you’re talking about you. If you don’t want to use the time-tested, proven line, “How may I help you?”, try using, “How can we make you smile?”, or, “How can we brighten your day?” Focus your greeting on the caller.


Spelunking, actually, has nothing to do with making sales and higher profits, but if I wrote what I wanted to, most business owners would simply skip over it. I’m overemphasizing this point because it’s crucial for making sales; this is where the rubber meets the road. It should read:Training Is Key, sales training that is. As mentioned earlier, it doesn’t matter how fancy a vehicle or warehouse is if your employees aren’t motivating your prospects to buy. Fancy vehicles are great for getting a prospect’s attention, but what will you do once you’ve got it?

Making sales is not about manipulating prospects into buying; making sales is about building trust and rapport, it’s about uncovering needs and offering solutions to not only meet but exceed their desires, and it’s about delivering the VIP treatment and thrilling customers beyond their expectations. It’s all about providing quality service and well-trained employees that are experts at delivering it. The cold hard truth is there are plenty of repair shops, but there are very few service and repair shops. One of the biggest oversights in this industry, and the number one reason why companies have low profits, is because their people are grossly undertrained. It’s unfortunate, but many owners don’t even realize it.


So, how does the title “Where’s the Garage Sale?” have anything to do with this article? As I was driving back from the desert last Sunday from my much needed relaxing, quiet, internal-battery-charging escape, as I try to do once a week to keep energized, focused, and sane, I saw a woman holding a sign on the far side of an intersection, on a street with no houses, that read: Garage Sale. By her frustrated expression, I could tell she probably wasn’t making many sales and I immediately surmised why. The sign just read “Garage Sale.” There were no arrows or an address to direct prospects, and by the time I reached her, I was past the intersection and unable to turn. Not only did she miss the mark with her message, her placement strategy was wrong. Now, I’m sure in her mind she took all the necessary steps to be successful; she made a big sign and she jumped up and down waving the sign all day long to attract prospects and at the end of the day, she probably made the assumption that nobody was interested because of the economy or some other reason. I hear the same comments from many owners about their low sales numbers. The bottom line is prospects really do want to buy from you, but they need clear, uncomplicated directions and it’s up to your skilled employees to be their guide to show them the way.

Publication date:01/04/2010