Let’s say I need a new heating system, and I’m calling around (I’m too old to do anything else). I ask you to stop by, take a look at what I need, and tell me why I should choose you over the others.

Here’s some of what you might tell me, and, for what it’s worth, how it strikes me as an ordinary homeowner:

“We’re professional contractors.” That’s fabulous, but what does this mean to me? The way I figure it, it means that you work for money. Hey, only amateurs work for free. But the local handyman also works for money, so what separates you from that guy? And as you consider that question, make sure that every answer you come up with addresses my selfish interests. What’s in it for me? Tell me about that.

“We have a fleet of trucks.” Well, la de da. When I need a heating contractor, how many trucks am I looking for? Am I expecting a fleet? Nope, one will do. So rather than tell me about trucks, which I am not buying, tell me about how quickly you respond to emergencies. Give me your typical response time. That’s what I care about. How fast can you get here? I’m not buying a motor pool; I’m buying a solution to a problem I’m having. Think about it.

“We are third-generation master plumbers.” Wonderful, but who cares? As far as I’m concerned, being third-generation might mean nothing more than you all had just enough sense to keep from getting run over while crossing the street.

But on the other hand, perhaps it means that your family has a deep love and respect for this trade, and that passed down from your grandfather, to your father, to you.

How about you say this: “Dan, there have been so many oddball heating systems installed over the years that no one person can possibly see it all in one lifetime. That’s why we bring the wisdom of three generations to every job we do. That’s why we get it right the first time.”

You just got my full attention.

“We’re licensed, bonded, and insured.” This is a good one, and most professional contractors make it a part of their pitch. Having a license means that the governing bodies of the state recognize you as an expert, right? Tell me that. It matters. And tell me about how difficult it is to earn that license.

Bonded and insured means that if something should go wrong, if someone should get hurt — whatever happens — you will take care of it because you have the bonding and the insurance to deal with disaster. Life is uncertain, but you are prepared for everything. You are a professional. I am safe when I am in your hands. Tell me that. That’s what I need and want to hear.

“We have lots of tools.” Yep. And so does The Home Depot. Rather than talk about your tools as inanimate objects, tell me stories about how those tools helped you solve tough heating problems for others. I want to deal with a winner, and winners are often the guys with the best tools. You know that’s true. Tell me that.

“We’re well-trained.” This is important, but don’t just say it and expect me to understand the implications of training. Explain how the training you’ve received extends from the most modern systems and equipment all the way back to the gear installed by the dead men many years ago. Tell me about how knowledge is the most important tool you can bring to my job. Tell me about how you will not be getting your first experience while in my home. If you tell me that, I will want to hire you.

“We won a sales award from a manufacturer.” Perhaps that plaque means you’re going to bring an award-winning attitude to my job. Perhaps it means that you take extraordinary pride in your work and that you’ve been recognized for this more than once. Now, that’s something that will get my attention. It’s not just the information — it’s how you present the information that makes the difference. Think about what matters to me.

“We buy our stuff from a legitimate supply house.” As opposed to the big-box home center where I can find the exact same stuff? What benefit does your relationship with your supplier bring to my job? Are the products you get from your supplier of a higher quality? I appreciate quality. Show it to me. Convince me that I should spend more money for this. If you believe in it strongly enough, you’ll be able to make me believe it as well. 

Tell me about how you and your supplier are a team and that you’re working together to provide me with a package of superb products and services. Explain how, together, you search for the best goods available. This gear has been proven in the field over many years, and that’s why professionals prefer it. Give examples of what you mean.

Carry a high-quality product and a cheaper version with you, and compare the quality. I appreciate this. Tell about the time that your supplier opened his place for you on a Sunday, so that you could get that emergency part — the part that the big-box store didn’t have. Your relationship with your supplier saved the day. Remember? 

And explain how your supplier works with the manufacturers and the manufacturers’ representatives to help ferret out the critical information that’s so often needed to get to the bottom of those nagging system problems. There is strength in this team, and all of it benefits me, but I only know that if you tell me.


So why should I buy from you? I’ll bet you’ve got a lot of good reasons. And you’ll have even more if you do this exercise regularly. Keep asking yourself that key question: Why should Holohan buy from me? Work it over in your mind as you drive from job to job. Jot down those compelling reasons, and make sure that everyone in your organization is doing the same.

This is not an easy exercise. That’s why so many contractors never take time to do it. So many contractors think in terms of their own self-interest rather than mine. Bust out of that way of thinking. Realize that no one is going to do business with you because you need the money. You have to think about what’s in it for me. These things are probably not on the tip of your tongue. Put them there.    

Publication date: 11/20/2017

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