In my 15 years as a consultant to the contracting industry, there are only two types of companies I’ve ever worked with.

1. Companies that maybe have grown to five techs — and the owners are finding out that they’re still stuck doing everything themselves. That’s because the businesses can’t run without them, and they’ve become the choke point. Plus, they’re running out of hours in a day, days in a week, and weeks in a month to get everything done that they need to get done. What they crave is the power of cloning. They don’t have that power, and neither do I.

2. The second type of companies I work with are fast-growing organizations that are in total chaos. They look beautiful from the outside, but they’re madhouses on the inside. One of the owners of these types of companies once described his business to me, when we first began our work, as “a beautiful swan gliding smoothly across the water — but under the water, their webbed feet were paddling like crazy to make that happen.”

These businesses are like beautiful homes that have been built atop broken foundations or are missing foundations altogether — and those foundations are necessary to support these lovely places for the long haul.

The answer for both predicaments begins with documenting how these businesses do their work.

When working with consulting clients, I take my operating manual templates that I’ve created at my own company, and I help owners tweak them to become their own. The lesson is that it’s easier to edit than to create.

The impact of just these three key manuals — the customer service representative (CSR), dispatcher, and tech manuals — is what, early on in our work together, provides relief from the daily chaos in their businesses.

1 Trains CSRs to put techs in front of the right customers
2 Trains dispatchers to better prioritize
3 Teaches techs to open the call properly and diagnose correctly
4 Reminds techs to assess the whole job and minimize callbacks
5 Has great questions to get customers talking
6 Urges techs to follow best practices wherever and whenever applicable
7 Filled with objective gateway scenarios about when to recommend a replacement or repair

For small companies that are now stuck, it’s a way to bring on more staff and grow past what the owners must do themselves. For fast-growing shops, it’s a way to keep growing but in a smarter and more sustainable way.

All good stuff.

What I let them discover, over time and once I do my sales training program with their techs and CSRs, is the secret bonus of these operating manuals: Well-written operating manuals boost ethical sales.



1. The CSR manual trains the CSRs to put techs in front of the right customers. This frees techs up from wasting valuable productivity time explaining pricing and payment policies. This is learned in weekly meetings, using the CSR manual for phone role-playing.

2. The dispatch manual trains dispatchers to better prioritize the dispatching schedule, which minimizes unnecessary drive time and unhappy customers.

3. The tech manuals — in conjunction with trade manuals, like plumbing, heating, cooling, and/or electrical — teach techs to open the call properly and diagnose correctly in the allotted time before they quote a fee. The exit process ensures customer education and satisfaction, which minimizes buyer’s remorse and stupid callbacks. All of this allows more time to make new sales happen.

4. The tech manual reminds techs to assess the whole job and not to sell stuff customers don’t need. This minimizes callbacks and sells the right repair — or advises if a replacement is justified — while enhancing the customer experience by identifying comfort, safety, healthy living, and efficiency improvements, to name a few.

5. The trade manuals have great questions to get customers talking. After all, they live there. There’s no need to diagnose the job until you diagnose the customers. You must know what they need and what they want.

The only way to do that effectively is to ask questions and write or type their answers for later. The sales advantage is clear. If you’re talking, you’re selling. If a customer is talking and you’re verifying you’re listening to their answers, they’re buying.

The other added bonus is that when customers feel they’ve been listened to, their buyer’s remorse is reduced. The likelihood of great customer testimonials rises.

6. The trade manuals urge techs to follow best practices whenever applicable to avoid doing a stupid repair, a bad repair, or an incomplete repair.

Aim to eliminate partial repairs that invite callbacks by doing a rebuild or a complete replacement, depending on the age of equipment. Yes, it improves sales, but it’s in the customer’s best interest, as it must always be.

7. The trade manuals are filled with objective gateway scenarios about when to recommend a replacement and/or a repair option.

For example, let’s consider a tech who finds a 25-year-old cooling system that is extremely low on refrigerant. Even if the leak is found, a new cooling system is bound to be more reliable and energy efficient and to provide better cooling. It’s time to have a discussion about a replacement option.

The secret bonus of operating manuals is that ethical sales opportunities are presented at the time of service. Everyone wins in this scenario.

Publication date: 1/14/2019

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