Let me guess, has your winter been a warm one? Plus, furnaces last longer than before, homeowners are actually changing their air filters, and consumers will just throw on another blanket!
When things are slow, we have to be creative HVAC business owners. We still have to pay our employees if we want to keep them, pay our utilities, payroll taxes, workman’s comp insurance, employee benefits, etc. So, our heating and air business has to keep generating revenue even when the weather is not cooperating. So what do we do when the phone is not ringing? It’s time for us to pick up the phone and start “dialing for dollars.”
Contact your existing customers
Your customer base is the best place to go when times are slow, since you already have a relationship with them.
This is where keeping very detailed information about your customers plays a key role. The more we know about them the better. We can provide different customer segments different offers depending upon what they need. Here are key things to track and know about all your customers:
- Age of their system. You should know this for every one of your customers, even if you didn’t do the installation.
- Number of repairs in the last year, two years, and three years.
- Dollar amount of these repairs?
- How is their duct system? Most duct systems are far less than perfect.
- What indoor air quality products do they have? If any?
- Programmable Thermostat or a “Smart Thermostat.”
- High efficiency filtration system (do they have pets? Family members with allergies?)
- UV light?
- Humidifier? Do they a gas furnace in a home with hardwood floors?
So how do you capitalize on the slow season and increase sales?
Market to your existing customers
Remember earlier when we talked about “dialing for dollars?” This is where knowing everything you can about your customer comes into play. Again, we are trying to fill the job board and keep hours for employees. Here are a couple of examples to jumpstart things before the warmer weather arrives:
Example #1: The customer needs a new duct system.
We all know duct jobs typically are not high profit jobs, and they are very labor heavy and time consuming. So, if you have customers that need ductwork improvements or total replacements, now is the time to reach out.
Here’s the caveat: You can’t spring this on one of your existing customers. This type of sale has to have been nurtured over time. Their service or maintenance tech should be making the homeowner aware of the imperfections of their ductwork. I’m sure the homeowner has complaints of hot and cold rooms. Showing them pictures when you are out on service or maintenance calls is great.
You don’t want to tie your installation crews up installing new duct systems when it’s 95 degrees outside, but it makes for a nice fill-in when things are slow.
Example #2: The customer has an aging system with recent repairs.
Again, this is where keeping track of all your customer’s information is critical. You have a homeowner with a 17 year old HVAC system. It has had three somewhat major repairs in the last three years, the most recent being the blow motor on the furnace. So, the repairs are starting to add up for the homeowner. This will work best when your technician has been communicating with the homeowner. They must let them know of the mounting repairs, and that they need to be ready to replace their system in the near future. That way, it is not such a shock to them, and they are prepared.
Here’s where you strike: Contact your customer about replacing the system. Just be honest with them. You already have a good rapport with them, and let them know things are slow for your company this time of year. They will empathize with your situation, but you have to give them something in order to get them to bite. Offer them a percentage off the job, if they let you do it now while your company is not busy.
Working above and below the line
This is where knowing your financial numbers is extremely important. We all are striving for double digit net profits, but when the weather is mild and the phone is not ringing, we have to do what we have to do. So now we have the “math” portion of our discussion.
Do you know your company “breakeven” each month?
If you don’t, it is vital to determine this for each month of the year. When we are looking for anything and everything we can do to bring in revenue and keep our employees busy, knowing the breakeven is super important. If we can generate enough income to cover all overhead and expenses for the month, we have won!
If you know your financials, you know when you can reduce prices, and when you can’t. I used to hear about companies “giving their work away” all the time when I worked as a territory manager calling on contractors. Maybe they were underpricing their jobs, but maybe, just maybe, they knew their financials, what it took to breakeven, and what it took to keep jobs on the board when the weather was not a friend.
Once your monthly breakeven point has been reached, you are covered! You can even take jobs that you normally wouldn’t and at prices some deem to be “giving it away.”
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