TMs were brought in for two separate sessions, with half of the group meeting the first part of the week and the other half the second part. Both sessions involved interesting meetings, fabulous food, and wonderful guest speakers, such as Rocky Bleier, a member of the four-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
The message from York was consistent from one session to the next; that is, the company is adding numerous resources so that TMs can better help their contractor-customers. Based on information shared at the breakout sessions, TMs will have many new tools to help contractors analyze their businesses and increase profits.
Analyzing The BusinessDick Harshaw led a breakout session titled "Building Sales and Market Share Through Intelligence." As a financial and management consultant and president of Lodestar Consulting Systems, he shared ways in which TMs could better define their territories to identify sales opportunities.
"TMs need to focus their limited resources and intelligently use their assets to spend smarter time in their territory," noted Harshaw.
"A shotgun approach is wasteful and usually counterproductive."
He said that there is a lot of data available through the Census Bureau concerning the residential market and that TMs would be smart to take advantage of it. Some of this data is included in a proprietary software program designed to assist York TMs in assessing the potential of a given market.
The program also contains a database that allows TMs to input the concerns of their contractor-customers and match those issues with York resources.
Harshaw noted that this software tool will help TMs and their contractor-customers to better analyze local trends and take ad-vantage of market conditions.
Gary Elekes, owner of several contracting firms and president of training organization EPC Inc., led another breakout session that focused on analyzing contractors' businesses.
"Anatomy of a Sales Call" was basically designed to teach TMs how to talk to contractors.
He stressed that contractors are "married to profit, not brand," so TMs should focus on ways in which contractors can become more profitable.
One of those ways involves encouraging contractors to sell higher-efficiency equipment that also offers more of the features consumers want. He noted that only 10 percent of the population in the United States and Canada buys on price alone, while 83 percent of customers buy the best value.
Selling better equipment not only benefits the customer, it also benefits the contractor. That's because higher-priced, premium equipment has a larger profit margin, which results in higher gross profit dollars per man day for the contractor.
Noted Elekes, "There's a reason why there are lots of different kinds and colors of cars: People want a choice. Unfortunately, contractors often engineer the job. They figure out what the customer wants - or is going to pay - before they even talk to them."
Elekes added that TMs need to be able to help contractors maximize their gross profit dollars per man day, enlarge their service agreement programs, and boost their service department training.
To do this, TMs need to understand every aspect of a contractor's business and be able to present a plan (which York helps provide) that can help a contractor become more profitable.
A Little HumorMark Matteson, president of Pinnacle Services Group, a management consulting and sales training organization, led a humorous breakout session titled "Selling Value." In addition to showing amusing commercials, he urged TMs to listen carefully to contractors to try to better understand their businesses.
"Listen actively and with intention," urged Matteson.
"This means having eye contact with the other person, mirroring their behavior to some degree, and taking notes on what is being said. He said that TMs - at all costs - should avoid judging or criticizing, telling an autobiographical story, offering advice, or changing the subject. (Although that's really good advice for just about everyone.)
Matteson also discussed how TMs (and contractors) should focus on turning product features into client-centered benefits (CCB). He used York's new high-end Affinity line as an example, noting that its many features are easy to turn into CCB.
"It's quiet, which means customers can get a good night's sleep; it's available in six different colors, so it will match any house; it's easy to service, which means less time will be spent fixing any issues; and it's energy efficient, which means lower utility bills."
Dr. Ron Collier, president of Collier Consulting Group, led a seminar entitled "Dealer Metrics and Measures."
He noted that in the past, the average contractor was able to prosper with a little luck and some severe weather. However, with market conditions as they are today, a comprehensive business plan and implementation program is needed just to survive.
He noted that any contracting firm that has over $1 million in sales should have a full-time marketing person and spend at least 3 percent of sales on marketing. Only 20 percent of the budget should be spent on Yellow Pages advertising, while 80 percent should be spent on direct mail, telemarketing, and radio ads.
"Contractors typically spend 40 percent of their money on Yellow Pages. It shouldn't be advertising, it should simply be a place for a customer to find a company's phone number. The ad shouldn't be bigger than the size of a business card," stated Collier.
He also had some interesting advice concerning the Yellow Pages. He suggested that contractors go through the phone book periodically and call the numbers listed in their competitors' ads.
"Many of those big ads are for companies that are probably already out of business. Consider buying those phone numbers and having them linked directly to your contracting firm."
All the sessions at the York sales meeting provided the attending TMs with many ways in which to help their contractor-customers become more profitable.
As one TM noted, "These get-togethers are really wonderful because they get us all pumped up. York also gives us so many resources that we can use back in the field. I can't wait to implement some of these ideas."
Publication date: 01/17/2005