If you're like most people, you've heard the age-old phrase "let me shop around" more than you care to remember. But there's no need to let that big objection stop your sale in its tracks. Counter it ahead of time, by being able to say, "I don't blame you one bit, that's why we've shopped, too." Here's how:

You can "hire" a customer to get bids from all your major competitors on a new system. You simply tell them that you want to know what is good or bad about different quotes, and that - regardless of whom the choose - you'll pay them $100 for their trouble (or deduct it off the system if they choose you).

You'll finally find out what most of your customers already know: who offers what, how much it costs, and how you can improve on strengths and overcome weaknesses in your own presentation. This education alone is worth it.

Next, you can insert your competition's actual quotes and proposals in your presentation book - all bids for the same home with the same needs.

You can also print sheets that compare apples to apples, including warranties, guarantees, energy ratings, extras, cost, years in business, and more, all on one page for an "at a glance" comparison. This becomes your comparison shopping guide.

When you show this to your prospects, remind them of how much time they'll spend gathering the same information. Plus, your shopping guide puts all their needs in one place.

For your $100 or so investment, you'll have a way to reel in those "let me shop around" prospects and then either close them or find their real objection. That's worth it right there, but as a side benefit, you'll see exactly what your competition may be doing right that you could improve upon. (There's a much more comprehensive collection of tactical sales in our "Competitive Intelligence Manual" as part of our PowerPacks.)

November Marketing Tips

Thanksgiving and Christmas will soon occupy all minds. Capitalize on this with massive preseason replacement offers, last minute tuneup offers, and a prompting for frozen pipe leads. Radio time is important now. The holiday mailing and newspaper strategy is "the sooner the better." December is a massive slowdown of replacements and plumbing upgrades, so continue your aggressive push from October!

Media Watch

Newspapers:Plumbing service leads increase while HVAC should be reducing service offerings in newspapers. Concentrate more on replacements. Use your sharpest direct response ads now to get leads that your competition is waiting on. Be aggressive. TOMA (top-of-mind awareness) ads should continue.

Direct mail letters: Target your mailings for direct response replacement offers. Use names from October's tuneup and preventive maintenance campaigns. We like deferments, monthly payments, or trade-in campaigns now for HVAC and pumbing.

Postcards: The very last of your direct response service postcards for preventive maintenance and tuneups should be out. The end of the month may be good for your image postcards for replacements and plumbing upgrades. Holiday cards should go out by month's end. (Our Web site has several choices, ready to go.)

Alternative media: Your yard sign presence should never be taken for granted. Whether you use the designs in our PowerPack or another, do not forget these on every lengthy service visit or install. Your name should be pounded into your market.

Radio: Radio can increase from the fall lull to include your preseason offers that are also in print. Remember, your name should be branded at least twice in all radio ads.

On-hold messages: Move messages to cool weather replacement sales and frozen pipe prevention.

Yellow Pages: Sick of paying big money for small results? If your ad renews soon, get it redesigned for maximum lead generation at lowest cost. Fax us a copy of your Yellow Pages ad for your free ad critique.

Next Month

Media spending should decline in December. Plan on a slowdown of direct response (except "holiday rebate" offers) in favor of image and all-purpose ads as the weather begins to add to your lead count. Discounting from price books becomes less of an issue and better "value selling" techniques take over. Get your holiday cards outnow.

Be sensitive to homes neatly decorated for the holidays, plus the shortage of immediate cash. Rebates and deferred payments can work very well in December.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink. He can be reached at 800-489-9099, 334-262-1115 (fax), or www.hudsonink.com.

Publication date: 10/27/2003