Last month I wrote about some activities to do in uncertain economic times. Here are some other things to do.

Put a referral program in place. It can be subtle or overt. However, let customers know that you appreciate referrals to their friends and business colleagues. Some will refer you simply because they want to do it. Others will give referrals because you give them an incentive (i.e., what's in it for me?).

One contractor mentioned to all his replacement customers that if a homeowner gave him a referral, he would send a check for $50 when he got an appointment from that referral. Note: He did not require the system be sold, only that he got the appointment.

Within a month, simply mentioning this to customers resulted in four additional system sales. One client referred eight customers to him within six months. One of the systems he sold was a lot higher in price than other bids. He got the sale because it was a referral and the customer trusted the referral source, even though the price was higher.

Fifty dollars is a cheap lead cost and it is the best source of referrals. If you don't want to pay cash, use incentives from your business. These can be an extension of a service agreement, money off a service call, a free energy survey, etc. The important thing is to ask.

Get your technicians ready. Remind them that, whenever they go to a customer's home or office, they should record everything that is wrong with the HVAC system. Spend some time diagnosing the system.

Stay on the lookout

customer what is going on. Good technician always keeps their eyes open for other legitimate work. They should write their findings on the service ticket.

The customer may choose to have all repairs made or only the repair that will get the system operational again. However, there won't be any surprises if the recommended repairs aren't made and the system breaks down in a few weeks or months. If the customer does not approve all of the repairs right now, you have potential work for slower business periods.

Make a copy of all service tickets where work is recommended but not performed. Put the copy in a "tickler" file. When work slows down, dispatchers can pull the file and start making telephone calls.

Many customers may have forgotten about the problem and may approve the work over the telephone once they are reminded.

Continue to market in slower times. The worst thing you can do is complain that the telephone is not ringing and sit back to wait for it to ring. Be proactive.

It is even more important to keep your name in front of customers and potential customers. Remind them that you can help save them money. This can be accomplished through e-mails, direct mail or other advertising. This way you have a better chance that they will remember you when they need you for repairs or to help them write smaller checks to their utility company.

Copyright 2003, Ruth King. All rights reserved.

Ruth King's American Contractor Exchange

1650 Oakbrook Drive, Suite 405

Norcross, GA 30093

(800) 511-6844

(770) 729-8028 (fax)