The most important business secret: Have a business plan.

Every contractor wants to have enough profit to afford the things in life that make a difference.

There are very few secrets in the world of business. The first thing contractors need to know is how to ensure profit for their companies. You need to understand overhead and how to price jobs. It is amazing to me how often I see a group of contractors who are given the same scenario, asked to write up a quote and come up with vastly different prices.

Understanding how to run a small business is not simple; it requires time and effort. If HVAC contractors spent as much time learning how to run their businesses as they do on learning technical and manual skills, there would be bigger profit margins.

At most companies, there is very little planning beyond the current year. Not having a business plan is like taking a trip without knowing where you're going. Owners should sit down and think about their business and the competition in the market, and what needs to be done to gain a bigger share. Business owners, who fail to plan, plan to fail.

Successful contractors have a presentation book designed for their company. It enables everyone selling to be on the same page. It makes it easy for all salespeople to develop their own style, while ensuring the company is getting the customers. The presentation folder or book also contains the company's prices.

In the book are the warranties and guarantees offered by the company and a copy of the selling or "responsibility to the customer" statement. These statements make a real impression on buyers and are worth the effort.

If all these steps have been done, then comes selling it to the public. This is perhaps the most important step of all. Having trained salespeople is the difference between profits and losses.


Here are some sales ideas that have worked for others. Maybe they can work for your company.

  • Instead of offering pictures of jobs you have completed, take prospects to them. It gives you a chance to get to know the prospects and begin building a relationship.

  • Always talk about something new on every sales call.

  • Have a list of satisfied customers available.

  • Always "sell" yourself first. Without you being sold on your company's products, how can you convince someone else of their value?

  • On industrial sales calls, ask the purchasing agent to have the plant engineer and the maintenance person sit in on the presentation, so they can all hear the story at the same time.

  • Prepare your presentation to fit the people you are trying to sell. Don't offer a "cookie cutter" presentation.

  • Get testimonial letters from all satisfied customers, and use them.

  • If you don't get the order, don't leave anything except your business card.

  • Sell the benefits, not the price. Reducing your price makes your company's work look cheap.

If you want to be profitable, you need to take time to learn the skills needed to make the business work for you.

(Dave Gleason has more than 40 years of experience in contracting, engineering and wholesaling. He has put these experiences into a comprehensive consultation and training company called Systematic Selling Inc., which offers customized sales seminars and workshops. Contact him at 1165 Antioch Campground Road, Gainesville, GA 30506; phone (800) 447-7355; fax (717) 698-6555.)