In last month's column, we discussed the reasons why contractors are not making the profits they could or should. We laid the blame at the contractors' feet because they have accepted the premise of selling brand names when they should have been selling their companies and how well they install these brands.

We stated that:

1. Most comfort equipment is well-designed and manufactured.

2. The job of manufacturers and suppliers is to present their products. It is our job to select the best available for our customers. Keep in mind that you are selling a finished comfort product; the suppliers sell components only!

3. No two companies have the same overhead costs; therefore prices must reflect the difference.

We said the solution was to:

A. Learn how to sell yourself.

B. Learn how to sell your company.

C. Learn how to price a job at a profit using your overhead and cost figures.

D. Concentrate on how you install rather than what you install.

E. Select the highest quality products you believe in for your jobs.

Now let's talk about what you should be doing. To sell your company to a prospect you need to find ways to separate yourself from the rest of the competition. Using a presentation folder is a very simple but effective way to communicate everything you want to with a minimum amount of effort. Folders make sure you cover everything and make a consistent presentation to every prospect. It is easy to forget something during the give and take of selling.

There is one bit of information I want to impart about the presentation folder. It is not a glossy, commercially-printed brochure and it is not left with the customer - ever. It is simple to put one together and yet the most effective tool you'll ever use to close jobs.

What goes inside? You should have:

A. Pictures. Tons and tons of pictures.

1. A picture of all employees, even if there are only a few. (Small companies offer personalized service and a we "care" attitude).

2. Your office or shop.

3. A pictorial history of the company.

4. The shop working together on a customized job, just like the one the prospective customer will receive.

5. Pictures of the prestigious installations your company has done in the area.

6. Show how you install a job and fixed any problems you encountered. It's a great way to show the value of the job you are selling.

B. Copies of all the licenses your company needs to install the job.

C. The certificates of training your employees have earned to make the quality of their installations the best in the country.

D. A copy of your liability insurance to show the prospect he or she is protected from any problems that might occur during the installation. (This is also an excellent way to offset uninsured "moonlighter's" prices).

E. Testimonial letters from your many satisfied customers.

These are just 10 ways to sell your company to the prospect and create value that will allow you to have different prices than the rest of the contractors in the market. Then you need to make a point of explaining why you do it this way. This method of selling allows you to improve your installations because you will sell the features you offer and how they benefit the customer.

The installation pictures allow you to really make a difference. I had a contractor show me a sample piece of ductwork and two pieces of 6-in. x 6-in. slip and drive. He shows this to every customer and explains how he puts four screws in every joint and tapes and seals all joints. Then he explains why he does this and how it will benefit the customer through the years. Sounds like something you do? Of course. But how do you tell a customer about it and sell the reasons why you do it?

You can either show pictures or have demos to show the customer the differences in your jobs vs. the other contractors. You can't sell the difference unless you explain them to the buyer. The buyer's assumption is that all contractors are the same and the only difference is the price. If you can't sell these differences then find someone who can and pay them what they are worth.

Profits are made or lost at the selling table!

(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.)