I seem to be having a lot of service contract discussions lately. One client was rejoicing that his company was extremely busy.

When I asked how many maintenance agreements they had sold, his answer was, “Um, we’re too busy to sell them.”

Another contractor I spoke to hadn’t begun selling them yet. (I’m helping him get his program together). A third conversation revealed that the service agreement program at that company was stagnant. They sold only enough to cover the ones they had lost.

This is the time of year to sell service contracts. Many times, technicians won’t discuss them with customers because they fear it will add to their already busy workday. But I think maintenance performed at service-agreement prices should be done at the slower times of the year. If customers require cleaning now, they should pay regular, although discounted, rates.

To eliminate the technicians’ excuse of “I forgot to mention them,” dispatchers should start the process by asking customers, “Do you get a discount on this call or do you have to pay full price?”

Customers never want to pay full price. Most ask how to get a discount. The dispatcher simply says, “We have a maintenance program that lets you write smaller checks to your utility company and save money on this call. The technician will explain it to you when he arrives at your home.”

Suggestions

I promise you, if the technician doesn’t mention the agreement, now the customer will ask about it.

Some other things to remember:

• If your sales are lackluster, maybe it is because your technicians don’t believe in the program.

To properly educate customers, they must believe that what they are telling customers is accurate and necessary. The best way I know to do that is to ensure that your technicians all perform maintenance on their home HVAC systems and those at the office.

• A service call should be scheduled for each technician’s home. However, technicians should not work on their own systems.

• Dispatchers should ride with technicians to see how a maintenance inspection is performed. Each dispatcher should have a maintenance plan for his or her home. Then, when dispatchers and service technicians talk with customers, they can honestly say they have maintenance performed according to manufacturer specifications on their own systems.

• Technicians should design the service agreement.

This way they can’t say they don’t believe in it. They’ve designed it, so they have to believe in it. The deal should be that the technicians create it and you, as an owner or manager, price it. Many times the price will be higher than you’ve had in the past. However, the maintenance will be done properly with the specifications created by the technicians. They’ll usually talk about and promote what they believe in.

• Selling service agreements is a cultural activity.

For your program to be successful, everyone must constantly talk about maintenance agreements, get excited when the numbers increase, and understand that everyone wins when they do.

• Write it down.

On service calls, make sure that technicians write the service-agreement price and the regular price on tickets. This way, service-agreement customers see the discount they are receiving and non-service agreement customers see what they would have paid if they had one.

• Include a service agreement with every replacement that you sell.

The agreement should be included in the replacement price for at least the first year.

Be aware that the renewal rate on these agreements can be lower than the ones that you sell with service calls. The good thing is that you are educating homeowners who might not have known that maintenance is necessary. And, they will usually experience lower utility bills, so they’re likely to continue the plan if you keep in touch.

• Ask for referrals.

Just by asking you’ll probably get a few. Put the fact that you are looking for referrals on your business cards, service tickets and proposals. You never know when someone will keep a card and give it to a friend or colleague.

• Make sure everyone wears clothing with the company logo.

Encourage employees to wear non-uniform shirts with your company’s name on it on weekends. I’ve been stopped in airports, supermarkets and even when I was running while wearing my company T-shirt. It’s amazing how many people will stop and ask a question. Be sure to ask for the order. “May I send out a technician?” Or, “May I send one of our experts to give you an estimate?”

Copyright 2007, Ruth King. All rights reserved. Write to Ruth King, 1650 Oakbrook Drive, Suite 405, Norcross, GA 30093. Call (800) 511-6844; e-mail ruthking@hvacchannel.tv.