Contractor Dan invested in expensive, graphic-wrapped vehicles and a state-of-the-art warehousing system with a stockpile of all the major brands. He also invested vast amounts of time, money and energy in his Yellow Page ads and Web site. Once Dan had every aspect of his company’s operations current and restructured, he felt he was poised for a slam-dunk. Unfortunately, he soon became flabbergasted when he realized his company continued to generate the same low-level profits. Why was this so? The truth is that it doesn’t matter how fancy a company’s vehicles or Yellow Page ads are if employees don’t know how to sell. If they can’t get the company’s products and services into the hands of their customers, the vast investments are a waste. Profitable sales with quality products and services determine the success of a company — period.

If you’re looking for greater profits, here are five keys strategies for success.

  • Role models: Phil Knight started Nike by selling shoes out of the trunk of his car, and Ron Rice used the same method to start Hawaiian Tropic. Phil Knight and Ron Rice didn’t need high-tech, expensive vehicles to launch their empires, they only needed a trunk. Hewlett-Packard, Google and Apple Computer started out in a garage. Steve Jobs didn’t need a state-of-the-art warehouse or production facility. He used a wooden bench in his father’s vacated garage to assemble his single motherboard Apple computers. These successful companies, worth billions and billions of dollars, all had two things in common — they created fantastic products and they made profitable sales.
  • Individuality: I think it’s safe to say that most contractors agree the industry has become highly competitive. My question is, if the industry is so competitive, why do most Yellow Page ads and Web sites look the same? No wonder so many companies have such low profits. They are not differentiating themselves from their competitors. Prospects are looking for good reasons why they should do business with your company. So tell them.
  • WIIFM: No matter what marketing piece I’m developing, whether it is a sales letter, Web site upgrade, postcard, marketing CD or video for our Web site, with every line of text I write, I determine if it works within the “What’s in it for me” (WIIFM) guidelines. Why is WIIFM so important? Because it’s on every prospect’s mind. Always remember that it’s all about them: it’s all about the customer. By constantly asking WIIFM, it keeps your focus on the customer and not on you.

When I conduct onsite training, I ask techs why I should do business with their company. A tech will say, “We’ve been in business 20 years.” My reply is, “This might mean a lot to you and those involved with this company, but it means very little to prospects. That’s because there are 50 other ads in the Yellow Pages saying the same thing!” An ad should state what being in business for X amount of years means to the customer. Always ask how does the ad, marketing piece, etc. benefit the prospect and what will they gain from it?

  • A great hook: Whether it’s a Web site, Yellow Page ad or CSR answering the phone, you need a great hook. In every book about copywriting, they all agree that without a great hook, hard work and effort will end up in the garbage can. Realize that when prospects look through the Yellow Pages, there can be hundreds of ads to choose from.

When prospects hit your Web site, they’re viewing it at the same speed as someone on the highway reading a billboard at 65 miles per hour. If you’re going to motivate me to place a call to your company, you’d better do it quick because there are hundreds of other Web sites to visit. The best advice for Web site design is to make it simple. Make your Web site easy to read with Web pages that are easy to navigate. Never make your visitors hunt for information because chances are, they won’t.

In order to create a solid hook, you must know your prospects: they must be accurately profiled. Are most of the decision makers women? If so, an image of a furnace, HEPA filter or toilet augur is a total waste of valuable marketing real estate. A photo of something like a man holding a baby and promoting heath, security, safety and peace of mind will outsell clipart of a toilet augur every time. Remember that sales are based on emotions. Know what makes your prospects warm and fuzzy.

If your CSRs are saying, “We’re having a great day at [your company’s name]” when they answer the phone, please stop. It’s awful for three reasons. No. 1 — it seems nine out of 10 companies are using it, so individuality goes right out the window. No. 2 — when they say the line, they don’t sound like they’re having a great day, so this comes across as a corny, routine and canned line. No. 3 — it doesn’t fit the WIIFM guidelines because you’re talking about you. Always remember to focus on your caller — ask them how they are doing.

  • Training: This is where the rubber meets the road. Sales training is key. As mentioned earlier, it doesn’t matter how fancy a vehicle or warehouse is if your employees are not motivating your prospects to buy. Fancy vehicles are great for getting a prospect’s attention, but what will you do once you’ve got it?

Making sales is not about manipulating prospects into buying, making sales is about building trust and rapport — uncovering needs and offering solutions to not only meet, but exceed their desires. It’s about providing quality service and making sure well-trained employees are experts at delivering it. The hard truth is there are plenty of repair shops, but there are very few service and repair shops. One of the biggest oversights in this industry, and the number one reason why companies have low profits, is because their people are grossly undertrained. It’s unfortunate, but many owners don’t even realize it.

The bottom line is prospects really do want to buy from you, but they need clear, uncomplicated directions and it’s up to your skilled employees to be their guide to show them the way.

Randall Murphy is the CEO and founder of Apex Training, www.apextraining.org. Visit the Web site to watch a training video about inspiring and motivating your employees to become top producers.