That Time of Year

Jim Hinshaw
Contributing Writer
Improvement Professional, President & Sales

I travel the nation, California to the East Coast. Talk to contractors all sizes and shapes. Just had a great conversation with a client who had a great summer, hit new highs for sales and profits, made it happen. Turns out the summer was long, and winter had not started yet. They asked me in to do a motivational talk. Had the techs sitting in front of me, so I asked the first tech, what were your sales last month. He was not sure. Asked the second, same answer, went around the room, no one knew exactly what they had sold last month.

It was as if I had thrown a wet blanket on the fire, just sort of died out. I decided on the fly, here is what I suggested. They needed a “Climate Change Event”, my term made up on the spot. An event to signal that we are moving from summer to winter. We must refocus on the elements of our maintenances, tune ups, and yes, even our service calls. More critical, we need to share the numbers that we hit (or missed) from the last 6 months. What sort of numbers? Start with revenue, keep score on month-to-month sales from years past. How about customers added, would it be important to see how many new customers we added year-to-date? You could share maintenance agreements sold, even down to who sold them. This is a perfect time to share spiffs for those type of activities. I am a firm believer in paying the techs (and office staff) a small spiff for selling a maintenance agreement. Price out your M/A based on what you will do on a maintenance, then add in travel time and a spiff amount. I have some clients who give the techs a nominal amount, say $15 on a $200 M/A. Could be $20 or $25, but whatever that number is it is added to the M/A number that they sell at. Some pay less on a renewal, your call.

But then take that concept a step further. Layer on a 1st/2nd/3rd place award for the techs who sell the most M/A. Could be dinner for the tech and his significant other with the boss, or a $100 gift certificate, something that they would not normally do on their own. That award is done at the Climate Change Event. Maybe an award for most leads turned in that sell. How about an award for revenue produced, least number of call backs, lots of things to celebrate. Have the owner/managers fix breakfast, or cater it in, make it a day they look forward to. What if you don’t increase the numbers from last year? Then celebrate the fact that the season is over, time to get on with the new season. This should not be a one and done, make it a twice yearly event. Share goals at the meeting. My take on goal setting is simple, make them significant goals, not some measly 3% increase. Shoot for 15-25% increase, then measure the progress as we go month to month. When everyone knows what the number is, funny things happen. We actually find it easier to hit the number. Sorta like bowling with a sheet in front of the pins. You roll a ball, someone says 6! Not sure if that is 6 down or 6 left. When the numbers are out there, we all see progress.

Now, if we miss a month hitting the goal, how does that affect the team. Let them know, we cannot go back in time and increase the numbers for last month. We can see the effect that has on our season and hit it harder for the rest of the winter/summer. I am a fan of team goals, you can recognize individual effort, but we really do have a team. Pair up the office staff with a tech, so everyone has a part in the victory.

Back to my Event. Get some “toys for techs” from your local supply house partner. I use the term partner, because that is the sort of relationship I want to have with the people I buy from. I don’t want vendors, I want partners who are concerned about my long term business, not just what I bought today. Maybe they could be part of the meeting as well, when a tech is recognized by his company and the distributor who helps them with equipment, it really layers on the positive impact.

So if you had a great summer, congrats! If it could have been better, I understand. In life, we either win or learn. If the numbers were not where you wanted, what did you learn from that experience? Can you apply some additional concepts in place to help improve the team performance next summer? In fact, to improve the winter. Most of what we do is similar summer and winter. What I see as I travel the nation is a lot of companies and employees that need a “reset”, go back to the fundamentals, re-enforce what we do on a service call. Each and every time. Barry Bonds (OK, so I know nothing about sports, but that name is tied to a guy who hit a lot of home runs!) still goes to batting practice, NBA players practice free throws. In fact, and I have said this before, a former coach of the Phoenix Suns told me how he started each season. He had the entire team in the locker room and shared how to tie their shoes so they would stay tied for the entire game. Basics, but essential.

So here is my wish for you, that you would get together a meeting for your team, even if winter has already started in your market. Colorado has snow forecast for now, they are in the heating season. Not too late, make it happen. Share how you did YTD, compare to last year, set some goals for growth in each area that you are concerned about. Then reward the employees that stretched to help make the numbers happen, as well as the team.

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