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Small Changes Can Produce Big Results

Mindset Training can be big and all encompassing, rewiring all your brain circuits from the past, present, and into the future. But it can also be small and incremental; what I call the 5% solution. Your sales team can learn to change their thoughts and thereby their feelings by enacting small, positive changes, which will lead to changes in their actions and, ultimately, their business and sales results. Let me share with you some easy-to-implement, stress-free baby steps.

Often multimillion-dollar service companies hire me to go on sales calls with their employees to improve their percentages. One of the things I watch for is how the salesperson reacts when the sales call is NOT successful. Does she quickly put the experience behind her and focus on the next call? Does he ruminate repeatedly, asking himself over and over what he did wrong and why was he so stupid? Or does the salesperson quickly analyze the call, identify the one small change he could make and strive to improve 5% in that thing on the very next call? This is the most effective reaction to an error or mistake made during a sales call— the 5% solution.

Your salespeople will not learn from their failures if they either ignore the mistakes or if they wallow in them for too long. The most productive sales professionals I know look to the obvious areas for improvement and try to do incrementally better right away; 5% better. It’s not daunting, and everyone feels up to the task.

This is something you can teach your salespeople to do yourself, whether you ride with them on sales calls or talk about it in your sales meetings. The goal is to quickly identify the obvious mistake, then create a planned activity to improve that area on the next sales call by 5%. Now, 5% is not much, and the sales professional will often and easily improve by a much larger amount, but it is an achievable goal to target.

First, look for the most obvious reason the call was not successful instead of agonizing for hours or days on the cause. If you hear a clip-clop coming down the street, odds are it is horse hooves, not a flying saucer missing the landing and skipping like a stone down Main street. No matter where you live, there could be mounted police, carriage rides, or equestrians headed to a parade. So go for the obvious source of the problem.

If, for example, both homeowners were not present as agreed to, and the salesperson displayed irritation at her wasted time, and then the homeowners cancelled the bid process altogether, chances are good that that little flash of irritation is what put them off.

On the very next call, the salesperson can have a better game plan if one spouse was called away because of an emergency. Just reschedule the call, and find some way to interact positively with the remaining spouse. If the homeowners have lush greenery indoors or landscaping, ask how they do it, because you have a black thumb. Most people like to share their expertise, and especially like it if you write down their advice. So take notes on the brand of plant food recommended and thank the homeowner on your return visit for the tip and share your improved results with your houseplants. You might have made a real connection with the homeowner and certainly improved the result 5% over a cancelled bid appointment.

Maybe the salesperson ran out of brochures, his haircut or beard trim was overdue, or his truck was filled with discarded fast food containers which the homeowner saw and grimaced at. These are easy 5% fixes.

If the problem was more complex, say the homeowner in the tie-dye dress was interested in a new-to-your-market green energy alternative which your company does not carry, getting to a 5% solution may take a bit of homework until you locate a similar product you can offer your customer. Instead of complaining about tree huggers, tell her your company appreciates homeowners interested in reducing their carbon footprint and upgrading to energy efficient systems because they improve the entire community. That’s 5, maybe 10% better.

Whether it’s making one more cold call at the end of the day or spending ten minutes to organize your desk, files and sales materials before going home, small efforts can go a long way toward incrementally improving your employees’ positive mindset and thereby their sales percentages. Small victories lead to more positive thoughts and feelings. These internal conditions lead to better external actions and results. Bit by bit, positivity can grow and change a company’s mindset and business results. Teach your team to be on the lookout for small areas of improvement and praise even the tiniest -- the 5% solutions -- as they will yield bigger and greater rewards over time.

Moments that Matter

Many years ago I was an HVAC technician and, in my first year, was assigned the task of pressure washing a set of condensing coils on the roof of a grocery store on Capitol Hill in Seattle, an upscale part of town. It was a 90-degree day in late August. To make matters worse, it was a Friday around 4:30pm. I was wet, dirty, tired and I was anxious to get home, knowing full well I had at least another hour to finish up.

An elderly gentleman in coveralls and an old, worn straw hat approached me as I came down the ladder. "Whatcha' doin', sonny?" he asked. At that moment, it would have been easy to dismiss his inquiry and say something curt or rude. After all, I was tired.

However, I decided to smile and explain what and why I was doing what I was doing. His body language told me he appreciated my gesture. He then exclaimed, "That's great, I'm glad you're doing this. It's important. You see, my son runs the store for me. In fact, I own the whole block. Keep up the good work!" On the drive home, it occurred to me, "You just never know!" He didn't look like a millionaire.

But it was a moment that mattered.

Moments that matter are the dozens of tiny, daily interactions that occur when we come in contact with our customers. We sometimes forget that it costs $7 to GET a new customer, but only $1 to KEEP an existing customer!

Keeping customers delighted and letting them know how valuable they are is as rain is to dry flowers. Appreciating the customer is everyone's responsibility. Great service means asking great questions in the moment that matters, like:

  • "What will it take to make you happy?"
  • "What would you like us to do?"
  • "You have a right to feel the way you do. How can we make it right?"

Great service means being flexible and willing to change, and never being content with the status quo. It means continuously investing in education and growing people. It means guarding against those twin thieves: Arrogance and Complacency. Great service means treating every person in your organization with dignity and respect.

There are many days when you won't feel like providing great service. It happens to all of us. You'd rather just take a nap. But you know, you just never know when a Moment… will Matter!

"The purpose of business is to get and keep customers." -Theodore Levitt

I’m Off to See the Wizard

Words. They trigger pictures and bring about emotion. Positive or negative. If they come from a source we trust and believe, they can predict and perpetuate the future.

Do you remember watching the classic film with Judy Garland, The Wizard of Oz? The book, written by L. Frank Baum, was published in 1900 by the George M. Hill Company in Chicago when Frank was 44 years old. It changed his life. Up to that point he struggled to make ends meet. The story and its component parts were compiled from events in his life spanning over 30 years. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces finally came together to form an extraordinary picture.

The protagonist was a young girl and her dog who simply wanted to find a way to get home. A charming and heartwarming goal. Along the way she assembled a team of likeminded misanthropes who also doubted whether they had what it took to achieve their objectives. A Scarecrow, a Tin Man, a Lion and of course, her little dog, Toto. Each character doubted their abilities but somehow believed in the mission. If they followed the Yellow Brick Road, they could solicit the help of an all-powerful being who would have the answers they sought.

Along the way, they faced adversity (led by a Wicked Witch, the personification of evil) and her army of Flying Monkeys. When they finally reach the Wizard, they find out he is a fake, a charlatan. It was all smoke and mirrors. He does however give them a great gift, the gift of BELIEF. You see, every new belief has the word LIE right in the middle! Knowing this, the Wizard provides symbols of the new belief. The Scarecrow receives a diploma to prove he is smart. The Tin Man receives a ticking heart-shaped clock to symbolize that he has a heart. The Lion receives a medal that proves he is brave. Once received, they begin to ACT in those ways and Dorothy finally gets home. The irony in this fable is, "They had what they needed all along!"

Each of us has the power within us to "Get Home!" We need only to trust and believe that we can be our own Wizard. What symbols can you use with your team? What if you engaged in the following actions?

  • What is YOUR #1 goal? Where is your bus going? How badly do you want it? We must first make a heartfelt and sincere DECISION to achieve something near and dear to our hearts. The objective must be emotionalized and strong.
  • Write out exactly what you want. Make it a single goal, written down as if it were already true. Be sure it is personal, positive, powerful and present tense. Focus on it to the exclusion of everything else. BELIEVE you have the courage and ability to achieve it!
  • Assemble your team of people who believe in your goal. Make certain they possess the strengths and skills that you lack. Treat them well. Trust them to provide you with the necessary support needed to achieve your number one goal. Give them a symbol that supports your belief in them.
  • Be willing to bounce back from adversity. Setbacks, challenges and roadblocks are going to happen. Fail forward! A.B.C. = Always Be Consistent! Constancy of purpose is what is needed. Knocked down seven times, stand up eight! Stay the course. Be persistent and learn from your mistakes.
  • Understand the WHY of your WHAT! You must have highly emotionalized reasons to get you through. The objective must have meaning and purpose. Sometimes we only need one good reason to keep the flame of purpose lit. Emotional reasons will pull us to the future!
  • Find mentors (your Good Witch) who can provide the tools and inspiration you need to stay the course. Your mentors have done what you want to do and been where you want to go. You will need their support more than once as you travel your Yellow Brick Road.
  • Celebrate your progress along the way. WINS! Capture the good things that happen. Whatever gets rewarded gets repeated. Share the credit and honor and respect those committed teammates. They will see you through to the end of your road.

I have worked hard on my writing gifts over the years, and like Frank Baum, my children have provided the inspiration to stay on my own "Yellow Brick Road." I have become my own Wizard and you can too. It turns out, each of already possesses the necessary tools needed to get home. After all, "There is no place like home!" Now what did I do with those ruby slippers?

Make it a great 2020, unless you have other plans!

The Mindset of Great Leaders

"Great leadership comes from having a great mindset, so pay attention to what you think before it becomes how you act." - Lolly Daskal

What makes a great leader?


Great leaders tend to think differently than most people. In fact, people in the role of leadership do very little thinking before acting. Thinking is a leader's most important skill and tool.

Great leaders adopt the mindset of growth, abundance, excellence, success, and relentless unwavering pursuit of their goals. We will call these people "Growth Leaders."

A Growth Leader is someone who creates, inspires, prepares, and directs a team to perform, individually and collectively, at its highest level consistently under the most challenging conditions in pursuit of a shared, valued goal.

Growth leaders do not believe that talent and ability are fixed. They understand that abilities and skills can be nurtured, encouraged and developed through effort, perseverance and examining the learning process. They believe that effort, perseverance and learning from failure can improve performance of themselves and their team.

Growth Leaders actively seek ways to encourage and inspire others to regard effort, perseverance and learning from errors as the route to mastery. Leaders who foster a growth mindset within their organization realize that the results achieved by their approach also reflect their own leadership skills and abilities.

Growth Leaders lead from the guiding principle to Inspire, to Aspire, to Desire to Catch Fire to Go Higher, and to embrace and hone these15 attributes:

  1. Realist, optimist, and opportunist
  2. Love to learn and think about what they learn
  3. Good listener
  4. Always see potential in others
  5. Kind person
  6. Resourceful
  7. Good communicator
  8. Create and maintain great relationships
  9. Like to win, have fun and celebrate
  10. Self-aware and confident
  11. Prepared to take a stand for their beliefs, values, and ethics
  12. Don't panic in difficult situations
  13. Solution-based thinker who thinks "what box?"
  14. Happy to give away credit and take blame
  15. Realize attainment of all their goals will be with and through others

Adopt the mindset of a Growth Leader and realize that, as Zig Ziglar famously said: "You can have everything you want in life as long as you help enough other people get what they want."

Growing others is one of the highest callings in life there is. A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. Just as metal sharpens metal, one person sharpens another.

Leadership from the Heart

We are not capable of leading in a manner that is inconsistent with who we are as people at our core, regardless of the style we claim to embrace.

In other words, you will lead based on your mindset, attitudes, beliefs, values, emotions, needs, experiences, conditioning, knowledge, skills, people you are leading, situations, etc. And, yes, you will follow your heart.

Follow your moral compass and apply your personal standards of excellence, passion, caring, drive, and desire to grow yourself, those who follow, those you serve, and the community.

In whatever manner you choose to lead, there are certain roles you must fulfill to be a successful leader of your team and to achieve the goals you have established for your business.

Leader as person

The key question to ask in this role is: "How can I lead from a position of respect, trust, and loyalty?" The answer to this question, and the foundation for gaining the respect, trust, and loyalty of your team, is not in how you lead, but rather in the kind of person you are and the relationships you build with your team.

Leader as performer

The key question to ask in this role is: "How do I show my team how to be high performers individually and collectively?" For you to get your team to perform its best, you must know how to perform your best consistently.

Leader as team builder

The key question to ask in this role is: "How do I build an inspired, aligned, and productive team capable of meeting our biggest goals?" One player can't carry a team. Rather, everyone must work not only to fulfill their individual responsibilities, but also collaborate effectively to get the necessary results.

Leader as decision maker

The key question to ask in this role is: "How do I ensure that I'm making the best possible decisions for my team and the company?" Your goal is to create a framework and process that will maximize the chances of your team making good decisions.

Leader as change agent

The key question to ask in this role is: "How do I transform our company into an agile, collaborative, and purpose-driven force that is prepared for the challenges that lie ahead?" You must create a culture that can adapt to a marketplace and economy that are constantly changing.

Execution of personal excellence in these five roles will ensure your probability of success, and while personal excellence is laudable, excellence achieved through others is admirable and rewarded now, in the future, and for eternity.

Pass on your passion. When you share your wealth of knowledge, you grow your fortune that pays back, pays forward, and multiplies with compound interest.

One Thing

“Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work.” -H. L. Hunt, Oil Tycoon

A mentor of my mine said to me when I was in my thirties and just starting out in sales, “Forget trying to sell your prospects, let them buy!” He went on to say, “Remember this Mark, people buy YOU!” It took me a while to understand what he meant.

When I first started in sales, all my appointments were face to face. Now, when I close a speaking engagement, it’s on the phone followed by email and ending in a last phone call or text. When I am talking to a new prospect, I am concerned about their number ONE objective. Having your questions memorized is a good idea—here are mine—I hope they help.

  1. What is your number ONE objective for this year?
  2. How will we know when you have achieved it? (If you tripped over the results, what would they look like?)
  3. What will it mean to YOU to achieve that objective?
  4. What will it mean to your “ORGANIZATION” (PEOPLE) to achieve it?
  5. How will the decision be made? Who else is involved in that decision?
  6. What have you done in the past?
  7. Why ME?
  8. Why NOW?
  9. When is the best time to schedule it? Fall, winter, spring, summer? Days of the week?
  10. What else do you think I should know?
  11. Do you have any questions for me?

What are your ten or eleven questions? Do you have them written down? Do you have them memorized? Are they in the right order? It’s a good idea. Why leave your questions to chance? Chance always favors the prepared.

The dialogue should flow. Dominate the listening, let him or her talk. Keep asking questions until you get to the prospect’s number ONE issue, the main interest or need, and stick to it. The one question most new sales people never ask is WHY? Reasons matter. Most actions are taken for one of two reasons: fear of loss or desire for gain. You need to know WHY!

My late mentor and publisher, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, was adopted. Because of that, he had a soft spot for orphan children. One day, Charlie took me on a tour of Hershey Park, the extraordi-nary little town Milton S. Hershey built for his employees and the orphans he sponsored. Mr. Her-shey had three failures in business before age 40. He eventually made millions selling his famous candy bars. The turning point in his life came when he asked himself, “WHY is it that other men succeed and I fail?” Putting himself through a rigorous thinking session, he narrowed the answer down to ONE reason: “I was going ahead without having all the facts.”

From that day until he died at age 88, his whole life was dedicated to the philosophy of asking WHY? If someone said to him: “It can’t be done, Mr. Hershey!” He’d ask, “Why” or “Why not?” He kept asking until he had all the reasons. Then he would say, “Now one of us has got to get the an-swer!”

“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.” -Vincent Van Gogh

When I started my speaking business, ONE giant reason emerged for making it a success: Putting three boys through college doing what I love. That was enough. I worked 14-hour days, six or seven days a week the first five or six years. There is no substitute for understanding your WHY?

What is your ONE Thing?

Ready to learn more about sales and the sales process? To download a free package of sales training resources, including an online course, how-to documents for everything from sales presentations to salesperson-hiring outlines, industry research, and much more, visit

Do the Right Thing and Good Things Will Happen

Every one of us is in sales. And, all of us are good at sales. Let me give you an example. You are in a relationship with another person. You are dating, engaged or married. Some of you are single but you want to be dating, engaged or married, right? To have that significant other in your life, you had to make a call or ask them out in person. For you to even get to that point you had to be someone they would want to see more of. Be someone of value on a regular basis long enough for them to see you as a potential long-time companion. You had to clean yourself up, look good, smell good enough times so they would look at you and say, “Hey, I want that!” And “that” was you.

You sold yourself to that person. You have probably done it many times in your life. Over and over you have helped other people get what they want. YOU! You are what people want. They want your charm, your knowledge, your help. Your service customers want you too. No, not like that. But they want and need you to help them get what they want.

So, what does a service customer need and want? First, they want their comfort restored. When you do that you are already the hero. We have to look around to find out what the next need is. Did you just repair a 23-year-old furnace? Is the water heater old and inefficient? Is the ductwork falling apart? Is the thermostat old? Is there mercury in it? Just look around.

Many of us miss these opportunities to help customers save money and become more comfortable. Let’s be clear. A 23-year-old furnace is costing them way too much in utilities and repairs. They will save money if they replace it. That old water heater is not only costing more than it should to heat water but because it is probably full of sediment, it could break and spill hundreds of gallons of water on their floor creating an expensive mess. And ductwork issues make the system work harder. Programmable thermostats save approximately 10% off their heating and cooling bills every year. Hundreds of dollars wasted until it gets replaced.

Are you allowing your customers to waste their hard-earned dollars? Let’s say your mother takes her car into the shop for a tune-up. The mechanic fails to tell her that her tires are worn and are becoming dangerous. His shop does not sell tires so he does not think it is his responsibility to address tires. But he knows they are bad. A professional mechanic had the opportunity to explain to your mother how she could be safer and he said nothing. How does that make you feel? Would that upset you?

Don’t be that person. Don’t be the one who could have helped someone save money and said nothing. Don’t be the one who didn’t say anything about the old leaky water heater. Don’t be the one who did not address the flue piping issue because you were there to fix the air conditioner. Talk to people. They will appreciate what you have to say when you are compassionate and helpful. If you are just trying to make some extra money by creating a lead for the sales department they will see through you. If they need to consider a new system, then let them know why. If they don’t need a new system, don’t talk to them about one.

When you do it for the right reasons you will be successful. Truly care about people. Think about what you would want to know after having a professional look at your equipment. You would want to know whatever they observed and what should be done. Give your customer options to keep what they have. They will appreciate that too, but let them know the cost of keeping what they have. They have the right to know either way and you will be amazed at how many people will choose to do the right thing.

Establishing good relationships with customers and turning those relationships into ongoing leads and sales starts with the technician communication process. To learn more about tech communications and selling, and to download a free training package complete with an online course, step-by-step in-home presentations, industry research and much more, visit


Adversity? Just Don’t Quit!

Epictetus, the Roman Stoic was one of two great philosophers of the Roman Empire, the other being Marcus Aurelius. Epictetus was a slave, Aurelius an Emperor. Epictetus once said, “It is difficulties that show what men are.”

It’s not what happens to us, rather it’s how we respond. Are you willing to fail forward? Knocked down seven times, stand up eight! History is re-plete with shining examples of men and women who bounced back from setbacks, challenges, bankruptcy and failure. We only truly fail when we blame others and stop trying to learn from our mistakes. Each of us is 100% accountable for our actions and decisions.

We all suffer. If you live long enough, things are going to happen that you have no control over. Death of a loved one, betrayal, financial setbacks, divorce, surgery, auto accidents, floods, earthquakes and oh yes, Covid-19. The list is long. Again, it’s not what happens but how we respond. There is no better teacher than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.

Abraham Lincoln is considered by many to be the greatest President in U.S. history. He experienced more failure than any other President, both personally and professionally. A common list of the failures of Abraham Lincoln (along with a few successes) is:

  • 1831 - Lost his job
  • 1832 - Defeated in run for Illinois State Legislature
  • 1833 - Failed in business
  • 1834 - Elected to Illinois State Legislature (success)
  • 1835 - Sweetheart died
  • 1836 - Had nervous breakdown
  • 1838 - Defeated in run for Illinois House Speaker
  • 1843 - Defeated in run for nomination for U.S. Congress
  • 1846 - Elected to Congress (success)
  • 1848 - Lost re-nomination
  • 1849 - Rejected for land officer position
  • 1854 - Defeated in run for U.S. Senate
  • 1856 - Defeated in run for nomination for Vice President
  • 1858 - Again defeated in run for U.S. Senate
  • 1860 - Elected President (success)

That looks like a pretty glum résumé, making you wonder how he ever made it to the top. The answer? Resilience. He just never quit.

Winston Churchill delivered one of the shortest speeches in England’s history at his alma mater. His closing remarks went like this: “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

So just how does one bounce back from adversity?

  1. Decide to overcome. Get back on the horse.
  2. Study men and women who have bounced back. Read biographies.
  3. Journal. Ask yourself, what can I do different or better next time?
  4. Find mentors. Seek out men and women who have overcome set-backs and challenges and ask them how they did it.
  5. Pray. Ask whatever higher power you believe in for strength.
  6. Meditate. Listen to the small still voice for answers. Be still.
  7. Resolve to keep going. Just don’t quit. It’s a choice.

“The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.”
-Ulysses S Grant, President

Let’s listen to the philosophers of old. “Just Don’t Quit!” Abe Lincoln never did…

Change is Hard. Extinction is Worse.

I once read that “If you think change is hard, you should try extinction.”

In many ways this characterizes the changes going on with homeowners and the changes residential contractors need to make to effectively sell to them.

Homeowners are more educated than ever because of the internet. Ten or fifteen years ago, homeowners turned to us to learn about buying a new HVAC system. Now they have that information before we show up, and in many cases they know as much about the equipment as the comfort advisor - or at least they think they do. In almost every case, the information they have (particularly about pricing) is incomplete if not outright wrong.

Nevertheless, the dynamic has changed - homeowners are armed with information (and misinformation) and are more sophisticated than ever. The selling strategy that worked for residential contractors in the past is not what is going to work in the future. We have the choice to recognize this reality, make some changes and succeed or ignore the trends and suffer the consequences as our competition takes market share.

The choice is ours.

Over the past ten years in my consulting practice, I have seen “first call” closing rates decline and “rehash rates” improve. In other words, fewer homeowners are making the decision on the first call, and more sales are being made through effective follow-up with homeowners by the most successful contractors.

In many cases, the most successful companies are staffing entire “rehash” departments to follow up on lost leads. The results are hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales through an effective rehash program.

A recent study by ServiceTitan revealed a shocking statistic - half of all sales people NEVER follow up after the initial call. Think about that. As homeowners are making fewer decisions on the initial call, half of comfort advisors are not following up AT ALL. This is great news for the half that is following up, but it does not bode well for contractors selling the way they were fifteen years ago.

The most successful contractors obsess as much on the deals they don’t get as they do on the deals they do get.

Think about it. The average comfort advisor runs five hundred leads per year and closes 40% of those. That’s 200 installs. Not bad.

But what about the THREE HUNDRED leads they didn’t sell? How many of those do you suppose purchased from your competition? How many of those could have been yours with better follow-up? How many of those could have been yours with a better rehash strategy?

Here is the worst part. You already PAID for the three hundred leads your comfort advisor lost. In fact, those three hundred leads probably cost you about $100,000. Why not implement a rehash process that recovers some of those lost deals? Even if you only recovered 10% of the lost deals, that’s thirty new systems at $10,000 each. That’s $300,000! Even at only a 40% margin you at least recovered the cost of the leads.

Why WOULDN’T you do that?

To measure the rehash activity in my company, I began measuring sales performance differently. Instead of just measuring a singular “close rate” we now measure “First Call Close Rate” and “Rehash Rate”.

The combination of these two KPI’s reveals our total close rate, but it gives us a clear measure of how many deals we are recovering. And because “what gets measured gets done,” it forces us to focus attention on our lost leads. That focus results in additional sales. Additional sales equal additional revenue.

The opportunity to recover revenue in lost leads has become an obsession of mine. It’s one of the first things I measure on new consulting projects. It’s low-hanging fruit and a very simple and inexpensive way of generating new sales and revenue. My obsession on recovering lost leads was my motivation to develop technology that automates the process. It’s the reason I am sounding the alarm.

The landscape in residential sales is changing. Your homeowners are more educated and sophisticated than ever. As result, they are making fewer buying decisions on the first call. It is up to us to adapt and change. The alternative is much worse.

You’ve Been in Sales All Your Life

We all experience sales professionals when we go about our daily lives. When you buy a suit, wouldn't you expect the clerk to show you a tie that matches? When you get your oil changed, will you hear how synthetic oil is better for your car and will be given that as an option? When you are at the drive-thru do you hear, "Would you like fries with that?"

These things are especially true in other countries. Sales is a way of life for many cultures. When you travel to Europe, Mexico or the Caribbean you will see regular people on the street and in markets who are pros at helping people find the things that will make them happy. Souvenirs, mementos, reminders of their travels. Sometimes small, sometimes grand. It is up to the buyer to decide. Children are taught from an early age to sell. They are the ones who learn the languages you and the other tourists speak. They then ask questions to determine what will make you happy. What are you looking for? Then they take you to the exact vendor you need. Sales.

Find out what people need and want and offer it to them. Have what people need and want and let them know you can help them obtain it. Sales. Remember, they don't want the mini statue as much as the memory it will give them every time they look at it.

Your associates may say "I am not a salesperson." Imagine that person as an infant or a two-year old. Don't you think even they would have asked for what they want from Mom and Dad? They probably put on a pretty good act too. Maybe even a little crying and begging just for a cookie. Sales. And, their mom explained that when they do the right thing they can get the cookie as a reward. That is sales too.

Now, look at you and your associates and see who is in a relationship with another person. We all spent years getting ourselves cleaned up to look good and practicing what to say so we could win the heart of that person. Sales.

You see, we've all been in sales our entire lives. Sales is something we all do every day. And, when we say "I'm not good at it," or "I can't," what does that say to your parenting skills? Or your relationship skills? Just look at your partner and some of you will even wonder, "how the hell did I do that?" Sales. You sold yourself to them and they bought what you were selling.

We are all in sales. And your customers need you to simply talk with them about the results they will enjoy from your products and services. No one wants to be sold anything they do not need or want but they do need to know about things that will make their lives better. Right now, an ultraviolet light in their ductwork makes complete sense. Making their entire home more comfortable with zoning or mini-splits because they have the entire family living there now. And for those customers who are on a strict budget, we can help them save money on utility bills with a maintenance agreement. Or, stop all the costly repairs by replacing the air conditioner, lowering utility bills AND repairs.

Help people. Find out what they want and help them understand how they can get it. Once you determine what the cookie is then just let them know what they have to do to EARN the cookie. If they want their home to be safer, let them know how ultraviolet lights work. And they will buy. You see, a professional salesperson does not sell. We should never "sell." A pro finds out what is needed and offers choices. The only thing a pro "sells" is why you should get it from them.

Remember, as Jeffrey Gitomer said, "no one likes to be sold to, but everyone loves to buy." When you need a new pair of jeans, you go to the store. When the clerk asks you if she can help you, do you say, "no, I'm just looking," or do you tell them why you are there and let them help you? They know more about what is on those shelves then you do so you should let them help you. And, if you do, you will more than likely leave with a better-fitting pair of jeans than if you had muddled through it yourself.

Your HVAC customer needs your help. You offer solutions to lots of things they need help with. Make sure they know that. Whether you answer the phone, repair and maintain, or help customers with replacement, find out what they need and want and offer it to them. Remember however, they don't need a light in their ducts, they need to clean the air in their home. They don't need a zoning system, they need better comfort upstairs.

If a customer says, "your people are always trying to sell something," then they probably are. Stop selling and find out what the cookie is. Ask questions through conversation and help people with what they need and want. They will open up to you when you do what you do for the right reasons. Give them a way to get the cookie and you may be surprised at how many of them will take you up on it.

How Can My Business Thrive in the Midst of Difficulty?

One thing in the life of a contractor is certain: difficulty is coming. Everyone from Biblical prophets to Buddha to M. Scott Peck in The Road Less Travelled accurately predicts trouble and difficulty lie ahead. We don’t know whether it will be a cyclical economic downturn, or a global virus, or a disruption in our supply chains, or an aggressive competitor, but we do know we face challenges ahead in our personal and business lives. Many of you may wonder, “How can my contracting business thrive in the midst of difficulty?” The answer is that positive mindset training is the central skill your team needs to prevail. It is a soft skill, but more important than hard skills like accounting, tech support, or installation. It is the one skill everyone on your team requires because the question is not what effect difficulties will have on your contracting business, but which decisions and responses you will choose that will determine the outcome.

I always have believed that you cannot borrow your way out of a business crunch, but you can sell your way out. I started my first HVAC company in 2004 and within a couple of years had done so well that by 2007 I was in a position to buy out several of my competitors, which meant I was holding a lot of debt when the economy took a steep downturn in the 2008 Great Recession. The bottom did not fall out of my business altogether, but our growth leveled off, and I had all that debt to service. I knew we could not succeed by borrowing our way out of debt, and bankruptcy was never an option for me because as an ex-con, I knew that everyone expected me to go bankrupt. I said we would sell our way out of the crisis. We worked harder on our team’s mindset training, worked our leads more productively, increased our sales and margins, and paid off a half-million dollars of debt in twenty months.

Mindset training is something I usually teach people to do on an individual

basis: write down your goals and priorities in the 3 main areas of life: business, relationships, and health. Decide on 1 to 3 main action steps to take consistently every day to achieve those goals, then read, meditate on, and imagine the reality of the goals and action steps every day for ten to fifteen minutes in what I call a Quiet Time Ritual. This technique has transformed my life and the lives of thousands of others with whom I have worked. But in the case of large difficulties affecting your contracting business, the entire team might need unified mindset training.

Let me show you how this can work. I was consulting with an insurance business once which desperately needed to grow or close the doors. I asked the owner what was the one action everyone could take in his business which would turn things around. He said that if everyone would commit and make five cold calls every day, no matter what disruptions occurred, the business would thrive. So, we implemented a team mindset training plan in which everyone wrote down, “I make five cold calls every day before leaving the office, without fail.” As a group, they met over coffee each morning and read their goal and action step out loud, even though they were all the same. They encouraged each other positively that they could and would make the five cold calls, and that it would succeed. Within a year, they had tripled their business. One day the owner was leaving the office early to go on a trip. As he closed the door, he remembered that he had only made two cold calls that day. He turned around, went back inside and made three more calls. He said that after stressing the importance of this action step to his team, he could not fail to do so himself. Of those three calls, two resulted in new clients for his business within a couple of weeks.

Now, you might want different goals and action steps for the different departments of your business—front office, sales team, accounting, installation – all of which is easily achievable. But the renewed focus on mindset training is how your contracting business will thrive in the midst of difficulty.

Change Others' Behavior By Changing Your Behavior Toward Them

A turning point in my life came in 1982, at age 25. I purchased a paperback copy of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and kept it in my service truck. I used to read it at lunch. It inspired me to begin listening to audio cassettes -- books on tape. I quit listening to my extensive rhythm and blues collection, gave up the front page of the newspaper and began keeping a journal. I turned into a sponge.

As an HVAC technician I had a C+ level of technical skills but with Dale Carnegie’s help, I became an A+ People Guy. Sales and opportunity soon followed. It became my People Handbook, my Human Relations Bible. That copy is so dog-eared pages fall out when I open it.

Born in Maryville, Missouri on November 24, 1888, Dale knew only poverty as a boy. He ascended to become the top salesman in his company and region by hard work and study. He moved to New York City in 1911 and began teaching public speaking courses at night so he could research and write during the day. How to Win Friends and Influence People sold over 5,000,000 copies by his untimely death in 1955.

Dale believed and taught a simple rule: “It’s possible to change other people’s behavior by changing one’s behavior toward them.”

I recently reread this classic self-help book and listened to it on CD and determined that I could raise my interpersonal relationship bar if I were to turn his timeless principles into affirmations/goals and bombard my subconscious with my 12 favorite DC principles -- as in, record onto Garage Band, transfer to iTunes and load on my iPhone and listen to it 1,000 times, which takes me about a month.

So here we go, my 12 paraphrased goals, submitted for your approval:

  1. “I smile at as many people as I can all day long.”
  2. “I have an amazing memory for names. I employ I.R.A. (Impression, Repetition, Association) so their names stick.”
  3. “I dominate the listening in every conversation and people enjoy being around me! I love to listen and learn all day.”
  4. “I employ ‘Yes AND’ while I listen to keep the spotlight on other people. I observe, acknowledge and heighten what I hear to make my conversations about others. It’s not about me!”
  5. “I am a GOOD-Finder. I enjoy catching others doing things right. ‘Good for you!’ is my favorite phrase. I enjoy making others feel important.”
  6. “I avoid arguments, negative or mean people. I smile politely and walk away. I would rather be happy than right.”
  7. “I show respect for other people’s opinions, often saying, ‘You feel strongly about that...’ I resist the temptation to correct, criticize or condemn.”
  8. “When I am wrong, I promptly admit it. Life is too short to be a jerk.”
  9. “I begin a conversation in a friendly way. My attitude and approach to others is consistently positive, affirming and kind.”
  10. “I ask Open-Ended Questions (Who, What, Where, When, How, Why) to learn more about the people I meet. I am naturally curious.”
  11. “I enjoy silence. I think twice and speak once or not at all.”
  12. “I let other people feel the idea was theirs. I often give credit away. I build other people’s confidence and esteem. I grow people.”

Imagine what would happen and how your relationships might change if you read these 20 goals twice a day for 30 days? Better still, record them and store them on your iPhone and listen to them ten times a day!

You just might win way more friends and influence everyone you meet, professionally and personally. But that wouldn’t work where you live ... or would it?

I kind of miss that old service truck. Come to think of it, I kind of miss audio cassettes too ... you know, twisting the reel to make certain it plays right. Okay, not really. Now where did I put my iPhone?

Expectations Determine Prosperity - For Better or For Worse

“Your results in life will never exceed your expectations, and your expectations will never exceed your imagination.”

I wrote these words several years ago in my book,The Power of Consistency, and over the years since then, I have become more convinced than ever of their accuracy.

Your results will never exceed your expectations because of a little filter in your brain called the reticular activating system (RAS). The RAS decides what you notice in life and what you do not notice in life. Scientist estimate that in any given moment there are millions of things you could notice - sights, sounds, smells, movements, shapes, colors, etc. The RAS decides which of those things you notice in any given moment.

For example, odds are you have a cell phone very near you as you read this. But did you even notice the cell phone before I mentioned it? Were you consciously aware of it sitting in your pocket or on the table or desk next to you? I doubt it, and the reason you did not notice it is that, before I mentioned it, it had no relevance to you reading this article.

But what if it had started ringing while you were reading? Would you have noticed it then? Of course you would have because within the scope of a nanosecond it became relevant. What if the phone started overheating and smoke and fire began to emanate from the battery? Would you have noticed it then? Of course you would because in the instant you noticed the smoke and fire the cell phone became relevant to your wellbeing (especially if it was in your pocket!).

The job of the RAS is to filter out the millions of things around you that are not relevant to you and filter in the things that are relevant to you, so you can focus your attention on the things around you that matter. So if you perceive something as being irrelevant to you, your RAS will filter it out as irrelevant.

Consider that, then consider this: Suppose you have a $2,000,000 contracting business and think it would be nice to grow it to $5,000,000, but you have always thought there is no way you could grow your business to $5,000,000.

What do you suppose your RAS would do if a $5,000,000 opportunity came waltzing passed you? That’s right! Your RAS would filter it out because it perceives that opportunity as irrelevant to you! After all, your RAS is very busy looking for the opportunities to help you maintain your $2,000,000 company!

In this instance, your results were extremely limited by your expectations. In fact, your limited expectations ensured that you didn’t even notice the $5,000,000 opportunity.

Welcome to the very real world of self-self-fulfilling prophecy. You always believed you could never grow a $5,000,000 company and your RAS proved you right!

I mean think about it, if your mind believes you are going to build a $2,000,000 company, what are the odds that one day you will accidentally build a $5,000,000 company? Not very likely, is it?

A few years ago I was talking to a young man who owned a small plumbing company. As we talked, he complained and bemoaned his state of financial affairs. Business was slow and the cheap competitors were stealing all his business.

“You just don’t understand,” he said. “It’s different in my town!”

Then he said the magic words, “Well, it’s like my daddy always said; plumbers don’t drive Cadillacs!”

There’s your sign, buddy. How in the world could he ever make money with those expectations?

But here is the crazy part: a couple weeks later I happened to be in Florida working with one of the most successful plumbing contractors in the country. After the day of working with his service and sales team, he invited me out to his house for dinner. As I turned into the driveway his wife was backing out of the garage. What do you suppose she was driving?

Exactly! A Cadillac Escalade.

And I said to myself, “Hmm. I guess some plumbers DO drive Cadillacs.”

My contractor friend asked me to get into the Escalade so he could drive me to a nearby marina and show me his new boat. When I got to his “boat” it turned out to be a 65-foot yacht! I chuckled to myself, “I guess some plumbers drive Cadillacs AND yachts, and some don’t.”

But here is the central question: “Plumbers don’t drive Cadillacs,” or “Plumbers drive Cadillacs and yachts”; which man is right?

Precisely. They are both right because they are both products of their expectations. As long as one man thought he could never prosper enough in the plumbing business to drive a luxury SUV, what’s the likelihood he would create and execute a plan to build real wealth. He never will because he has already decided it would be a waste of his time and energy because plumbers don’t drive Cadillacs, right?

So dream big my friend. Allow your imagination to soar. Imagine amazing things for you and your family. Know that, in the immortal words of Napoleon Hill, “anything the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

As you imagine great things, come to expect great things. Your expectations will drive you to notice the opportunities you will need and motivate you to do the hard work necessary to create great things.

And remember: “Your results in life will never exceed your expectations, and your expectations will never exceed your imagination.”

Building Success with Routines and Rituals

Habits—good habits—are hard to form and easy to live with. Bad habits are easy to form and hard to live with. First we form habits, then they form us.

It takes 21 to 35 days—three to five weeks—to form a good habit. Sadly, it only takes three days to form a bad habit.

Habits are like silk thread. If they are woven long enough, they turn into cables. Routines are the cables. When we have habitualized a positive action long enough, it becomes a routine. Like putting one brick onto another—after long enough, we have built a cathedral.

Rituals are the minor actions we take to reinforce the routine. George Bernard Shaw would make tea, read the paper, put on his writing clothes and hat and enter his writing hut, a small 8’x8’ cabin to write for four hours every day. The sign on the door said, “Unless the house is on fire, do not disturb.” He was, like Thomas Jefferson, a lifelong vegan and would walk several times a day for an hour. He lived to be 93. Stephen King’s routine was to write from 7:00 am to 1:00 pm every day, then go for a long walk. What we are talking about are daily rituals which lead to lifelong routines.

What are your rituals and routines?

I write first thing in the morning, one hour or three pages, whichever comes first. Writing is an adjunct to my speaking business. It compliments it. Writing for me is a way to process the learning. It summarizes what I have assimilated through reading, study, reflection and observation. Every thought and emotion I hold, every book I read, song I listen to, movie I watch, conversation I have, seminar I conduct is part and parcel to the learning. It’s all copy and content. Nothing is lost. Everything counts. There isn’t anything that doesn’t matter.

My goals drive the bus. My goals determine who I talk to, what I read and study, what I think about. In the end, it really is true: We become what we think about. We are all students. We must never stop learning.

Earl Nightingale was one of my first mentors who really impacted my life. He said:

“Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don't wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it's at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored.”

Pele, the legendary soccer player, said, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”

And finally, Albert Einstein, one of history’s greatest minds, believed, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”

So, how can you develop good habits—as a contractor or at home—and make those habits yours?

  1. Start with small steps. Most people want to create big change quickly. Don’t.
  2. Get hooked on your habit. Is it yours?
  3. Have clear intentions. What will the habit afford you?
  4. Celebrate your small wins. Do you write them in your journal?
  5. Design your environment. What are your rituals?
  6. Surround yourself with supporters. Who are your cheerleaders?
  7. Commit to your habit. What are your reasons?

Behavioral psychologists speak to a 3-step pattern to help achieve good habit-forming success. Let’s call them the “3 R’s of Success”:

Reminder—the trigger that initiates the behavior

Routine—the behavior itself, the action you take

Reward—the benefit you gain from doing the behavior

What habits will you form this year? What rituals will assist you in that adoption? What routines will cement your resolve and commitment?

Remember, “The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routines.”

Do you know your customers?

"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."
-Stephen R. Covey, Author, Speaker

Most new salespeople do not really listen to their prospects. They are waiting to talk -- to talk about their product or service, their agenda, their company, what they want. The key to high close ratios and record sales? Listen to FIND. Listen to understand their point of view, their challenges, their concerns, their objectives. Once you know what the prospect really wants, learn why they want it and what it will mean to them to achieve it. Only then are you in a position to offer solutions that will help them reach their goals. Frank Bettger said, "Find out what people want and help them get it!" Short and sweet.

Embrace the acronym W.A.I.T. – "Why Am I Talking?"

In my second year of selling, I met a man named Ron. He was an affable sort of fellow, social, outgoing, fun. I asked him, "How did you get started in this business?" He talked for three hours. When he finally stopped, it was as if he just awoke from a coma! "So why are you here?" he asked. I smiled and said, "Well based on all the things you just told me, I am certain we can lower your operating costs and provide you with the service to your HVAC equipment that you deserve." He beamed and replied, "THAT is exactly what I want! When can we start?" It was the largest sale I had made up to that point in my career. It made my year. Here is what I did. If I can, you can, too.

  1. Ask open-ended questions. To open up a conversation, ask WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, HOW, WHY. Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem to teach his 12-year old son the power of asking open ended questions:

    I keep six honest serving-men,
    (They taught me all I knew);
    Their names What and Where and When
    And How and Why and Who.

  2. Listen actively. Listen with intention. Listen with the objective to understand. Listen to empathize. Listen to clarify. Listen.
  3. Pause 3-5 seconds. Most of the time the other person will continue to talk. Let them.
  4. Question for clarification. Ask, "How do you mean?" or, "Can you give me an example?" and listen some more.
  5. Paraphrase to understand. This is the part of the process that pulls it all together, the glue. If you have understanding they will respond in a favorable and enthusiastic way.
  6. You will hear the words: "Exactly!" or "YES!" or "Riiight!" That is how you will know if you have hit the nail on the head.
  7. Now you are in a position to offer solutions. "A choice of yeses."
  8. Write up your proposal and close the deal.

It's a simple process, it's just not easy. It's hard. It requires a kind of un-learning to master the active listening process; it requires a dying of self and ego. What if you don't get to talk? Would that be so bad? Would you rather be right or rich? Active listening is a habit, perhaps the best habit you can adopt if you are to be one of the top sales producers in your industry. In a real sense, it's not just a great skill, it's a way of being, a philosophy of life.

"I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I'm going to learn, I must do it by listening."
-Larry King, radio & TV talk show icon

At the risk of repeating myself, here it is: "Find out what people want and help them get it!" As Nike says, "Just do it!" Your clients will tell you things they don't tell their barber, banker or best friend.

Why am I talking?

Back to the Future

Do you remember Robert Zemeckis’s movie trilogy "Back to the Future" starring Michael J. Fox? The year was 1985. With the help of Dr. Emmett Brown, played perfectly by Christopher Lloyd, Marty McFly is transported back to 1955. My two favorite scenes are:

Lou: "You gonna order something, kid?"
Marty McFly: "Ah, yeah. Give me- Give me a Tab."
Lou: "Tab? I can't give you a tab unless you order something."
Marty McFly: "Right. Give me a Pepsi Free."
Lou: "You want a Pepsi, pal, you're gonna pay for it."

When the car pulls up to the gas station and five young men run out to service the car. McFly stares at this odd scene with his mouth open. It’s clear he is some-WHEN else! A time warp. He has been transported back to a different time. It’s a paradigm shift for Baby Boomers old enough to remember that. It makes you smile and sad at once.

Where have those days of great service gone? Wait, there is hope.

I was having lunch with Chris Shepanek, CEO of Oil Can Henry’s. As we finished our pasta, he made me an offer: "We would like you to experi-ence Oil Can Henry’s extraordinary service. Let us buy you an oil change." How could I say no? It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

As I pulled into the Issaquah, WA, location, a young man wearing a big smile, a bow tie, white shirt, circa 1930’s cap and coat ran out to my car with a Seattle Times newspaper for me. He introduced himself by name and told me he would be taking care of me today. What a great first im-pression. He proceeded to wow me with the kind of personalized service you just don’t see much of these days. I was "Back to the Future!" Here is what happened:

  • The first thing I noticed was the facility was spotless, clean and orga-nized. It looked like a big house on the hill, with high peaked roofs and a beautiful wood design (as opposed to a glass and steel strip mall). There were three bays and before I left, a long line in each bay. This place was popular. I would soon learn why.
  • They checked my turn indicators, my lights, my high beams (brights), my brake lights. We were just getting started.
  • They checked ALL the oils and fluids in my truck and put a sample of each oil on a laminated card, warmly explaining what each one should look like (oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid) and made assessments which were honest and clear. I was impressed with their attitude.
  • They checked my radiator fluid and showed me a sample including the condition of the cap (which they replaced).
  • The men working on my car called back and forth to each other in a kind of "Call and Response" manner that let me know exactly what they were doing at each step of the process, like a beehive, swirling with positive and focused activity.
  • I watched a four-screen split TV monitor of what was happening in real time on all sides and underneath me. They were leveraging technology.
  • I never once felt pushed or manipulated as they used forms and simple sales systems to educate me as to what they were doing and why, always offering a choice of yeses throughout. It was a thing of beauty to behold for someone who teaches sales training.
  • When we were done, they gave me the receipt with a clear explanation and an invitation to come back with a coupon for $10 off the next visit. I felt so important. I had been wowed!

With the exception of Nordstrom, I cannot recall a better and more impressive display of service and quality at the retail level. They absolutely spoiled me and it was great. I found myself comparing that level of service to others in the same field. Their competition are miles apart, a very distant second; "also-rans." Who do you go to for service? What do they re-ally offer? Why do you go back? Are you offering extra-mile service and value? OCH does.

"We might forget what they say or do, but we will always remember how they make us feel." I felt like someone special. As I looked at the long line behind, I smiled and understand. These guys "get it!" Service like no other. One WOW after another. Why would I go anywhere else? This was worth driving to. It was a destination. I only wish I had videotaped it. If you want to go "Back to the Future" – or take your customer back to the future – treat yourself to an Oil Can Henry experience.

A Lesson in Service from Joe the Concrete Guy

Effective selling requires a mindset of service. You have to be willing to serve your customers better than your competition. I'd like to share a story from my new book, Consistency Selling, that illustrates the service mindset. I learned it from Joe the Concrete Guy.

For many years, I lived west of Colorado Springs, at an elevation of about 9,000 feet, in the beautiful little mountain town of Woodland Park, CO. Each morning, I would drive down the twisting canyon of Ute Pass into Colorado Springs. As I drove out of town, I used to pass a quaint breakfast place called The Hungry Bear.

Each time I passed The Hungry Bear, I noticed an old white Ford pickup in the parking lot with bold black letters on the side that read "Joe the Concrete Guy" and a phone number. Seeing that pickup every morning brought a smile to my face as I imagined Joe inside eating his eggs, drinking a cup of coffee, and reading the paper.

For some reason, I enjoyed thinking about Joe like that, and I was envious that he had the time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast with his paper.

After a couple of years seeing Joe's truck, I was in my yard one day when I realized I needed some steps poured at the end of my driveway to make it easier to access my "writing shed."

A couple days later, I pulled into The Hungry Bear and wrote down Joe's phone number. When Joe got out to my house a few days later, he looked exactly as I imagined—long bushy hair and a long Grizzly Adams beard. He had on shorts, a tee shirt, and flip-flops. There was nothing pretentious or fake about him.

I stood there in my driveway with Joe and explained where I needed the steps. Joe nodded his head and quietly acknowledged that it would be no problem. I asked Joe how much it would cost and he responded, "Well, that depends on who does it for you."

He continued, "If you don't care about whether or not it starts cracking next spring when the snow melts, I know a guy that'll do it for a few hundred bucks. But if you want me to use my forty years of experience pouring concrete in these mountains so it never cracks, I would have to charge a thousand bucks."

I stood mesmerized by Joe's cool and calm demeanor. He wasn't afraid of charging a price that was fair for him. "Well Joe, I don't want it to crack, so I guess it's gonna be a thousand bucks."

Joe smiled like James Dean then said, "I appreciate that you understand that I deserve to get paid for what I know—not just for what I do."

Just at that moment Joe turned slowly and looked at a motorcycle trailer I had parked in the dirt and rocks next to my driveway. "Why is your trailer sitting there?"

"Well, I mean, you know, that's where I park it, Joe," I timidly responded. He looked back at me and said, "You park it there on purpose?"

"Yeah, I guess." I responded

"Why do you intentionally park your trailer in the dirt and rocks?" he asked.

"Well, because the driveway isn't wide enough," I said

To which Joe said, "You know when I'm here pouring your steps, I could widen your driveway." My budget instantly went from $1,000 to nearly $10,000.

Was Joe pushy? Was Joe doing high-pressure sales? Was Joe selling snake oil?

Of course not.

Joe was the consummate service and sales professional. He identified a problem that I had overlooked and offered a solution. Do you think Joe would have given a damn if I said no to widening the driveway? Do you think his confidence and self-esteem would have been damaged if I said no to widening the driveway?

Not a chance. Joe's confidence in himself and his solutions did not depend one ounce on my approval or appreciation for his work. Joe had the service mindset. Find a problem and offer a solution.

Once Joe wrote up the paperwork, I told him, "You know Joe, I do sales training for a living and that was a super effective technique to get the ticket higher."

"Technique? What technique?" he inquired.

"Well, that technique you expertly used to get the ticket from $1,000 to $10,000."

"Mr. Long, that was no technique. That was just common sense."

"Yes it is Joe, but as Voltaire once said, 'common sense is not so common.'"

Then Joe went all philosophical on me.

"Mr. Long, take a look at my truck." he instructed.

"What does it say on the side of it?" He asked.

"Well… it says Joe the Concrete Guy and your phone number."

"Exactly." Joe stated. "It says Joe the Concrete Guy. Concrete Guy is the main thing, right? I mean it doesn't say Joe the Window, Roofing, Siding and Concrete Guy. It only says Joe the Concrete Guy."

"You see," Joe continued, "all I do is concrete. It's all I've ever done since my father taught me how to pour concrete in these mountains. And I learned a long time ago that if I am going to take care of my family, every time I walk on to someone's property, my job is to look for every problem concrete can solve and let folks know I can solve it."

Bam. Drop the mic.

You see—Joe's responsibility is our responsibility. When you are with a prospect, your job is to look for every problem your product or service can solve and let folks know you can solve it. Our responsibility is to serve our customers better than our competition. Doing that requires a service mindset.

The Customer Experience Is Matter Of Mindset And Process

When it comes to a demand repair service or maintenance experience, it is the customer’s mindset and technician’s process that determine the customer's experience.

In this article, we will address the opening of the service visit prior to getting to work with the tools since many technicians shortchange the customer experience by not communicating effectively.


When a customer calls a service company, it’s for ONE thing – your expertise. They don’t want a price, the problem fixed, the fast and cheap solution, etc. like many technicians think. They want good information and possibly a little guidance, to make a good decision. With good information, most people feel very capable of making a better decision for themselves than any technician will make for them.


Based on the customer’s mindset, a technician’s process should be to simply have a conversation with a customer, so the customer knows what to expect every step of the way. This process helps to build credibility, trust, value, interest and intrigue.

Customers don’t want to chit-chat with technicians since they feel they are paying for your time, so after exchanging pleasantries, turn the conversation towards why you are there: “So what prompted you to invite us to your home today?” Verify why you are there. Clarify what it is the customer expects and wants you to do. Ask the customer to explain the problem they are experiencing to identify their pain, how long it’s been an issue, when they first noticed the issue, and if everything functioned properly and adequately prior to now.

If it is a maintenance visit, ask the customer if they are having any problems or noticing anything different about their system. You can mention a few of the typical problems you regularly encounter to help facilitate the conversation. Ask relevant follow-up questions to gain clarity and uncover other concerns. Questions regarding age of home, age of system, length of residence to date and going forward, etc. are also helpful when determining customer’s objectives, desired outcomes, and items for consideration.

As you proceed, be sure to observe, listen actively, take notes, and repeat what the customer tells you.

Inquire as to why they picked your company and what they know about it. If their call was in response to an ad, determine what about the ad captured their interest. Ask who they know that your company has done work for (always assume they know someone since you have a good name and reputation). Provide a brief explanation about the company and your personal experience before shifting gears and getting to work.

Start by saying: “Bob/Betty (I suggest getting on a first name basis from the time you enter a home), before we get started please know that my job isn’t to sell you anything you don’t want, don’t need, can’t afford, or doesn’t make sense. My job is to find out what’s happening and give you information, so you can make an informed decision. If I find anything that will improve the safety, health, and comfort of your home and family, prevent future breakdowns, extend the life of your system, or better yet, save you some money on your utility costs and possibly put some money back in your pocket, I’ll let you know, and you can let me know what you’d like to do. Fair enough?”

Invite the customer to watch or ask where you can find them when ready.

Review your company’s pricing policy and provide the customer with What You Can Expect document to confirm the process you’ll explain. Provide a copy of your latest company newsletter, and any promotional flyers/ads your company is running and state that you’d be happy to answer any questions or tell them what’s applicable once you’ve had a chance to check things out. Also, share a copy of your Quality Inspection Audit and Online Review/Happy Check Process to let the customer know upfront that you will conduct a post-work review to ensure a thorough diagnosis, prescription and treatment as well as to verify their happiness.

Lastly, inform the customer your measure for success is their total happiness with every aspect of the experience, since a large percentage of your customers come from happy customers like them referring you to others that could benefit from your services. Respectfully request that if you meet or exceed their expectations, that you hope they can share the name of someone like most of your other customers, and that there are rewarding benefits for them and their referrals that you will explain later.

This last step sets the expectations high right before you get to work, which should create an amazing experience for your customer. Good luck!

Customers Buy You...

A mentor of mine said to me in 1992, "Mark, your prospects and customers buy YOU. So go to work on your knowledge, attitude, skills and habits."

When someone we trust and believe, say a technician that comes into our home or business, says to me, "What I would do is…," or, "If it were me, I would…," I really listen. Hey, that's what I said to my residential customers when I was a chimney sweep in my early-twenties. It's what I said to building owners when I was an HVAC technician in my late-twenties. I spoke in the first person, honestly, authentically and sincerely. What followed was why my close ratio was over 75%: detachment.

Detachment sounds like this: "But hey, it's your house (or building), you do what you think is best. I gotta go!" Detachment is an honest indifference. There is no quiet desperation or smarmy manipulation. It's simply your opinion. It's the Art of Influence and Enrollment. It's what you would tell your mother. Hey, who would give a raw deal to their mother? No one I know.

If you think about it, no one likes to be sold. We like to buy. It has to be our decision. Give me the information, raise my awareness with tact and compassion, offer a few choices, and then shrug your shoulders as if you didn't care which option I chose. I especially like, "Talk it over with your wife …," or, "Give some thought to what makes sense to you. … I'll be back in touch." Then smile, leave and get back to them in a couple of days. That's what I like.

Professional persistence is following up when you say you will, via text, email or voicemail (or all three) with that same detachment in your voice. Remind me but don't stalk me. You are not Ben Stiller, she is not Cameron Diaz in "There's Something About Mary," so be a pro. Listen to the nuances in their voice and read their body language. What is the subtle subtext, the unspoken implication?

Sales is simple. TRUST, RELATIONSHIPS, COMPETENCE, TIMING and FOLLOW UP. Build the TRUST by asking open-ended questions and actively listening; Form the RELATIONSHIP by being considerate and flexible; Do your job by fixing it right the first time thereby demonstrating COMPETENCE; When it's time to ask for the sale it's a TIMING issue, and by all means FOLLOW UP by being assertive and asking for the sale. Unassertive selling technicians have skinny kids. Five simple steps.

Earl Nightingale once wrote, "If integrity didn't exist, someone would most certainly invent it as the fastest way to become rich." He was right.

Remember, customers buy you. Now I need to call my mother…

Is It Possible to Change Others Behaviors?

A turning point in my life came in 1982, at age 25. I purchased a paperback copy of "How to Win Friends and Influence People" for 50 cents at a garage sale and kept it in my service truck. I used to read it at lunch. It inspired me to begin listening to audio cassettes — books on tape. I quit listening to my extensive Blues collection, gave up the front page of the newspaper and began keeping a journal. I turned into a sponge.

As an HVAC Technician I had a C+ level of technical skills, but with Dale Carnegie's help, I became an A+ people guy. Sales and opportunity soon followed. It became my "People Handbook," my "Human Relations Bible." That copy is so dog-eared pages fall out when I open it.

Born in Maryville, Missouri, on Nov. 24, 1888, Dale knew only poverty as a boy. He ascended to become the top salesman in his company and region by hard work and study. He moved to New York City in 1911 and began teaching Public Speaking Courses at night, so he could research and write during the day. In 1936, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" went on to sell over 5,000,000 copies by his untimely death in 1955.

Dale believed and taught that "It's possible to change other people's behavior by changing one's behavior toward them."

My three favorite quotes from his book are:

"You can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you can in two years trying to get them interested in you."

"Talk to someone about themselves and they can listen for hours!"

"Any fool can criticize, complain and condemn and most fools do. But it takes real character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving."

I recently reread this classic self-help book and listened to it on CD and determined that if I were to turn his timeless principles into affirmations/goals and bombard my subconscious with my 20 favorite DC principles, (as in, record onto Garage Band, transfer to iTunes and load on my iPhone and listen to it 1,000 times, which takes me about a month) I could raise my interpersonal relationship bar to M. Ghandi/A. Lincoln/M.L. King status.

So here we go ... my 20 paraphrased Dale Carnegie (DC) goals, submitted for your approval:

  • "I smile to as many people as I can all day long."
  • "I have an amazing memory for names. I employ IRA (Impression, Repetition, Association), so their name sticks in my mind."
  • "I dominate the listening in every conversation and people enjoy being around me! I love to listen and learn all day."
  • "I employ ‘Yes and' while I listen to keep the spotlight on other people. I observe, acknowledge and heighten what I hear to make my conversations about others. It's not about me!"
  • "I am a good-finder. I enjoy catching others doing things right. ‘Good for you!' is my favorite phrase. I enjoy making others feel important."
  • "I avoid arguments, negative or mean people. I smile politely and walk away. I would rather be happy than right."
  • "I show respect for other people's opinions, often saying, ‘You feel strongly about that...' I resist the temptation to correct, criticize or condemn."
  • "When I am wrong, I promptly admit it. Life is too short to be a jerk."
  • "I begin a conversation in a friendly way. My attitude and approach to others is consistently positive, affirming and kind."
  • "I ask open-ended questions (who, what, where, when, how and why) to learn more about the people I meet. I am naturally curious."
  • "I enjoy silence. I think twice and speak once or not at all."
  • "I let other people feel the idea was theirs. I often give credit away. I build other people's confidence and esteem... I grow people."
  • "I am an empathetic man, easily and consistently seeing things from the other person's point of view."
  • "I am sympathetic with other people's struggles and challenges. I truly care about my fellow man."
  • I appeal to a noble motive to inspire others to greater heights. I dare them, nudge them, assist them in releasing their potential. I throw down a challenge to raise the bar!"
  • "I dramatize my ideas with inspiring and relevant stories to make a point and motivate others to change for the better."
  • "I genuinely love people and I am making a difference in millions of lives."
  • "I consistently say positive or empowering things behind other people's back. It usually gets back to them. I avoid gossip like a deadly virus."
  • "I speak in terms of other people's interests. I am other-centered."
  • "I affirm these goals 5-10 times a day, as they are rapidly becoming a natural and organic part of who I am. I know that all meaningful and lasting change starts first on the inside and works its way out. I love people and my life."

Imagine what would happen and how your relationships might change for good if you read these 20 Goals twice a day for 30 days? Better still, record them and store them on your iPhone and listen to them 10 times a day! You just might win way more friends and influence everyone you meet, but that wouldn't work where you live or would it?

I kind of miss that old service truck. Come to think of it, I kind of miss audio cassettes too... you know, twisting the reel to make certain it plays right; okay, not really. Now where did I put my iPhone?