ICS Magazine

Beating the Wintertime Blues - Part II

December 1, 2006
Make sure you reach the decision maker


Winter is the cruelest season for most residential carpet cleaners. Especially in the snowbelt, the phone just doesn’t ring much from after Christmas until the snow melts and the mud dries up. Why? Because residential carpet cleaning is an emotionally driven event and winter just doesn’t “feel like” carpet cleaning to most homeowners.

However, by diversifying into the non-emotional world of regular contract commercial-carpet cleaning you will enjoy regular cash flow, regardless of the season. So how can you break into the commercial market? Fancy marketing plans abound. But success in finding commercial accounts doesn’t have to be complicated.

The following “Dedicated Sales Morning” system works because it is:

Consistent. Most sales systems are doomed by either fear or initial success. Fear of rejection keeps you from even getting started. Or, after a few successful sales, complacency lets you slip back into your regular non-selling routine.

Simple. Multi-step marketing plans for commercial work many times collapse of their own weight. This system is quick, simple and easy.

Based on “throwing your net wide.”  Plain and simple, the vast majority of sales calls you make will not be successful. No problem, if you are making lots of sales visits. I suggest setting a personal goal of 20 visits per each weekly “Dedicated Sales Morning.” Remember, many of your visits are going to be very brief when the manager gives you a resounding “Not interested!”

Efficient. You will get the maximum return for your efforts by cutting your driving time. You will also learn to sell to the same type of business sector by focusing on one group each week.

So here is what you do:
  1. Pick one “Dedicated Morning” a week and let nothing interfere with it. Remember, you are in this for the long haul. No matter how much you sugarcoat it, selling is emotionally exhausting. Avoid burning out by dedicating only one morning per week, but follow through on your vow.
  2. Dress up. Business people respect business attire- even if they aren’t dressed up themselves! I suggest pressed Dockers, a long-sleeve dress shirt and a tie for men and a business suit for women. Can you sell commercial work without dressing up?  Sure, but your prospective clients –and your own self image – will feel better about you if you dress better.
  3. Carry the right tools. Invest in top quality business cards and carry a covered leather clipboard filled with your Carpet Maintenance Analysis (CMA) and Job Profile forms. Use an accurate ultrasonic measuring device and carry a selection of spotting agents and clean white towels in a high quality leather briefcase. You will also need a separate Commercial Sales notebook to write down follow up information.
  4. Focus on one area at a time. Each week, plan out a sales route based on both efficient driving and, if possible, market sector. Write down your stops in your Commercial Sales notebook before you leave. For example, pick an area of town where there are many doctor’s offices and call only on medical buildings this morning. This means you will make more visits per hour and you will find that one medical complex has much the same needs as others. The result? You will be more tuned in right from the get-go and sell more efficiently.
  5. Perform your personal attitude check. Be honest. You probably don’t like selling very much. Few of us do. So suck in both your gut and your mental attitude. Remind yourself why you are going out selling (how about the future economic welfare of your family?). Remember too that you are a professional offering a needed and reliable service at a fair price. Poor self-image dooms many carpet cleaners before they even get started. One way to get motivated is promise yourself a reward every time you close a big sale. For example, I used to sell computers and I hated it with a passion. But I loved collecting firearms. So every time I closed a high-ticket computer system I would buy my self another rifle or shotgun!  By the time we sold our computer business I owned 28 guns!
  6. Get moving. As Chuck Violand, one of my fellow Strategies for Success instructors, says, “The hardest door to make it through is your own.”  Between our very normal fear of rejection and all the daily urgent problems of business it is all too easy to put off indefinitely your selling efforts. Remember, you made a vow to yourself to dedicate this morning to selling and nothing else!
  7. Relax! They say that animals can smell fear. So can your commercial prospects! As you prepare to make your first visit of the morning, remember to relax and breathe. The very worst that your prospects can say is “No,” and that is not the end of the world. Be observant, keep a sense of humor and enjoy yourself. After all, at least you’re not pushing a scrub wand today.
  8. Find the decision maker. Someone in this business has the authority to say “yes or no” to you. That is the person you want to talk to. So when you encounter the secretary/ salesperson/ receptionist, etc. just hand them your card and say, “I would like to talk with the person in charge of your carpet maintenance program.”
  9. Get to the point. If you get to talk to a real, live decision maker (DM), here is your “presentation”:
    1. Look them in the eye, smile and introduce yourself while handing them your business card.
    2. Keep it simple and direct. “I would like to give you a proposal for your regular carpet cleaning.” If the D/M says yes, bring out your CMA form and explain you would like to ask a few questions to help give them better service/ a lower price. If they agree just use your CMA form as a guide to quickly interview them, along with asking them to show you any special wear/traffic areas.
    3. Always “demo” something. If it is a small account or the person seems ready to sign up anyway, just locate a badly spotted area and ask if you can “test for residue removal.” Then use some general spotter with a clean white towel and make a sparkling difference. On the other hand, if the prospect is wavering or it is an important account, try to do a demo cleaning in their worst area. If their traffic allows it, this is a good reason to make your sales calls in a truckmount or have a portable extractor with you. Nothing like being able to say, “Give me 10 minutes to get set up. Then I’ll come get you and show you the results we can provide.” Or you can schedule the cleaning demo for after-hours but this definitely adds to the hassle factor for both the prospect and you.
  10. If you can’t talk to the DM.  Ask when they will be in and available. Hopefully it will be sometime during this Dedicated Sales Morning while you are in the area. If not, at least ask for their extension number and when would be a good time to call. And leave your card and commercial brochure for them. Be sure to write all the info down, including when you are supposed to call back, in your Commercial Route Sales book. If the account is one you really want, you can make a return visit. If not, either call the DM or just add them to your newsletter list and move on.
  11. Give them their options. When writing the proposal be sure to include at least three options. One at a fairly high price (what I call the “Resurrection Cleaning”) which very likely is what the carpet needs now. Then give them at least two “Always Clean” options where you come in on a regular schedule at a greatly reduced rate (your goal is long-term, regular cash flow, not a one-time job.). This may either be routinely cleaning all the carpet but more likely you will “zone” the building into different cleaning frequencies (by this time you and the DM should be working together with you in a “consultant” role as in, “Bill, my professional recommendation is to clean the entrance area and center aisles on a monthly schedule and then ...” You get the idea.)
  12. Don’t forget to “ask for the order.” After presenting the proposal and if you are getting positive buying signals from the prospect, move right into getting the logistics of the job set up.

The vast majority of businesses you walk into will not be interested. But by setting a weekly reserved day to do this route selling along with a goal of contacts to make you will be getting the “Law of Large Numbers” on your side. (Remember, you are going to call on at least 20 people per Dedicated Sales Morning and, as the weeks and months go by, these contacts are going to add up!) When rejected, politely leave your card and get right back on the horse that threw you by quickly moving on to your next sales visit.

Don’t forget that you can at times skip all of these fancy steps and just stop in when you are driving around, especially when you see a new business moving in or a new building going up. I got a lot of great long-term accounts this way. I think it is called, “Being the right place at the right time!” Of course, you are going to substantially increase your odds by starting and staying with your Dedicated Sales Morning.