Gene Slade, Founder & CEO of Lead Ninja System understands exactly what it takes to raise your average service ticket—and it’s not from replacement, either. Getting leads is all fine and good, and often our focus as contractors, but what if your leads aren’t resulting in revenue? How many times has a technician gone out to perform a tune-up and returned with a sub-$200 ticket? In his highly successful career as both an owner and consultant in the home services industry and beyond, Gene has some really effective techniques to help you make your non-replacement tickets something to celebrate.
In 2008, Gene was in his mid-twenties and working as GM for an air conditioning company. He had just had his first child, Xander, and signed a lease on a beautiful new home in Florida. He was planning on starting his own business, but was building a business for someone else. In an effort to get ready to start his own business, he decided to take a practice test for his mechanical contractor’s license…and accidentally passed the real exam. It was less than 48 hours later that his boss found out and fired Gene.
As Gene was preparing to start a company, he had been paying off credit to have borrowing power in the future. With only $100 across four bank accounts, he was in a frenzy. Should he try and find work for another company, or finally pursue his dream? Gene made up his mind pretty quickly, rushing to the bank and borrowing enough to purchase two company trucks before they found out he was unemployed.
Gene was a really good salesman, and hired people to do most everything else. He wasn’t one to want to install a system. In fact, his company didn’t even sell air conditioners; just focused on tune-ups and service. Part of his sales strategy was to sign up with a radio station to do two hours of block programming, where he could talk HVAC and throw in some calls to action to get leads for tune-ups. His first weekend, he pulled in 27 brand new customers by advertising a completely free tune-up worth $250. His average ticket was $1,032 with a 72% closing rate. Did you know that the average ticket in the HVAC industry is less than $200?
After 6 years of growing his company, Gene sold for a 7-figure profit after starting out $70,000 in debt and entered a semi-retirement. He wasn’t sure quite what he was going to do, and eventually started out doing similar radio shows for other companies. Clients were paying him good money to run these radio ads, and their phones would ring off of the hook. The problem, though, was that his clients were unhappy because they couldn’t close the deals. If you’re
paying $150 bucks for a lead and your tech goes out and there and brings back nothing, it’s not going to last long. That’s what brought Gene to consulting and training technicians the same way he had trained his own.
Now, as a result of Gene’s work, contractors all over the country have technicians that are going out on calls without a replacement opportunity on the table and still closing on $8,000-$12,000 tickets. They’re often seeing 10 times the average ticket they were prior, which has a massive impact on the company as well as technicians who often rely on commission to make a good living. Gene simply wants to help people work less, make more money, and get home for dinner on time.
The conversation about indoor air quality certainly heated up over the last few years with COVID, but it’s cooling off now—and it shouldn’t be. According to Gene, IAQ is the one of most important things you can add onto a service call, second only to a surge protector. When you’re in a customer’s home, there is always an opportunity to educate them and identify ways you can help improve their comfort. If your technicians aren’t actively looking for those opportunities, or if you’re a technician who isn’t, you’re missing the mark by a long shot.
Gene often starts out his trainings by teaching technicians how to sell a surge protector using only questions. This usually gives them a bit of confidence, and enough of a foot in the door to start asking about putting together an air quality package with an air scrubber or REME HALO, for example.
You have to keep your clients entertained. Everything is competing for our attention these days, so bombarding your client with information is just going to put them to sleep. If you’re trying to sell surge protectors for the inside and outside of your clients’ home, here’s something Gene has found to be incredibly effective (and not just limited to surge protectors!). After you’ve finished your tune-up, standing at the system, get a confused look on your face and ask your customer “why don’t you have surge protection?” Just wait for them to respond. Deal with any objections, and if you’ve done a bit of research, you can say something along the lines of “did you know that in [our area], there are over 800,000 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes a year? Did you also know that when that happens, we get in-home surges that can cause your motor and compressor to blow cherry-red inside? Do you think that’s good for those parts? What do you think that does to the reliability of your air conditioner? How do you suppose that impacts the reliability and lifespan of your system?”
With a lot of these questions, the client may not even respond because they’re going to be thinking. The gears are spinning, which means they are engaged. You can go a step further and educate your customer on the cost of a new compressor (often $2500!), or remind them of the cost if they’ve had to purchase one before. Then, it becomes pretty easy for them to justify having a surge protector installed, and your chance to ask them “so should we go ahead and install one?” is right there in front of you.
Just like a surge protector, you can use the same process to add an IAQ package to your sales ticket. Here’s some information in a logical-flowing list courtesy of Gene you can use with your customers when discussing their indoor air quality, with a sale in mind. Follow along, pretending to be in a customer’s home having the conversation and you’ll see the process in action:
All it takes is some simple Googling about IAQ, side effects of mold, and other related topics to educate yourself enough to educate your customers. You shouldn’t be out to scare your clients, but don’t shy away from telling the truth! The truth about IAQ can be impactful enough to get them to allow you to help them. You’re selling quality of life, and they’re paying for this stuff regardless, most of the time. If they don’t have a clean filter in their HVAC system, they’re probably going to end up calling you for a repair. IAQ is no different, but a doctor’s visit and time off work can be quite a bit more expensive!
In addition to Lead Ninja, Gene also co-founded a company called Service Tech Secrets. During a meeting about how to spark interest with clients, they came up with three easy questions to ask your client after your greeting when showing up for service. You start at the door, get your greeting in, and while you still have them at the door, ask them “hey, if I find any deficiencies do you want me to let you know?” They’ll probably say yes, giving you the opportunity to discuss an IAQ package with them.
Then, before you get started with the service, you can ask them three magic questions:
Now, you’ve got permission to make a $10-12,000 list of indoor air quality solutions that make sense for them. Don’t expect to simply make the list and have massive success, of course. You won’t sell them all, but it’s better to make the list and have the opportunity.
Lead Ninja System is Gene’s virtual training site. His courses are chopped up into smaller, easily digestible segments. It’s a great alternative to an in-person, on-site training and takes about 60-90 days to complete at just around 30-60 minutes a day. There are questions at the end of each segment, and you have to get 100% before moving on to make sure you’ve understood the concepts. Whether you’re a technician looking to improve your chops or an owner looking to improve your team, Lead Ninja System is a great entry-level tool that everyone can afford.
Gene has a heart for the trades, and points out that technicians often get the crap beat out of them by owners simply because of poor communication skills. You can’t know what you don’t know, and oftentimes contractors aren’t providing enough support and training for all involved to succeed. Add to that the incredibly long and brutal working hours of many technicians, and it’s apparent that giving them all the support they can get is going to help both them and your business. Just like owners, technicians often don’t get to be home for dinner, or tuck their kids in at night. If you’re a technician who has a $2,000+ average ticket, you’re going to be able to have more leverage, and make some demands about your schedule. Owners are going to be happier, too, and if they aren’t, the next shop down the street is going to be happy to take you onboard.
From Lead Ninja System to Service Tech Secrets, Gene has plenty of valuable learning tools out there for you to utilize for yourself or your business. If you just want to get your toes wet, there is lots of free content for you as well, like on Gene’s YouTube channel. If you want to get in touch with him, just reach out to Gene on Facebook, or ask us and we’ll put you in touch!