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How to Double Your Commercial Maintenance Agreements

Originally published: 09.01.13 by Ruth King

6 actions you must take to increase your maintenance customer base

Many contractors with a strong commercial maintenance base have no seasonality: their commercial technicians are busy year round. So, what does it take to grow, even double, your commercial maintenance agreement customers? Here are six actions you must take.

1. Hire a commercial sales person.

This person must be totally focused on growing your commercial maintenance agreements. This cannot be a part-time activity performed by your service technicians, service manager, or an owner in slower times of the year when there is nothing else to do. You must invest in this person because selling commercial maintenance agreements often takes time. It can take months, or even years, of building relationships before an agreement is sold.

I’ve found women do well in this position. As long as they are capable of climbing on roofs, they can be trained to prospect for, price and sell commercial maintenance agreements.

2. Solicit your commercial customers who do not own agreements.

Your commercial customers already know the quality of your work. Most have not been approached about a maintenance agreement and don’t know the benefits of having one. Educate them! These are the easiest agreements to sell because

you are selling to a customer who already knows your company.

3. Choose a niche market or several niches.

People like doing business with companies that are working with others in their industry. Join an association and network with decision makers in that niche market segment. Once you sell and perform maintenance for a company in that niche, ask whether you can use that person as a referral to contact others in the niche. For example, be known as the best HVAC contractor for assisted living facilities.

4. Commit to a year-round marketing plan.

This involves four major activities: Letters and emails to prospective maintenance agreement customers, canvassing industrial and office parks, joining associations/networking, and riding with technicians when they are on commercial service calls.

  • Letters and emails are sent on a continuous basis to people who can make the decision about HVAC maintenance. This takes the longest time to generate agreements. Consistently send 25 to 50 letters per week and follow up by phone to set up appointments during which you can discuss maintenance and survey the equipment in the building. Many times, you’ll find that a company is already using another contractor. Ask when their agreement expires and if they are interested in taking competitive bids. If so, put these people in a tickler file to be contacted 45 days prior to the contract expiration date.
  • Canvassing means personally visiting buildings in a specific area and asking who is responsible for HVAC maintenance. Try to make an appointment to see that person. Follow up the canvassing with a letter or email. 
  • Networking or joining an association related to a specific niche can also build trust and provide leads for maintenance. (see #3)
  • Ride with technicians. When the technician is performing maintenance for an existing customer, the sales person’s responsibility is to meet with your customer and thank him for the opportunity to take care of his heating and air conditioning needs. Ask him whether he knows his neighboring businesses. This is an informal introduction to other potential maintenance agreement clients.

    Once you’ve thanked the owner/manager, walk across the street, next door, etc. and introduce yourself to that company using their neighbor as a reference. Point out that your company is taking care of the neighboring business and that the owner/ manager suggested that you talk with the referral.

    In cases where a building owner/manager doesn’t know his neighboring business owners, this becomes a cold call with a twist. When at the reception area, tell the receptionist that you are next door, across the street, etc. performing the maintenance on Company XYZ’s equipment. Find out who is responsible for maintenance and try to set an appointment with that person.

5. Perform two surveys per week.

The activities mentioned above should produce two surveys per week. Assuming your closing ratio is at least 50 percent, this generates one new maintenance agreement per week.

6. Review the year with your customer 90 days before their fiscal year ends.

Usually your maintenance agreement expires at the end of a fiscal year. Meet with the decision maker 90 days before the agreement expires to review the activities from the year. Bring copies of the service tickets. Make sure your maintenance costs get into the budget for the next year. If equipment needs to be replaced in the next year, it’s much better to have an estimate in the budget rather than a surprise expenditure six months later.

Year-round focus is critical to doubling your commercial maintenance agreements. Assuming you stay focused on the activities described above, your commercial technicians can be working 40 hours per week or more year-round.

Ruth King has over 25 years of experience in the hvacr industry and has worked with contractors, distributors, and manufacturers to help grow their companies and become more profitable. She is president of HVAC Channel TV and holds a Class II (unrestricted) contractors license in Georgia. Ruth has written two books: The Ugly Truth About Small Business and The Ugly Truth About Managing People. Contact Ruth at ruthking@hvacchannel.tv or 770.729.0258.

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