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Selling Handyman Work

The entire handyman concept has been developed to eliminate the bidding and sales functions. This approach is necessary in the remodeling business at this point, although it is my belief that with package type of selling, even in remodeling, this may change in the 1990s. It is the primary reason why almost no one in the remodeling business has been able to make a profit on small jobs under $5,000, even if a 100% markup is used.

Our approach to the handyman business is that with few exceptions, particularly with a first time customer, no personal call is made to the customer's house unless there is a minimum charge levied. This concept has been developed by plumbers, HVAC contractors, and certainly all the appliance repair and service companies in the United States. A service man is never dispatched to a house to make repairs in any of those subject areas unless there is a minimum $39 trip charge which pays for the first half hour of the tradesman's time.

We have adopted this same concept for the handyman business and what it does is that it ensures that the closing ratio on the job is close to 100%. This does not say that every lead will turn into a job. In fact, one of the prerequisites or primary functions that must be fulfilled in a handyman business is the ability to take the lead, sell the customer on the company's capabilities, find out what it is they wish to have done for starters, and then give them an estimate over the phone of the price of the work based on normal conditions.

If the customer balks at the price, and this will happen relatively often, particularly in the early stages of promoting the concept, since the price for a handyman company will be at least double what "Joe" handyman in the local neighborhood charges and perhaps triple, and in order to make the concept work, it means the company must do substantial advertising in order to develop enough leads so that there will be sufficient takers so that the handyman will be kept busy on a regular basis.

The good news regarding this concept is that there are so few reliable, competent, well organized and well run handyman companies in America, that in most areas, and in most market niches, people will be willing to pay the higher price in return for prompt and reliable service, quality workmanship and an overall professional approach to the handyman business. In this chapter, we will go through the basic steps of selling the handyman work.

Handling Leads

When a call comes in to a handyman company, hopefully, that company will be computerized and they will be able to start typing in the customer's information immediately. Obviously, as the company continues in business and people call for repeat work or past prospects call to actually have the work done, it is necessary to be able to pull up the customer's file by name, address and phone number quickly so that you can determine whether or not they are already on your data base.

As the information is pulled up, if it is a first time customer they are asked all the pertinent information that was required from a marketing standpoint as well as the necessary information regarding the work to be done. The list of information for this is included below. Once the customer has made the call and asked about the service, then it is necessary for the person receiving the call to give them a concise sales presentation on the company and their approach to the handyman concept. This should read something like this:

Mrs. Jones, the Home-Fix Company is a handyman company that specializes in small jobs. We have a number of competent tradesmen in all the areas of expertise, who are equipped to come out and look at your job, estimate the cost using a national price list that has researched the costs of almost every type of job in the field. The cost will be estimated and a check will be made that there are no unusual circumstances on your job that will change the price.

A contract is written up for your signature on the spot. Once signed, if we have been notified about the type of work to be done, the handyman will probably have the materials in his van and will be able to start and complete the job the same day. If he does not have the materials, he will either go get them, have them delivered or will set up the appointment for another day.

The handyman is totally self-sufficient, licensed and bonded, and payment is expected upon completion on small jobs or half down and half on completion on jobs requiring more than one trip. Payment can be made by check, cash or any of the major credit cards, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, etc.

Now, what we have found is most beneficial to our customers is to make sure that when we arrive we are able to do all of the work that you wish done at that time. We literally can handle any handyman job around the house. If there is urgency to your work, our normal policy is to set up the appointment 3 days to a week in advance and in the interim we send you out a brochure explaining our company's services and approach to the business as well as a list that provides you with a checklist that you may wish us to handle while we are there. We then call you the day before the appointment, find out which items you want done, quote you prices on those items where possible, based on normal conditions, and schedule the handyman at your convenience.

Now, that you understand our approach, would you like to tell me what jobs you would like us to do?

This would normally lead into the question of "I would like you to cut off three doors; replace two window panes; clean gutters and so on. Obviously, as soon as one or two projects have been listed, then early on, there should be a price quoted for normal conditions on these jobs so that no time is wasted for customers who are shopping for the lowest price.

While the closing ratio or set up ratio for appointments for the handyman business will vary by part of the country, market niche, and type of job, it is expectation that a closing ratio of 33% or one in three, if done properly, will be the minimum ratio. On some types of jobs, this may be well exceeded and the closing ratio will increase sharply and be better than one out of two. What must be emphasized, however, is that when a handyman business is just starting, that until their reputation is developed, the ratio may be somewhat higher, perhaps as low as 20%. What this means, however, is that an aggressive advertising program must be put in place in order to have enough leads to keep your handymen busy.

A different approach is taken with past customers. If you are new to the handyman business and the past customer is a remodeling customer or a home buyer for home builders going into the handyman business, then there needs to be less time spent selling the company but the concept of not bidding the work must be explained.

It is our opinion, that as the handyman business gains momentum and as customers use the handyman company more and more, that the prices for the different types of work should still be quoted on the phone ahead of time and for past customers, there should be no trip charge or minimum charge is the contract is not signed and the work completed. Companies will have to experiment with this and see whether or not they are sending their men out on many calls, any percentage higher than 10-15%, where no money changes hands and therefore it is a wasted trip for the handyman. Another approach might be to lower the cost of the trip charge for past customers from $39 to perhaps $20.

Handyman as Salesperson

Every handyman, in order to be successful in this business, must be able to deal with people and have empathy for the customer's needs. While there is no need to hard sell in the handyman field, there should be an effort made to add up, add on, or sell up at every opportunity. In fact, this is one of the only ways that handymen are going to reach the high level of compensation.

Even with the 100% or higher markup for most handyman jobs, if there is too much travel time between jobs, and a handyman must do more than 2-3 jobs in a day, the travel time is going to become onerous and will probably require the handyman to work longer hours or to make less money. Even though the published price list is designed for 6 hours of work per day for production, it still requires that the handyman be somewhat aggressive and try to look for other job projects when they arrive. This must be done very subtly and may be done not with the original contract but as change orders or add ons after the initial contract has been written and signed.

Care should be taken that the individual handyman not try to appear to want to parlay the simple call into a major project or group of projects if the customer is not willing. Here again, until the company gains the reputation of being honest and empathetic about the customer's needs, the last handyman company want to develop is the reputation for being too aggressive about selling up.

Once the initial list of projects have been included in a contract and singed and the work has started, then the customer will likely come up with those "While you are here....." projects and there will be a chance to increase the scope of the project. It must be emphasized that the tradesmen who are selected for the handyman position must be adept at handling this approach, estimating the work, writing up the contract, and obtaining the signature, as well as collecting when the job is completed.

Using the Presentation Book

As stated under marketing, the use of the presentation book in the handyman business is probably going to be minimal unless the project is of some size. This is why it is important the company develop a presentation brochure that is sent out to the customer between the call and the appointment so the customer is pre-sold and has already developed trust in the handyman company.

To add to this approach, the use of the presentation book will undoubtedly be limited to giving it to the customer to page through while the handyman sits down and estimates and writes out the contract. Also, if any questions arise they can use the presentation book in order to develop the trust. If there is a question about insurance they can turn to the certificate of insurance. If there is a question about type of job, they can turn to a list of customers and show the number of customers for whom the company had done similar jobs. If there is any discussion about licensing or bonding this can also be covered and so on.

Using the Product Presentation Book

As the company develops more expertise in handyman projects, they will likely start to develop different small, one trade projects that are needed in most households and can be sold as part of the handyman service. Examples of these are not limited to the following:

1. Closet Interiors

2. Replacement windows and doors

3. New gutters and downspouts

4. New vanities

5. New locks

6. Small and inexpensive, but effective alarm systems

7. Shower doors

8. Kitchen countertops

9. All types of fans

10. Additional electrical and plumbing work

11. Humidifiers and electrostatic air cleaners

As the company researches the market and develops these different products or services, they must make it easy for the handyman to sell those projects when they are at the house. It is our belief that the way this must be done is to develop a product presentation book that we have described in the marketing and advertising section.

If a handyman goes into a condominium and it is obvious there is insufficient storage space for the owners or customers, then this is the natural lead into selling closet interiors. Another example is if the handyman in the course of taking the house inventory or going into the basement finds that there is a water problem in one corner or along one wall, and in checking outside it may well be determined that this is nothing more than gutters and downspouts that either need cleaning or aligning or need replacement, possibly coupled with downspout extensions, and some regrading along that area.

A third example might be a front entry door that is either a hollow core door installed by a builder in a relatively low price house, or a door that is not weathertight and it is not possible to just weatherstrip and change the threshold. In this case, a new steel entry door might not only be the answer from an energy standpoint, but would also greatly enhance the curb appeal of the house. Being able to pull out a product presentation book and show the customer what the product when installed will look like and then on the opposite page show the actual published price list of what the job will cost, will greatly accelerate the sales process and will result in a much higher closing ratio by the handyman at the time.

House Inventory

The handyman must be trained, without being obtrusive about it, during the course of his work in the house, fill out a questionnaire about the house and all of its integral parts. Houses, if they are structurally sound tend to last forever, but integral parts wear out on a predictable basis. Therefore, the house inventory must include all of those integral parts and their ages so that the company can put then on a computer and develop a tickler file for sending them a notice that these integral parts are about to wear out and trying to sell them as the company who can handle the replacement.

This includes but is not limited to furnaces, air conditioning units, hot water heaters, roofs, kitchen appliances and even such things as exterior and interior painting, floor finishing and so on. Also, the inventory sheet should note which items will likely need maintenance and spell out whether or not these are presently being done by the homeowner/customer. This is going to be more and more pertinent as the population gets older and the occupants are not able to handle many of the routine maintenance jobs. Obviously, if it is a single person or particularly an elderly widow who has not handled the maintenance when her husband was alive, this will be even more likely to develop into ongoing service contracts and maintenance jobs.

If the handyman is asked what are taking all the information for, the answer should be this information is taken so that if there are any problems or emergencies, then the handyman will have the information necessary to dispatch the handyman with the proper materials necessary to complete the job. This all increases the efficiency of the concept.

Preparing and Explaining the Proposal

While handyman jobs tend to be simple and sometimes do not require extensive explanations, this is not always the case. It is absolutely necessary that the handyman after looking at the proposed project or condition to be corrected, they then estimate the job and write up a detailed proposal. In HomeTech's data base or published price list, there will be specifications written that will adequately explain what is to be done based on normal circumstances and conditions.

What will not be explained is those abnormal conditions or other adjacent areas which are affected by the work. What the handyman must do in estimating the job and writing up the proposal and getting the contract signed is to take the small amount of extra time to explain to the customer just what is included and is not included in the job so they understand the limits of the work. This will be covered later in the customer relations part as a mini pre-construction conference but that is just exactly what it is.

It is also important the handyman take the time to emphasize the features and benefits of the products or the service so that the customer understands the value of the work to be done. It is important that the handyman understand that many customers today, particularly the baby boomers, do not have the hands on skills that their parents or people of another generation had and do not understand very much about handyman type of jobs.

Nothing should be taken for granted in explaining what is to be done and what the ramifications of the work are. The time should be taken in every sales proposal to explain that and the handyman should also be trained to write the proper terms such as match as close as possible from existing local sources of supply, painting not included, never use the time as necessary, and so on. If this approach is not followed, then the chances are very good that misunderstandings will develop and that there will be a lack of customer satisfaction and in some cases, difficulty in collecting for the job.